Hermann Knell: To Destroy A City

Hermann Knell was nineteen when his city was destroyed in an air-raid in March 1945. Knell wonders why Würzburg was destroyed beyond any military necessity. Why was strategic bombing pursued beyond all humane considerations?

German Zeppelins bombed London and Paris in World War One. The British found aerial bombing a convenient method of controlling rebellious natives. But during World War Two strategic bombing escalated in destructive scale and was used as an indiscriminate method of attacking the civilian population of the enemy.

Knell devoted his life to researching the history and consequences of strategic bombing. This book is the result.

Key Quotations

  • There is a psychological need to forget, and a moral obligation to remember.
  • But by looking at the mass graves and the rubble of my hometown I felt that the leaders responsible for the bombing war should also be made accountable. I decided then and there that I would dig into this bombing. I knew little about it then and all its implications but I was going to study it, and as history is normally written by the victors, I as a vanquished would put down what I thought about it.
  • In the years immediately after 1945 I was ready to prove that there was a criminal who got away. But as the years have passed, so has my pain and the loss has passed into history. So has Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Harris. I now want to know why it all happened. What were the reasons behind it? I might wish to judge, but I cannot and do not wish to condemn. The case is too complex.

Herman Knell b. 1926, Würzburg, Germany. Emigrated to Canada after the Second World War and became an engineer. Lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia.