Nestled in the beech and oak forests of the Bergische Land, just twenty-five miles northwest of Cologne and the Rhine river, the city of Solingen has grown for more than six-hundred years. First mentioned in the 11th century, it achieved city status in the 1400s. World-famous for its steel and weapons industry, shops and factories still produce cutlery, scissors, swords, knives and engine parts.

Made up of five former villages, the city’s historic building styles include half-timbered and shale-sided homes.  While Solingen was bombed numerous times, the main attack – Solingen’s natives call it “Der Angriff” – happened on the weekend of November 4 and 5, 1944. The city burned for a week and the old downtown was completely destroyed during the bombing.

Solinger Altstadt - After the bombing in November 1944 - Quelle: Stadtarchiv Solingen

It took five years to remove the debris and many more years to rebuild the town. Today’s downtown bears little resemblance with the old city, its cobbled streets and  narrow passages.

Because of hundreds of bombings, soldiers leaving and people moving, Solingen’s number of  citizens  shrank from 140,000 in 1939 to less than 95,000 by 1945.

Thanks to the photographer brothers Hans, Max und Richard Stöpfgeshoff and their surviving sister Ilse Weber who shared the images, we get a glimpse of the old town and what life used to be like pre-war.

2 thoughts on “Solingen”

  1. I first visited Solingen when a teenager in 1956. I was staying with a family in nearby Haan. My trip was organised by The International Help for Children (school links) (exchange visits) an organisation started to help heal the wounds from the war. I would love to see old pre war pictures of old Solingen. The rebuilt town unfortunately lacks character and charm. Are the streets still in the same pattern as before the destuction by the British?

    Looking forward to learning more about my favorite country. Regards John Campbell

  2. Hi John, you must have seen Solingen when it was still half leveled. As far as I know they removed the last debris around 1950. Though it is my hometown I can’t say I like the changes the city has seen especially in the last 30 years. Most of the little retail stores downtown have been replaced by dollar stores. There is a new American style mall where the old Karstadt used to be. You may like to peruse photos on this website: It isn’t well organized and only in German, but if you’re patient you can find quite a few pre-war images. Glad you enjoyed your stay in Haan, still a cute little town across the valley. Thanks for your comment and thanks for calling Germany your favorite country. It is mine as well, though I’ve been living in the U.S. for nearly 30 years.

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