Dresden Fire Bombing - A Plea For Justice
The Allied forces firebombed Dresden when the German nation no longer could defend itself. The Allied forces massacred deliberately civilians in ordinary cities -- young men not at war, mothers with children, vacationers, etc.
Was this necessary to bring Germany to its knees? Would the war machine care that civilians were being killed?
We as Christians must speak out for wrongs that can be righted to be righted in deed.
At History Hub, in Textbook, we read the following admission:
Allied Bombing of Germany
By the time the Allies discovered the camps in 1945, Germany was nearly defeated. They'd already run out of fuel, grounding the Luftwaffe and exposing the country to unopposed aerial bombardment. Even midway through the war, Germany began to run so low on fuel that they had trouble training pilots. Their main source of oil, Romania, switched sides and left the Axis Powers in 1944.
The Allies took advantage, murdering civilians from the air more out of revenge than any constructive strategic purpose. In carpet-bombing raids over cities like Hamburg and Dresden (right), they dropped incendiary (flammable) bombs in sufficient numbers to create firestorms. Once engulfed, the conflagrations generated enough suction to incinerate the towns completely. Fighter pilots then strafed civilians trying to flee on outlying roads. As FDR put it in a 1943 radio address, “The fascists have asked for it and they'll get it.” Churchill, with memories of the Blitz still fresh among the British, said, “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Royal Air Force bombs big enough to level entire city blocks were nicknamed blockbusters, and the term soon spread to Hollywood. [END OF QUOTE]
The London Telegraph recently posted in 2015 certain archive footage of the attack. It explained that on February 13th and 14th, 1945, the process began, killing at least 25,000 civilians and as many as 100,000. (Link.)
Forty-percent of the 3,900 tons of bombs dropped in 2 days were incendiary in nature. See "Firebombing," Wikipedia. This means they were designed to set off fires to cause a firestorm, suffocating the citizens of Dresden.
The Hiroshima Bomb dropped the equivalent of 1,200 tons of incendiary bombs ... meaning that the Dresden firebombing was equivalent in firepower to 3 nuclear bombs landing on Hiroshima. "It has been estimated, for example, that the same fire ferocity and damage produced at Hiroshima after the dropping of the Little Boy nuclear weapon (which yielded/released the same amount of energy as 16 kilotons of TNT) could have instead been produced by about 1200 tons/1.2 kilotons of incendiary bombs distributed over the city." ("Firestorm," Wikipedia.)
The result for Dresden of the equivalent of 3 nuclear bombs? The Telegraph explains that 8 square miles of the city were destroyed. No military strategic targeting explains this wide devastation. For a You Tube with a warning "very graphic" in its title, see Dresden Fire Bombing 1945.
So was the purpose a military one? The victors shamelessly recorded the truth at the time, never suspecting how history may judge them. The British recorded 772 aircraft bombing the city center on February 14, 1945, while 316 aircraft attacked the Marshal Yards (railway depot) "west of the city center" - a valid military target. See "Firestorm," Wikipedia. Also, "The report by the 1st Bombardment Division's commander to his commander states that the targeting sequence was the centre of the built up area in Dresden if the weather was clear." ("Bombing of Dresden, WW III," Wikipedia.)
Now, if there was little or no strategic benefit to incinerating entire towns, it would be murder. Even under cover of war. If the German Armies attacked civilians earlier, this did not mean we should do the same thing when our foe was defeated. We must act above the impulse for revenge. We treat a defeated civilian population with pity, not merciless slaughter. We treat the opposing military forces with ruthless energy until surrender. That's fine. There is a clear distinction.
The Allied forces - the US, etc. -- need to provide an admission of wrongdoing, a promise to not do the same in any future wars, etc. I think the Marshall Plan was reparations enough. But the moral wrong still stings, and there are no tears from the victor for having committed needless murder on the poor citizens of Dresden. An apology is long overdue.
How Knowing A Survivor Touched Me
While living in Costa Rica in 1998-2002, I met a survivor of the Dresden fire-bombing. His name was Martin Borner. In 1945, Martin was 15 years old and working at a fancy Dresden hotel -- the Bellevue -- as a waiter. (See Martin photo at right in the hotel kitchen.) Martin was asked to go outside to the wine cellar, and he went into the metal sealed chamber to retrieve the proper bottle. This saved his life.
Martin explained how the door was forced shut by the shock-wave of the fire-bombing that set off the air which had been saturated with ignitable fuel leading up to that fateful day. For anyone outside, e.g., a woman strolling her baby, it was instant death as they literally suffocated when the air was touched off by the fire-bomb.
