The Allied Holocaust At Dresden
Allied bombing raids
By Don Harkins
The Idaho Observer 4-22-3
- 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 Concerns.
- 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
- 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
- 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 come.
- We called Edda who was elated with the thought of coming down to meet
- 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 by sleeping.
- Edda wrote a 3,900-word surviver account of Dresden that can be found in
the April edition of Current Concerns (
- 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
- 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
- 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 of flames."
- 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 centigrade."
- 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
- 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 remember that.
- "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 Cross agreement.
- "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." [end quote]
- 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
- 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
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