Two years ago I visited Cologne and while I very much enjoyed my stay, one thing did stick out for me as incredibly odd.

Souvenir shops in addition to selling key rings, fridge magnets and standard postcards of the city, would also sell postcards with images of the Cologne cathedral or other parts of the city ruined by bombing in the Second World War.

Can someone please explain this peculiarity? Am I missing some important aspect of German culture here? I've never seen this anywhere else.

I can't imagine sending this to someone abroad, what would I say with it? 'Look at the beautiful destruction the Allied bombers inflicted upon our lovely city'. It struck me as something very right-wing (probably something the NPD would probably do) and just weird to find in a standard tourist shop.

When I asked my German friend about it, he quipped that it was so '... the Germans never forget who the true enemy is!'. But was otherwise just as dumbfound as I was.

  • 2
    Not sure that this is related to travel....
    – Karlson
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:50
  • @Karlson there are questions related to culture all over the place (like this one). Thought it was okay to ask here.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:53
  • 1
    There is a significant difference between what you're asking and what the question you linked asked. The one you linked is asking about necessities of ones behavior based on local cultural norms vs. your question about why someone behaves in a particular manner where you're visiting, which as I mentioned not really travel related.
    – Karlson
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 16:04
  • @Karlson I don't want to get into a debate over this but I saw a meta topic about a separate SE for Japanese culture, which gave me the impression that cultural questions are okay here for the time being. If it's not appropriate, then I will understand if the question gets closed.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 16:08
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    Not related to 'travel', but more like related to 'history'.
    – MastaBaba
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


As a German, I can't remember seeing such postcards anywhere, though I haven't been to Cologne (except for changing trains). I'm pretty sure it's not meant politically - a tourist shop is surely the last place that would do anything meant to offend tourists (and an unlikely place for a nationalist to own or work at).

But it is certainly true that the devastation suffered by German cities in WWII is an important part of our history and somewhat of a national trauma (and Cologne was one of the worst-hit cities). Postcards depicting destroyed landmarks like churches were sometimes distributed in order to get people to donate for the reconstruction efforts. It's a bit weird to have them show up in tourist shops, but I wouldn't see it as anything other than a bit of history.

  • 1
    I've seen the postcards. It's part of history. Perhaps more interesting than some other cities where little that is recognizable survived the destruction. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 21:16
  • It struck me because I'd never seen a postcard of the Blitz in London and made me think about how the bombings are perceived in German society. Typically you would find things to celebrate on postcards featuring tourist sights.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 7:49
  • @Nobilis: as for how they are perceived by Germans: while it's true that for NPD types it's often "look what they did to us" and all the implications you can draw from that (often along the lines of "so what we did wasn't all that bad either"), for mainstream society it's more "look what happens in a war; let's avoid those at all costs". For example, one reason why the not-too-popular Schröder government won the 2002 elections was that they clearly refused to join Bush's "coalition of the willing" for the Iraq war. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 8:02
  • @MichaelBorgwardt I understand, yes, I was absolutely not trying to imply that the meaning was solely 'Look at what they did to us', it's just how it came across initially when I saw them but obviously given the context it could not be that at all :) I must admit that as someone of partial Iraqi descent it was such a huge relief to see Germany oppose the war against Iraq, especially given the fervour of support in the UK government at the time.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 8:11

There was a bombing campaign by the RAF only 4 days before the city was captured by the American forces. Perhaps it is to act as a reminder to some of the needless operations against the civilian population right at the end of the war when the outcome was fairly certain.

  • I would think that bombing of Leipzig would have been a more significant event for this.
    – Karlson
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 16:14
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    @Karlson Don't you mean the bombing of Dresden?
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 16:25
  • @Annoyed Sorry. Yes you're right...
    – Karlson
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 16:32

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