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WWII bomb discovery causes massive evacuation in Berlin

The Local · 26 May 2011, 14:50

Published: 26 May 2011 14:50 GMT+02:00

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Police spokesman Michael Maass said the bomb was found during building work on a bridge over the Spree River.

It was discovered in the river, next to the Oberbaum Bridge, and would be dragged onto dry ground to be defused, he added.

Underground and commuter train services have been disrupted in the area. Delays and cancellations were expected to last at least until the evening.

World War II-era bombs are found frequently in Germany.

In April 2009, Chancellor Angela Merkel had to leave her apartment in the city centre due to the discovery of an unexploded Soviet bomb.

Story continues below…

Authorities believe there are still some 3,000 bombs buried beneath the capital alone.

The Local/AFP/DPA/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:50 May 26, 2011 by jbaker
I can see how you can not see unexploded bombs in the river or woods. How can you miss them in the city? Rebuilding must have been hasty in the city after the war. Are there more bombs on the east side of the Berlin Wall?
20:43 May 26, 2011 by rubyinthedust
sure, when the US and USSR dropped them all they knew that Berlin would later be divided into east and west !
20:54 May 26, 2011 by Dufte
Hi jbaker,

There are many World War II bombs left in the city spread all over the east and the west.

Maybe this one hast´n been found, because at that location the Spree River was part of Berlin Border and the "death strip", with district Friedrichshain (SU-sector) on the eastern side and Kreuzberg (US-sector) on the western.

In WW2, ten or maybe hundretthousands of bombs in many variations came down on Berlin, millions all over Germany. Nearly half of the Buildings where "bombed out" (see wiki-pic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Destruction_in_a_Berlin_street.jpg - these house are often hollowly on the inside : http://www.potsdamer-platz.org/index-Dateien/columbushaus/ruine/awag.jpg ) and also destroyed by russian arty and tanks with 500.000 dead soldiers and 170.000 dead civilians inside city borders in May ´45.

With the problem of millions of soldiers being prisoners of war, the Trümmerfrauen ('rubble ladies') had to do the job of clearing up debris,they took on the major share of reconstruction, often inappropiately and fancily dressed with tatters and rags. ( https://www.in-die-zukunft-gedacht.de/icoaster/files/tr_mmerfrauen_bpk_30014766.jpg )

There where no professionals with experience in reconstructing or bomb finding.

Thats why there are so many Bombs left.

have a nice day.

greetings from Berlin
22:45 May 26, 2011 by Mark S.
The bomb does not just lie on the ground like a leaf that fell from a tree. Bombs are heavy. They punch holes in the surface (even concrete sometimes). When they make a hole, they don't just drill straight down -- they hit harder and softer spots and change direction. They can be hard to find, even if you are looking for them.

Read a story about the problem in general at

01:18 May 27, 2011 by wood artist
I can't be certain, but I was right there a couple weeks ago. There was some work being done on the riverbank on the west side...new pilings and whatever. I suspect that's how they came to find this.

As to the somewhat rhetorical question of why haven't they found them all by now, the answer is simple. As @mark observed, bombs that don't explode tend to burrow, and given the soft, sandy nature of the soil in most of Berlin, that means they can be relatively deep. A lot of buildings were re-constructed after the war using the existing (or remaining) foundations and cellars, so excavation wasn't always necessary. It was easy to simply push rubble into the holes and then move on.

In fact, if you go back to the immediate post-war, a lot of streets were cleared by simply taking that rubble and heaving it to the side. So...stuff got buried. Today, I'll bet there's lots of stuff "hidden" in the subsoil of Berlin, and finding bombs around Germany will go on for a long time. Fortunately the country has done a good job of training construction workers and it's rare to hear of injuries.

01:41 May 27, 2011 by JBlooze
They seem to find an awful lot in Kreuzberg. I see projects going on all over Berlin and Kreuzberg seems to get shut down a lot for this. I don't remember this many being discovered when they were working on the new Hauptbahnhof but maybe I am mistaken. Is there a website anywhere that tracks location and time of these discoveries. I know the government must have something but is there anything public?
06:27 May 27, 2011 by wood artist

I've seen something like that. I'll have to look and see if I can find it again.

I suspect, although I've got no hard data to back it up, that there are more found in the former East Berlin, partly because there wasn't as much tear-it-down-completely-and-start-from-scratch rebuilding there. Kreuzberg would probably qualify on that basis, although I don't have enough personal knowledge to really judge.

I do know there is a government database that tracks these, and I've seen pages of it at the Landesarchiv, I'm not sure if any of that is available on-line or live.

08:40 May 27, 2011 by Englishted
"Sow the wind reap the whirlwind"

Thats the way it had to be sadly.
11:25 May 27, 2011 by The-ex-pat
And this is why when you build in Germany part of the planning permission process is a UXB survey on the proposed building ground has to be carried out. Not sure what it involves, but I even had to have it for the garage I had build next to my house a few years ago. However in this case, a bit OTT as I am sure the garden would have been done when the house was build, not to mention the kindergarten across the road that was built a few years ago to. In my case probably more to do with the gebühr.
19:47 May 27, 2011 by Bruno53
That's just in Berlin. Imagine Dresden, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and even Vienna, Austria. There must be undiscovered bombs in those cities, too. And it may take another 60 years to get rid of them all. Still haunted by Hitler, World War II and Holocaust.
20:51 May 27, 2011 by New York 149
Bombs being heavy solid objects will "travel" within the ground as the ground freezes and thaws. I expect that, unfortunately there are many more unexploded munitions yet to be discovered.
22:38 May 28, 2011 by willowsdad
A few years ago, they found that there were barrels of nerve gas from World War I buried (and leaking) in a section of Washington, DC. (Reap the whirlwind, indeed!)

Just imagine when all of today's deadly playthings resurface years from now!
09:55 June 2, 2011 by karl julius petermann
reap the whirlwind indeed...is it just me or does not anyone else think that continually dragging up Germanys past, and its not even recent any more, that its being used as a smoke screen for todays ongoing slaughter in the name of US , British and French imperialism in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Lybia, not to mention the arms trade thats really behind it all. Talk about history being written by the victors..Its positively Orwellian. The recent decision in Germany to rid themselves of nuclear power, and its very close relationship with nuclear weapons only goes to show what a progressive world leading power Germany now is...and if it took 100 years to go from being the worlds most pariah state to the most peace loving, then thats what i call reaping the whirlwind
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