Dresden Bombing Still Rankles

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Dresden Bombing Still Rankles

The city of Dresden is the jewel of the former East Germany. It was the capital of the German state of Saxony and a metropolis of German culture and art during the 18th century. Dresden was once known as the "Florence on the Elbe River" because of the architectural beauty everywhere in the city. The most appreciated are the baroque architecture of Zwinger palace and the famous Semper opera house, where Richard Wagner held the first performance of "Tannhauser." The old city's silhouette, reflected by the sunset, resembles a beautiful painting.

When we look closely at the buildings, we can see a mixture of stones in various shades. The ones in brighter tones are stones newly chiseled and installed during restoration. Because the techniques used were impressive, we wonder if those buildings really have been restored.

There is a painful reason why the buildings in Dresden have such mottled walls. Toward the end of the World War II, German civilians started to evacuate because Soviet soldiers forced the German army to retreat along the eastern front. Believing that the Allies did not bomb historical cities such as Heidelberg, many people rushed into Dresden from Silesia, hoping that Dresden would be a safe shelter.

However, their hope was in vain. From Feb. 13 to 15, 1945, U.S. and British bombers reduced Dresden to ashes in just three days. During the first two days of the attack in particular, 770 Lancaster bombers of the Royal Air Force and 330 B-17 bombers of the U.S. Air Force dropped 3,100 tons of explosives on Dresden, reducing the city to a burning hell. It was revenge for Germany's bombing of British cities.

History records that more than 35,000 Germans lost their lives in Dresden in the three-day massive attack, but some historians argue that over 200,000 were killed - more than three times the dead in the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Although Germans do not have much to say about the World War II, they still become extremely disturbed whenever Dresden is mentioned. Immediately after German reunification, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain made her first visit since the end of World War II and was jeered by the people. Even Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, known to be a newspaper of quality and refined tastes, still says the purpose of the 1945 attack was not only to destroy Dresden, but also to kill as many people as possible.

The famous Frauenkirche Church, which was not restored immediately in order to remember the terrible attack, has been under restoration since 1993. Although the church will be seen in its original form in five years, Dresden residents will never forget what had happened on Feb. 13, 56 years ago.
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