Friday, 20 June 2008


Once every four years, a certain trade fair takes me to the city of Dusseldorf in Germany. Although lagging behind other German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt in terms of population (actually, it ranks ninth with a population of over 600,000 inhabitants), Dusseldorf is a bustling metropolis and is the centre for the German fashion, advertising, and telecommunications industries. It is a nice, sprawling city, dotted with huge public parks, wooded areas, and wonderful old buildings which include some of the most beautiful and imposing churches you can see anywhere in Europe.

What never ceases to amaze me as I walk along the streets of Dusseldorf is the fact that this city was virtually reduced to rubble during World War II and whatever I am seeing now, has been rebuilt from the ground up afterwards.

It was geography that did Dusseldorf in during the war. During World War II, the Rhine-Ruhr valley was one of the primary targets for aerial bombing by the Allied forces, especially the RAF. After all, most of the steel and armament industries of Hitler’s Germany, which fed the awesome German war machine, were situated within the valley and throughout the war, the Allies targeted the area relentlessly. Dusseldorf, being a city bordering the Rhine-Ruhr valley in the north, bore the brunt almost by default.

History records the city going up in flames on September 10, 1942, after a particularly punishing RAF attack. Again, towards the end of the war, in the spring of 1945, with Germany’s anti-aircraft defences all but destroyed, Dusseldorf faced another massive aerial onslaught. Round-the-clock air attacks for seven long weeks brought the city to its knees with thousands dead and half the city’s residential and industrial areas completely destroyed.

There were of course other German cities in the Ruhr valley which faced even greater damage: Essen, Cologne, Dortmund, Wuppertal...the list is long. I have travelled through or have been in many of these cities; if you didn’t know your history, you will be hard-pressed to believe that they suffered so much damage sixty years ago, such has been the precision and care with which they have been reconstructed.

I sit this evening on the terrace of my hotel by the Rhine, enjoying a glass of beer, watching the families enjoying the weekend getting ready to push their little rowing boats into the river. The children’s excited screams hang in the clear summer air for a moment and vanish.

Hopefully, these children will never grow up to experience the horrors of war, at least, not in their corner of Europe.
Photo Courtesy: Kreuzherreneck's Public Gallery. Picasa Web Albums


Lekhni said...

That last line about the children made me think of Vernon Scannell's poem "War graves at El Alamein". have you read it? (I can't find it online.)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

amen to that.

Sapna Anu B.George said...

I hope so too,that our kids never see any more war zones or war terror,very unique blog and great to meet you here too.

Rada said...


No. I must confess I have never heard of the poem you are referring to. Will try to locate it and read it. Thanks.


Thank you!


Sometimes I wonder; Sometimes I despair! I am sure you understand the feeling.
Thank you for the nice things you have to say about my blog.

anjana said...

you are indeed lucky!!!! relaxing with a beer on the banks of the rhine is the stuff of dreams for me...and what a journey for the readers of your blog...we are getting used to the sights and smell of mumbai and bhusawal and hey presto! we are in dusseldorf..and while negotiating the trafic snarls in god's own country, i do admit to feeling the tiniest bit jealous of you...
pls keep writing's a pleasure to read you

Rada said...

Hello Anju!

I know you to be a discerning reader, so your words of praise are indeed a great source of encouragement!

Pls do visit more often! :-)

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.