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 Post subject: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 5:36 am 
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Seventy years ago today, over the 13th to the 15th of February, 1945, the Royal Air Force and U.S Air Force dropped thirty thousand tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the German city of Dresden, packed with refugees fleeing the advancing Soviet Armies. The city was burned to the ground, and twenty-five thousand people burned to death along with it.

The use of the atomic bombs against Japan in the summer of 1945 has been debated endlessly (including here), but I have always thought that it was more significant that, by that stage, the Allies had long since put aside any qualms that they had against using air power against Axis civilians. By one view, the raid was justified given the need to end the war and end the brutal persecution of civilians in occupied countries by the Axis. USAF reports suggest that Dresden had hundreds of armament factories worked by slave labour, producing weapons and munitions for the Third Reich. By that assessment, the bombing of Dresden, along with the bombings of other German cities, bought the war to a faster end and the Holocaust along with it. The alternative view is that Dresden was a cultural and historical landmark of little military significance, and the raid was a disproportionate act of revenge against an already-beaten Germany for the V1 and V2 attacks against Britain and Allied military setbacks in the Netherlands and the Ardennes.

The attack on Dresden was controversial at the time and has remained so. Like a lot of people, I probably gave it the most thought after I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. The novel is, pretty transparently, Vonnegut’s attempt to deal with witnessing the destruction of the city first-hand as a prisoner of war. As he later wrote:

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The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I'm in.


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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 6:57 am 
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I'm glad someone is talking about it. I could never think of Dresden as anything but an atrocity. For context, I grew up in a city that was still recovering from having 75% of buildings destroyed in that war, where having lost family members was a given for the generation of my grandparents and even parents. I don't feel particularly sentimental about the aftermath. But Dresden was an atrocity.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:21 pm 
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I agree. I understand the thinking to a certain extent, but it still is an atrocity. The attitude at the time was all out war; destroy the evil at all costs, and there certainly is some justification for that attitude. But when you become evil yourself in doing so, what is the cost?

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:07 pm 
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The bombing of Dresden has always been a difficult topic of German “Erinnerungskultur” (culture of remembrance). For many years (since the downfall of the DDR), German far-right parties such as the NPD have used the Dresden bombings for their own political agendas. The NPD traditionally holds a rally in Dresden on February thirteenth:

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In a strange fit of irony, NPD officials have called the bombing of Dresden a “Bombenholocaust”, a holocaust of bombs (those are the same kind of people who deny that the Holocasut happened).

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It has to be said though that the counter-protests in Dresden have been attended by much more people for many years.

The anti-far-right rallies in Dresden have also always been a hotspot for the so-called anti-Germans, a small group in the German far-left spectrum. It can basically be said that their rejection of the far-right position goes so far that they actively support and glorify the bombing of Dresden. British Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris is especially cherished by them, slogans such as “Bomber-Harris, do it again!” are not unheard of.

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The anti-German position is that the inhabitants of Dresden ultimately deserved their fate, as they actively or passively supported the Nazi-regime.

While both NPD and anti-Germans only represent fringe groups in Germany, the general question whether (or how) German victims of WWII should be remembered in German society is a very complex one, and has been so for many decades. Nearly every German intellectual of any prominence has an opinion on this topic, ranging from emphasizing German suffering to completely rejecting the notion that Germans suffered undeservedly. It all boils down to the quintessential Opfer/Täter dichotomy of German “Erinnerungskultur”, the distinction between victims and perpetrators.

Germans be crazy. :scratch:


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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 4:22 pm 
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Which is to say, they are human. ;)

I very much appreciate you sharing that perspective, Beutlin.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 6:40 am 
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Dresden is still pretty widely-remembered, but it is often forgotten that seventy years ago today, over the night of March 9-10, 1945, the U.S. Air Force carried out the single deadliest and most destructive air raid in history - the fire-bombing of Tokyo. Fifteen square miles of the city was destroyed, at least 100,000 people were killed, and over a million left homeless. It was possibly (maybe probably) more deadly and destructive than the atomic bombings of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Despite the controversy over Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tokyo doesn't seem to raise the same debate these days. Perhaps because the later use of nuclear weapons was seen to cross some sort of line. But it is possible that it was the sustained strategic bombing of Japanese cities that finally forced the government in Tokyo to sue for peace.


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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:29 pm 
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I think by that time there was a sense that the enemy capitals were "fair game," in large part due to the Blitz on London--which was a deliberately provoked response to the British bombing Berlin during the Battle of Britain. Cities with industrial targets had always been, well, targets.

