I considered posting this in the FFZ due to current politics attached to the event, but all things considered, it's probably better placed here.
Dresden: The World War Two bombing 75 years onBy Toby LuckhurstBBC News13 February 2020
"The firestorm is incredible... Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: 'I don't want to burn to death'. I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn."
On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the eastern German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault.
The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people trying to escape the flames.
Dresden was not unique. Allied bombers killed tens of thousands and destroyed large areas with attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of World War Two. Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.
"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," he wrote in a memo.
"The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing."
Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony. Before the bombing it was referred to as the Florence on the Elbe or the Jewel Box, for its climate and its architecture.
By February 1945, Dresden was only about 250km (155 miles) from the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany was defending against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union in the final months of the war.
The city was a major industrial and transportation hub. Scores of factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort. Troops, tanks and artillery travelled through Dresden by train and by road. Hundreds of thousands of German refugees fleeing the fighting had also arrived in the city.
At the time, the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) said it was the largest German city yet to be bombed. Air chiefs decided an attack on Dresden could help their Soviet allies - by stopping Nazi troop movements but also by disrupting the German evacuations from the east.
RAF bomber raids on German cities had increased in size and power after more than five years of war.
Planes carried a mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction.
Previous attacks had annihilated entire German cities. In July 1943, hundreds of RAF bombers took part in a mission against Hamburg, named Operation Gomorrah. The resulting assault and unusually dry and hot weather caused a firestorm - a blaze so great it creates its own weather system, sucking winds in to feed the flames - which destroyed almost the whole city.
The attack on Dresden began on 13 February 1945. Close to 800 RAF aircraft - led by pathfinders, who dropped flares marking out the bombing area centred on the Ostragehege sports stadium - flew to Dresden that night. In the space of just 25 minutes, British planes dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs.
As was common practice during the war, US aircraft followed up the attack with day-time raids. More than 520 USAAF bombers flew to Dresden over two days, aiming for the city's railway marshalling yards but in reality hitting a large area across the city.
The Misappropriation of a TragedyFor years, the right wing in Germany has been trying to instrumentalize the World War II destruction of Dresden. With the 75th anniversary of the bombing now here, many in the city are fed up with the debate.By Susanne Beyer , Katja Iken , Dirk Kurbjuweit , Ann-Katrin Müller , Klaus Wiegrefe und Steffen Winter
12.02.2020, 17:38 Uhr
Rubble. Everywhere. And the remnants of bombed-out buildings, as far as the eye can see. Only the corner towers remain of the once-majestic cathedral known as the Frauenkirche. Smoke, both black and white, is rising from the destruction, with a few fires still burning here and there. There’s a destroyed streetcar and, if you look closely enough, you can see people wandering through the rubble, most with their shoulders slumped. A mother dragging her two sons behind her passes a bench on which a dead couple is slumped. Two swastika flags hang from a building.
The music is atmospheric and the sound of the wind can be heard. Night falls, before then once again giving way to daylight - a blood-red sun, as though mortally wounded.
The images are from an overpowering representation of Dresden following the bombing raids on the city that took place on Feb. 13-15, 1945. It is a trip back in time on 3,000 square meters of polyester, created by the artist Yadegar Asisi. The circular, dark panorama is 107 meters long, 27 meters high and can be seen in the old Dresden gasometer.
According to the artist, the panorama shows a city "at its nadir, at a moment of paralysis, the zero hour." Asisi assembled his depiction of destroyed Dresden using old photos and film clips after having sent out an appeal to the population to send him material.
The panorama was inaugurated five years ago, on the 70th anniversary of Dresden’s annihilation. It was, from today’s perspective, a different era.
The fight for the city's memory is not over yet.
Back then, it seemed as though the vast majority of Germans had found a way to remember the Nazi era and the vast carnage of World War II their ancestors had triggered. It looked like they had managed to internalize the pain of Germany’s guilt and to recognize that Dresden’s destruction was a consequence of that culpability. The logical conclusion born from that approach to the city’s World War II history was clear: Never again. No Nazis. No war.
Even then, though, the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, was consistently misappropriated by right-wing extremists to portray the residents of Dresden as the victims of Anglo-American "terror,” just as the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, did in the final months of the war. After the initial waves of British bombers, the Americans then showed up on Feb. 14 and 15. Around the turn of the millennium, a right-wing group called for a march on behalf of the victims, a protest that became something of an annual tradition. Indeed, according to German domestic security officials, the demonstrations developed into "one of the most important right-wing extremist events in Germany." In 2009, there were 6,500 participants, making it one of the largest gatherings of Nazis in all of Europe.
But a self-assured Dresden populace pushed back and made sure that the whole story was told on the day of commemoration – namely that Dresden wasn’t quite as innocent as the right-wing extremists wanted to believe.
Propaganda battle overshadows Dresden fire-bombing memorialDerek Scally in Berlin
German president Frank Walter Steinmeier has urged his country to challenge efforts by political extremists to hollow out democracy and relativise Nazi war crimes.
His intervention in an unfurling political crisis, triggered last week by the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), came as Dresden remembered the fire bombing of the city 75 years previously.
Some 800 British bombers dropped 1,400 tonnes of explosives and phosphorous bombs over the Saxon capital that night, and the city once known as “Florence on the river Elbe” – previously spared bombing – was engulfed in a firestorm.
About 25,000 people died, many asphyxiated as the flames sucked up all available oxygen.
“We must contradict, loudly and decisively, those who try to offset the dead of Dresden with the dead of Auschwitz, and who falsify facts against their better judgment,” said Mr Steinmeier. It was a pointed reference to the latest flare-up in a 75 year-old propaganda war over Dresden.
Death toll inflated
In 1945, while the city still smouldered and the Red Army approached from the east, historians say the National Socialists exploited the tragedy by inflating the death toll tenfold.
Later the supposedly “anti-Fascist” East German authorities adopted the Nazi numbers and narrative of the firebombing of Dresden as a cultural and humanitarian war crime.
Modern historians concede that city was filled with refugees, raising troubling questions about civilian targets, but flag how more people were killed in lesser-known fire bombings, such as Hamburg.
And while architectural and cultural riches beyond measure were destroyed 75 years ago in Dresden, historians point out how the city was a rail and industry hub and thus crucial to the Nazi war effort.
In recent decades, neo-Nazi groups have challenged what they see as revisionist attempts to minimise Allied war guilt. At annual events they inflate the death toll and have invited former SS men to speak.
This year’s anniversary of February 13th, 1945, in Dresden was co-opted for the fourth time when the far-right AfD party weighed in. It suggests the death toll was four times the 25,000 victims estimated by a recent historical commission – prompting protest from local politicians and historians.