Geoff Walden


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   Würzburg is a beautiful Baroque city, the capital of Unterfranken (Lower Franconia). Although there were some military installations in the city, it was not an important target, and it largely escaped the repeated bombing that devastated many German cities. A few bombs had been dropped, and lives lost, in June 1944, and heavier bombing came in February 1945, but the destruction had not been widespread. Until, that is, 16 March 1945  ...  on that night, a fleet of 280 British RAF bombers dropped some 1200 high explosive and 380,000 incendiary bombs  --  927 tons of bombs  --  on Würzburg. The incendiaries started a firestorm in the old wooden houses that eventually consumed nearly 90 percent of the city. The total civilian casualties will never be known, but numbered at least 3000, and perhaps as many as 5000. When the U.S. Army entered Würzburg on 3 April 1945, the soldiers found little more than a ruin of rubble and ashes (see Part 2).  Click here for a MapQuest map link to Würzburg.


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Würzburg was brought into the Nazi fold soon after their assumption of power in 1933. This so-called Adolf-Hitler-Turm, built on the Hohenrothberg hill above Randersacker, was erected in 1938 as a base for a flagpole bearing a huge swastika flag that could be seen up and down the valley of the Main River, south of the city. This edifice (now called the Sonnenstuhlturm, or the Potato Tower by locals) can still be seen today by anyone traveling the A3 Autobahn past Würzburg, on a hill overlooking the river between the Biebelried and Randersacker exchanges (the tower is most easily seen just as you cross the Autobahn bridge over the Main River, on the hill just across the river to the north). Post-war efforts to obliterate the large stone swastikas on three sides were not entirely successful (one source says this damage was caused by U.S. Army tankers firing at the tower from across the Main River, but this seems unlikely).  (MapQuest Map Link)


On the left, a view of the tower from the rear, showing the stone walkway to the top and the base for the flagpole. On the right, a close-up view of the remains of the swastika and date 1933 on the front of the tower.


 This edifice was actually started in the 1920s as an observation platform, but was turned into a flag tower by the Nazis.


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When Adolf Hitler visited Würzburg, he was generally lodged in the Würzburger Hof hotel on the Barbarossaplatz. Hitler is shown here in front of the hotel during a visit in August 1933. Hitler was present for several Nazi parades and ceremonies in Würzburg. The sign on the hotel that appears to show a Star of David was actually an advertisement for the Würzburger Hofbräu, the city brewery.  (Bundesarchiv)


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Many of the Nazi ceremonies took place in the large open area in front of the Residenz, the 18th century rococo palace of the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg. On 10 March 1933, the newly-empowered Nazis burned pamphlets and writings by Communists here in the Residenzplatz. In this photo, Adolf Hitler visits on 27 June 1937.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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Parade in honor of Hitler's 50th birthday, 20 April 1939, in the Residenzplatz.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)

The following photos show various Nazi parades in the Residenzplatz.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)

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The Nazi Gauleiter of the Main-Franken area, Dr. Otto Hellmuth, was married in the Residenz in June 1936. The wedding procession was pictured in the Residenzplatz, in front of the fountain crowned by the statue of Franconia. In the right-center distance are the spires of the Würzburg Dom (St. Kilian's Cathedral); in the left distance appears the Marienberg Fortress on the hills across the Main River. Most of the buildings in this view were bombed and burned out in March 1945.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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As in other German cities and towns, one of the major Würzburg streets was renamed Adolf-Hitler-Straße, shown here during an SA parade in the 1930s. This is now Theaterstraße, and is home to one of Würzburg's McDonald's restaurants.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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Sanderglacisstraße, near the Main River, was renamed in honor of Albert Leo Schlageter, a German nationalist who had been killed by the French in the French-occupied Ruhr in 1923.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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The Domstraße, leading from St. Kilian's Cathedral to the Main River, is dominated by the tower of the Alte Rathaus (Old City Hall).  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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The March 1945 bombing destroyed the Rathaus tower roof and bell tower, which were rebuilt in the same style; not so for many of the surrounding buildings. The period photo shown here was taken on 30 April 1938.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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The display for the March 1939 Tag der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces Day) included 150mm artillery pieces at Hindenburg Kaserne. This post no longer exists, but the photo on the right from ca. 1979 shows the same view.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg; modern photo courtesy Tom Crowder)


In 1936 Generalmajor Heinz Guderian, commander of the armored forces (in left foreground) visited the newly-built Nord-Kaserne on Veitshöchheimer Straße, northwest of the city center. In the 1936 photo Guderian is seen with the Kaserne Kommandant, just in front of the main gate guardhouse seen on the other side of the gate in the photo below.  (MapQuest Map Link)



The Nord-Kaserne was named Adolf-Hitler-Kaserne in 1938, which is shown by the name plate on the gate post on the other side of the entrance. Hitler's name and the accompanying swastika were chiseled off after the war. The gate post also features an Iron Cross in a shield and a relief of a medieval standard-bearer. The Reichsadler at the corner of the other gate building presumably once grasped a swastika. The U.S. Army used this post as Emery Barracks until ca. 1995.


