‘Cake mummy’ survived WWII bombing of Lübeck

A hazelnut cake complete with swirls of frosting carbonized in the bombing of Lübeck in 1942 has been discovered in a cellar in the city’s historic old town. No food preserved in the firestorm of the bombing has been discovered before in Lübeck. Nor are there any comparable survivors from Hamburg or Dresden, two other German cities that were famously devastated by Allied firebombing.

City archaeologists unearthed the cake in April during an excavation under a house on the Alfstrasse, a street that leads from the Trave river to Lübeck’s iconic 13th century St. Mary’s Church. Built in 1159, barely 15 years after the city’s founding, Alfstrasse is one of the oldest streets in the Lübeck located in the very heart of the city’s founding district.

Lübeck was bombed by the Royal Air Force the night of March 28-29th, 1942, and the fires that resulted destroyed large parts of its medieval city center. St. Mary’s was all but levelled (it was reconstructed after the war), as was the merchants’ quarter. The house on Alfstrasse was destroyed in the bombing, but by a miraculous cake-preserving fluke, a cavity formed under the rubble that insulated the dessert from annihilation in the fires or from being crushed in the house’s collapse.

“From the point of view of a restorer, it is the most exciting object that I have ever worked on,” says [conservator Sylvia] Morgenstern. “I first have to wait for the laboratory analyzes. Only then can I decide whether I can clean the find with water and which substance is suitable for stabilization,” she says.

But just like the question of preserving the cake, the archaeologists are concerned with the story behind it. In addition to the charred cake, a coffee service and several records were also found. “Possibly the pastry was intended for a confirmation ceremony. It used to take place on Palm Sunday,” said Schneider. “We hope that we can clarify this with the help of the city archives at some point.” […]

“The cake find is so special because it goes back to an event – namely the bombing raid on Lübeck – that is still present in the minds of the city,” says Doris Mührenberg, who is in charge of the Lübeck Archeology magazine. This is where the “cake mummy” will later find its place – if it is possible to preserve it permanently.

5 thoughts on “‘Cake mummy’ survived WWII bombing of Lübeck

  1. The Mom of a (more or less) Kenyan friend of mine lives in London, and according to her Mom, one of her “most traumatic experiences” during her time spent in Germany had been hazelnut cake, so maybe no wonder that it survived the bombing 😆

    Both of my own (German) grandpas took part in WWII, and just before the ugly pandemic kicked in, I inherited paperwork on that issue: Two hard-copies on “Grampa #1”, a ‘war report’, according to which he was shot down in a “Stuka” plane in 1941, survived and even made it back alive, in order to terminally end up –according to the other copy– on “March 26th, 3:50PM, with shrapnel to his head and stomach” in Gdansk, where he still is. No idea, what he did between 1941 and 45.

    Of “Grampa #2” I have the originals. Arguably, he was also involved in the 1941 attack, but –thinking about it– possibly after the attack on Lübeck in 1942, his actual hometown– he returned to Berlin and could continue his training, became an expert on explosives (kind of), and in 1943/44 defused 243 Allied undetonated bombs in Berlin. Unsure of how he managed, they were luckily able to leave Berlin and go to Lübeck late in 44 or 1945, where in March 45 my own Mom was born. After the war, he was declared an “engineer” and became a technical director.


    PS: According to #2’s logs, and also a court-martial statement, dated August 28th 1943, his very first(!) bomb, on premise at the “Zeiss KG” company in Berlin-Marienfelde (on August 28th 1943, 5 dead, “MC 1000LB” w “LZZ, WeCo (?)”, 1:20 PM), was unfortunately no success and it had detonated unexpectedly, not according to schedule.

  2. I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower


  3. It shares an uncanny resemblance to what comes out of my own oven from time to time. I’ll just tell my family it’s an historical recipe that they will enjoy.

  4. I’m curious if there were human remains also found? If it was baked in the kitchen of the house for the next day’s after church coffee time, there must have been someone in the house? So sad to see such an intimate detail of lives destroyed.

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