1/ Aachen-Manchester. I started research into the memory of the Second World War in UK/Germany in 2016. ‘Compare and contrast’ 75th anniversary from birthplace to hometown. This is a hometown thread - Aachen - the ‘other’ story.
2/ Aachen pre-1914. Modern industrial economy based on railways, textiles, engineering and coal. David Hansemann the commercial father/founder of the economy. Later Hugo Junkers, Professor at the Technical University, established advanced aviation engineering research.
3/ Aachen post-1918. The politics of violence - Belgian occupation 1918-1929, Nazi SA march in July 1932. A year later the Aachen Nazi party’s rally and a tourist brochure from the period.
4/ Aachen - struggle between church and Nazi state. Rhineland Catholicism, Nazis begin construction of the Vogelsang in the Eifel (1934). Despite Police President warnings to stay away, the 1937 pilgrimage was attended by 850,000 pilgrims. Ideological backlash by the Nazi SA.
5/ Aachen - anti-Semitism. Nazi dogma turned terror (1938). Synagogue destroyed. Planned by the Gestapo/SD/Border Police/Orpo, local command handed to Carl Zenner (police president). Arson initiated by the fire brigade. The Jewish cemetery survived. Synagogue and memorial today.
6/ Aachen - 1930s. Construction of twin belts of Siegfried Line bind the city into the frontier defence system. Postwar, the farmers worked the soil in the dragon’s teeth. A Command bunker was constructed in the city (demolished 2014). US Army staff ride 2006.
7/ Aachen - war. German soldiers marching through the city. Local troops cross the Meuse. Aachen newspaper reports with a due sense of irony. Eupen, partitioned from Aachen-Land at Versailles 1919, occupied in May 1940.
8/ Aachen - war. Nazi terror turns genocidal. 1941-1943: Deportations, ugly films and extermination. October 1944 Jewish GI’s held a service for their comrades, unaware of the tragedy befallen the Jews of Aachen.
9/ Aachen - bombing. May 1940 bombed by the RAF. William Shirer, an American War Correspondent witnessed the early raids. In total: 1,000 alarms and 147 raids. A Lancaster built at ‘Metrovicks’, Manchester, bombed Aachen on 11 April 1944.
10/ Aachen - the defenders. February 1943 boys from the grammar school drafted into the Luftwaffe as auxiliaries and assigned to serve the flak. Several killed in action. The flak batteries were situated on the usual bomber flight paths
11/ Aachen - bunkers. Early raids stirred community protests against the existing precautions, which led to construction of 22 air raid shelters and bunkers. A handful have survived in the city. New fire engines were sent to the city.
12/ Aachen - bombing. The paralysed city. Burn city burn - 13/14July 1943 and 11 April 1944. Fifty years later, the raids were still vivid in local memories.
13/ Aachen - bombing. Civilian dead (2,500?) honoured in mass burials in the City’s military cemetery. British aircrew buried with honours. After the war were removed to the CWGC Rheinberg. Mass burial site on the 75th anniversary.
14/ Aachen - bombing. Municipal paralysis. May 1944 raids on Rothe Erde. Crew of Lancaster DV282, F/sgt Jerzy Koziolek pre-take off checks - shot down over Holland. The steel works closed in 1926 - the old admin building in 2019. Postwar high street reconstruction.
15/ Aachen - bombing management. City officials/Chamber of Commerce deputies join forces. Offices gutted July 1943 - transferred to the Hotel Quellenhof - remained the city’s war headquarters until capitulation to the US Army. Nazi crimes continue - 52 local victims.
16/ Aachen - war. Soviet foreign workers, deported to Germany for slave labour. Ordinances required foreign workers to be locked in bunkers at night. TN assigned to sanitise the bunkers after raids due to serious defecation by frightened people. A map of the city’s camps.
17/ Aachen - October 1944. The paralysed city. US Army Air Force, IX TAF bomb the city. Nazi officials fled. The German Army arrived, executed 2 young looters. The US Army attacked through Rothe Erde railway station.
