The night before Palm Sunday, 1942, war finally caught up with Lübeck as the Allies unleashed the first major bombing campaign on a German town. A U-boat training school and docks for Swedish iron ore provided a fig leaf of legitimacy, but in reality the raid was in retaliation for the Luftwaffe Blitz on British urban centres. The target was the Altstadt itself, its timbered buildings a trial run for a newly developed incendiary bomb. Nearly a fifth of the town, including showpieces like the Marienkirche, was destroyed in two days of raids, and Lübeck might have gone the way of Dresden had a German Jewish exile working as a liaison officer not tipped off his Swiss cousin about plans to raze the Altstadt entirely to sap public morale in 1944. That cousin was Carl-Jacob Burkhart, president of the Red Cross. Thanks to his efforts Lübeck was nominated as an official entry harbour for gifts to Allied POWs, and Bomber Command looked elsewhere for targets. Burkhart was later made an honorary citizen of Lübeck.

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