15 beautiful German cities that survived WW2 almost untouched

When traveling through Europe is still very easy to see in many places the trail left by the wounds of World War II. The conflict wiped out centuries of art, treasures and history, that time had gathered across the geography of the old continent.

Germany received its share, and saw how most of its urban centers were reduced to a pile of rubble. Luckily, human stupidity didn't took it all. A handful of small cities were left standing, to remind everyone what we missed out on.

This list is a selection of the biggest and most important cities that were spared during the Second World War. They were little or never bombed. A wise surrender on time, without a fight to advancing allied troops, left many of these fortunate towns untouched by the ravages of the war. Also it is not to be forgotten that once the peace was signed, the historic buildings had still to fight not to be torn down, to be replaced by newer ones.

German cities that survived WW2
The nearly unscathed medieval centre of Goslar is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the old mining industries of the area. The city survived the conflict without major damage thanks to a capitulation, that handed over the town intact to the Americans. Image by Goslar Marketing GmbH / Stefan Schiefer


German cities not damaged during WW2
With its historical monuments set in a romantic environment and the prestige of be considered as the German Cambridge, it is easy to see why Heidelberg is such a popular tourist destination. The civilian population surrendered without resistance, one day after retiring Wehrmacht's combat units had left the city. Image by Till Meinhof




German cities not bombed in WW2
Regensburg is a remarkably well-preserved medieval town, one of the oldest of the country. It also holds the UNESCO World Heritage Status. The Bavarian city suffered comparatively little damage, almost only having to regret the loss of the old monastery of Obermünster in an air raid. Image by Karsten Dörre


German cities not destroyed in WW2
Tübingen is a vibrant university town with superb medieval architecture that remained practically undamaged. On the initiative of the German garrison doctor, the city surrendered without a fight to the French troops.
Image by Marlene Bitzer


Which German cities were not destroyed in WW2
Bamberg is a small town of beautiful timber-framed houses, also declared UNESCO World Heritage. It experienced no heavy ground fighting when it was occupied by troops of the US Army.
Image by Bamberg Tourism and Congress Service


WWII German surrender city
During WWII, Lüneburg was almost completely spared allied bombings which destroyed many of its neighboring cities. Since them, the beautiful Altstadt has been gradually restored. Historical fact: Nazi Germany signed the unconditional surrender that brought the war in Europe to an end in the outskirts of the city. Image by fRandi-Shooters


Which German cities survived WW2
Göttingen is another university town in the very center of Germany. It spared massive bombing as well, as it did not present a target of opportunity. Only about 1% of the city was destroyed, including the Junkernschänke, a historic and popular house. Image by Göttingen Tourismus e.V.




German city not severely bombed in WW2
Celle is well-known for its magnificent ducal palace, and its well-preserved old town. The city suffered only one serious bombing attack in World War II. Destruction rate: About 2.2%
Image by Celle Tourismus und Marketing GmbH


Which German cities were not bombed in WW2
Wolfenbüttel is home of the world-famous herbal liqueur Jägermeister. This is an attractive and historic town, with half-timbered houses and buildings in the Renaissance style, that survived the conflict more or less intact.
Image by Stadt Wolfenbuettel H.D. König


German cities to visit
Seven lakes surround the historic old town of Schwerin and its romantic palace, that still has a whiff of aristocratic charm. The damage suffered in World War II was relatively minor, as it only had to endure four air attacks. This is partly because almost no major war industry was settled here. In total, a 3% of Schwerin was destroyed. Image by Harald Hoyer


Deutsche städte die nicht bombardiert worden
Marburg was designated as a hospital city, so that its ensemble of cobblestone streets packed with lovely traditional houses remained complete. In this university town you can enjoy splendid picture postcard settings without the hassle of tourists.


