German police evacuated a kindergarten in Darmstadt yesterday after teachers recognized an unexploded World War II incendiary bomb lying among the children’s toys.
Spokeswoman Andrea Loeb explained that one of the children had apparently discovered it the day before while walking in the woods. The child brought it to class and placed it with the other playthings.
As bizarre as it sounds, this isn’t an isolated incident in Germany. The danger of aerial bombs is still prevalent after more than seventy years of ceased hostilities. Weapons that didn’t explode can still be found sprinkled throughout the soil of Deutschland.
In fact, more than 2,000 tons of live bombs and munitions are uncovered each year, some even under buildings. Although the artillery can be neutralized, it requires specialized teams to defuse or detonate them. Although the discovery always causes a disruption and an evacuation, sometimes these WWII instruments still cause death.
Just last week (June 28) a WWII bomb was found at a construction site in southern Germany. Officials had to evacuate the nearby Regensburg prison to remove the 500 pound explosive. The 109 inmates were transported to a safer location before the device was recovered the following Sunday.
In May 2017, German officials had to evacuate ten percent of the population in the city of Hanover. Two suspected bombs were uncovered during routine pre-construction work in the Vahrenwald district. When aerial cameras were brought in, three more places were found.
During WWII, Hanover was a bombing target for allied forces. Shelling that took place October 8-9, 1943 demolished hundreds of thousands of buildings in the city. The evacuation procedure and removal process of the old munitions in May took over 24 hours.
Last December, over 54,000 people had to leave the city of Augsburg on Christmas morning while authorities worked to diffuse a enormous WWII bomb. The 1.8 ton shell caused the city’s medieval cathedral and City Hall, which were in the area, to be sealed off and residents had to find places in local shelters if they didn’t have family nearby.
Retired bomb disposal expert, Hans-Jürgen Weise explained the process and the rampant problem faced by the current government. Before the U.S. and Britain got involved, the Nazis targeted civilians with their Luftwaffe attacks on Warsaw and London. Consequently, the allies dropped nearly 1.9 million tons of bombs on German industrial sites during the five year war.
The best estimates predict that roughly 15 percent of unexploded bombs were simply ignored during the rebuilding process. Weise, former head of bomb disposal operations in Brandenburg, dealt with the growing problem from 1991 to 2007. The longer the bombs stay hidden, he says, the more volatile they become.
Many of the devices are too dangerous to be moved, especially those with delay-action detonators. Weise explained that as the bombs stay in the ground, the detonation mechanism is transformed into a hair-trigger. The chemicals used back then have been worn down by acetone vapor that occurs naturally in the ground. He said that eventually, the bombs will be so sensitive that any disturbance could cause their explosion. In 2006, a bulldozer struck one in southern Germany and killed the operator.
The ten year old occurrence is located near where the children found the bomb yesterday.
On Wednesday, teachers called police after they noticed a “strange object” on the classroom shelf. Knowing how common the dangerous WWII artifacts are, the administrators immediately evacuated the school.
Bomb disposal teams removed the incendiary device from the area, but diffusing these old weapons is a tricky business. Fortunately, if they are found in time the bombs can be removed and destroyed. After the recent discovery, it remains to be seen whether the German government will put forth more time and effort in finding the leftover reminders of war.
Sadly, the heritage of Nazi Germany still remains in the hearts of a handful of activists who think that brutalizing others for the sake of political beliefs is acceptable. However, the tangible presence of so many bombs and munitions littering the ground of Germany points to the real legacy of the Nazis, which is sudden and inexplicable death if the problem is ignored.
Hopefully, all the weapons that were used to stop a tyrant will be uncovered soon.