German Mormons recall living during World War II

They called it Operation Gomorrah. On the night of July 27, 1943, more than 700 Allied aircraft attacked the city of Hamburg, Germany. The bombings created a firestorm akin to an outdoor blast furnace with winds up to 150 miles per hour and reaching temperatures of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The asphalt on streets burst into flame, killing anyone who was in the way. Many in air raid shelters were cooked to death, and some eight square miles of the city were incinerated. At least 40,000 people died.

Twenty-year-old Gerhard Fricke, whose mother joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1910, had avoided military service because of a speech impediment. Instead he had worked in military industry, helping to build submarines. After an initial bombing raid had destroyed his family's residence, they lived for a time with an aunt. Then as the building began to shake, Gerhard forced his aunt, his mother and a sister away from the building and into a deep underground bunker, saving all their lives.

His brother, Harald, who was three years younger, and his grandfather had shared duty helping fire marshals contain fires ignited by Operation Gomorrah. They were assigned to watch over the church's meetinghouse near where they lived.

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