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July 1943 - Feuersturm über Hamburg and Familie Bohn


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Probably one of the most accurate books on the Firestorm over Hamburg was by Hans Brunswig, who was head of the Hamburg Fire Department during the war. Another recommendable work is by Martin Middelbrook. In 1993 a video film appeared to commemorate what happened in July 1943, This had been a tv-documentary and was made widely availabe on a video.

Casualties were later estimated at between 42.000 and 55.000, over a million were homeless.

On Saturday, the 24th July 1943 the Royal Air Force flew a massive bombing mission against the City of Hamburg under the codename "Operation Gomorrha", which made history as the Firestorm. Over 700 bombers with thousands of tons of high explosives and incendiaries turned many quarters of the city into a vast waste of rubble and debris. Within ten days over four attacks were flown - at least 35.000 people were killed, 25.000 wounded and a million were made homeless.

On the 24th July an intensive Summer heat lay over Hamburg. The evening brought little relief. Shortly after midnight, at 0.33 local time, the howl of sirens broke the silence of the night. "Fliegeralarm!"

Near by High Wycombe, the staff officers of Bomber Command stood bent over their maps. Three hours previously 791 bombers had taken off from their airfields, Operation Gomorrha had begun. At 23.55 hours the formation passes the town of Büsum on the Holstein coast, penetrating German airspace. 67 minutes later, the first bombs are falling on the Hanseatic City.








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I have the Martin Middlebrook book published in 1984. highly recommended.post-3823-0-77193900-1469119897_thumb.jpg

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I also have this, hardback, Geman text, also original photos. One of the standard works, apart from Hans Brunswig. The video documentary is also good with many eye-witness testimonials.

However, it was not a battle, but more of an execution, the only defence was the Flak, and that was nothing. The early warning system had failed because the RAF dropped tinsel en masse, so that the radar did not function. There were no fighter units to defend the area.


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July 1943 - Albert Bohn with one of his sons, Albert jr. (Pepé) in front of the ruins of their house in the Palmaille in Hamburg-Altona. Albert sen. was a senior member of the NSDAP and SA locally. He had served with Fußartillerie-Regiment 11 in Thorn during World War I and before. His son Albert jr., won the Iron Cross 2nd class, but fell in November 1944 in Pergola/Italy. Albert Bohn as an iron cross recipient can be found under


Photos recently sent by a member of that family. Klaus,one of the last surviving brothers of that family passed away at the age of 89 early last Sunday morning, 24th July 2016.

Another photo shows a family outing from Hamburg on board the "Ariosa Kulm", which was probably a "KdF" Ship. On the left facing is Grandmother Bohn, Käthe Bohn and Hermann Bohn, last surviving member of the family of those days, and now living in Florida. Käthe worked in the early postwar years as a nurse in the UK, later returning to Hamburg. She died in 2015. Another sister, Helga Bohn, married a British officer, and still lives in the UK. ***

Further photos show Albert jr. in RAD uniform, and one hand-coloured passphoto in WH uniform with EK. Another photo shows the elder brother, Rolf, who spent most of the war on the Eastern Front, to be later captured in France by US forces. Rolf emigrated with his wife to America after the war, where he worked in the Ford Motor Co. in Cleveland/Ohio till his retirement. After the war for a long time they were treated as "D.P.'s" in America (displaced persons).

Another photo shows Albert Bohn sen. in civilian dress with ribbon of the Kriegsverdienstkreuz.

Klaus Bohn in a postwar photo

*** Helga Bohn died after a short illness in June 2017. All now departed from this life.



Albert bohn

Photo of Albert Bohn in Fußartillerie-Regiment 11 (Thorn)

Albert (Pepe) Bohn jr., uniform photo.


Rolf Bohn in a wartime photo, place and date not recorded

Rolf Bohn in later years, Cleveland / Ohio, early 1980s. Died in Florida, USA

Keine Beschreibung verfügbar.

