Dresden: barbarism and vengeance

Discussion in 'General' started by T-34, May 9, 2006.

  1. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Lebach, there is no need for you to excuse yourself. There are several ways to look at one problem, and you have argued your case well, with sound arguments.

    It seems we shall never reach a consensus on this particular matter, which is no reason for fresh views not appearing.

    I just mean it is perfidy to aim for children. know that sounds provocative. but necessary to show how onsided the most people look at the topic.

    by the way, even if "German historians have drastically reduced the casualty numbers" that doesnt relativize the idea behind the area bombing directive

    Of course it is perfidy, unless you are exactly looking for "involuntary martyrs" as some people do nowadays. However war has long ceased to be at a personal level long ago, if it ever was so. It was ages ago that conflict ceased to be resolved by say champions duel. When you are dropping 12 x 500lb bombs from 6000 metres, or pushing a button from a safe bunker in Nevada, you realise you will be killing children, pensioners, hospital patients, etc. But you won't see their eyes.

    Nowadays the wheel has turned full circle, and some armies (some, I said, you know whom I'm talking about) take trouble to employ maximum precision weapons to avoid collateral damage, some (again you know whom I'm talking about) even take the trouble to telephone their victims before the attack to warn them off. But in the end are again branded as criminals.

    Sorry for the off topic rant.
     
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Once again I am obliged to Peter for giving the pertinent Chapter & Verse, particularly Dresden im Luftkrieg: Vorgeschichte, Zerstörung, Folgen by Götz Bergander (Würzburg, 1998).

    I was also intrigued and grateful to see, for the first time, the Italian propaganda leaflet with it's strong evocation of a London getting it's "just deserts."

    In a recent thread about the TV show "Blitz Street", a documentary thread about the bombing of London, I wrote the following piece:

    September 1940
    Saturday, 7th
    The long feared Blitzkrieg, promised to England by Hitler just over a year ago, finally arrived this afternoon with a bomber force of over 300 Luftwaffe planes filling the skies over London. By the time the waves of bombers had finished their work more than 400 people had been killed and over 1600 badly injured.

    Almost every evening for over a month we slept in our Anderson Shelters in the garden. Come the morning we would go out into the still smouldering streets and look with horror at the havoc that had been caused. We would make our way to work, by bus, if we were lucky and everyone at work would have their own story as to how they were lucky to have survived the night.

    I would remind those who would say:
    "Dresden..... 1945"
    that there are still some of us who could equally reply
    "London........... 1940"

