The years of the Second World War could very easily have been much worse for the observatory. At the outset of the war, Bergedorf was immediately put to work for military purposes with many instruments packed away and put into cellars. Navigational tables and exact timings for Luftwaffe squadrons were produced, including tables for bombers (with calculations curiously made out to 1960). Anti-aircraft installations were placed in and near to the observatory grounds, including a small telescope used to sight enemy aircraft, but astonishingly the only damage to the observatory itself occurred on the evening of 1942 July 26 when a damaged British bomber (which later crashed) offloaded 100 firebombs to reduce weight as it fell, but little damage was done to the equipment or buildings (one chair was burnt).15 This is despite the fact that during the war 55% of the city’s residential areas and 60% of the harbour installations were destroyed by allied bombing – thus it appears that Bergedorf was never a specific target of allied bombing, despite the military tasks it was assigned.

Fig. 11. The order of 1939 September 4 that Bergedorf Observatory was to cease all teaching and research programmes with immediate effect “for the duration of the war”. Instead, the observatory was to focus on military tasks. Source: Hamburger Sternwarte