Albert Bohn on the far right.


The grandfather



Father, Albert Bohn Senior, was buried in Hamburg-Blankenese


Albert jr. in R.A.D. uniform


Albert Bohn with his eldest son, Albert at the ruins of their house in Altona


Albert Junior fell at Pergola, Italy, September 1944


Helga Bohn, early postwar photo. Died in England, June 2017

Klaus Bohn, postwar photo. Klaus was in the HJ and Volkssturm. Deceased, 24.7.2016 after a short illness.

Inga Backofen, geb. Bohn was a half-sister. She later lived in Wolfsburg. Deceased, her only daughter, Cornelia died young, only a few years later.

Another Bohn family photo from earlier days.


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Further photos: Am Tag danach - the day after.



Dramatic scene of destruction in the city



One of the few memorials in Hamburg in Hammerbrook at the edge of the kanal



Memorial in the Hamburger Strasse / Oberaltenallee


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I have since discovered that the MS "Ariosa Kulm" belonged to the Swiss Shipping Company Ariosa (one of very few Swiss companies), which maintained regular crossings between Bremerhaven and Canada-USA in the postwar years, so this was not a "KdF" vessel, as presumed. Many people emigrated in this period from Germany to Canada or USA, including several members of the Bohn Family.

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further wartime pictures of Bohn family added

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2 Pre-War Fotos of Albert Bohn with comrades in the uniform of Fußartillerie-Regiment 11, presumably taken in Thorn, where the Regiment was stationed. Albert Bohn is on the second picture to the right of the group as Gefreiter (or Obergefreiter? Large button).
Still awaiting an answer as to whether there was any handwritten description with the photos.

N.B.: Obergefreiter is a rank, which at the time was only with the Artillery.



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Only viewable under youtube - and with Registration!

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70 years on, documentary


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another documentary, with much background information, English spoken text:


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Here's a picture to be seen and never forgotten


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Personal experiences by Max Tiedemann


Am 24. Juli 1943 flog die britische Luftwaffe unter dem Codewort "Operation Gomorrha" einen Bombenangriff auf die Stadt Hamburg, der als "Feuersturm" in die deutsche Geschichte einging. Mehr als 700 Bomber mit tausenden Spreng- und Brandbomben verwandelten zahlreiche Stadtteile in eine Trümmerwüste. Innerhalb von zehn Tagen wurden vier Angriffe geflogen - mindestens 35000 Menschen wurden getötet, 250000 verwundet und eine Million obdachlos. Max Tiedemann, der Bruder meines Großvaters Erwin, erlebte dieses Inferno hautnah und hielt seine Erinnerungen schriftlich fest.

Am Samstag, dem 24. Juli 1943, lastet drückende Hitze auf Hamburg. Der Abend bringt nur wenig Abkühlung. Kurz nach Mitternacht – um 0.33 Uhr – zerschneidet das Heulen der Sirenen die bruttige Stille: Fliegeralarm!

Nahe High Wycombe bei London beugen sich die Stabsoffiziere des britischen Bomber Command gespannt über ihre Karten. Drei Stunden zuvor sind auf den südenglischen Fliegerhorsten 791 Bomber und Kampfflugzeuge gestartet; das Unternehmen Gomorrha hat begonnen. Um 23.55 Uhr fliegt der Verband bei Büsum an der holsteinischen Küste in den deutschen Luftraum ein. 67 Minuten später fallen die ersten Bomben auf die Hansestadt.


On the 24th July 1943 the Royal Air Force flew bombinb missions under the codeword "Operation Gomorrha" against the city of Hamburg, since known known as the "Firestorm. More than 700 bombs with thousands of high explosive and incendiary bombs turned whole quarters into a waste of rubble. Within ten days 4 raids were flown - at least 35.000 people were killed, 25.000 injured and a million homeless. Max Tiedemann, the brother of my grandfather Erwin went through this inferno and recorded down his memories.