Dresden stands out in that it was neither. It was chosen as a target (like Hiroshima, like Nagasaki--itself a fallback) primarily because it hadn't been a target. But from the perspective of the people on the ground, such details are academic.

From the comfortable distance of seventy years or more, it's easy to say, and probably accurate, that strategic bombing, i.e., bombing cities to destroy an enemy's will and means to fight, can be a war crime, as it's the definition of indiscriminate. Imagine a thousand drone strikes each and every day against urban areas, except with unguided gravity bombs. Yet in the midst of an actual existential struggle, what rules can there be beyond the victor's?

I am minded of the discussion I had with my son at the Museum of the Air Force last year, by the B-29 that bombed Nagasaki, about the moral and ethical complexities of even a "good" war, and how decisions that seem clear-cut in the heat of things can be the source of regret later--and yet still be the best of a bad lot. Better to avoid the circumstances that led to them in the first place. If that's possible.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 1:42 pm 
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To me, Dresden stands out because it was pointless. It was over by then. Germany lost. The only question left was how much would be taken by the West vs. the Soviets. There wasn't even the flimsy justification that Hiroshima had.

How many Americans know that Soviet troops fought in Japan?

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:15 pm 
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*raises hand* If you count Sakhalin Island as Japan, which clearly the Japanese did at the time.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:46 pm 
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Still do, they want it back.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:31 am 
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axordil wrote:
I think by that time there was a sense that the enemy capitals were "fair game," in large part due to the Blitz on London--which was a deliberately provoked response to the British bombing Berlin during the Battle of Britain. Cities with industrial targets had always been, well, targets.


I'd say the will to bomb cities was there from the start. Strategic bombing of enemy cities had become fairly widespread by the end of the First World War (although not particularly effective), and the inter-war years were dominated by an anxiety that, should another war break out, everyone would bomb each other's cities flat (see "The bomber will always get through"). If the combatants in the Second World War took a while to get proper bombing campaigns going, it was more likely to be because they simply took time to learn how to do it properly and build up the material resources to do so.

That said, I think there was a definite hardening of attitudes as the war progressed. By the time Dresden was bombed, the Allies had begun to get a sense of the scale of the atrocities of the Nazi regime. And by 1945 they had well-established that the Japanese were an enemy who gave no quarter and expected none. Those things no doubt made the devastating raids of early 1945 more acceptable to the Allied public.


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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 2:05 pm 
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One thing no one has mentioned yet is that the bombing of Dresden was seen partially as a retaliation for the German bombing of Coventry, rather than London, though in the event the severity of Coventry’s destruction did not compare to the devastation wreaked on Dresden. The people of Coventry have worked tirelessly over the years towards rapprochement and reconciliation between the communities...

http://frrme.org/from-coventry-to-baghdad-1/

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 2:11 am 
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Hadn't seen that before, thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:49 am 
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Nor I!

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:47 am 
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https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10 ... 85&fref=nf

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2015 1:11 pm 
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Just saw this for the first time.

My H.S. history teacher worked for Allied intelligence as a spy during W.W. II. He said the fire bombing of Dresden was a revenge attack for the German bombing of Coventry, another non-military target. :(

This reflected a change in bombing strategy by both sides, going from attacks on strategic military targets to massive carpet-bombing of cities, designed to cause panic and destroy morale.

It looks like the British were the first to adopt this strategy, with an attack on Lubeck:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baedeker_Blitz

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2015 11:36 pm 
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Sunsilver wrote:
It looks like the British were the first to adopt this strategy, with an attack on Lubeck:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baedeker_Blitz


It seems strange to single out the British bombing of Lubeck in 1942 when it came after the mass bombings of British cities in the Blitz in 1940-1941. And the Japanese had already heavily-bombed Chinese cities during the Sino-Japanese War.

I still stand by what I posted upthread - there was no real change of strategy or decision to start carpet-bombing enemy cities, and everyone knew, going into the Second World War, that mass strategic bombing would be part of the War.


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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:47 am 
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I am in Dresden now for a few days and will try to tell more about experiencing this city and its various reactions to the political changes it has seen in the 20th century. In front of our hotel is the place where thousands of victims were burned the night after the bombing and to the right of our hotel room a church that was totally burned and restaured in an interesting way during the socialist years. More thoughts when we'll be back home.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:19 pm 
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I look forward to reading of your experiences, Nin.

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 Post subject: Re: Dresden
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:26 pm 
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I do as well.

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