13 February 2005
Anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden
For as long as I can remember I have been appalled that British and US military forces could have perpetrated such an horrendous act as the firestorming of Dresden (13 February 1945). It was not, as a child, that I failed to recognise the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi military hate and destruction machine: the Holocaust (being brought up among Jewish families, I learned about Anne Frank when I was a young child), the Nazi military bombing of Coventry, and the blitzkrieg of London (I was brought up in London in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and saw in my daily life many bombsites, some made, no doubt, by V2 missiles). It was that, as a child, I could not accept that 'my side' had knowingly willed and perpetrated the deaths of so many civilians. Surely that act made 'us' no different from 'them', and therefore as morally debased. I learned about US military forces dropping the only nuclear weapons ever used in war: on Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945). In the late 1970s I learned that Durham, the UK city in which I live, was to have suffered the fate that soon befell Coventry, in retaliation for the firestorming of Dresden. In the late 1990s I visited Lubeck (famous for its medieval architecture and the literary Mann family), near Hamburg in northern Germany, Berlin (now restored as the capital city of Germany), and Pisa, Italy, to discover that Allied carpet bombing of culturally important cities was not confined to Dresden. Recently, I watched on television part of an interview with Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote Slaughterhouse Five, a book I have not yet read. I believe that the concerns he was expressing so eloquently, are similar to my own. I have three issues: the mass murder of civilians (was a principal purpose of the UK military invasion of Iraq not to locate weapons of mass destruction?); the Philistinic destruction of rafts of European culture; the de facto equation of Allied and Nazi morality.