On Saturday, 24th July 1943 an oppressive heat lay over Hamburg. The evening hardly brought any relief. Shortly after midnight - at 0.33 hours - the silence of the night was broken  by the shrillness of sirens: Fliegeralarm!

Near by High Wycombe, with in reach of London, staff officers of Bomber Command lean over their maps. Three hours previously 791 bombers started, Operation Gomorrha was underway. At 23.55 hours they reached Büsum on the coast of Holstein entering German airspace. 67 minutes later the first bombs fall on the Hanseatic City.

From the homepage and chronical of the Tiedemann family


Hamburg-Eilbek, where I lived for many years. Photo taken after the raids in July 1943

The bridge over the canal leading to the Alster

Space on the canal has been turned into living quarters in the past decades

St. Gertrudenkirche near the Alster

The old chapel at the former cemetery on the Wandsbeker Chaussee. The cemetery is now a park.

The former S-Bahn station building in Hasselbrook has been turned into a restaurant

A quiet residential street in Eilbek-Uhlenhorst

The Wandsbeker Chaussee at the corner of the Richardstrasse


Eilbek as it is today, Richardstrasse.  One of the most pleasant residential areas in Hamburg, within easy reach of the Alster, and with a good standard of living.


An aerial view over the Richardstraße and Wandsbeker Chaussee


Hasselbrookstraße 14 - Max Schmeling once lived here. This is nearer the area of Hamm.

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Rolf Bohn, P.O.W. Index Card, US Army, France, May 1945





Personal Ausweis British Zone, Minna Augusta Bohn (geb. Ahlers) from Delmenhorst, Hamburg-Altona, 1950/51


Familie Ahlers  - Delmenhorst, Oldenburg, Bremen area (Bohn-Ahlers, maternal side)


Willi Schmold, Infanterie-Regiment Bremen, pre-war photo


and in a photo from 1909 (centre left) wearing dark blue Litewka with Unteroffiziersborte


Willi Schmold (centre), Reserve-Infanterie-Regt. 440, Frankreich, 12.2.1917 - Willi, seine letzte Aufnahme - shortly after this photo, he fell.     8. Komp./II.Btl., R.J.R.440


Writing on the reverse of the card, an older photocopy


A further photo from same source, Artillery or Train soldiers? Unknown


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Rolf Bohn

Some photos which were sent yesterday, Name and Photo have not been included for familiar reasons.

Seite 1:  4./G.R.389 – das heißt, 4.Kompanie / Grenadier-Regiment 389 – Nummer der Erkennungsmarke: 5, Blutgruppe: O

Seite 17  - gemischte Marsch-Kompanie XIII/183/42 -  vielleicht gem. Marschkompanie, Wehrkreis XIII, Stammrolle 183/1942 (?)

- Grenadier-Regt. 389, 4.Kompanie, Stammrollen-Nr. 455 (später gestrichen)

-  Grenadier-Regt.330, 1.Kompanie, Kriegsstammrolle: 527

- Grenadier Ersatz-Bataillon 186 (Ansbach)

- Grenadier Ersatz-Bataillon 72 in Pardubitz (Böhmen)

Seite 7  - Bekleidung u. Ausrüstung – Annahme und Abgabe

Seite 22/23:   Auszeichnungen und Beurlaubungen (23)

10.11.1943 – Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz

15.08.1944 – Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber

29.08.1944 – Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen in Silber

Seite 8a: Besitznachweis von Waffen u. Gerät

Gewehr Nr. 145 v. 3.10.1943

Seitengewehr Nr. 5771 v. 3.10.1943

Spaten am 16.11.1944

Weitere Angaben, diese undeutlich, Seite nachträglich gestrichen

S.18/19 Zahlmeisterei  Eintragungen über Soldgruppe:

