BERLIN — German police officers and firefighters went door to door on Friday in a one-mile area of downtown Berlin, telling workers and residents that they had to get out. A 1,100-pound World War II-era bomb was found last Saturday, and it was time to ...
Many offices in the area were closed for the day on what turned out to be a sunny Friday.
The evacuation of Berlin’s central train station — one of Europe’s largest — began in the morning, and by noon, all trains had been diverted from the station. Roughly 300,000 passengers use the station daily. Holger Auferkamp, a spokesman for the national rail service, estimated that ten thousands of trips were affected by the disposal operation.
The city estimated that there are still roughly 3,000 bombs in Berlin. Since 1947, 1.8 million ordnances have been found and disposed of in the city, according to the police department, which runs its own bomb-disposal unit.
Some of the devices were aerial bombs, like the one that caused problems on Friday; others were explosives used during the final battle of Berlin or unused munitions left by soldiers.
The bomb-disposal team in Berlin at the site of the ordinance from World War II. Credit Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesDuring the war, the area where the bomb was found was the site of a now-closed major train station known as Lehrter Bahnhof, an inland port and warehouses. It would have been close to the Reichstag and other ministries involved in the war effort, said Peter Schwirkmann, the head of the Berlin City Museum’s historical department.
“For a bomber, this would have been a strategically important place,” he said.
Unexploded bombs are so prevalent that the city offers a free service to landowners who are seeking to build: a team of researchers will examine old aerial photos and data to determine whether a property may have once been bombed.
Berlin isn’t the only German city to be evacuated because of war relics. In September 2017, tens of thousands of people temporarily abandoned their homes in Frankfurt as technicians worked for hours to defuse a 4,000-pound, World War II-era bomb. The bomb, thought to have been dropped by the British Royal Air Force, had been discovered at a construction site for faculty buildings on the edge of Goethe University.
London itself was hit with thousands of German bombs in 1940 and 1941, a period known as the Blitz. Devices from that era, including grenades, are removed every year from backyards, fields and construction sites.
Earlier this year, London City Airport, near the Thames in the eastern part of the city, was shut down after a World War II relic, an 1,100-pound German bomb, was discovered during construction work.
Also on Friday, Slovak authorities started evacuating people in the town of Sturovo, near the southern border with Hungary after four World War II bombs were found, according to The Associated Press.
In Berlin, police technicians started the disposal operation at 12:45 p.m. — the time and day were chosen to cause the least inconvenience to Berliners, said Konstanze Dassler, a police representative.
The bomb was defused by a team of five police specialists, and it was transported to an area outside of town before being destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Before the operation finished, the Berlin Police posted on Twitter a photo of their bomb-disposal team at the site, saying it was about to defuse “the source of all our woes.”
Bombs and Explosives,World War II (1939-45),Evacuations and Evacuees,Berlin (Germany)