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“Dresden: The World War Two bombing 75 years on” – BBC News [Toby Luckhurst]

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51448486?fbclid=IwAR3WXr3kBnkWiaEnHQA7M975fXAHScBl9GCsghYW0S4-wGwqY3knSBh1Gv0

Dresden: The World War Two bombing 75 years on

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Dresden after the bombing, as seen from the top of the town hallImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
The bombing of Dresden created a firestorm that destroyed the centre of the city

“The firestorm is incredible… Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: ‘I don’t want to burn to death’. I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn.”

On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the eastern German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault.

The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people trying to escape the flames.

Dresden was not unique. Allied bombers killed tens of thousands and destroyed large areas with attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of World War Two. Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.

“It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed,” he wrote in a memo.

“The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.”

This story contains graphic images.

Short presentational grey line

Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony. Before the bombing it was referred to as the Florence on the Elbe or the Jewel Box, for its climate and its architecture.

Image of Dresden from 1900Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
A colour image of Dresden from 1900, showing a number of monuments which were later heavily damaged in the bombing

By February 1945, Dresden was only about 250km (155 miles) from the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany was defending against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union in the final months of the war.

The city was a major industrial and transportation hub. Scores of factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort. Troops, tanks and artillery travelled through Dresden by train and by road. Hundreds of thousands of German refugees fleeing the fighting had also arrived in the city.

At the time, the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) said it was the largest German city yet to be bombed. Air chiefs decided an attack on Dresden could help their Soviet allies – by stopping Nazi troop movements but also by disrupting the German evacuations from the east.

An RAF bomber over Hamburg, 1943Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
RAF bombers dropped incendiary bombs as well as explosive weapons on German cities to maximise damage

RAF bomber raids on German cities had increased in size and power after more than five years of war.

Planes carried a mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction.

Previous attacks had annihilated entire German cities. In July 1943, hundreds of RAF bombers took part in a mission against Hamburg, named Operation Gomorrah. The resulting assault and unusually dry and hot weather caused a firestorm – a blaze so great it creates its own weather system, sucking winds in to feed the flames – which destroyed almost the whole city.

Dresden after the bombing in 1945Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Most of Dresden was destroyed after the British and US attack

The attack on Dresden began on 13 February 1945. Close to 800 RAF aircraft – led by pathfinders, who dropped flares marking out the bombing area centred on the Ostragehege sports stadium – flew to Dresden that night. In the space of just 25 minutes, British planes dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs.

As was common practice during the war, US aircraft followed up the attack with day-time raids. More than 520 USAAF bombers flew to Dresden over two days, aiming for the city’s railway marshalling yards but in reality hitting a large area across the city.

Bodies lie in the streets after the attack on DresdenImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Tens of thousands died, many suffocated in the firestorm
Dresden after the bombing in 1945Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Major landmarks in the city were gutted

On the ground, civilians cowered under the onslaught. Many had fled to shelters after air raid sirens warned of the incoming bombers.

But the first wave of aircraft knocked out the electricity. Some came out of hiding just as the second wave arrived above the city.

People fell dead as they ran from the flames, the air sucked from their lungs by the fire storm. Eyewitness Margaret Freyer described a woman with her baby: “She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire… The woman remains lying on the ground, completely still”.

Kurt Vonnegut survived the bombing as a prisoner of war in Dresden.

“Dresden was one big flame. The one flame ate everything organic, everything that would burn,” he wrote in his work Slaughterhouse-Five.

He described the city after the attack as “like the moon now, nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighbourhood was dead.”

In total, the British lost six bombers in the attack, three to planes accidentally hitting each other with bombs. The US lost one.

People taking a tram in Dresden amid the wreckage, 1946Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
The city was a wreck for years afterwards, as seen here, when city dwellers take trams through the ruins in 1946
A shot of Dresden in 1946 showing the effect of the bombingImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
It took years to clean up the damage
Dresden castle photographed in East Germany in 1969Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Many parts of Dresden remained as ruins throughout its time as part of East Germany

Nazi Germany immediately used the bombing to attack the Allies. The Propaganda Ministry claimed Dresden had no war industry and was only a city of culture. Though local officials said about 25,000 people had died – a figure historians agree with now – the Nazis claimed 200,000 civilians were killed.

In the UK, Dresden was known as a tourist destination, and some MPs and public figures questioned the value of the attack. A story at the time published by the Associated Press news agency said the Allies were conducting terror bombing, spreading further alarm.

US and UK military planners, however, insisted the attack was strategically justified, in the same way as attacks on other cities – by disrupting industry, destroying workers’ homes and crippling transport in Germany.

A crane lifts a cupola on top of Dresden cathedral in 2004Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Dresden’s Frauenkirche was rebuilt with the help of donations from the UK and the US after serving as a war memorial for decades
Dresden in 2015, largely recovered after the warImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDresden has recovered since the war, although it still bears the scars

A 1953 US report on the bombing concluded that the attack destroyed or severely damaged 23% of the city’s industrial buildings, and at least 50% of its residential buildings. But Dresden was “a legitimate military target”, the report said, and the attack was no different “from established bombing policies”.

The debate about the Allied bombing campaign, and about the attack on Dresden, continues to this day. Historians question if destruction of German cities hindered the Nazi war effort, or simply caused civilian deaths – especially towards the end of the conflict. Unlike an invasion like D-Day, it is harder to quantify how much these attacks helped win the war.

Some argue it is a moral failing for the Allies, or even a war crime. But defenders say it was a necessary part of the total war to defeat Nazi Germany.

It has even become a symbol for conspiracy theorists and some far-right activists – including Holocaust deniers and extremist parties – who have quoted Nazi casualty figures as fact and have commemorated the bombing.

Seventy-five years later, the bombing of Dresden remains a controversial act.

Media caption The 100-year-old survivor of Dresden tells BBC Newsday of the ‘stupidity of war’

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More on this story

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  • World War II bombs ‘felt in space’
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  • UK World War Two bombing sites revealed in online map
    16 October 2019
  • The Coventry Blitz: ‘Hysteria, terror and neurosis’
    13 November 2015
  • Yalta: World War Two summit that reshaped the world
    4 February 2020
  • Video UK WW2 Veteran says Dresden bombings were a ‘war crime’
    11 February 2019

    DRESDEN/BELL’ EMAIL FROM DR GERALD MORGAN

    Sir,

    The troubling question of the bombing of Dresden is raised in your columns by Sinclair McKay and A.N. Wilson under the heading ‘Was the Bombing of Dresden a War Crime?’ (The Spectator, 8 February 2020, pp.20-22). It is written with the luxury of knowing that Nazi Germany was defeated in 1939-1945, a knowledge denied to those with the awesome responsibility of winning the war. In many respects the contributions are self-indulgent and imbued with an arrogant sense of moral and even aesthetic superiority.

    How to defeat Nazi German in 1939-1945 (no simple task)? Germany did not surrender after the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, although a civilised nation might have done so. 
    Sadly Arnhem (17-26 September 1944) was a tragic failure, leaving Holland to the cruelty of German occupation throughout the winter of 1944-1945. Probably Boy Browning (Eton) was as much to blame for this failure as anyone else, but the British blamed the Poles under Sosabowski, who indeed wanted to fight on once Operation Market Garden had been undertaken. 
    So far from surrendering the Germans invaded the Ardennes on 16 December 1944  to 25 January 1945 and in defeating them the Americans lost some 85,000 men. No small price to pay. I remain loath to criticise those who fought and won the war even in the wake of Arnhem. And, as if the Poles had not suffered enough, thanks to continuing German resistance the Soviet offensive in Poland was launched on 12 January 1945.
    I have greater admiration for George Bell, Bishop of Chichester (1929-1958), for he opposed area bombing in the midst of the war when it took great moral courage to do so. Unsurprisingly his words of wisdom were not heeded at that time. Since then his reputation has been trashed by the present Archbishop of Canterbury (yet another Old Etonian).
    And what lessons have we drawn about the bombing of civilian populations since 1945? In March 2003 the messianic Tony Blair, supported by countless Labour and Tory MPs (including Theresa May) unleashed with the Americans a bombing campaign on Iraq. 
    In the 1960s Harold Wilson and the Labour Party expelled the Chagos Islanders from their home in the Indian Ocean to make way for an American bombing base at Diego Garcia.
    How easy it is to convict Sir Arthur Harris and Mr Winston Churchill of war crimes  in their absence. 
    Perhaps we can at least restore the reputation of the Bishop of Chichester by according him the presumption of innocence.
    Kind regards,
    Gerald Morgan, FTCD (Leader: English Parliamentary Party, 2001)

     

    Dr Gerald Morgan, FTCD (1993)
    Lydbrook School (1946-1953),
    Monmouth School (1953-1961),
    Meyricke Exhibitioner, Jesus College, Oxford (1961-1964),
    D.Phil. (Oxon.), 1973
    Director:The Chaucer Hub.
    Tel.: 086 456 56 60
    barry_orford

    The Revd Dr Barry A. Orford

    ‘BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

     

    The Editor

    The Daily Telegraph

    London

    SW1W 0DT

    February 13th, 2020

    Sir,

    The article by Sinclair McKay (February 13th) on the 1945 bombing of Dresden was timely and welcome. What a pity, though, that he did not mention the most prominent wartime challenge to the British policy of Obliteration Bombing, which came from Bishop George Bell of Chichester.

