I just returned from a trip to northern Germany doing research for a historical fiction novel I am writing about anti-submarine warfare in 1942. I was seeking backstory information for one of my characters, a U-boat Kapitänleutnant from Lübeck in Schleswig Holstein. While at sea off the East Coast USA, his hometown was firebombed by the RAF.
Last week, on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, three churches in the Lübeck Stadtmitte joined together in a “progressive” concert. My wife and I blended in with a crowd of middle-aged local citizens who walked from one church to the other, listening to organ, trumpet, flute and choral music echoing through the sanctuaries up into the the vaulted stone ceilings. Mesmerized, I imagined myself there in 1942 on the Saturday evening before Palm Sunday, the traditional time when adolescents were being confirmed into their Protestant faith.
Around 1030 that March evening, 200 RAF bombers came, using the tall tower of the Marienkirche as a landmark. Its huge bell came crashing down, then partially melted in the ensuing firestorm. The raid left 301 people dead, three missing and 783 injured. More than 15,000 people lost their homes.