Guide Ein Brief aus Dresden (German Edition)

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While the far-right nationalist, anti-foreigner and rabidly anti-Muslim Pegida has captured headlines across the world, economically Dresden is doing well economically, notably with a relatively low rate of unemployment. At the same time, more classic Dresden buildings have been rebuilt and restored, meaning that alongside its reputation as a hugely important high-tech capital, it has to some degree retained its reputation as Florence on the Elbe.

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Europe Germany Dresden History. A Brief History of Dresden, Germany. Save to Wishlist. The end of the Nazi dictatorship was followed by more than four decades of communist rule, until the peaceful democratic revolutions from across eastern Europe changed everything.


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Bombing Dresden. A city destroyed. Dresden becomes a city of art. Elector Friedrich August II. Picture of Dresden's Zwinge in , which is how Victor Klemperer would also have seen it in the s and s. Many Dresdeners have responded to the racist Pegida movement by presenting their city as open to foreigners. This caption from , displayed on the famous Semper Opera, refers to Dresden as open to the world. High-tech Florence on the Elbe. As the never-ending stream passed over, about four incendiaries burst through our glass roof, breaking it into fragments and shredding the luckless men beneath.

The phosphorus clung to the bodies of the injured, turning them into human torches, but it was impossible to extinguish the flames and their screaming was added to the other cries. I was still untouched — but not for long Suddenly, a "blockbuster" dropped outside our building, blowing in the whole wall. These thin-walled, massive missiles could demolish whole blocks with one explosion, hence the name.

I was thrown nearly 50ft and covered in brickwork and rubble. When I came to, I realised the smoke and fumes from the building's burning shell were now being swept away by a gradually rising wind. Freeing myself, I stumbled over the debris and out of the building, which was slowly collapsing. There, I found a few other survivors, and the first thing that hit me was the heat.

Wherever I turned, I was confronted with flames, smoke and dust — and all the time blocks of debris falling from the sky.


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  • There were about a dozen in our group who were able to walk or stagger, and other small groups were moving between the heaps of rubble and the flames which, without warning, shot out of gaps in the walls. The noise of the planes died down and people started to appear from the few houses still intact. Survivors were clawing their way through mounds of rubble that an hour before had been their homes. We stumbled along the remains of a wide avenue, flanked by fires and mountains of red-hot wreckage. I was saved by my wooden soles, which were so thick that I could walk over the glowing cinders.

    Finally we found ourselves in open fields, next to a railway line. Reaching safety, we saw another group approaching: about two dozen firemen, with a cart full of picks, shovels, buckets, rope coils and cans of drinking water. The leader immediately formed us all up, selected those who seemed capable and began to march us off, leaving the injured to fend for themselves.

    Not everyone wanted to be offered as fuel to the furnace less than yards away. But when three men hesitated, our leader turned round, drew his pistol and shot two at point-blank range. The third started running as fast as he could to catch up.

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    So there we were: about 30 of us, led by a German whose answer to problems was to shoot now and ask questions later. At first, we found people who had been caught out in the open and were still alive. By fixing bits of wood to our picks and shovels, we constructed stretchers and bore them away. But after about two hours, we headed back to the railway, where we discovered reinforcements and a food wagon had somehow been shunted in from God knows where.

    Then the sirens started their terrible wailing again and the people gathered in small bunches, as if to shield each other from the onslaught. The planes were thousands of feet up, but you could see their outlines reflected in the glow. And as their bombs fell, we realised this raid was nothing like the first. The new bombs were so big that you could see them in the sky.

    Even the incendiaries were different — not metre-long sticks, but four-ton objects that exploded on the ground, incinerating anything within a radius of ft — and raining down with these came more blockbusters, tonners this time. Only yards of open land separated us from the heart of the first raid.

    We could feel the terrible heat, our bodies shook as the ground vibrated. And as if this was not enough, another terror was making its presence felt: not really what you would call a wind; rather, the air being drawn in to feed the inferno was like a solid object, so great was its force. The second raid had been in progress for about 15 minutes when, further down the line, the ground erupted in huge clouds of smoke and flame, and after the blasts came the enormous pull as air rushed into the vacuum.

    But our leader seemed keen to take us back into the furnace once these bombers departed. This they did some 30 minutes later. And though there were still some stragglers above, now it was the action on the ground that mattered. Everything was in flames, even the roads, which were burning rivers of bubbling and hissing tar.

    Dresden, Germany

    Huge fragments of material flew through the air, sucked into the vortex. We could see people being torn from whatever they were hanging on to and drawn into the ever-deepening red glow less than yards away. A small group tried to reach us by crossing what had once been a road, only to get themselves stuck in a bubbling mass of molten tar.

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    One by one, they sank to the ground through sheer exhaustion and then died in a pyre of smoke and flame. People of all shapes, sizes and ages were slowly sucked into the vortex, then suddenly whisked into the pillars of smoke and fire, their hair and clothing alight. And, as if the Devil himself had decided their torments were insufficient, above the wind's howl and the inferno's roar came the interminable, agonised screams of the victims being roasted alive. What saved us was being on open ground with oxygen to breathe and, since the fires were getting worse, we abandoned any idea of approaching the city centre for now.

    It was a sea of flame rising into a sky of smoke. And with the air so hot that it was painful to inhale, we retreated to an island of safety. At dawn, we saw new gangs had arrived to fill up the craters and re-lay the track, and by mid-morning a small line of wagons was shunted alongside us.

    You had to hand it to the Krauts: the first thing they thought of was their bellies, and in the centre was a kitchen wagon, complete with hot soup, black bread and a gallon drum of their ersatz coffee.

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    After eating, about 40 of us trudged into the smouldering embers edging the vast bonfire that still raged nearby. While other groups dug at the piles of masonry, clearing pathways, we were to uncover the cellars. But then the third raid started. Now it was the Americans, and the railway yards were their targets.

    This meant those who had escaped before were now getting the same treatment. And though the Americans dropped much less destructive bombs than the British, many more were killed. When the raid ended, we continued with the cellars, prising them open with pickaxes and crowbars.

    Inside, we found the victims' bodies, usually shrivelled to half their normal size or worse.