Hail of Bombs for Christmas




Indicazioni stradali

The winter of 1944 to 1945 brought the violence of war to the south east of Belgium. During the Battle of the Bulge, US bombers destroyed the cities of Sankt Vith and Malmedy and several surrounding villages, resulting in thousands of casualties.

The first US bombs fell on Sankt Vith on 9 August 1944, destroying the station and the church, killing six civilians. At the beginning of September, the German administration issued an evacuation order and most inhabitants of the area fled eastwards into Germany. Ten days later, on 13 September, US troops entered the town without fighting and Belgian officials took control again.

However, on 16 December 1944, Nazi Germany launched one of it’s last offensives with about 200,000 soldiers gathering between Losheimer Graben and the border area near Trier. After a week of fighting German armed forces managed to capture Sankt Vith. US forces counterattacked by bombing the town heavily on 25 and 26 December. Over 90% of the buildings were destroyed, and 153 civilians and over 1,000 soldiers were killed in these raids.

Although the situation for the German army was hopeless from the start, the fighting in the Sankt-Vith and Malmedy area lasted until the end of January. The population housed both German and Allied soldiers, as the border at their own doorstep shifted from day to day and sometimes even crossed their homes. The ‘Battle of the Bulge’ ended with 36,000 military casualties on both sides and 3,000 civilians killed in eastern Belgium and Luxembourg.

The trauma of the bombings stayed with most survivors until the end of their lives. They had experienced the attacks in their cellars, some of them as young children. During the next days and weeks, they tried to free those trapped under the ruins and had to bury the dead.

The rubble was piled together into a hill the population would call ‘Millionenberg’. The first stone of the first private house was laid in May 1947. It symbolised the reconstruction of the town. The ‘Büchelturm’ is one of the only buildings that survived the war.

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