Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Histories of the bombing campaign against German cities in WW2 often mention that German civilians towards the end of war were prey to fantastical rumours that such-and-such a city "is being spared" because a senior Allied leader once holidayed there, or has a distant relative there or plans to set up his post-war HQ there. Such stories speak of the ignorance and fatalism that prevailed in late phase WW2 Germany. The most famous and deluded example is Dresden, supposedly spared (up till the point when it was firebombed) because Churchill's aunt lived there.

But were there any genuine cases of German cities receiving specially lenient treatment by Allied bombers for personal or other unusual reasons?

share|improve this question
never heard of that. Cities weren't chosen at random anyway, and many were never bombed because there was simply nothing of military value there. If such rumours existed, that could well explain them, towns being passed over because they simply weren't worth the effort. –  jwenting Sep 28 '13 at 2:56
There wasn't one person deciding this, so that wouldn't happen. The people involved in the decisions might have had reasons like that, but since they were not the only person involved in the decisions, that would only have had a small influence, and not decided the outcome as a whole. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 28 '13 at 6:06
I've heard similar claims about Kyoto in Japan. –  Andrew Grimm Sep 28 '13 at 13:14
Btw, in the movie "Emperor" it is claimed that General Bonner Fellers tried (but did not succeed) to protect the town where his japanese lover Aya lived. However, I don't know if there is any truth to this, the person Aya is clearly based on this friend Yuri Watanabe, but both she and Feller were married and had families since before the war, so the movie is clearly not trustworthy on this issue. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 28 '13 at 21:03
According to 1945 by G.Dallas (which gives no reference), the RAF Bomber Command had a list of historical cities that should be preserved for their historical and artistic value if possible. The same book claims that no German cities on that list were spared (this is why I insert this as a comment) but that Rome, Florence and Paris might (or would) have been more severely bombed had they not be on it. –  Olivier Mar 3 at 9:29
add comment

1 Answer

A possible candidate is Wiesbaden. According to Wikipedia:

There is a persistant rumour that the U.S. Army Air Force spared the town with the intention of turning it into a postwar HQ, but USAAF sources claim this to be a myth, arguing that Wiesbaden's economic and strategic importance simply did not justify more bombing.[citation needed] Wiesbaden was host to the Headquarters, U.S. Air Forces, Europe based at the former Lindsey Air Station from 1953 to 1973.

American armed forces have been present in Wiesbaden since World War II. The U.S. 1st Armored Division was headquartered at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield, just off the Autobahn toward Frankfurt, until the Division completed relocation to Fort Bliss, Texas in 2011. Wiesbaden is now home to the U.S. Army Europe Headquarters and Mission Command Center.[6]

There were air raids in WWII which according to Wikipedia destroyed 18 percent of the city. However, that is much less than the destruction wrought on Frankfurt am Main, 30 miles to the east, which saw 70 percent destroyed by allied bombing raids.

Architectural model of Frankfurt's old city destroyed in WW II

Architectural model of Frankfurt's old city destroyed in WW II (Historisches Museum Frankfurt). Via Wikimedia Commons.

In contrast to Frankfurt, Wiesbaden has many more buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century in the historicist, classicist, and even art nouveau style. These buildings are lovingly preserved and give this city a much more prosperous and traditional look than Frankfurt.

Typical building in Wiesbaden

1891 building typical of Wiesbaden's cityscape. Via Wikimedia Commons.

share|improve this answer
Frankfurt had a lot more military targets spread all over the city. Wiesbaden had less and AFAIK always had them more concentrated on the outskirts. Major difference. Just because one city suffered less damage doesn't mean it was "spared for sentimental reasons". No, it simply made no sense bombing it back to the stone age because there were only so many bombs to go around and they were used to better effect elsewhere. –  jwenting Sep 29 '13 at 2:51
I believe Dresden was spared early on because it was always to be targeted by fire-bombing, and a virgin target would provide both better data on fire-bombing effectiveness, and would likely enhance effectiveness of the fire bombing. –  Pieter Geerkens Sep 30 '13 at 4:04
@PieterGeerkens that's an interesting claim and worthy of a question in its own right. i've never heard it anywhere else though. –  Tea Drinker Jan 15 at 17:53
@PieterGeerkens: Dresden was 'spared' because it was not important to the Western allies; it was destroyed at the request of the Russians as it was a transportation hub for the Eastern front. –  sds Jan 15 at 18:49
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.