18/ Aachen - the dead city. August - 65% of power lost, 40,000 homeless. May raids finally paralyse the city - 2,500 OT and 25,000 soldiers worked as labour to restore minimum needs but failed. Joseph Buchkremer and a team of young fire-watchers saved the Cathedral
19/ Aachen - assessment. RAF Bomber Command survey team arrived in Match 1945 for damage assessment estimates They examined No.28 housing block, but expressed no interest in the former residents. Looking again at old old bomb sites.
20/ Aachen - evacuation. The remaining 8,000 Germans of the original 169,000 (1939) population evacuated by the US Army to former German army barracks in the city. Housed and fed; the barracks today.
21/ Aachen - homelessness. Bunker residences up to 1955. Sandkaul bunker, first of the ‘protest’ bunkers revealed it’s accommodation cells during demolition. Victor Gollancz visited in 1946 and met a bunker resident.
22/ Aachen - MGO/social control. First city Police and press. Saul Padover complained about continuing Nazis influence. City Mayor Oppenhof assassinated by the SS. Increasing crime. MRD Foot complained about the university during a summer course.
23/ Aachen - postwar. Gangsters, smuggling, and blackmarkets. Violent crime on the frontiers. A film about child smugglers. 1947 British Synagogue trial - Carl Zenner, found guilty of crimes against humanity. Case is wiped from communal memory, but resurfaced 2019.
24/ Aachen - memory. Rubble, bombs, lost communities and plaques. The ‘democracy’ plaque disappeared after the University sold the command bunker for property development in 2014. Churchill in Aachen to receive the Karlspreis 1955/56. Local street art circa 2010.
25/ Aachen - sources. The documentary evidence came from US/UK archives. The city lost many records. Once the manuscript is completed, all records will be given to the city archive. Some interesting books, Allen’s was the inspiration for the research.
1/ #BattleofAachen Virtual Twitter-field Staff Ride/Tour
Today’s targets: German command system, bunker network and the terrain. The area focused upon today is shaded in red - the Lousberg. Today’s musical choices are taken from:
2/OTD #BattleofAachen 10 October 1944 - The Ultimatum. US Army offer the German defenders a chance to surrender. The map shows the German command centre, star marks the spot. The ultimatum was delivered to Oberstleutnant Leyherr of 246 VGD.
3/ #BattleofAachen - Background - September 1944. Gen. Schwerin in the City with a PG regiment/116PD. Their Hq was directly across the road from the site where 2 boys were shot for plundering. Schwerin handed a letter to the post office, for the allies and departed.
4/ #BattleofAachen on 12 October 1944 Oberst Gerhard Wilck entered the City and took over command. He set up Hq. in the Hotel Quellenhof. He told interrogators he arrived in the City on the 10th. Mug shot from 26 October 1944 by British Army interrogation officers.
5/ #BattleofAachen Start the virtual ride what was going on with the German command? We begin with a brisk walk to the top of the Lousberg - the shaded red area on previous maps. Past the war memorial, crossroads, the pillars, and to the monument on the top.
6/ #BattleofAachen The Lousberg compass. First church tower is a marker, look to the left of the church to see a second church. That is the cross on the maps. Behind that church is a straight road leading out of the city - Trierstrasse - the Ultimatum point and compass directions
7/ #BattleofAachen The Lousberg compass - RAF Bomber flight path. Looking towards the hill, in the low ground a Luftwaffe 88mm flak battery. This also overlooks the ground supposedly encircled by US forces on 8 October 1944.
8/ #BattleofAachen The Lousberg - observer positions
Americans bombed, strafed and shelled to push the Germans off the hill. The undulating ground reveals the extent of the damage. 3rd snap standing on a destroyed observation bunker for the flak batteries.
9/ #BattleofAachen The Lousberg - former railway tunnel
The tunnel has now been blocked but what remains indicated its strategic value to the city for stockpiling arms and supplies, and civilians away from the fighting.
10/ #BattleofAachen The Lousberg - former railway tunnel
The rear areas of the Lousberg where German troops and traffic broke into the city. The phone GPS shows my position vis-a-vis the Lousberg and the feeder/escape routes.