I./Feld-Ausbildungs-Regiment 815

20.10.1942 Wehrsoldgruppe 16

1.3.1944 Wehrsoldgruppe 15

Kriegsbesoldung: Nach eigenen Angaben ohne Bezüge

S.12/13 Nachweisung über etwaige Aufnahme in ein Standort-, Feld-, Kriegs- oder Reservelazarett

Armee-Feldlazarett (illegible)

Krankensammelstelle Cherson, 12.10.43 (Krim)

Schreiberhan, Krankenabtlg.I, Josephinenhütte, 11.11.43

4./Grenadier-Regt.389 (Datum unleserlich)

Krankensammelstelle Großwardein, 20.7.1944

Kriegslazarett 2./541, 8.8.1944 (Charkow)

Reserve-Lazarett XXe Wien, 1.Sept.1944

Lungendurchleuchtung durchgeführt, 7.9.1944

S.20/21 Wehrsold / Lazarett

S.12/13 Lazarettaufnahme, Untersuchungen, etc.

S.5/7 Genesenden-Kompanie, Grenadier Ersatz-Bataillon 72 – Bekleidung und Ausrüstung - (Seite 6 fehlt!)

Versetzt an Ersatz-Bataillon 72

Seite 8b/8c Nachweis über Waffen und Gerät (erhalten):

- Reinigungsgerät 34,

- Gasmaske 30, Größe 5

- Gasplane

- Verbandpäckchen

- Karabiner 98k Nr. 23337

- Zielfernrohr Nr. 71435

- Tarnjacke

- Tarnnetz

- Behälter f.Zielfernrohr

- Winterabzug

Letzte Eintragungen: 19.1.1945 bzw., 24.1.1945(!)

Seite 9 - Impfungen gegen Pocken, Typhus/Paratyphus, Ruhr, Cholera, sonstige Schutz- und Heilimpfungen: Erfolgt, siehe Einträge






















Rolf Bohn, recollections told in 1978:

I was twice wounded. One day in the Lazarett, somebody took my tunic and left a worn out one in it's place.
There was an investigation. I was able to prove that somebody else had my jacket as there was a repair on one sleeve where I had been wounded.
I got my jacket back.

During my war service at the Front, I was engaged as a sniper, and often operated alone.

Another time, I came across an abandoned Russian T-34. Without hesitating, I climbed up and dropped a stick grenade into the open turret hatch. That was one tank less for the Russians.

Almost the entire war I spent on the Russian Front, until after the Allied invasion in France, then I was transferred to the West. During the entire period at the Front, I hardly had any leave and did not see home again.
I was captured by the Americans, and I and my comrades were left in a field surrounded by barbed wire for days on end without shelter, food or water.
The French took over after that, but we still had no shelter. Eventually we were fed continuously with only spinach - I can no longer stomach spinach till this day. 
My comrades were dying like flies, I was lucky to survive. We were made to do forced labour for the rest of our captivity. I was released a few years after the war, and wanted to 
return to Hamburg or Altona, where I came from.

Hamburg was overcrowded with refugees and most accomodation had been bombed out, so I was not allowed back to Hamburg, so I went to Canada with my sweetheart Minna, and finally 
settled in the US. We were still referred to as DPs (displaced persons), and had difficulties with the language. I managed to find a job with the Ford Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio 
as a tool and die maker and later an inspector of tool and dies. I was not good at languages, but always good in arithmetic and maths, which brought me forward, 
I had originally learned „Feinmechaniker“ with the fountain pen manufacturer Montblanc in Altona.

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Some photo postcards of the aftermath of the raids in July 1943. All postcards by Foto Hugo Schmidt, Hamburg 36, Poststraße 14-16



Street scene with minimal damage and what looks like anti-tank barriers near the centre of Hamburg, possibly Reeperbahn or Neue Pferdemarkt.


Ruins around the Nikolaikirche near the Hopfenmarkt.


