- On Saturday afternoon of February, 14, 2003, my wife,
another couple and their son and I arrived at the home of our dear friend
Edda West near Nelson, B.C., Canada. We had dinner and spent the evening
talking about a variety of things. When we decided to retire late that
evening, we gave Edda a copy of the December edition of Current Concerns
-- an opposition newspaper from Zurich, Switzerland.
- When we awoke the next morning, the morning after the
58th anniversary of the Dresden bombing, Edda described how she had stayed
up for hours reading the survivor account of the Dresden bombing in Current
- That morning turned out to be very special. We knew Edda
had been born in Estonia in 1943 and had been transported in a wagon by
her mother and grandmother all the way to Germany as they fled their country
ahead of the Russians (who had established a pattern of murdering and brutalizing
Estonians for centuries). What we didn't know was that she was a Dresden
- For 45 minutes we were all captivated by the story this
lovely, passionate woman related as she recounted the horrors of that day.
Three years old at the time, she does not remember specifics -- only the
horror that she relived over and over again in nightmares until she was
12. However, she lived with her mother and grandmother telling the stories
and she retold many of them for us that morning.
- I do not believe I have ever been so moved by a person's
story in all my life.
- When we got back home, I wrote a letter to Eva-Maria
Fullner of Current Concerns (with whom The IO trades a subscription) and
told her about this experience.
- A few weeks later, Eva-Maria called and said she was
in New York and wanted to come for a visit. She also asked if Edda could
- We called Edda who was elated with the thought of coming
down to meet Eva-Maria.
- The time with Edda and Eva-Maria during the weekend of
March 15 was a resumption of the morning of Feb. 15, but it lasted all
weekend. We had these amazing conversations that were only interrupted
- Edda wrote a 3,900-word surviver account of Dresden that
can be found in the April edition of Current Concerns(www.currentconcerns.ch).
- We will only excerpt from Edda's story, but we encourage
everyone who wants to understand what really happened at Dresden to find
the entire article at the website above and, while you are at it, take
a look at the article from December as well.
- Why? Because the Allies (this time called the Coalition)
are about to reduce another large city to rubble and mass murder a lot
of innocent people. We think it's important to know that pro-government
historians are allowed to bury mass murder stories only when the survivors
maintain their silence.
- The Dresden Bombing: An eyewitness account
- by Edda West
- My grandmother would always begin the story of Dresden
by describing the clusters of red candle flares dropped by the first bombers,
which like hundreds of Christmas trees, lit up the night sky - a sure sign
it would be a big air raid. Then came the first wave of hundreds of British
bombers that hit a little after 10 p.m. the night of February 13-14, 1945,
followed by two more intense bombing raids by the British and Americans
over the next 14 hours. History records it as the deadliest air attack
of all time, delivering a death toll that exceeded the atomic blasts on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- In 20 minutes of intense bombing, the city became an
inferno. The second bombing raid came three hours after the first and was
"intended to catch rescue workers, firefighters and fleeing inhabitants
at their fullest exposure." Altogether, the British dropped nearly
3,000 tons of explosives that shattered roofs, walls, windows, whole buildings,
and included hundreds of thousands of phosphorous incendiaries, which were
small firebombs that sprinkled unquenchable fire into every crevasse they
rolled into, igniting the inferno that turned Dresden into a "hurricane
- By the time the Americans flew in for the third and last
air raid, smoke from the burning city nearly obliterated visibility. One
American pilot recollects, "We bombed from 26,000 feet and could barely
see the ground because of clouds and long columns of black smoke. Not a
single enemy gun was fired at either the American or British bombers."
- The Americans dropped 800 tons of explosives and fire
bombs in 11 minutes. Then, according to British historian David Irving
in his book, The Destruction of Dresden, American P-51 fighter escorts
dived to treetop level and strafed the city's fleeing refugees.
- My grandmother described the horrific firestorm that
raged like a hurricane and consumed the city. It seemed as if the very
air was on fire. Thousands were killed by bomb blasts, but enormous, untold
numbers were incinerated by the firestorm, an artificial tornado with winds
of more than 100 miles an hour that "sucked up its victims and debris
into its vortex and consumed oxygen with temperatures of 1,000 degrees
- Many days later, after the fires had died down, my grandmother
walked through the city. What she saw was indescribable in any human language.
But the suffering etched on her face and the depths of anguish reflecting
in her eyes as she told the story bore witness to the ultimate horror of
man's inhumanity to man and the stark obscenity of war.
- Dresden, the capital of Saxony, a centre of art, theatre,
music, museums and university life, resplendent with graceful architecture
-- a place of beauty with lakes and gardens -- was now completely destroyed.
The city burned for seven days and smoldered for weeks.
- My grandmother saw the remains of masses of people who
had desperately tried to escape the incinerating firestorm by jumping head
first into the lakes and ponds. The parts of their bodies that were submerged
in the water were still intact, while the parts that protruded above water
were charred beyond human recognition. What she witnessed was a hell beyond
human imagination; a holocaust of destruction that defies description.
- It took more than three months just to bury the dead,
with scores of thousands buried in mass graves. Irving wrote, "an
air raid had wrecked a target so disastrously that there were not enough
able-bodied survivors left to bury the dead."
- Confusion and disorientation were so great from the mass
deaths and the terror, that it was months before the real degree of devastation
was understood and authorities, fearful of a typhus epidemic, cremated
thousands of bodies in hastily erected pyres fueled by straw and wood.
- German estimates of the dead ranged up to 220,000, but
the completion of identification of the dead was halted by the Russian
occupation of Dresden in May.
- Elisabeth, who was a young woman of around 20 at the
time of the Dresden bombing, has written memoirs for her children in which
she describes what happened to her in Dresden. Seeking shelter in the basement
of the house she lived in she writes, "Then the detonation of bombs
started rocking the earth and in a great panic, everybody came rushing
down. The attack lasted about half an hour. Our building and the immediate
surrounding area had not been hit. Almost everybody went upstairs, thinking
it was over but it was not. The worst was yet to come and when it did,
it was pure hell. During the brief reprieve, the basement had filled with
people seeking shelter, some of whom were wounded from bomb shrapnel.
- "One soldier had a leg torn off. He was accompanied
by a medic, who attended to him but he was screaming in pain and there
was a lot of blood. There also was a wounded woman, her arm severed just
below her shoulder and hanging by a piece of skin. A military medic was
looking after her, but the bleeding was severe and the screams very frightening.
- "Then the bombing began again. This time there was
no pause between detonations and the rocking was so severe, we lost our
balance, and were tossed around in the basement like a bunch of ragdolls.
At times the basement walls were separated and lifted up. We could see
the flashes of the fiery explosions outside. There were a lot of fire bombs
and canisters of phosphorous being dumped everywhere. The phosphorus was
a thick liquid that burned upon exposure to air and as it penetrated cracks
in buildings, it burned wherever it leaked through. The fumes from it were
poisonous. When it came leaking down the basement steps somebody yelled
to grab a beer (there was some stored where we were), soak a cloth, a piece
of your clothing, and press it over your mouth and nose. The panic was
horrible. Everybody pushed, shoved and clawed to get a bottle.
- "I had pulled off my underwear and soaked the cloth
with the beer and pressed it over my nose and mouth. The heat in that basement
was so severe it only took a few minutes to make that cloth bone dry. I
was like a wild animal, protecting my supply of wetness. I don't like to
- "The bombing continued. I tried bracing myself against
a wall. That took the skin off my hands -- the wall was so hot. The last
I remember of that night is losing my balance, holding onto somebody but
falling and taking them too, with them falling on top of me. I felt something
crack inside. While I lay there I had only one thought -- to keep thinking.
As long as I know I'm thinking, I am alive, but at some point I lost consciousness.
- "The next thing I remember is feeling terribly cold.
I then realized I was lying on the ground, looking into the burning trees.
It was daylight. There were animals screeching in some of them. Monkeys
from the burning zoo. I started moving my legs and arms. It hurt a lot
but I could move them. Feeling the pain told me that I was alive. I guess
my movements were noticed by a soldier from the rescue and medical corps.
- "The corps had been put into action all over the
city and it was they who had opened the basement door from the outside.
Taking all the bodies out of the burning building. Now they were looking
for signs of life from any of us. I learned later that there had been over
a hundred and seventy bodies taken out of that basement and twenty seven
came back to life. I was one of them -- miraculously!