    Ron
     
  3. Rudolf Eichner produces a blackened chess piece from the pocket of a tattered shoulder-bag. His attempt to give an "objective" account of what happened to him in Dresden on the night of 13 February 1945 fails before it has even started. Big shiny tears well up in his pale blue eyes.
    Years after that terrible night, which he spent huddling for shelter from the savage air raid and the firestorm that razed 75 per cent of Dresden and killed 35,000 people, Mr Eichner, now 80, found the chess piece - a knight. It was on the small patch of ground where he had endured the onslaught.
    "It is the only thing I managed to salvage from the bombing and every time I look at it I am overcome by emotions I can't control," he confessed this week.
    In February 1945, Mr Eichner had recently returned from the Russian front. The 20-year-old machine gunner was billeted at a military hospital in a converted school in Dippoldiswalde Street, about a mile from the city centre, and was recovering from his wounds. "My father and I were chess players," he recalled. "My father brought his chess set to the hospital to help me while away the time. When the bombing started, I just thought I must hang on to the chess set."
    In the end, only the board was any use - for beating out the flames on his and his companions' heads and, when all their hair had burned, to put out the flames on their clothes and skin.
    By Dresden standards, Mr Eichner was better equipped than most to cope with the raid. His hospital had a team of trained fire fighters and he and his wounded comrades survived the first wave of bombing almost unscathed.
    Together, they extinguished scores of RAF incendiary bombs that had burned their way through the roof of the building. "We were ready to go on fighting the fires until it was all over," Mr Eichner recalled. But then, at around 1am on the morning of 14 February, came the second RAF raid.
    "There were no warning sirens," he said. "We were completely surprised and rushed back down into the cellars of the hospital. But these quickly became hopelessly overcrowded with people who could no longer find shelter in their own burning buildings. The crush was unbearable, we were so tight you couldn't even fall over."
    The hospital received several direct hits. The lights went out and bricks from the safety wall over the windows were blown into the basement. "The air was thick with dust and smoke that was choking us. I remember seeing one woman throw herself across her baby's cot in an attempt to protect her child," Mr Eichner recalled.
    Then someone shouted that the ground floor of the hospital was on fire. "We had to get out but we had no idea where to go," Mr Eichner said. "Apart from the fire risk, it was becoming impossible to breathe in the cellar because the air was being pulled out by the increasing strength of the blaze."
    He and five other soldiers emerged from the hospital basement into the growing firestorm that was sucking air at hurricane force towards what by now was the inferno of the old town. "We could not stand up, we were on all fours, crawling," Mr Eichner said. "The wind was full of sparks and carrying bits of blazing furniture, debris and burning bits of bodies."
    The six men found a spot in a front garden behind a pile of rubble and made a circle. "Our faces were covered in wet rags and we spent the next six hours beating out the fires that kept flaring up in our hair and on our clothes that were tinder dry. We just kept praying," he recalled.
    By now the asphalt surface on many of the streets had melted and was tearing the shoes off Dresdeners who were fleeing the cellars of their burning homes. Many of the victims who suffered badly burned feet could not go on. They slumped to the ground and choked to death on the fumes.
    Hundreds of others sought safety in large concrete reservoirs that had been built in the town centre a year earlier to help fire-fighters. However, these proved a treacherous refuge because the smooth-sided tanks were more than 10 feet deep and had no ladders. By daylight, many inside had drowned.
    But, as the light of dawn became dimly visible through the smoke, Mr Eichner and his five companions knew they had survived the worst. They could hardly see - their eyes were swollen red from the smoke, and their skins were like parchment but covered in weeping blisters. They had all lost their hair, eyelashes and eyebrows.
    Mr Eichner made his way towards the main railway station which had been packed with refugees at the time of the raid. He saw terrible scenes. "There were charred bodies everywhere," he said. The corpses were blackened around the torsos but the legs were "pink like pork". There at the station, Mr Eichner found his father. He had collapsed with exhaustion after spending hours shifting corpses. The two fell into each other's arms and made their way across the devastated city. They narrowly missed being crushed by the falling façade of a burned-out building.
    In the days that followed, Mr Eichner remembers crossing the Altmarkt, the old town square, when SS guards - sent from a Nazi death camp - were supervising the burning of 6,865 bodies piled in a heap. The operation took two weeks to complete. Today, Mr Eichner will unveil a plaque on the Altmarkt in memory of the dead.
    "The experience of the bombing was far worse than being on the Russian front, where I was a front-line machine-gunner before I was wounded," Mr Eichner said. "At the front, you were scared most of the time, but at least you had some freedom of action. During the firestorm, the worst thing was that you felt completely powerless. You could do nothing but wait and pray."
    Despite the horror of his experiences that night, he doesn't blame the British: "No, like me, they were just fighting a war and trying to end it as quickly as possible."
    As we walked through Dresden this week, Mr Eichner pointed to the city's granite paving stones - among the only original features to survive the firestorm and subsequent reconstruction. Nearly every stone is deeply scored by shrapnel splinters from the raid.
    In photographs he took of Dresden in the early 1950s, the city centre is like a great moonscape - just three buildings marginally intact in an ocean of rubble. "Around here the houses were built so closely together that you could shake hands across the street from your bedroom window," he recalled as we crossed an area that is now a soulless, concrete arcade.
    Despite the rebuilt Frauen-kirche - the main structure was completed last June - and the painstakingly restored Baroque buildings of the old town, once immortalised by Canaletto, Dresden is still a city with too many green empty spaces to feel at ease.


    from: For survivors, Dresden is still an 'open wound' 60 years on - Europe, World - The Independent
     
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Lebach

    As Spidge states
    "Many say Germany was on its knees so this was not necessary - On its knees yes, but not beaten."


    Peter G and Ron's posts should be read.

    The Second World War was a terrible event.
    An event that reached an end ,that affected all involved.

    The Dresden debate will go on forever possibly without conclusion.
     
  5. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I don't normally get involved in hot button issues, but I was trying to work through my views by typing them out, and now I find, I just don't want to scrap these electrons. However, like many of my posts, I can probably count on this being passed over without comment, it's kinda what I'm hoping for.

    How many sides are there to this issue? (Dresden, Hiroshima and others)

    For the contempories, they can hold whatever view they formed then and since, and nobody need deny their right to their view. However given the world today they might want to ask themselves if they want to pass their views to their children wholecloth. Define children as large as you like.

    For those that defend the decision, do we do it to confirm the logic of the decision or to defend the honor of those who ordered and carried out the decision? One requires difficult research and analysis, the other is easily fueled by emotion.

    For those that question the decision, do we do it to ask if there was another way that was available to the participants or are we seeking a perfect moral logic that would condemn the decision makers no matter their knowledge at the time?

    When we acknowledge the suffering of the "other" side are we really betraying the memory of those that fought on "our" side? I hope not.

    Finally shouldn't we all be seeking a better logic to guide our future actions?

    No doubt to me, the NS policy of "fight to the death" ensured that the German people would be the first and last victims of the Nazis.
     
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  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Earthican

    thank you for your post
     
  7. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    "When we acknowledge the suffering of the "other" side are we really betraying the memory of those that fought on "our" side? I hope not."

    Well said Earthican

    To apply some context to this discussion, the fact that V2 rockets were continuing to fall on London until late March 1945 surely must be considered when weighing the influences on military decision makers at the time. While London was enduring the 2nd blitz would public sentiment have supported a halt or drastic reduction in the bombing campaign on Germany?

    Whether you agree or disagree, that would be about as likely as a pardon for Osama bin Laden in the wake of 911.
     
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    We never started this war. WE stood alone being bombarded night after night, our folk died everywhere,Dresden? Children killed. So were ours TOUGH MATE
    Sapper
     
  9. We never started this war. WE stood alone being bombarded night after night, our folk died everywhere,Dresden? Children killed. So were ours TOUGH MATE


    I never seperated in "we" and "you". i just mentioned "the" children. that goes for any location in the world.

    I also can sympathize with your (and not only your) point. may I quote a famous german named Thomas Mann; citizen of lübeck. he said the following after the RAF raid on his hometown.

    ...Aber ich denke an Coventry – und habe nichts einzuwenden gegen die Lehre, daß alles bezahlt werden muß.


    translation: ...But I remember Coventry - and I have nothing to counter the thesis, that anything has to be paid.
     
  10. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    No doubt to me, the NS policy of "fight to the death" ensured that the German people would be the first and last victims of the Nazis.

    I'd like amend my last sentence. I should not have absolved the German people for the rise of NS and painted them as the first victims.

    However if the American people were swapped for the German people in the 1930's I'm not certain they would have taken a different course.

    I'll crawl back in my hole now.
     
  11. L J

    L J Senior Member

    well,what does one expect Bomber Command to do in february 1945? Nothing ?They were pursuing still the same aim(some will say:a mirage,but this is of topic):to prove that bombers could win,finish the war on their own (no need for the army,or the navy);there was nothing special on Dresden,there were'Dresden' before and there were 'Dresden' afterwards.
     
  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    I have come to the reluctant but inevitable conclusion, that the Dresden of which I have spoken and the Dresden that a lot of people write about today, were two different places.

    I don't think that any discussion on this or any other forum will prove one way or another whether it was right to have bombed it in March 1945 all I know is that my dear late brother was on the raid and that he was killed two days later over Nuremberg.

    I believe that all I have to say on the subject can be found on this thread and I leave you all to your own further discussion.

    Ron
     
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  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  14. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I have come to the reluctant but inevitable conclusion, that the Dresden of which I have spoken and the Dresden that a lot of people write about today, were two different places.

    I don't think that any discussion on this or any other forum will prove one way or another whether it was right to have bombed it in March 1945 all I know is that my dear late brother was on the raid and that he was killed two days later over Nuremberg.

    I believe that all I have to say on the subject can be found on this thread and I leave you all to your own further discussion.