But Martin miraculously survived when the air in the wine cellar was trapped by the force of the door shutting him in. When Martin stepped out some substantial time later, he saw people everywhere who had been suffocated walking down the street to go shopping or for strolls with their children. It was an unforgettable memory that he shared with me. [At the bottom of this article after END, you can see graphic pictures of what Martin most likely saw that day -- It is not for the faint of heart.]
Martin's life was spared by a second fortuitous step. He explained to me that at an opportune time he fled the shelter of the wine cellar, and ran to the river, from which he watched Dresden burn in an intense fire. It was a very good thing he changed locations. By February 14th, the heat outside that cellar would have become intense due to the firestorm: "By early morning on 14 February, Ash Wednesday, the centre of the city, including its Altstadt, was engulfed in a firestorm, with temperatures peaking at over 1500 °C (2700 °F)." ("Bombing of Dresden in WW II," Wikipedia.)
Martin's surviving that bombing directly overhead is nothing short of miraculous.
Martin later discussed these events in a 2005 book with his wife, a Brit named Tessa who lost her father in the war with Nazi Germany. Martin & Tessa married in 1957. The wounds of war between England and Germany did not deter their love -- their marriage serving like a metaphor of what Europe needed to do to prevent re-occurrence of another war. Martin & Tessa threw their lives and fortunes together, like Europe did much later.
Their book is entitled English Girl, German Boy (2005). It is one of the most riveting and interesting books I have ever read. It is unique. It is even more fascinating because it is true. I lived as Martin and Tessa's hotel 'guest' for three years in their Costa Rican 'paradise' known as the Posada Mimosa. They shared their book with me, and personal conversations to provide even more details. As a result, I never viewed the events of WW II quite the same.
I particularly liked the first part of each of their separate stories -- where we learn the charming tranquil lives they had before the war - all tragically torn apart by a mad-man. (My own research shows Hitler exploited resentments sown by the unfair vengeful peace treaty of Versailles in 1919 -- which unintentionally but forseeably sowed the seeds of Europe's next war.)
The details that Martin & Tessa share of day-to-day events prior to the war create vivid pictures of pre-War simple life in Whales (Tessa's youth) and remind us all about the true character of the German people --
hospitable fun-loving people who, not unlike other cultures, suffered some warped figures who used lies and deception to take power. To remind us of the true spirit of the congenial majority of German people, see the photo of Martin in 1930 getting a ride from the family pet!
I strongly recommend this book English Girl, German Boy. It will cause you to tear up at multiple points. It is a great human story of two people whose lives made good against all odds. You can buy the book at English Girl, German Boy: World War II from Both Sides, or directly order from Martin's daughter Hillary through this
I believe God spared Martin's life that fateful day in 1945 by a miracle. As a result, Martin could leave a legacy of good will, love, friendships and his large family. (See photo below with his wife Tessa, and their children and children's mates and their children).
Yet, on another level, Martin also could leave another legacy -- a very important reminder about an event that is etched in a larger history. Martin is a unique witness to those events that day that Dresden was first firebombed. Martin was someone on the ground in Dresden who could remember the events, see the horror, and then pique our consciences at even a much later point in time. Martin reminds us to redress the wrong done to Dresden.
It is true that the victor writes the history, as Napoleon said. However, the victor cannot expunge its sins by simply ignoring them. We Americans must promise never to use or support the cover of war again to exact revenge and thus justify mass murder of civilians. One wrong does not make another right.
For an obituary of one of my favorite persons to know -- Martin Eberhart Börner, please visit this link.
Here is a photo of Martin as I saw him at Posada Mimosa almost every day - smiling and enjoying one of his many dogs....
WARNING - GRAPHIC PHOTOS BELOW
These are Martyrs to what Revenge can cause people to do to other people:
You can watch a You Tube dramatic re-enactment of the Dresden firebombing in this gripping video entitled Dresden - Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOBCWukvZ8o
Hillary's gracious appreciation and endorsement of this page on behalf of her father Martin:
Doug, I am speechless by what you have done. I sent your email to all the family and many many friends. It's such a moving tribute to my Dad. I just came back from a three week trip to Germany, lit a candle for my father and brother in the Frauenkirche. Magical.
I have posted your link on my Facebook page.
Tessa, Martin's wife, also endorsed the above on behalf of Martin:
Hello Doug -
Thank you so much, it's so beautifully written and a lovely tribute to Martin. Hilary is putting it on Facebook. Are you sending it anywhere else?
ONE MORE GRAPHIC REMINDER OF THE HORROR INFLICTED ON DRESDEN: