Why do people love bombs

Dangerous relics of warBomb Explosions: The danger becomes greater

Every year a bomb goes off in German-speaking countries - all by itself. Often they are smaller, but there are also those with several hundred kilos of explosives. 75 years after the end of the war, the danger of bomb explosions is far from over.

It is not possible to say exactly how many bombs are still in German soil. Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Cedrik Pelka is on site during a defuse. He has seen it himself: even if a bomb is found, that doesn't mean that it can be defused.

"A depth of eight meters is unusual - but it does happen. Such bombs are a particular challenge."
Karl-Heinz Clemens, Ordnance Disposal Service Westphalia-Lippe

The bomb found in Soest weighs 500 kilos. It is right next to a substation - which makes it a special challenge, says Cedrik. Evacuation takes place within a radius of 500 meters. Hours later, the message comes: The defusing is canceled because the risk is too high - it has to be blown up. The detonation will be felt in the city center.

Detonator crucial for danger

How dangerous a bomb is even 75 years after the end of the war depends on the detonator, explains Karl-Heinz Clemens from the ordnance disposal service in Westphalia-Lippe. If a bomb ignites with a percussion fuse, a bolt strikes the so-called detonator as soon as the bomb hits the ground and the explosives explode. With countless bombs, this did not happen back then for various reasons - often it was luck.

"If a bomb with a percussion detonator lies upside down in the ground and there is vibration work nearby, for example with an excavator, the detonator may be triggered."
Karl-Heinz Clemens, Ordnance Disposal Service Westphalia-Lippe

If such a bomb is still in the ground, vibrations may cause it to detonate after all. If, for example, an excavator drives over the area, this could lead to the detonator hitting the ignition needle or the firing pin, thus initiating ignition.

Another type of detonator is a chemical-mechanical long-term detonator. It was designed to only go up when people believed they were safe again after a hail of bombs, explains Karl-Heinz Clemens. A period of between half an hour and a few hours - but sometimes it just didn't go up.

The igniter works via a glass ampoule that contains acid. When this is destroyed, the acid eats it through a celluloid disk and releases a preloaded firing pin - then it comes to an explosion.

Accidents are rare

Such a detonator is also in the Soest bomb. If it were defused or transported away, the risk of it exploding would be far too great, explains Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Cedrik Pelka. But: Accidents with duds rarely occur. The last time an excavator driver died in 2014 when he hit a bomb and it exploded. Pedestrians can hardly cause such a detonation because the bombs are too deep.

Ignition systems become more unstable

There is still a danger: the ignition systems become more unstable over time, explains Karl-Heinz Clemens. Over the years, fine cracks could develop through which water can enter. If this mixes with metal and explosives, it could create explosive substances.

In addition, many bombs cannot be precisely localized even by reconstructing the dropping point. You cannot simply search for them through landfills, changes of location or because of the depth of the bombs. They lie further in the ground and could still go off at some point.