Photographs of a devastated post-war Berlin in the summer of 1945.
“When Allied observers came to Germany after the war, most of them expected to find destruction on the same scale as they had witnessed in Britain during the Blitz. Even after British and American newspapers and magazines began to print pictures and descriptions of the devastation it was impossible to prepare for the sight of the real thing. Austin Robinson, for example, was sent to western Germany directly after the war on behalf of the British Ministry of Production. His description of Mainz while he was there displays his sense of shock:
That skeleton, with whole blocks level, huge areas with nothing but walls standing, factories almost completely gutted, was a picture that I know will live with me for life. One had known it intellectually without feeling it emotionally or humanly.
British Lieutenant Philip Dark was equally apallaed by the apocalyptic vision he saw in Hamburg at the end of the war:
[W]e swung in towards the centre and started to enter a city devastated beyond all comprehension. It was more than appallaing. As far as the eye could see, square mile after square mile of empty shells of buildings with twisted girders scarecrowed in the air, radiators of a flat jutting out from a shaft of a still-standing wall, like a crucified pterodactyl skeleton. Horrible, hideous shapes of chimneys sprouting from the frame of a wall. The whole pervaded by an atmosphere of ageless quiet… Such impressions are incomprehensible unless seen.
Berlin was “completely shattered - just piles of rubble and skeleton houses.” Between 18 and 20 million German people were rendered homeless by the destruction of their cities - that is the same as the combined prewar populations of Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. These people lived in cellars, ruins, holes in the ground - anywhere they could find a modicum of shelter. They were entirely deprived of essential servies, such as water, gas, electricity - as were millions of others across Europe.”
(Text via Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe; photographs via)