Dangerous WW2 bombs still litter Germany's landscape

Sat May 2, 2015 2:12pm EDT
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The danger of unexploded World War Two aerial bombs lurking in the soil still haunts Germany 70 years after the war ended on May 8, 1945, exploding without warning or surfacing after frost.

More than 2,000 tonnes of live bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, even under buildings. They are defused or detonated in controlled blasts but not before causing disruption, evacuations or sometimes even death.

"The older they are, the more dangerous they become," said Detlef Jaab, a Berlin police munitions expert who has defused thousands of the devices over 23 years.

"It's a dangerous job but there's a lot of variety and freedom to make decisions, whether a bomb can be defused or is too deteriorated and has to be detonated where it's found."

The sounds and smells of World War Two, which Germans will mark next week, come back to life at a police blasting ground in Berlin's Grunewald forest eight times each year when Jaab's squad blows up stockpiled munitions.

Air raid warning sirens wail before the earth in the high-security area erupts in successive explosions. The ground shakes, red-hot shrapnel sometimes flies through the forest and smoke wafts over the site.

"There are still an estimated 2,500 bombs buried in Berlin and many more artillery shells. Since 1948 we have found 1,395 bombs," said Jaab.

About 56 tonnes of unexploded ordnance were retrieved last year in Berlin, the prime target of British and American aerial bombs that was further devastated by Soviet artillery and grenades during the climactic Battle of Berlin 70 years ago.   Continued...

Pins marking places in downtown Berlin where bombs were recovered are seen on a map at a police blasting ground in Berlin's Grunewald forest, Germany, April 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke