The Dresden Question...or...My One American Disillusionment.
I suppose being of German heritage, and being the grand-daughter of a soldier in the Wermacht, among other relatives who fought for Germany in the Second World War, there is much, perhaps, I should feel guilty about. That is the strange nature of mankind--to feel culpable for the sins of our fathers and their fathers before them. Or, perhaps, we are expected to feel this. But that is another issue entirely. So is German guilt, and I will not even attempt to express the feelings, lingering today, I expect from the conflict which engulfed the world, and forever burning an image of supreme evil on Germany's history and image.
There is no doubt the Allies were just in their cause. To deny that would be to embrace Hitler's disgusting doctrine of racial purging and maniacal greed. There is also no doubt that war is hell, as Sherman once said. But are there limits to hell? And, therefore, are there limits to war? Of course there must be. And even the victor may feel guilt over actions taken. Today, many Americans question the necessity of the atomic bombs, dropped over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, in my history book, there is a whole section dedicated to the pros and cons of the bombings.
120,000 Japanese civilians were killed by the atom bombs, in both cities.
135,000 German civilians were killed by the firebombing of Dresden. One city.
So...why do we not question Dresden?
If anyone has read Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughter House 5", then perhaps, Dresden may play on their mind. But they will not question it, because Germany was evil, and America had to destroy it, at any cost necessary. But on February 13th, 1945, British Lancaster bombers and American Super-Fortresses destroyed "The Florence of the Elbe", one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, for no reason.
Absolutely no reason.
Dresden was not a military center. Dresden was one of the few cities in Germany that did not have war plants or any other manufacturing affecting the war. Dresden, at the time of the bombing, was filled with poor refugees from other bombed-out areas. And 350,000 of these civilians died. More than the atomic bombs.
Now, I do not present these facts to show any anger towards the Allies. War is war, and mistakes are made. But, I write this simply to wonder: why do we not question Dresden? We question Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We question our initial noninvolvement in the Holocaust. We question our appeasement to Stalin at Yalta and Potsdam. We even question if we could have done more to prevent Pearl Harbor.
But we do not question Dresden.
In my history book, the word "Dresden" does not appear once. There was a small paragraph regarding the bombings of certain German cities, but the death of 350,000 civilians was not even touched upon. And I consider my textbook to be the most Liberal-slanted account I have ever read! My teacher never went over Dresden during our lessons on World War II, and when I brought it up to him, he said (paraphrased) "Well, yes, Dresden was bombed along with Munich and Berlin and..."
And so on.
Most of my classmates, in Advanced Placement History, do not know what Dresden is. They do not know what happened in Dresden.
Now: this is not to say that the Germans committed no atrocities. The Blitz, over London and other English cities, was only one of these evils inflicted by Hitler's regime. But Germany is sorry every day for what happened. Germany does not justify, today, its actions during the War. Germans, today, cannot even be proud of their country because of the events of World War II.
Then, should not America realize that, perhaps, Dresden was wrong? Should we not question Dresden, as we question almost everything else in our history (at least, as the Liberals question!). The truth of the matter is that 350,000 Germans died and barely anyone in America knows this. Dresden is the best-kept secret of the war. And it should not be so. Dresden may be the only case in the Second World War where America just perhaps owes Germany an apology.
I am Conservative. I love America more than anything. I am proud of America's actions during the War. But I am not proud of Dresden. The German part of me, the part that I inherited from my Grandfather, who fought not for Hitler's evil, but for the country he loved, wonders why Dresden is not questioned. Why Dresden is still hidden.
350,000 civilians died.
Dresden was destroyed in one night.
And we should question it.