Winding it’s way through the near Alpine valleys of the outskirts of Dresden on a warm summer’s day it was hard to imagine that 67 years ago I would have been entering a flattened shell of a city – well not even a shell, more of a vast scorched wasteland of rubble and decaying corpses. On 13 February 1945, just a few weeks before Germany unconditionally surrendered, 1,300 Bombers dropped 3,900 tons of Bombs on the city, at least 35,000 people died, I say at least 35,000 but that is very much the lowest estimate, but 35,00o men, women and children saw their world come to an end, recent research suggests that the figure could be as high as 100,000.
The crime was not that Dresden was a cultural capital of Europe with some of the finest buildings on the continent, not that the city was bombed into oblivion because there were no more cities to bomb because the Allies had total air superiority and had systematically bombed every German city, and to be brutally honest, they had run out of cities to bomb, the crime was that the city was ‘home’ to refugees fleeing the Red Army and had sought sanctuary.
There was no reason to bomb Dresden, even if it had the ability to produce munitions, Germany was on its knees and did not have the manpower to use them, the fuel to transport, or an ability to organise resistance, the evidence that Dresden was manufacturing weapons is scant to say the least. I come from Sheffield and I know the horror stories of the bombing of my home City, and I know Coventry was also levelled – and interesting fact that Dresden is twinned with Coventry – but the destruction of Dresden was just revenge, cold and bloody, and it wasn’t done in my name.
War is not a numbers game but consider if you will that during the Blitz of Coventry 390 people died – again a tragedy but not justification.
The timing of the raid was cruel as well, with three hours between the raids it was designed to lure the population back into the streets – a trap. The resultant firestorm turned the city into a single column flame.
IN 1992 The Queen visited Dresden, the welcome was not warm – at best it was civil, the worst was a egg being thrown, of course being British we did it all wrong, a few months previous Queen Elizabeth, the The Queen Mother had unveiled a statute to the man who authorised the atrocity – Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris