Dresden 1945

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 mother.

Dresden, February 1945

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 ceremony.

FrauenkircheLetter (in German) from my mother to my father Feb. 12, 1945 (before the bombing).

Letter (in German) from my mother to my father Feb. 14, 1945 (after the bombing)

Postcard (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.

Postcard (in German) from my father to my mother Feb. 23, 1945. Describes the aftermath of the bombing.


Last edited or checked November 18, 2014.

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