Bombing of Vienna

Although there was an air raid in September 1942, by Russian planes operating 1,000 miles from their home bases, the bombing of Vienna only really started in earnest in 1944, when the city came within reach of Allied airfields in Italy. Bombing was particularly intense during February and March 1945. While much of the bombing focused on industrial areas in places like Floridsdorf or Lobau, bombs also fell in the city centre itself from September that year. It is estimated that about 87,000 buildings were damaged, with over 6,000 completely destoyed.

Ellie (the real Ellie) was living in an apartment block in Biberstrasse when it was hit by a bomb in November 1944, a month in which there were six bombing raids. She was buried for four days before being dug out of the rubble. A friend, who led the digging party because he knew that she and others were in the building when it was struck, gave her sugar lumps after she was rescued, to restore her energy. In Interrogating Ellie the site of the bombing was shifted to the Rennweg language school. In fact, this building was not bombed and still stands.

Air defences in Vienna included six flak towers, huge concrete stuctures on which anti-aircraft guns were placed, built in pairs in or near parks in the city (Augarten, Esterhazy and Arengarten). People could shelter within these structures when there were air raids and the guns were also used as artillery against the Russians when pointed towards the gound. The guns in the Augarten flak towers contributed to the artillery damage along the Franz Joseph Kai when the last German defenders retreated to that area.

Hella Kinn, a young woman in Vienna whose experiences are described by Thomas Weyr in his book The Setting of the Pearl, felt that

“Air raid shelters had become a way of life. The Americans usually attacked between 1am and 2pm so many headed for shelters rather than to the office. On December 3, near 10am, [she] saw mobs of people loaded with suitcases and bundles rushing for the catacombs…Punctually at eleven… the sirens howled. ‘[On January 15th] Waves of death passed over us without respite so you couldn’t hear the antiaircraft guns’ The all clear sounded three hours later… She managed to cross a huge crater only to find herself in a desert - destroyed houses all around, the road blocked with rubbish and delayed-action bombs, and fire wherever she turned.” (Weyr, 2005: pp. 256-7)

A map surveying the bomb damage in Vienna was made in 1946 and can be viewed here.

 

Map made in 1946 showing destruction of building on corner of Biberstrasse and Rosenburgenstrasse. The yellow colour indicates the building to have been destroyed.

Map made in 1946 showing destruction of building on corner of Biberstrasse and Rosenburgenstrasse. The yellow colour indicates the building to have been destroyed.

Bomb damaged building on corner of Biberstrasse and Rosenburgenstrasse, rebuilt, aerial picture

Bomb damaged building on corner of Biberstrasse and Rosenburgenstrasse, rebuilt, aerial picture

Rennweg 45, site of Mrs van der Lye's language school

Rennweg 45, site of Mrs van der Lye's language school

B-24 Liberators heading for Vienna across the Alps January 15th 1945

B-24 Liberators heading for Vienna across the Alps January 15th 1945

 

View of bombing from the air 22 March 1945

View of bombing from the air 22 March 1945

Augarten flak tower 2014

Augarten flak tower 2014

On the ground in Vienna

On the ground in Vienna

Civilians in bombed Vienna

Civilians in bombed Vienna

Clearing rubble after the war

Clearing rubble after the war

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