Old Hamburg
Recently I've become interested in the history of Hamburg. My maternal great-great-great grandfather Hans Jacob Sinn (1780-1820) was a ship captain from Övelgönne, and both his father and father-in-law (that is, my great-great-great-great grandfathers) were Elbe river pilots.

My reading soon led me to the horrendous Bombing of Hamburg. In the very early hours of Wednesday 28 July 1943, a firestorm was created by a British bombing raid (part of "Operation Gomorrha"). It raged for 3 hours and killed an estimated 40,000 people. In a single night.

But I am ashamed to say it came as a surprise. I knew of Dresden, but why hadn't I heard of Hamburg? And why doesn't anyone I have spoken to know about it?

The writer Hans Erich Nossak, on holiday, watched the firestorm from the safety of the other side of the river Elbe. It was three months before he could bring himself to write about the experience ("one falls silent because the words threaten to become sobs." - p. 9). It is a remarkable meditation, and worth seeking out. Excerpts from the first 14 pages can be previewed here - Hans Erich Nossak, The End: Hamburg 1943, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004.

"we saw inside a house that stood alone and intact in the midst of a vast expanse of rubble a woman cleaning her windows ... we saw children cleaning and raking a small front yard." (p. 23)

"It used to be narrow there, a maze of crisscrossing alleys, and now you had an open view." (p. 50)

"like a towering cliff over the petrified surf of that sea of ruins." (p. 50)

This set was created on 28 July 2011 to mark the anniversary.

Rescued by Rover has a stunning set of old Hamburg real photo postcards which can be seen here.
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