As a toddler and small boy I loved my grandfather. He was the greatest: a kind and gentle and encouraging senior.
|Women and children first ... A picture that certainly seems to tell the story. Photo: Thanks to Wikipedia. 'Dresden, 1945, view from the town hall (Rathaus) over the destroyed city (the allegory of goodness in the foreground). The skeletal remains of the city of Dresden,Germany; destroyed by allied bombs.'|
Grandpa had a garage in Baddesley, not far from Southampton, and to little me, he could do no wrong.
A little boy
If a little boy had been capable of the notion, I'd had seen all of his generation that way.
His son, my father, was perfectly able to offer what in those days was termed a 'hiding'.
It was painful and yet fashionable.
That revealed to little me what his generation must be like. Very different from our gentle grandparents.
At the end of the war, my mother took me to admire the Victory celebrations. We had beaten the horrid enemy. Hooray! Three cheers!
However, quite a few years later I was to learn of Gramps' generation and the conscience and humanity of those seniors.
Only seven months before the war's end, his generation destroyed the beautiful city of Dresden.
Night after night
They – we – firebombed the city night after night. The madness takes some grasping.
If 'our side' wanted to finish the war, why not aim all attacks on the leader, Hitler. Somehow, as if there might be some international agreement, leaders seldom get zapped.
Wikipedia reports, 'Widely quoted Nazi propaganda reports claimed 200,000 deaths, but the German Dresden Historians' Commission … concluded that casualties numbered between 18,000 and 25,000.
'The allies described the operation as the legitimate bombing of a military and industrial target.
'Several researchers have argued that the February attacks were disproportionate. Mostly women and children died.'
I like the use of the term disproportionate. Wikipedia might set the toll at the lower level, but many historians put the figure as far, far higher.
Wikipedia reports, 'On the night of 13–14 February 1945, 773 RAF Lancaster bombers dropped 1,181.6 tons of incendiary bombs and 1,477.7 tons of high explosive bombs on the city.
'The inner city of Dresden was largely destroyed.
'The high explosive bombs damaged buildings and exposed their wooden structures, while the incendiaries ignited them, denying their use by retreating German troops and refugees.'
The point, of course, was that not only was the city destroyed, the attackers ensured that there could be no escape for the civilian population. And as Wikipedia notes, 'Mostly woman and children.'
Well, all this time later, what can we do about it? I'm on my way there this week to visit the city and to at least think in a distinctly apologetic way.