Deutsche Städte nicht zerstört
The small city of Ravensburg succeed to scape from bomb damage, as it was strategically of no relevance. The fact is that it experienced economic stagnation for the last two centuries. As a result, many of its older buildings got through the Industrial Revolution and later, the war without much change. Image by Thomas Keller


Deutsch Städte überlebt Zweiten Weltkrieg
Wiesbaden, with a higher destruction rate of around an 18% of its buildings, lies at the limit to be excluded from this list. The good news is that the only serious bombing that caused most of the damage, didn't touch the center. As it was in a much better condition that its bigger neighbor Frankfurt, the U.S. Air Forces established here its Headquarters.
Image by Martin Fisch


German cities that were not bombed
During World War II Konstanz was an important industrial center, but it was never bombed by the Allied Forces. The city of Kreuzlingen in Switzerland is just at the other side of the river Rhein, and it left all its lights on at night. In Konstanz they just did the same, blurring further the non-obvious boundary between both towns. Thus they fooled the bombers into thinking it was actually part of the neutral country. Image by LenDog64


German city not damaged
And finally Görlitz, the jewel of the crown. This is the largest city in Germany that survived WW2 without damage. With scarcely a scratch on its medieval old town, surrounded by gorgeous 19th century architecture, this place is truly unique. It is interesting the story of a mysterious anonymous donor that gives a large sum of cash every year; They are only two conditions: his identity has to remain secret, and the money has to be spent on renovation work of the historical heritage. Also many movies have been filmed here in the last years (like Grand Budapest Hotel), so now the town is also known as Görliwood. Image by Atlas of Wonders


For further information there is an extraordinary large book published in 2015 that we highly recommend: Germany around 1900: A Portrait in Colour includes 800 pictures of pure time travel. The splendor of the country and how it look like back more than a hundred years, before everything was destroyed by World Wars. On the other hand, here is a view of modern Germany with more than 200 pages of what is left. A lot of useful info for visiting these lands can be found in latest edition of the complete Lonely Planet, or also is very handy to have a copy of the more alternative The Rough Guide travel guide:

   




Do you know other German cities that should be included in this list? Which ones?

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8 comments:

John Clare said...

Quedlinburg should be added to the ist of German cities unscathed in WW2.

Ra Moon said...

Thanks John, it's a good one. But Quedlinburg is maybe to small to be considered a city. We want to highlight the biggest places that survived the conflict, otherwise many other towns could join this list. Maybe for a new post?

Andreas said...

You missed out the three biggest ones: Erfurt, Halle, Wiesbaden. From the smaller ones, have a look at Stralsund (pop. 58.000) and my hometown Ravensburg (50.000).

Ra Moon said...

Thanks a lot Andreas for your suggestions. We may consider including Ravensburg and Wiesbaden, although this last one endured a raid that destroyed up to the 18% of the buildings, maybe a bit too much for this compilation. The same for Stralsund; we had considered this beautiful Hanseatic city, but even though if the historical center has been restored, it was seriously damaged by Alliend bombing in 1944.
About Erfurt and Halle, both suffered too much destruction to be part of a list of "almost untouched" survivors.

Anonymous said...

Volkach !

Ra Moon said...

Thanks, but Volkach doesn't qualify: it's too small.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about Erfurt? According to the Erfurt Tourism Office, the city only suffered about a 5% destruction rate.

Some other suggestions could be Wismar and Stralsund. They're both UNESCO World Heritage listed cities so I'm sure they didn't suffer too much damage. Maybe Lübeck too, which is also UNESCO, but it suffered more (about 20%).

Ra Moon said...

Thanks, but according to the German Wikipedia, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erfurt#20._Jahrhundert (translated from German):
"Erfurt experienced 27 British and American air raids [...] 1100 tons of bombs were dropped. [...] 530 buildings were totally destroyed, 2550 heavily damaged. 17% of the houses were completely destroyed, many others were badly damaged. The historic old town of Erfurt was especially affected. [...] Valuable secular and sacred buildings were lost, like the Collegium Maius of the old University, and the library of the Augustinian monastery. All the churches in the inner city were hit more or less heavily by bombs and artillery fire. The ruins of the Barfüßerkirche, which was destroyed by an airmine on 26 November 1944, still stand today as a memorial."

About Wismar (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wismar#Modern_times): "In World War II Wismar was heavily damaged by Allied air raids."
And from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wismar#1945_bis_heute: "Some historic buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed, such as the Georgenkirche, the Marienkirche and the surrounding Gothic quarter."

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