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Germany marks 70th anniversary of destruction of Dresden


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Commemorations are taking place in Germany to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.

An estimated 25,000 people died in the British and American attack, which created a firestorm that left 33 sq km (12 sq miles) of the city in ruins.

German President Joachim Gauck is attending a service at the Church of Our Lady, which has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in the WW2 raids.

The city was believed by Allied forces to be a vital Nazi command centre.

It was used by German forces to defend the country against Soviet forces approaching from the east.

Friday's events include an afternoon service at the Church of Our Lady, or the Frauenkirche, where President Gauck is speaking, and ringing of the church bells.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the congregation: "Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the Allied bombing campaign.

"Whatever the arguments, events here 70 years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity.

"Healing such wounds requires enemies to... become friends, which starts with our memories with the hurt we have suffered and ends with a shared understanding of

the hurt we have caused each other."

Ursula Elsner was 14 at the time of the bombing: "We clung on but one woman didn't make it. The firestorm grabbed her. Anti-fascist campaigners, joined by church dignitaries, are also due to form a human chain to pay homage to the victims of the massive bombing, as they have done in past years.Thousands of people are expected to gather in the city centre on Friday evening to remember those killeDresden Mayor Helma Orosz has said that the events would be an opportunity to demonstrate the city's core values of "openness to the world and tolerance".Far-right supporters have previously sought to exploit the anniversary of the bombings, although marches have dwindled in recent years.
_80981502_025839892-1.jpgThe attack left Dresden's Church of Our Lady and Martin-Luther-Memorial in ruins
_80981504_025849265-1.jpgThe statue of Martin Luther and the Church of Our Lady have since been rebuilt

Dresden has become the hub of Germany's "anti-Islamisation" Pegida movement, which has brought thousands onto the streets for weekly protests since October 2014.

Starting on 13 February 1945, British and US planes unleashed a massive 37-hour bombing, sparking a huge inferno that engulfed the city's old town.

By the time it was over, tens of thousands of Dresden's buildings had been turned to rubble, including its famous opera house and a number of museums.

_80981500_025839859-1.jpgA photo taken from Dresden's town hall after the bombings shows the extent of the destruction to the city
_80992273_025853186-1.jpgPeople laid flowers at a wall commemorating the victims at the Heidefriedhof cemetery

The 18th Century Church of Our Lady appeared initially to have survived, but, weakened by the intense heat, it soon collapsed under its own weight.

Many other European cities suffered heavy bombing but Dresden has become a powerful symbol of war and destruction, says the BBC's Jenny Hill in the city.

The city still shows the signs of the attack, our correspondent adds.

Edited by Mainad
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Dresden was really unnecessary, especially at that stage of the war. But 70 years on, what really angers me is that neo-fascist movements here use this for their own purposes, conveniently leaving ou

I agree that a line was crossed at Dresden in terms of what is and isn't acceptable. It seems perverse to draw up rules like the Geneva convention to govern the conduct of individuals and governments

I agree: Churchill was, in many ways, a flawed personality. His views on India and Indians (to name one instance) were, respectfully, quite repugnant - then again, so were those of many colonial admin

Commemorations are taking place in Germany to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.

An estimated 25,000 people died in the British and American attack, which created a firestorm that left 33 sq km (12 sq miles) of the city in ruins.

German President Joachim Gauck is attending a service at the Church of Our Lady, which has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in the WW2 raids.

The city was believed by Allied forces to be a vital Nazi command centre.

It was used by German forces to defend the country against Soviet forces approaching from the east.

Friday's events include an afternoon service at the Church of Our Lady, or the Frauenkirche, where President Gauck is speaking, and ringing of the church bells.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the congregation: "Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the Allied bombing campaign.

"Whatever the arguments, events here 70 years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity.

"Healing such wounds requires enemies to... become friends, which starts with our memories with the hurt we have suffered and ends with a shared understanding of

the hurt we have caused each other."

