As you walk down the streets of these magnificent cities today it is impossible to image that there was a point in time when all you see before you was lying in ruins. But while some places were forever lost after being badly damaged by war or natural disaster, these cities have managed, like the mythical phoenix, to rise from the ashes.
Warsaw - Poland
As you walk around Poland's buzzing capital today it is difficult to image that the city was once nothing more than a pile of rubble. Warsaw was heavily damaged by bombing during Germany's 1939 invasion of Poland. Five years later in 1944 retreating German forces raised the city to the ground in revenge for the Warsaw Uprising. After shelling the city, it is reported that German soldiers with flamethrowers were sent in to destroy anything that survived the bombing. However, after the war ended slowly the city rose again. What is most remarkable is that Warsaw's historic Old Market Square and parts of the UNESCO listed Old Town were rebuilt using the rubble left after the war.
Dresden - Germany
The night of February 13th 1945 marked the beginning of what would become one of the more controversial Allied missions of World War II - the bombing of Dresden. The German city, which was famous for its incredible baroque architecture, had for centuries been a cultural center of Europe as well as the historic capital of the Electors of Saxony. The RAF and the USAAF carried out four raids between February 13 and February 15, during which they dropped 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. While the raids left the celebrated city in ruins, it is difficult to see the scale of the destruction today, with the city's most famous buildings including the Frauenkirche, Zwingler Palace and Opera House having been restored to their pre-war grandeur.
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London - United Kingdom
London has the rather unfortunate distinction of being the most war-damaged British city during World War II. The German bombing offensive, which became known as The Blitz, began on September 7 1940 and lasted for 37 weeks. It is believed that the Luftwaffe dropped 20,000 bombs on London over 71 missions. Some one million homes and buildings were destroyed during The Blitz. The reconstruction of one of the world's most spectacular capitals began the moment the bombings stopped.
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Berlin - Germany
Approximately 80% of Berlin was destroyed by the end of World War II. As you make your way through Germany's eternally cool capital you can't help but spot scars of the terrible destruction. Some areas were never rebuilt thus leaving strange empty spaces in the middle of the city. And yet despite this Berlin is widely regarded as one of the most livable, and beautiful, capitals in Europe.
Hiroshima - Japan
On August 6, 1945 an American bomber dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Along with the monumental civilian casualties, the vast majority of the city was destroyed, and to make matters worse those buildings that managed to survive the bomb were damaged against by a devastating typhoon that hit the city just a month later. The city's reconstruction began soon after the war, with the iconic 16th century Hiroshima Castle being rebuilt in the 1950s. Meanwhile the Genbaku Dome is now a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and a world famous peace memorial.
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