At the end of World War II Aachen, the historic seat of the Charlemagne empire, lay devastated. In 1944, the residents had been instructed to evacuate their homes because of the heavy air-raids, which were at their fiercest in September and October that year. 42,000 out of its pre-war 52,000 buildings had been destroyed or severely damaged. Survivors had to exist amongst the ruins, living on their wits. Young people and the many orphans wondered what sort of future was in store. There were no schools and little food.