Sorry to upstage you Dresden but I'd say Hiroshima and Nagasaki have you beat. And humanity was long lost before the Allies gained ground on the war, Germany and Japan just started being on the receiving end for once.

But yes mistakes were made on both sides, moreso on the German, Italian and Japanese side. But we must remember history so we don't repeat it again.

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My Mum experienced Dresden - she was a refugee from the east passing through when the bombing happened. One of the many gruesome stories of her time on the road fleeing the Russians.

That's awful. :( how truly traumatic that must have been for her.

I find Dresden interesting- I don't recall ever being taught about it in history in school. In Australia we got such a distorted perspective of Churchill and the Allies as these no fault heroes- when in fact we also inflicted horrifying atrocities against German civilians.

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:mellow: And still the powers that be dodge the issue of why such a pointless bombing raid...Even Churchill was left flummoxed. The city was of no importance to any tactical gain and as we all know was absorbing refugees fleeing from the east. Germany was all but finished and the end game now in action.

Today this would be an international court case. It's now so buttoned up, it would be hard to push a case.

There's always the back story that this was a Harris v Le May stunt to see who could flatten a city better, remembering the Tokyo and Yokohama areas were relentlessly firebombed leaving it's death toll higher than the atomic attacks later on. Most of Germany's major cities were already in ruins and Dresden stood out as untouched, so...

Always got told the death toll was in the 100s of thousands but now stands around 30 000...plus aftermath of another 50k.

And there's the idea of the Allies showing the advancing Russians of what they were capable of and to do as much collateral damage to an area the USSR was vying to control in the post war carve up hammered out at Yalta. Also another angle taken is "well Germany had destroyed as many Russian cities as they could, the SS slaughtering the population along the way, lets take one out for our comrades."

Post war was to not talk about it and as a kid I only learned of Dresden at high school in the late 80s and even then the teaching method was "well they (Germans) had it coming"...always being reminded of the destruction Germany had caused the world and that the Holocaust had just been revealed leaving an exhausted and equally war shattered Great Britain/Commonwealth/USA with a "so what?" mentality. London had gone through equally horrific bombing raids far longer...and Germany unleashed blanket bombing on undefended towns in Spain during their civil war.

Considering there were far worse raids that hit Germany and Japan, Dresden probably doesn't stand out...But for shear pointlessness on the Allies part...DEFINITLY.

I'll empathise with today's generation who abhor the horror of mass city bombing have to live with history of what happened and it's great to see Dresden slowly returning to its "Florence" beauty.

But I'll always balance that with what Germany did to humanity to get Dresden into that situation it was in 70 years ago... :(...but it was still a DUMB thing for the Allies to do.

(and sorry to those members here who may feel hurt by my thoughts and comments)

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Whenever the subject of the Dresden bombing comes up, I'm always reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's novel, "Slaughterhouse Five" which I read many years ago. Saw the movie as well.

Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time and witnessed the whole thing. That novel taught me more about it than any old newsreel or documentary ever could!

9780440180296_p0_v1_s260x420.JPG

.......and so it goes!

Edited by Mainad
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What had effectively ended the First World War was German soldiers and sailors following the example set in Russia, and rebelling against their commanders, leading to the collapse of the German government and the abdication of the Kaiser. The mood of resentment against authority was reignited during the Weimar hyper-inflation, leading to the rise of the National Socialist party.

Perhaps, in the Second World War, it was deemed necessary for the eventual losers to have a very clear understanding that defeat need not have limits.

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Dresden was really unnecessary, especially at that stage of the war.

But 70 years on, what really angers me is that neo-fascist movements here use this for their own purposes, conveniently leaving out the historical context.

Of course- but those bastards clutch and straws and always avoid context - much like Neo Nazis in England who simultaneously worship the idea of supreme Brittania, whilst idolising the Nazi movement (contradictory much?)

