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When Pforzheim burned to the ground – Lessons from History

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It was a bright sunny day in the Baden city of Pforzheim near Stuttgart. The nervous residents of the town are under a blanket of fear due to allied air bombings.

The citizens of the Pforzheim had a bit of hope as their city was not strategically important, and this might let them off the radar of allied bombing. All this changed with one wrong Allied intelligence report. On February 23, 1945, Hell broke loose from skies on Pforzheim



Towards the end of world war II raids on important German cities were a typical day to day activity. American and British aircraft launching from France, Belgium, Netherlands were targeting critical industrial towns and cities to affect the German war effort. Air raids targeting strategic locations are part of the Allied policy. This strategy of bombing only significant military targets caused a less civilian casualty, but in the case of Pforzheim, it was the complete opposite.

Pforzheim is a medieval city located in the black forest region of Germany. Garnished with wooden structure buildings, the city center is one of the beautiful cities of the black forest. During the last phase of World War II, allied forces started targeting principal towns, which are vital for the German war effort. Pforzheim was in level 3 priority. One wrong allied intelligence report turned things upside down.

Wrong Intelligence:

The intelligence report stated that Pforzheim is a city of clock making. The clock-making industry needs to manufacture precision instruments. Precision instruments are of high demand for military equipment. Also, each home has a workshop, so in this case, every building in Pforzheim must be razed to the ground.

The Attack:

The Allied combined army took the report seriously and started some small air raids to gauge the situation. On February 23, 1945, the combined Allied airpower descended on Pforzheim. The phosphorus bombs dropped on the city ignited the wooden buildings of the town. The fire started to spread through the city. Citizens trying to flee the intense heat and light jumped into the city’s Enz river. Phosphorus in jelly form had already polluted the Enz river. When people wanted to come out of the river, they get ignited instantly due to the phosphorus in their bodies.

The attack destroyed the entire city and wiped out 1/3 of the population. On the ruins, the town of Pforzheim was rebuilt and stands firmly even today with the scar.


Wrong intelligence reports still kill civilians in the 21st century. People in charge of making decisions must rethink before committing to it.


During this bombing, Noor Inayat Khan got transferred from Pforzheim to Dachau. If the attack wouldn’t have happened, she might have been in Pforzheim and liberated by the allied army.

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