    Ron

    Ron,

    I think that several of us agree with your post.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  15. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    I have come to the reluctant but inevitable conclusion, that the Dresden of which I have spoken and the Dresden that a lot of people write about today, were two different places.

    I don't think that any discussion on this or any other forum will prove one way or another whether it was right to have bombed it in March 1945 all I know is that my dear late brother was on the raid and that he was killed two days later over Nuremberg.

    I believe that all I have to say on the subject can be found on this thread and I leave you all to your own further discussion.

    Ron

    Ron,

    For those of us not yet born, do you have any recollection of the Dresden raid receiving any more attention than other similar raids at the time? While it became a controversial action, post war, I'm curious if it had any particualr significance in 1945 to you or anyone else in the U.K.
     
  16. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Dresden was a tragic event in a long line of tragic events which made up WW2 .
    In my own view of the raid I separate the tragic experience of those who died from the potential political mileage which some less well motivated are prepared to try and milk from history.
    Owen's posts 82-83 make interesting reading as does Taylor's book .
     
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  17. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Canuck

    No sooner than I had said I was quite happy to leave others to this discussion when you asked your question.

    Only on the grounds that it might appear churlish not to answer I will try to answer your query.

    Consider the date.

    In March 1945 I was still very much in the war, crammed into my Honey tank, heading Northward in Italy and indeed it was not until the war had actually finished in Italy that I heard the dreadful news from home that my brother had been lost in action.

    The log book of Ted Hull that I showed in an earlier posting said it all.

    Dresden was just another raid on a German city.

    And that, is really all I have to say on the subject.

    Ron
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Canuck -
    again - I can only agree with Ron - we were busy in the north of Italy as I was just out of hospital and so Dresden was just another raid...didn't mean much to me either as I had been working in both Coventry and Birmingham prior to being called into the Army and so had a lot of experience in air raids and the loss of productive capacity...it was very much a "so what" at the time !
    Cheers
     
  19. 2989andyd

    2989andyd Junior Member

    My Dad, navigator Flt Lt John Charles Davies, flew in Halifaxes with 102 Squadron from Pocklington and bombed Chemnitz on the night after the raid on Dresden (i.e. 15 February 1945). He flew a modest total of 13 operations in Halifaxes and passed away on 20 January this year aged 86.

    My parents grew up (as I did) in Coventry and, as teenagers, endured the raids that destroyed the city in November 1940, April 1941 and other nights. So Dad had first hand experience of heavy aerial bombardment as both receiver and deliverer.

    Dad always told me that war is a filthy, dirty business. He also brought me up to believe in peaceful reconcilation. The twinned cities of Dresden and Coventry, in particular their respective cathedral churches, both stand for international peace and reconciliation.

    I stand in awe of what the 56,000 Bomber Command aircrew who failed to return did for their country and for freedom. But although Dad, as a survivor, was disappointed at first not to receive a campaign medal for Bomber Command, he believed the proposed memorial for Bomber Command dead would now be far too late. As is shown in these posts, the rights and wrongs of area bombing are still passionately debated and feelings still run high.

    So for the sake of the future, and for the children of Coventry and of Dresden, I ask that we remember those who served their country, those who 'struck hard and struck sure', quietly and respectfully, and with sensitivity.
     
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  20. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    We have heard many reasons why Dresden should not have been bombed "at that stage" of the war.

    Dresden was a beautiful city!

    What in the hell did bricks and mortar have to do with anything. I care about the children and the aged who were part of the deaths but British and other European cities and towns suffered a similar fate, if not as destructive or the loss of life, so severe.

    Dresden was not a manufacturer of war material!

    This claim has been debunked with later evidence showing that over 100 factories were engaged in the making of war material.

    Why did they do it, Germany was already beaten. (Where have I heard that before)

    Possibly as early as 1943, Germany was doomed however they still had not surrendered.

    Germany started the devastation, we equalled, then surpassed it with the loss of 56,000 young lives in bomber command alone.

    The division over this will never cease however I for one will not accept that "we" did anything wrong by ensuring all areas of Germany that contributed to their war effort in anyway was destroyed.
     
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