That aside, Dresden should not have happened. It's a foul stain on British (and through association the US/Aust/Canada) history and needs further acknowledgment and even an apology. The point was to inflict suffering on innocent civilians. This is why it was exremely inappropriate to worship Churchill at London 2012.

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Of course- but those bastards clutch and straws and always avoid context - much like Neo Nazis in England who simultaneously worship the idea of supreme Brittania, whilst idolising the Nazi movement (contradictory much?)

That aside, Dresden should not have happened. It's a foul stain on British (and through association the US/Aust/Canada) history and needs further acknowledgment and even an apology. The point was to inflict suffering on innocent civilians. This is why it was exremely inappropriate to worship Churchill at London 2012.

The USA played its part. It was a joint action between the RAF and USAF!

There is some doubt about whether Churchill knew about the raid before it took place. In a memo to the British Chiefs of Staff and Air Staff he said:

"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. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land… The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing. I am of the opinion that military objectives must henceforward be more strictly studied in our own interests than that of the enemy.

The Foreign Secretary has spoken to me on this subject, and I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive".

However, Air Chief Marshal, Arthur Harris defended the action in robust terms:

"The feeling, such as there is, over Dresden, could be easily explained by any psychiatrist. It is connected with German bands and Dresden shepherdesses. Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things".

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

Edited by Mainad
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Harris was a straight to the point hardarse but did have the total respect of Bomber Command. USAAF did it's bit as well as part of the rolling 24 hour bomb run.

Bomber Command didn't bomb cities for fun and Dresden did have strategic value and assets that were within the scope of Bomber Command's mandate.

(There is also a claim of lazyness in that the Allies now had mastery of the skies and just couldn't be bothered planning a tactical raid on Dresden's still functioning war material factories and wanted to drop as many bombs as it could on Germany instead of having to ship tonnes off to the Far East in preperation for the end of Japan.)

As always Churchill was kept at arms length from RAF brass...They were wary of him and his ability to go from enthusisim to indifference within a bottle of whiskey.

Had've he got wind of just how powerful the bombing mission was to be, going by his horror at blanket bombing of urban areas, and his love of classical cities...He would've stopped it. He only knew of a "soften the ground up for the Russians around the edges" so to ease their entry into the city.

As word got out of just how over the top the raid was, Churchill exploded and wanted to sack Arthur Harris on the spot but top brass persuaded him not to...but they did make him a scapegoat of sorts. The allies knew it was wrong and the cover up was inacted as best they could helped by the Russians who overran the city soon after and used the ruins as propaganda back in Moscow to show the might of the Red Army. Helped by bomber crews who took part...and would never gloat about it - I know this first hand as my grandfather was a radio operator in a Lancaster and seldom talked of his missions...a self sealing secret.

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It's a foul stain on British (and through association the US/Aust/Canada) history and needs further acknowledgment and even an apology. The point was to inflict suffering on innocent civilians. This is why it was exremely inappropriate to worship Churchill at London 2012.

Churchill was a flawed man and politician who got one very, very big thing very, very right. And it was such a big thing he deserves a certain reverence and celebration - I'll be honest, I don't really care whether you'd think that exremely inappropriate or not. I don't actually remember Churchill being "worshipped" during London 2012 though. He had a waving statue in the OC animation and a brief appearance in the closing.

Edited by Rob.
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Churchill was a flawed man and politician who got one very, very big thing very, very right. And it was such a big thing he deserves a certain reverence and celebration - I'll be honest, I don't really care whether you'd think that exremely inappropriate or not. I don't actually remember Churchill being "worshipped" during London 2012 though. He had a waving statue in the OC animation and a brief appearance in the closing.

I get wound up at Churchill bashers, so you pretty much nailed it here Rob. He was a man of his time and not perfect, even he admitted that!

He barely got a mention in the 2012 OC and had a little and non offensive part in the Closing. And he is Great Britain's greatest leader and statesman of the 20th century.

