Feb 13, 2024

February 14th, 1945: The Bombing of Prague. Was It a Mistake?

On February 14, 1945, the American Air Force carried out an air raid over Prague which ranks as the most futile attack on Czech territory of the Second World War.

Seventy-eight years later it is still not clear whether the attack was an accident caused by bad weather conditions and the fact Prague and Dresden looked similar from the air, or whether it was a deliberate attack.

Due to low visibility, and some apparent similarity in the layout between the two cities from the air, the American forces dropped over 150 tons of bombs over the Czech capital, resulting in what was easily the worst destruction Prague saw during WWII – and perhaps, in its history.

While much of the historical center was spared, the bombs hit nearby districts in New Town, Vinohrady, Vyšehrad, Vršovice, Nusle, and elsewhere.

701 people died during the attack, which wounded a further 1,184. While air raid sirens went off during the bombing, it has been theorized that many citizens ignored them, having become accustomed to the familiar sounds that ring out each month.

Buildings such as the 14th-century Emmaus Monastery in Vyšehrad and the 17th-century Faust House by Karlovo náměstí were mostly destroyed and later rebuilt.

But the Vinohrady Synagogue, the largest Jewish Synagogue in Prague and one of the largest in the world at the time, was not so lucky. It was also hit by the bombs, and while it could have been preserved, Nazi occupiers in control of the city allowed it to burn to the ground. Today, it’s all but forgotten.

All the casualties were civilians, and not one of the city’s factories which could have been of use to the Wermacht was damaged.

One of the bombed houses belonged to a butcher called Maceška. In the course of clear-up, rescuers uncovered one cellar which was empty. However, in 1970, when the building was excavated, workers discovered another cellar with 23 human skeletons inside.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, Nazi forces used the attack to stir anti-American sentiment and justify their presence. Years later, communist forces would do the same.

The American pilots have voiced their regret many times, and some of them apologized to the relatives of the victims personally. But they have always maintained it was a mistake, and that the city which they were meant to destroy was Dresden, not Prague.

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