11/ #BattleofAachen The Command bunker - 1984, the apartments today. Bunker was demolished in 2014 while the city celebrated Charlemagne. Someone wasn’t happy about the luxury apartments. The plaque disappeared, ominous in these uncertain times.
12/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone - GPS positioning and evidence of the pre-war architecture. Area where assault guns and 251/ambulances parked - evidence the Germans were running this area as the command zone.
13/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone
We reach the Ponttor and medical bunker. August 1944 the bunker was used to house foreign labourers. Within the paralysed city there was no work and no transport to move them out. This brings us back to Schwerin’s hq - full circle.
14/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone . Monheimallee Bunker
Used to house civilians and wounded during the fighting.
15/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone - After the Battle 1983 and today. The abandoned building on the left side of the road was the Basti club, once the place for young revellers in the 1950s and 60s.
16/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone - back to the Hotel Quellenhof and a snap of the house next door. This completes our virtual walk.
17/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone
The Germans were fighting a complex battle. They had been able to breach the US army’s encirclement. The tunnel was a secure place for supplies. Arms were continually being discovered during reconstruction and building.
18/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone. There is strong evidence that the Germans had concentrated civilians in those bunkers without firing slots. They had also placed wounded in the bunkers. We know from the surrender of the music bunker that there were civilians and auxiliaries.
19/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone
This walk was mostly about the terrain. On 10 October 1944 the Germans were probably more prepared for the battle than was hitherto assumed. However, once the encirclement was properly sealed from 14 October it was only a question of time.
20/ #BattleofAachen The Command zone - Conjecture: Schwerin’s letter September 1944 disarming the city. How was it going to get delivered, who was going to deliver it and would the Americans agree? I think the posties didn’t know how to deliver it and gave it to the Gestapo - .
21/ #BattleofAachen - More walks to come - probably the Rothe Erde breach tomorrow. Meanwhile some literature for those interested in reading further:
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. Refer to previous thread maps, this thread focuses upon the area of the star or blue on the battle map. I assume we all know the war photograph was probably taken around 12-13 October.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the pre-breach. Terrain. Looking on Aachen from Crucifix Hill captured by the US Army - 18 Inf. Rgt on 8 October from German troops of 246VGD. Bitter fighting continued to 12 October - Captain Brown awarded MoH.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde - to go through or to go over? The railway embankment as a physical obstacle to military operations. The exposed high drop far side and of course the observation from the Lousberg.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Rothe Erde. The area to the right of the station - facing the city - was a marshalling yard. A 180 pan - station, yards, Trierstrasse. From the bridge - look straight ahead towards the church and the Lousberg.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. The far side was also a problem from height and exposure to German enfilading fire. Anyone want to question why corners were flattened and the US slogan was ‘Knock ‘em all down’. A wartime picture.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. Why not use the railways? L-R looks safe but the viaduct into town was down (1840s print), Aachen-Schande high embankment, and nearby Westbahnhof virtually unscalable without heavy lift.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. The district of Rothe Erde was industrial from the mid-1800s.
The former needle factory is now the city archive. @AachenEuregio
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. The Belgian Occupation 1918-1929. Belgian steam locomotives in Rothe Erde working the coal reparations freight trains. The Belgian authorities closed the steel works long before the Great Crash.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. RAF Air Raids - May 1944. Bombers entirely flattened the area, took a month to clear the debris to get the main railway line open again.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. RAF Air Raids - May 1944. Today, evidence of bombing still scars the landscape.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. The map shows the areas so far examined as possible entry points. The fighting starts. Not fake news in SWW - did the Americans really drive the tanks through AFTER the breach? Was this liberation?
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. After the breach - serious fighting and filming - later themes for virtual walks.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. Today. Some interesting ways to illustrate local history.
