Tonight, as I am writing this, it is the 60th anniversary of the destruction
of Dresden, February 13th, 1945. I was born in Dresden, and my family
lived there until April 1944, when my mother travelled home to Sweden
with her two children Stefan and Rolf in anticipation of the imminent
arrival of my little brother Erik, who was born April 23rd. My father
stayed behind in Dresden and survived the bombing together with his
Richard Peter's famous 1945 photo from the
City Hall towards the main railway station. - Click here
for a photo four years later from the same vantage point.
The estimated number of deaths has converged on 35 000, based on reports
from the police, lists of missing persons and body counts. It may have
been considerably larger, considering that the inner city was swollen
with refugees from Silesia. The Red army had reached Görlitz, just
80 km away. The body count could not be very precise, considering the
intense heat in the fire storm.
Here is an eyewitness
account of that terrible night.
I remember well my indignation at being awakened at night by the infernal
air raid sirens and having to rush to the air raid shelter. It was damp
and smelled of potatoes. But the people were good-humored and passed
the time until the all-clear singing and telling stories.
I also remember being confused over the difference between "Engel"
(angel) and "Engländer" (Englishman). The former stood
unseen at my bed to guard me while I slept...
The surviving Dresdeners seem to regret the loss of the city itself
even more than the loss of human life. The city was a splendid architectural
treasure from the baroque, "the Florence of the North". The
author Gerhard Hauptmann wrote: "He who has forgotten how to cry,
learns it again upon the destruction of Dresden". He was 83 and
died the following year.
In May 1994, I visited Dresden for the first time since I left it back
in 1944. I went by car from Sweden together with my parents, my wife
and our 1-year old son. As we drove past the site of the Frauenkirche
ruin, purely by luck a little ceremony was under way, as the corner
stone for the rebuilding of the cathedral was being laid.
Today, the Frauenkirche has been completed except for the interior
furnishings. It will be dedicated in 2006. - P.S. My mistake: it was
consecrated October 30th, 2005. I watched the TV broadcast - a touching
(in German) from my mother to my father Feb. 12, 1945 (before the
(in German) from my mother to my father Feb. 14, 1945 (after the
(in German) from my father to my mother Feb. 16, 1945. It arrived
six weeks later and was the first sign of life from him.
(in German) from my father to my mother Feb. 23, 1945. Describes
the aftermath of the bombing.