Sunday, May 17, 2009

Safe as houses: Hamburg, Germany, during the War

On page 403 of American Colossus, I mention my visit to the grain elevators (die Getreidespeichern) in Hamburg, Germany, in early 1994. I expected to see what I'd previously seen at the EuroSilo in Ghent, Belgium, and throughout the French countryside: grain elevators built after World War II and in the classic American style of elevator design (rows of gleaming-white cylindrical tanks made out of reinforced concrete). Instead, I saw a long line of elevators that had been built in a variety of styles and using a variety of building materials. There were big windowless brick buildings with flat roofs; big brick buildings with windows and pitched roofs; big windowless towers painted white; some unpainted reinforced-concrete silos; and several buildings that looked like enormous houses. Curious, I asked someone who worked at the Getreideterminal Hamburg (GTH) and was told that the some of the elevators that looked like houses were deliberately disguised to look that way, during the war, so that they wouldn't be bombed. Evidently the ruse had worked.

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