    In 1944, when Hamburg had been devastated the previous year and Dresden was still to suffer, Bishop Bell, a fervent anti-Nazi, questioned in the House of Lords the morality of such bombing of targets which were not primarily military. Few of his fellow bishops supported him, and he earned himself both widespread abuse but also agreement. The bravery of his stand is undeniable.

    Recently, there have been shameful (and now discredited) attempts in Bell’s diocese to tarnish his reputation. Since an apology for this behaviour is still not forthcoming, it is more than ever necessary that we are reminded of George Bell’s courage and integrity, both in wartime and beyond it.

    Barry A. Orford

Feb 2 2018 – Church Times Letters – “How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair” [Revd Alan Fraser + Revd Dr Barry Orford]

Letters to the Editor

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/2-february/comment/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor

How should a line be drawn under the Bell affair?

From the Revd Alan Fraser

Sir, — It is clear that some people have been angered by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement last week concerning the allegations against the late George Bell (News, 26 January). I must confess myself simply confused.

Having looked through the Carlile review, I suppose I had expected the half-apology to the relatives of Bishop Bell for the distress the Church’s investigative failures caused to them. I then expected a grudging acknowledgement that, without casting doubt on “Carol’s” testimony, the presumption of innocence would have to be applied to Bishop Bell unless and until any corroborating evidence came to light.

But no. With admirable clarity, the Archbishop said that he could not “with integrity” clear Bishop Bell’s name, and further, that the substance of “Carol’s” complaint was probably true. Given that the rest of us are not able to review the evidence against Bishop Bell, I think we are obliged to take at face value the Archbishop’s statements, and have reluctantly to conclude that Bishop Bell sexually abused a young girl.

But the Archbishop then goes on to say that this “does not diminish the importance of his [Bell’s] great achievements, and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”. With respect, I don’t see how these two statements can possibly both be true at the same time. If Bishop Bell sexually abused “Carol” repeatedly over a period of four years, it emphatically does diminish his achievements.

At the very least, the Church of England should suspend forthwith Bishop Bell’s commemoration on 3 October (as the Episcopal Church in the United States has already done) with a view to removing it from the liturgical calendar entirely. It would also seem advisable that Bishop Bell’s name be removed from any church institution or building in order to send the clearest of messages that paedophiles are not to be celebrated. And, if the Archbishop genuinely believes Bell to be an abuser, he should stop describing him as a “hero”, as it is clearly wholly inappropriate.

But it seems unlikely that any of these things will ever happen, because almost no one else who has reviewed the case against Bishop Bell appears to believe him guilty, even on the balance of probabilities. And, indeed, many of them loudly continue to declare him innocent. Meanwhile, the liturgical calendar ticks slowly on and clergy are left wondering “What should we do on 3 October? Whom are we to believe?”

It seems to me that the only possible way to break this unfortunate impasse is for the Church to commission the one thing that Archbishop Welby seems keen, inexplicably, to avoid at all costs: an independent review of the evidence against Bishop Bell which declares authoritatively on his guilt, or otherwise. I am at a loss to understand why this was not included within the remit of the Carlile review, as it would have avoided the current confusion. But we cannot continue to be asked to believe both that Bell was a paedophile and that he continues to be an Anglican hero, as though sexual abuse of a five-year old is no more than an unfortunate character flaw that can be discreetly overlooked in the face of ecclesial achievements. It most definitely is not.

ALAN FRASER
41 Hobhouse Close
Great Barr
Birmingham B42 1HB

From the Revd Dr Barry Orford

Sir, — Amid the widespread dismay and anger at Archbishop Justin Welby’s statements concerning Bishop George Bell, a disturbing fact must not be overlooked. But for the concerned individuals who banded together to demand justice for Bishop Bell, the official presumption of his guilt would have been generally accepted, and his reputation wrecked at the hands of a now discredited committee for which the Bishop of Chichester must accept final responsibility. This is shocking in itself, and in what it suggests about the Church of England’s approach to questions of truth.

The only acceptable resolution of this miserable affair is for the Archbishop and Bishop to express contrition and declare that no shadow remains over Bishop Bell’s name. Perhaps this might best be done during a service in Chichester Cathedral celebrating the life and achievements of George Bell.

That the claimant in the case was abused as a child is credible. There has been no convincing evidence presented for believing that she was abused by Bishop Bell. Why is it so difficult for Archbishop Welby and Dr Warner to admit this?

BARRY A. ORFORD
Flat B, 8 Hampstead Square
London NW3 1AB