I came across this photo the other day, and I was struck by how even in an active war zone, sightseers and rubberneckers are a constant problem. The picture was taken on April 4, 1945 in front of Cologne cathedral, and shows a corporal from the 82nd Airborne Division reading a warning sign. He’s probably wondering what kind of idiots would be wandering around, taking in the sights, while anti-sniper operations were going on. I’m sure that there were plenty of them.
What actually caught my eye was that I recognized Cologne cathedral in the photo, which surprised me as the nearest I’ve been to the edifice is a paper scale model of the thing that I made umpteen years ago. It never ceases to amaze me at how obscure bits of knowledge pop out of memory at times, triggered by a photo in this case, or by sounds or especially smells. Haven’t you ever walked into an old, dusty storeroom and had the smell bring up a startlingly clear memory of your grandparent’s house? If someone could figure out how to control this method of memory retrieval, he could probably write a self-help book about it, sell it on an infomercial and become fabulously wealthy in 90 days or your money back.
Considering the pounding that Cologne and its cathedral took during WWII, it’s amazing that either place still exists. Cologne was bombed 262 separate times, including the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Allies on May 30th and 31rst, 1942. The cathedral was hit at least 70 times by aerial bombs, but remained standing, which is more than can be said about the rest of Cologne.
Here are two aerial photos of Cologne from 1945:
Construction of the cathedral started in 1248, but it wasn’t completed until 1880, 632 years later. Financing the construction of these huge, complex buildings has always been one of the main reasons that they took so long to build, and Cologne was no different. Repairing the damage from WWII was pretty much completed by 1956, with the rebuilding of an emergency repair done during WWII being done in 2005, and the installation of a stained glass window in the south transept in 2007. The window had been blown out during the war and had been replaced with plain glass at the time.
I’m sure that there were gawkers underfoot for the entire time.