OTD #BattleofAachen 11 October 1944: Virtual ride around the breach - Rothe Erde. Selection of reading particular to this thread:
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - this ride looks at the at the street fighting. New map with phase lines, used by the US Army education services. Thread will try to recreate a sense of the intense fighting at the mid point after the breach.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 -After the breach US troops began driving down Adalbertsteinweg - a company from 3rd Battalion was assigned to 2nd Battalion drive.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - and along Oppenhoffallee - 2nd Battalion drive - Lt..Col Daniel.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944. US Army Signals Corps use the empty roads for still photographs.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - fighting turned hard as front lines disappeared. Did the Germans come from behind using the rat lines? Look at turret of the Sherman in the far right picture. Film crews close to the combat.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - After the Battle magazine refers to serious fighting around the Kurhaus on 14/15 October. The Germans outside the city were trying to get Stugs to SS Detachment Rink/LSSAH. Herbert Rink and SS-Mann Peter Schaaf.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - Green - German command zone, Blue - Corley´s drive. The Red - this walk. Initially Germans adopted shot n´Skoot exploiting the rat lines - streets, sewers, walls through houses. The US adopted ´knock em all down ´tactics - note angle of 155.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - Lt. Col. Corley’s drive went through the industrial sector (described as the factory district). The Talbot Railway works (now Bombardier) and the old livestock slaughter houses (redundant). Evidence of extensive war damage.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944. The red zone - see map above. Following the 3rd Battalion up Monheimsallee - within the German sights at the Hotel Quellenhof. Start by the old tram tracks, original buildings, and new buildings replacing a former Gestapo office.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - Street fighting infantry style - down in the rubble (scenes from both battalions).
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - left side of Monheimsallee - Infantry eye view, evidence of German shooting from the Hotel. Some ordnance pebble dash - angles confirm direction.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - Rat lines for defenders to enfilade and ambush - US solution, keep destroying the corners. Defenders run off and fighting stops. Troopers reach the hotel’s roof to defend against SS Det Rink´s counter-attacks.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944 - Corley´s drive. US troops flatten the houses including Ann Franks´ grandparents home. Struggle for the Kurhaus intensifies, turning into a vicious crescendo of violence. The fighting spilled into Fawick Park.
OTD #BattleofAachen 17 October 1944. US troopers join the platoon coming up the Sandkaulstr - the slice and dice tactics with heavy firepower finally breaks the defenders will. Last fighting at the Command bunker (demolished 2014). Note 155mm shell damage.
#BattleofAachen - 1970s. Rink escaped the fighting and points to his escape route. Peter Schaaf nearby his fighting position in 1944 - nearby the former PzGr Hq in September.
#BattleofAachen - Surrendered German soldiers were collected to an area around Kaiserplatz. The boy with his hands on his head returned to the scene in the 1970s.
#BattleofAachen OTD 21 October 1944 the garrison commander surrendered. Oberst Wilck driven away after his Band of Brothers speech to the German POWs. Photographed 4 days later - Ashcan officers camp in UK. Clarence Huebner - the victor. Marshall arrived under wraps
#BattleofAachen OTD 21 October 1944 the POWs were collected and brought to Hansemannplatz, then marched out after Wilck´s speech.
#BattleofAachen OTD 21 October 1944 - repair, reconstruction, recovery... US Army put up notices which with little impact. Jewish GI´s held a service of remembrance, broadcast over public radio and then MGO troops moved in.
#BattleofAachen OTD 21 October 1944 - Civilians were transferred to the former German army garrison in Brand.
#BattleofAachen City in ruins - some buildings were rebuilt, but others disappeared. Some rebuilds washed the past from local history.
#BattleofAachen - scenes of the surrender ceremony site on the 75 Anniversary:
#BattleofAachen OTD 21 October 1944 - the POW road out of the city - last week.
#BattleofAachen In the 1950s war damage dominated the City landscape. People were still living in bunkers until 1955.
#BattleofAachen 2020 - we face challenges. The Chio, Xmas market, the summer music festivals are high profile casualties, but there are greater hardships. Neighbours in Belgium and Netherlands also suffering. I am optimistic about post-COVID reconstruction and Europe’s future.
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