Belfast Blitz: The German Reaction

12th August 2019

The German reaction to the Belfast Blitz was one of great joy among the Luftwaffe pilots but Nazi officials were careful not to provoke American military.

The German reaction to the Belfast Blitz differed after each raid. There was much excitement among the Nazis after the first raid but news of raids on Belfast only made the headlines once in Germany.

After The Docks Raid on 7th April 1941, a Luftwaffe pilot spoke of the good feeling among the German airmen.

We were in exceptional good humour knowing that we were going for a new target, one of England’s last hiding places. Wherever Churchill is hiding his war material we will go. Belfast is as worthy a target as Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol or Glasgow.

As the city began to recover from the first devastating attack, William Joyce – Lord Haw Haw – the famous Nazi Radio Propagandist took to the airwaves.

The Fuehrer will give you time to bury your dead before the next attack. Tuesday was only a sample.

From Dublin to Der Adler

In Dublin, Dr. Eduard Hempel called a meeting with the Irish Minister of External Affairs. He offered an explanation and an extension of sympathy to JP Walshe. Reports suggest Hempel showed distress at the severity of the raid and by the number of civilian casualties. He stated his intention to put forward to the Nazi government a request to confine operations to military targets. Hempel believed this was already the Luftwaffe’s strategy. He also accepted that civilian casualties were inevitable when carrying out heavy bombing from the air.

After the final raid on 6th May 1941, a lone Luftwaffe plane flew over Belfast and photographed the destruction. These photos along with a detailed analysis of the Belfast Blitz appeared in the German publication Der Adler. This was the first and only time the German media mentioned Belfast or Northern Ireland.

The German public believed that Northern Ireland’s capital had suffered complete destruction. Der Adler informed them of the ultimate destruction of factories such as Harland and Wolff and Short and Harland. While industry was not wiped out completely, rebuilding would take time. Harland and Wolff later made a claim for £3,000,000 to cover damages sustained in the attacks. This was the largest single claim by any company in the United Kingdom at any point during World War Two.

After the Belfast Blitz, the Nazi media or government never mentioned Belfast. After the war, Allied Forces uncovered documents from Joseph Goebbels giving orders to not mention attacks on Ireland. Thinking from the time suggests that Hitler did not want to provoke De Valera into engaging with Irish American politicians. At this stage of 1941, the threat of the United States Military joining the war effort was very real.

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