By February 13, 1945, Germany had all but lost the war. Hitler was in hiding, yet British and American troops burned the militarily insignificant civilian town of Dresden to the ground — and claimed the lives of approximately 25,000 innocent people with it, writes Erin Kelly.
In four separate bomb raids over three days, the Allied attempt to demoralize the Germans certainly succeeded. But was it justifiable so late in the war?
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Winston Churchill categorized the killing of innocent people in Dresden “terror bombing,” – and terrifying it was. Flames engulfed the entire city. The unimaginable heat completely vaporized small children. Civilians who took shelter underground melted into liquid and bones.
In the words of survivor Kurt Vonnegut, “Dresden was like the moon … nothing but minerals.”
Others, including Dresden bombing survivor Lothar Metzger, recalled the event this way:
“We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from. I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them.”
Metzger was just ten years old at the time.
These people in Dresden weren’t active Nazis. There was no military base in this city of historic, Baroque architecture. Afterward, even Churchill questioned the Dresden bombing, saying “the destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.”
As people continue to mourn civilian deaths as a cost of war, the moral implications of the Dresden bombing still hang in the air. The photos above serve as a poignant reminder of what’s really at stake when war divides us.