World War II Somehow Claims Another Casualty

A German construction worker was killed Friday by an unexploded bomb. Some 70 years after the war’s end, the bombs are still an everyday threat.

A defused World War II bomb, which was found alongside the railway line near Berlin's central railway station, on April 3, 2013.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Jan. 3, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

We can ac­tu­ally blame Nazis for an­oth­er death from World War II.

A driver of a bull­dozer was killed in the west­ern Ger­man town of Eu­skirchen on Fri­day when a yet-to-be-iden­ti­fied World War II bomb ex­ploded dur­ing con­struc­tion work. Eight oth­ers were in­jured in the ex­plo­sion, two of them ser­i­ously.

Nearly 70 years after the war ended, bombs are still be­ing dis­covered in Ger­many, some of which have threatened the lives of the people who un­will­ingly dis­cov­er them. In Novem­ber, 20,000 people were evac­u­ated from the west­ern Ger­man city of Dortmund when au­thor­it­ies dis­covered a 4,000-pound Al­lied bomb. It was de­fused be­fore any­one was in­jured.

Two years earli­er, 45,000 people were evac­u­ated from Koblenz, a ma­jor city along the Rhine River, be­cause of an equally large bomb. If it had gone off, it would have wiped out the cen­ter of the city.

These bombs are also dis­covered in lar­ger cit­ies, like Ber­lin. A 220-pound So­viet bomb was dis­covered near the train tracks that led in­to the main sta­tion of the Ger­man cap­it­al last April, for­cing 840 com­muters to evac­u­ate the area. The bomb was safely det­on­ated in a nearby forest after be­ing moved out on the back of a truck.

“Here in Ber­lin, it is a fact of daily life to de­fuse bombs,” Ber­lin po­lice spokes­man Jens Ber­ger told CNN then.

Since the war ended, nearly 2,000 bombs have been dis­covered in Ber­lin, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Geo­graph­ic. And there are still between 2,000 and 4,000 bombs re­main­ing in the cap­it­al. Dur­ing the war, Al­lied forces dropped some 2.7 mil­lion tons of bombs on Ger­many. The bombs weighed between 100 and 4,000 pounds. The ones that were duds, some 7 to 15 per­cent of those dropped, still lie throughout the European coun­try.

From Na­tion­al Geo­graph­ic:

Ex­perts say the prob­lem will get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter. For dec­ades, bombs turned up dur­ing post­war build­ing pro­jects, some­times with deadly res­ults. That’s why con­struc­tion pro­jects in Ger­many today of­ten re­quire a Kamp­fmit­tel­freiheits­bes­chein­i­gung, or a per­mit cer­ti­fy­ing that the area is bomb-free, be­fore work be­gins. Con­sult­ants pore over aer­i­al pho­tos from U.S. and Brit­ish army archives for signs of un­ex­ploded ord­nance.

And some­times these dis­cov­er­ies can be deadly, as Fri­day’s ex­plo­sion shows. In 2010, three bomb-de­fuse team mem­bers were killed when a device ex­ploded in the Got­tin­gen.

For now, however, Ger­mans just have to wait un­til a hoe or bull­dozer or aer­i­al photo finds the next bomb dropped some 70 years ago.

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