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Prince Charles Marks War’s End in Hamburg

May 2, 1995

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ To remember the dead and reconcile the living, Prince Charles and Winston Churchill’s grandson came Tuesday to Hamburg, one of the cities most ravaged by British bombers during World War II.

Leveled by hundreds of British bomber raids, Hamburg surrendered on May 3, 1945, rather than face more. It was the largest German city to end its war without a fight.

``Hamburg was very much in the front line of the bombing. Then we occupied it and governed it,″ said British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. ``The theme today is very much commemoration and reconciliation.″

Hurd accompanied Charles and Britain’s minister for armed forces, Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain’s wartime prime minister, at a memorial service in St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. Charles returned the waves of 50 people outside the church.

Reflecting trade and cultural ties that go back to the Middle Ages, there is a saying that Hamburgers are simply Londoners who speak German.

``A friendly exaggeration,″ said Helmut Kalbitzer, 82, a former German resistance fighter.

Yet no one made Hamburg suffer like the British.

On the night of July 28, 1943, 42,000 residents died in a 43-minute raid whose explosions and fires created hurricane-force winds that uprooted 3-foot-thick trees and sucked thousands into the flames.

On Wednesday, Charles plans to lay a wreath at the mass grave for German civilians killed in the blitz.

Charles’ gesture is an unusual one, since official Britain has seldom shown remorse over the air war, its major weapon against Nazi Germany before the Allied landings on the continent in 1944.

Hamburg, a city of 1 million people, had lost 118,000 dead and 60,000 disabled by war’s end. Nearly 300,000 homes were destroyed.

Within 10 years, the rubble had been cleared and the city rebuilt. A recent survey found that Hamburg is per capita the wealthiest city in Europe.

A radical socialist who had lived on the run from the Nazis during the war, Kalbitzer was allowed to create a trade union the day the war ended.

A week later, British authorities gave him the keys to the old labor union hall and instructed him to kick out the British engineering battalion bivouacked there.

``That was an amazing thing. It’s hard for people to grasp that now,″ Kalbitzer said in an interview. ``The British army moved out to let Germans move in. We all understood it as a sign of trust, for a democracy that didn’t yet exist.″

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