Hamburg, view along the Mönckebergstrasse towards Spitalerstraße and the Hauptbahnhof, ruins


A view in the opposite direction from the Mönckebergstrasse towards the Rathausmarkt, ruins, to the left, the Petrikirche


Mönckebergstrasse and Gerhard-Hauptmann-Platz, ruins


View from a building in a side street over the Mönckebergstrasse showing the scale of devastation.



Alt-Barmbek, Soldiers and Luftschutzpolizei clearing the ruins and searching for the missing.



KZ-Häftlinge from Neuengamme preparing a house in Altona for demoltion.


Sperrgebiet - Betreten verboten!  KZ-Häftlinge clearing up the rubble. The area of Hammerbrook had to be walled in, as it had become a dead zone. Remains of the victims could only be recovered on clearing the ruins in the postwar years. Much of Hammerbrook was not rebuilt till the early to mid 80s.

It was reported that on one occasion an SA-Mann was shot by Ordnungskräfte for plundering in Ballindamm in the city centre.


A view of Hammerbrook or Rothenburgsort, both entirely destroyed.


900.000 lost their homes in Hamburg and were compelled to leave the city.


Flakbunker, Heiligengeistfeld


Cellars thought safe as air raid shelters became a death trap and inferno






The aftermath


1945, life in Nissen-Huts

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1842 - The Great Fire

As a comparison the Great Fire of 1842 destroyed the old city almost entirely.





Impressions of the fire in 1842.

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Has been added: Recollections of an infantry man in WW2, told by Rolf Bohn in 1978 - see earlier section of this page

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Some memorable places


Hauptfeuerwache Berliner Tor, Hamburg-Mitte


Tiefbunkeranlagen, Berlinertordamm, Einstiegsschacht and Abluftschacht


Zombeck Rohrbunker, Berliner Tor, above can be seen part of the Railway station


Stadthaus, Hamburg Mitte, built 1814, from 1934 till 1943 Gestapoleitstelle Hamburg

Die Ruine des Hamburger Stadthauses, Sommer 1943 © Staatsarchiv Hamburg

Airraids in July 1943 rendered the Stadthaus unusable.

Eingang in das neue Polizeipräsidium im "Deutschlandhaus" Ecke Dammtorstraße/Valentinskamp 1943. © Staatsarchiv Hamburg

The Polizeipräsidium then moved to Deutschlandhaus, Gänsemarkt / Ecke Dammtorstraße

Die Rückseite der Überbauung des Bleichenfleets. © Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme Foto: Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme

Die sogenannte Seufzerbrücke als Gedenkort für Polizeigewalt während der Nazi-Zeit an der Stadthausbrücke in Hamburg. © NDR Foto: Florian Wöhrle

Cellar passage under the Seufzerbrücke, prisoners were held and tortured here by the German Police.

Sowjetische Zwangsarbeiterinnen am Diestelkai im Hamburger Hafen im Jahr 1943. © Denkmalschutzamt Hamburg Foto: Willi Beutler

Russenweiber bei Erdarbeiten, Hamburger Hafen, 1943

Werkausweis von Erich de Giske, 1940. Der Betriebsschlosser war eines der Opfer der Nazi-Diktatur. © Staatsarchiv Hamburg Foto: Staatsarchiv Hamburg

In Neuengamme hingerichtet for overstaying a holiday leave in France.

Gefälschter Ausweis des Hamburger Staatspolizisten Albert Schweim. © Staatsarchiv Hamburg

Gefälscher Ausweis eines Täters, former policeman arrested in 1974

Das Stadthaus an der Ecke Neuer Wall/Stadthausbrücke in Hamburg. © Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme Foto: Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme

The Stadthaus, rebuilt after the war, was sold to an investor in 2013. The ground floor holds a Café in which a documentation centre can be visited.

Ein Schild weist auf die Rolle des Stadthauses in Hamburg während der Nazi-Zeit hin. © NDR Foto: Florian Wöhrle

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