- "They then attempted to take us out of the burning
city to a hospital. The attempt was a gruesome experience. Not only were
the buildings and the trees burning but so was the asphalt on the streets.
For hours, the truck had to make a number of detours before getting beyond
the chaos. But before the rescue vehicles could get the wounded to the
hospitals, enemy planes bore down on us once more. We were hurriedly pulled
off the trucks and placed under them. The planes dived at us with machine
guns firing and dropped more fire bombs.
- "The memory that has remained so vividly in my mind
was seeing and hearing humans trapped, standing in the molten, burning
asphalt like living torches, screaming for help which was impossible to
give. At the time I was too numb to fully realize the atrocity of this
scene but after I was 'safe' in the hospital, the impact of this and everything
else threw me into a complete nervous breakdown. I had to be tied to my
bed to prevent me from severely hurting myself physically. There I screamed
for hours and hours behind a closed door while a nurse stayed at my bedside.
- "I am amazed at how vivid all of this remains in
my memory. (Elizabeth is in her late 70s at the time of this writing).
It is like opening a floodgate. This horror stayed with me in my dreams
for many years. I am grateful that I no longer have a feeling of fury and
rage about any of these experiences any more -- just great compassion for
everybody's pain, including my own.
- "The Dresden experience has stayed with me very
vividly through my entire life. The media later released that the number
of people who died during the bombing was estimated in excess of two hundred
and fifty thousand -- over a quarter of a million people. This was due
to all the refugees who came fleeing from the Russians, and Dresden's reputation
as a safe city. There were no air raid shelters there because of the Red
- "What happened with all the dead bodies? Most were
left buried in the rubble. I think Dresden became one mass grave. It was
not possible for the majority of these bodies to be identified. And therefore
next of kin were never notified. Countless families were left with mothers,
fathers, wives, children and siblings unaccounted for to this day."
- According to some historians, the question of who ordered
the attack and why, has never been answered. To this day, no one has shed
light on these two critical questions. Some think the answers may lie in
unpublished papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Winston
Churchill and perhaps others. History reports that the British and American
attack on Dresden left more than 2-1/2 times as many civilians dead as
Britain suffered in all of World War II, and that one in every 5 Germans
killed in the war died in the Dresden holocaust.
- Some say the motive was to deliver the final blow to
the German spirit -- that the psychological impact of the utter destruction
of the heart centre of German history and culture would bring Germany to
its knees once and for all.
- Some say it was to test new weapons of mass destruction,
the phosphorous incendiary bomb technology. Undoubtedly the need for control
and power was at the root. The insatiable need of the dominators to exert
control and power over a captive and fearful humanity is what drives acts
of mass murder like the Dresden firebombing and Hiroshima.
- I think there was also an additional hidden and cynical
motive which may be why full disclosure of the Dresden bombing has been
suppressed. The Allies knew full well that hundreds of thousands of refugees
had migrated to Dresden in the belief that this was a safe destination
and the Red Cross had been assured Dresden was not a target. The end of
the war was clearly in sight at that point in time and an enormous mass
of displaced humanity would have to be dealt with. What to do with all
these people once the war ended? What better solution than the final solution?
Why not kill three birds with one stone? By incinerating the city, along
with a large percentage of its residents and refugees, the effectiveness
of their new firebombs was successfully demonstrated. Awe and terror was
struck in the German people, thereby accelerating the end of the war. And
finally, the Dresden firebombing ensured the substantial reduction of a
massive sea of unwanted humanity, thereby greatly lessening the looming
burden and problem of postwar resettlement and restructuring.
- We may never know what was in the psyche of those in
power or all the motives that unleashed such horrific destruction of civilian
life - the mass murder of a defenseless humanity who constituted no military
threat whatsoever and whose only crime was to try to find relief and shelter
from the ravages of war. Without the existence of any military justification
for such an onslaught on helpless people, the Dresden firebombing can only
be viewed as a hideous crime against humanity, waiting silently and invisibly
for justice, for resolution and for healing in the collective psyches of
the victims and the perpetrators.
- The Idaho Observer
- P.O. Box 457
- Spirit Lake, Idaho 83869
- Phone: 208-255-2307
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org