Weise retired at the end of September after spending almost four decades clearing munitions from one of the most bomb-contaminated regions in Europe — the state of Brandenburg surrounding Berlin. In Brandenburg alone, an average of 631 tons of old munitions from the two world wars and from Soviet army exercises in East German times are found every year by builders, bomb location squads or children playing.
In the whole of Germany, more than 2,000 tons of American and British aerial bombs and all sorts of munitions ranging from German hand grenades and tank mines to Russian artillery shells are recovered each year. Barely a week goes by without a city street or motorway being cordoned off or even evacuated in Germany due to an unexploded bomb being discovered.
“When you’re on your own in that pit with the bomb in the middle of a city, it’s strange how everything suddenly goes totally quiet,” said Weise. “Sometimes even the birds stop singing. That’s always the point when you feel edgy. After the Potsdam bomb last month I thought, you’ve been lucky so many times, that’s the last one today, now you’ll stop.”