Aachen was heavily damaged during World War II. The city and its fortified surroundings were laid siege to from 12 September–21 October 1944 by the US 1st Infantry Divisionwith the 3rd Armored Division assisting from the south.Around 13 October the US 2nd Armored Division played their part, coming from the north and getting as close as Wuerselen, while the 30th Infantry Division played a crucial role in completing the encirclement of Aachen on 16 October 1944.With reinforcements from the US 28th Infantry Division the Battle of Aachen then continued involving direct assaults through the heavily defended city, which finally forced the German garrison to surrender on 21 October 1944.Aachen was the first German city to be captured by the Allies, and its residents welcomed the soldiers as liberators.The city was destroyed partially – and in some parts completely – during the fighting,mostly by American artillery fire and demolitions carried out by the Waffen-SS defenders. Damaged buildings included the medieval churches of St. Foillan, St Paul and St. Nicholas and the Rathaus (city hall), although Aachen Cathedral was largely unscathed. Only 4,000 inhabitants remained in the city; the rest had followed evacuation orders. Its first Allied-appointed mayor, Franz Oppenhoff, was assassinated by an SS commando unit.
1,345 Jews lived in the city in 1933. The synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht in 1938. In 1939, after emigration and arrests, 782 Jews remained in the city. After World War II, only 62 Jews lived there.