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I agree: Churchill was, in many ways, a flawed personality. His views on India and Indians (to name one instance) were, respectfully, quite repugnant - then again, so were those of many colonial administrators at the time, so it's not like he stood out in that respect. Stories of his alcoholism and depression are legion. That said, he got one thing right: His unqualified opposition to appeasing the Nazis. By resisting Nazi Germany and standing up to Hitler, he slowed down the German war machine and helped to demoralize the Nazi leadership. The valiant sacrifices of British and Commonwealth soldiers led to ultimate Allied victory in 1945 - if Chamberlain had been allowed to stay or been replaced by the equally feckless Lord Halifax, history would likely have taken a different turn. Churchill was a great war leader - and the London 2012 OC gave him the briefest of nods, wholly appropriate under the circumstances. Compare that to the nationalism and hagiography during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2014 Winter Olympics - with many prominent shots of the politburo or the president sprinkled in between.

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Maybe because I am in Canada, but Roosevelt was always depicted as the better, more competent leader in our history classes. Despite his unwillingness to stand up to Stalin. Churchill was depicted as a war-time leader that was a man of his time. His war record was contrasted to his election defeat soon after and why one lead to the other. Roosevelt was depicted as a more revolutionary leader with new ideas and tremendous fore-sight. But again, views might be shaped by proximity.

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Roosevelt was more a wait and see President...who was pro British but had the anchor of the Isolationists led by Aviator/Isolationist/ProNazi and ultimate polygamist Charles Lindeburgh.

Still he needed the trigger to ramp up war production as he knew America's threat would come from the East...Giving the UK the tools to do the job soon won the US public over and then the excuse to go to war finally arrived in Dec 1941. First Japan, then Hitler stupidly (but thankfully for mankind) declared war on the USA.

Oh...and a project that would change the face of mankind forever was enacted...Germany was lucky to have thrown in the towel before it bore fruit...Dresden would've fallen into forgotten History. Berlin wouldn't exist as we know it now.

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I think what happened in Dresden was horrific and a real tragedy - but from my British POV it was Hitler and the Nazis who began the bombing of historic British cities to demoralise the population, long before Dresden. The Baedecker raids saw cities such as Bath, York and Exeter badly damaged... and the medieval city of Coventry destroyed. So I think it is a source of regret but I feel no need for Britain or the US to apologise for anything. After all, the Nazis could have surrendered at that point... the writing was on the wall.

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:( It's the reason why Dresden was bombed is what makes that city stand out...Even though it had minor war facilities, it was already out of the conflict, had no defence of significance, a refugee safe haven AND attacked by Allies that knew this. It was pointless.

It probably was, and definitely is today, a war crime that should've been answered for.

(Not taking away the horror from all other cities flattened during the conflict)

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I think what happened in Dresden was horrific and a real tragedy - but from my British POV it was Hitler and the Nazis who began the bombing of historic British cities to demoralise the population, long before Dresden. The Baedecker raids saw cities such as Bath, York and Exeter badly damaged... and the medieval city of Coventry destroyed. So I think it is a source of regret but I feel no need for Britain or the US to apologise for anything. After all, the Nazis could have surrendered at that point... the writing was on the wall.

I think that the questions of morality and the ethics of what each side did was and still is important. World War II poses some tremendous philosophical questions that they should not just be discounted because it was necessary. Acknowledging that Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France etc. committed and actively pursued, what we would know consider, war-crimes is an important lesson from this history. Contrasting our crimes with that of the Axis and asking the questions of if it was necessary to win the war is a tremendously important question. In many ways the Soviets and Stalin were no better then Hitler and the Germans, millions needlessly perished because of Soviet aggression and inaction and Stalin was just as hungry for other nations' land as Hitler was. Yet one was our ally, the other our enemy.

I truly believe we did what we had to. Both in the Pacific and in Europe, but that does not stop me from seeing the horrors we committed, or feel the sadness that we as a society had to descend so low and ally ourselves with something no better to face down and defeat one of the most heinous and unspeakably evil person this world has ever seen.

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