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The parade for the May 1933 Tag des Handwerks (Factory Workers Day) passed by the Kilian Fountain in front of the Bahnhof.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


The local Nazi leadership conducts a ceremony at the Würzburg World War I memorial on 14 March 1938. The memorial was by Würzburg sculptor Fried Heuler.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


A Studentenstein, or Student Memorial, was erected near the Würzburg University in 1927, to honor the German students who had gone to war in World War I. On the left above, a ceremony at the Studentenstein remembers the dead on Langemarck Day, 11 November 1933 (many of the dead in the battle of Langemarck in November 1917 were student volunteers). The Nazis modified the memorial's design, adding swastikas but retaining the words "Deutschland Muss Leben Auch Wenn Wir Sterben Müssen" (Germany must live, even if we must die). The memorial was modified again after the war, removing the engravings and adding bronze plaques in honor of death, sacrifice, and example.


The Luitpold Hospital was built on a prominent hill in 1932-34. When this period photo was taken in 1940, the buildings had Red Cross flags on their roofs. The complex is today a part of the University Hospital. The smoke stack (which may also be a water tower) was jokingly called "Hitler's Penis" by locals.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)


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A large military hospital complex was built in Würzburg in the late 1930s. When the U.S. Army moved into the area in April 1945, this facility was taken over by the 107th EVAC Hospital, and it continued to serve as a U.S. Army hospital until returned to the German government in 2007 (the hospital was extensively remodeled in 2011).  (1945 photo courtesy Frank Tompkins - visit Frank's site about the 107th EVAC Hospital)  --   see the Wehrmacht Military Posts page for other pictures of this site. See also (in German), which has photos of the hospital and other military sites in Würzburg.


This building of apparent Third Reich architecture is located down the street from the hospital in the photos above (across from the Gaubunker, see below), but I have been unable to discover its 1930s function.


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The concrete structure in the postwar photo on the left was a command and control bunker for the local Nazi political control unit (Gaubunker). It remained for some years after the war, but the upper part was removed in the 1960s or 1970s. The lower portion, and perhaps any underground rooms, remain today just down the street from the military hospital (which can be seen in the background in the modern photo). Note - these bunker remains were removed in 2005 during construction of a new gate for the military hospital.  (Stadtarchiv Würzburg)



Nazi Gauleiter Dr. Otto Hellmuth lived in this villa on Rotterdorfer Straße (renamed Ludendorffstraße during the Nazi period). The home had been a forced sale from a Jewish druggist in 1938. It is across the street from the Gaubunker, where Hellmuth and his family took refuge during the bombing attacks.


The Würzburg headquarters of the NSV (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt - Nazi People's Welfare Organization) were located at Ludwigkai 4, along the Main River. Also in this building were the headquarters of the local Nazi Womens League, including a school for mothers. This building was taken over in 1945 for the headquarters of the U.S. Army occupation force, and it served until the early 1990s as the Military Police station. The building still shows classic elements of Nazi architecture.


The headquarters of the NS-Lehrerbund (Nazi Teachers Assn.) were in this building on Von-Luxburg Straße, adjacent to the Berthold Volksschule (now the Goethe Schule, seen below). The period photo above was taken before the Berthold-Schule was built in 1938. Rudolf Berthold was a Würzburg native who was a pilot in World War I and a leader of the post-war Freikorps, who was killed while fighting Communists in Hamburg in 1920.  (Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuem Reich," Bayreuth, 1942)


This building at Leistenstraße 121 was the Gauschule - a training site for functionaries of the local government. Today it is a private residence.


This Fachwerk building in the Würzburg suburb of Heidingsfeld was the local Hitler-Jugend Heim.  (Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuem Reich," Bayreuth, 1942)


National Socialist Buildings in Würzburg - guide with maps and photos (in German)  --


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