WWII historical imagery in Google Earth

Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Many of us have heard stories, read books and watched films which show the many impacts of WWII across the world. Today we're giving you another way to understand this period in time - by exploring a new set of historical aerial images, taken over European cities during World War II, via the historical imagery feature in Google Earth. They can now be compared directly to images from the present day.

The historical imagery feature gives people a unique perspective on the events of the past using today's latest mapping technology. We hope that this World War II imagery will enable all of us to understand our shared history in a new way and to learn more about the impact of the war on the development of our cities.

Images taken in 1943 show the effect of wartime bombing on more than 35 European towns and cities. Imagery for Warsaw, which was heavily destroyed at the time, is available from both years 1935 and 1945. They remind us all of the devastating impact of war on the people in those cities and also the remarkable way in which urban environments are reconstructed and regenerated over time.

You can explore the German city of Stuttgart, which was subject to over 50 air raids during the War.




Naples was the most bombed in Italian city in WWII and the impact of these attacks can be seen here:



The French city of Lyon was the center of France's resistance movement against the German occupation. See how it was damaged and rebuilt over the years:



Imagery from 1935 and 1945 for Warsaw in Poland is particularly compelling. The city was amongst those most badly damaged in the war and comparisons with today are striking.

Contrast can be seen for example by comparing the imagery of the Historic Centre of Warsaw, a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as an 'outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century'. The Royal Castle was completely burned to the ground, for example, and subsequently reconstructed, between 1971-1988.



Read more about one Googler's impressions here.

To access all the imagery for yourself, and compare to the present day cityscape, click the clock icon in the top-level toolbar to activate a time-line in the Google Earth display. Move back in forth in time by dragging the time slider from left to right or by clicking the back/forwards arrows.