Bomb damage and destroyed houses in Bruchsal. Recovery of an unexploded bomb in the field.
Reference / film number : LFS 00462 2
Date : Between and
Coloration : Black and white
Sound : Mute
Timecode : 00:05:03
Running time : 00:00:00
Reel format : 16 mm
Genre : Documentary
Thematics : Second World War : German occupation - Annexation of Alsace
Archive : Haus des Dokumentarfilms
Context and analysis
The film shows the various types of bomb damage in the city of Bruchsal following an attack by the Royal Air Force (RAF) on the night of September 20, 1940. Around 3:30 am, British aircraft dropped several explosive devices on the residential areas of the city, causing substantial property damage and injuries. The text at the beginning of the five-minute film "This is what Churchill's 'military goals' looked like: bombing of Bruchsal on September 20, 1940" clearly shows that this film was used to mobilize the population. The 16 mm camera is always on the move. The recordings give viewers a general view of the material damage that is being looked at by the residents. You can see details such as collapsed walls, destroyed roofs, windows, apartments and attics with an overall view of a residential area in Bruchsal. Men of the Reich Labor Service in bright uniforms clear away rubble and try to stabilize the houses with brackets. Residents watch and a policeman patrols.
The second part of the film begins at minute 03:35 with the text information "English fire bomb fell into the open field, September 6, 1940". In the first shot, a soldier kneels next to a bomb stuck in the ground and pulls out the unopened parachute. This is followed by pictures of soldiers of the Wehrmacht digging this bomb out of the ground. The camera is close and focuses entirely on the bomb. If it had exploded, the cameraman would have been hit. For long stretches you can only see the legs of the actors in riding boots. Behind them you can see several children or their legs, who are also interested in the find. The final shot is again the bomb lying on the ground with the parachute now open.
The strategic air war began in southwestern Germany in 1940 with only a few air raids by the French and the British army. The western air defense zone is directly occupied by anti-aircraft guns, headlights and flight registration posts and offers tough resistance on the Rhine and in Baden. The numerous losses of the British Air Force force it to carry out area attacks against German cities at night. However, the main goal of these attacks is to trigger flight alarms to disrupt production in factories. Bruchsal between Mannheim and Karlsruhe is the target as a central railroad point. The simultaneous bombing of the cities of Bruchsal and Heidelberg took place under bright moonlight and simplified the low-altitude flight of the British 'Whitleys'. In Heidelberg, mainly workers' settlements were bombed, four people died. In Bruchsal, the 'Schrag und Söhne' malt factory was badly damaged, even though it was not close to military objects. The low-level flights over Bruchsal hit densely populated residential areas between the city church and the hospital. The pillar, Hulten, Friedrich and Schönborn streets in the city center, which are shown in the film, were particularly affected. Several buildings around the castle were also damaged and one wing of the castle was destroyed. In addition to property damage, the newspapers at the time, such as the 'Strasbourg Latest News' and the 'Freiburg Newspaper', reported a dead man, an injured girl and a life-threatening eight-year-old boy.
In 1930 the city had 18,158 inhabitants, in 1945 only 12,583. Before the war in 1939 there were 5,700 apartments, of which 3,731 were uninhabitable by 1945. The considerable destruction is documented in the film. In addition, several photos were taken at the same time and locations. Both show the same damage as the bracket for stabilizing a house or the walls with holes.
The unexploded ordnance in the second part of the film is considered a large incendiary bomb because it weighs twelve kilos and could cause considerable damage. This type was used frequently by the Royal Air Force from the beginning of 'Operation Razzle' and caused forest fires and the destruction of the grain harvest. The fact that the incendiary bomb fell on an open field confirms the intended goal of the British bombers. It is not uncommon for this type of weapon not to explode, as the small parachute and the time fuse question the bomb's efficiency.
The British bombing of Bruchsal in 1940 is one of the various night bombings by the British Air Force against German cities. The bombs and air mines were generally used against buildings, factories and militaristic targets. Even if Bruchsal was hit very little at the beginning of the war, it is one of the cities hardest hit by the Royal Air Force. The damage of September 20, 1940 appears minor, considering the destruction of March 1, 1945. An attack that cost the life of 1,000 residents and destroyed 90% of the city center.
HILSKE, MICHAEL. Beschreibung der englischen Bomben und ihrer Vernichtung. http://michaelhiske.de/Wehrmacht/Luft/Luft/LDV_0764_1/Zeichnungen/Zchng_16.htm; BARDU, HEINZ. Kriegsschäden in Baden-Württemberg: 1939-1945. https://www.leo-bw.de/media/kgl_atlas/current/delivered/pdf/HABW_7_11.pdf
- This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.