13/15 February 1945

The other day, I listened to an interview, recorded very recently, with a British man, now over 100 years old – a prisoner of war I suspect – who was caught up in the bombing of the German city of Dresden by British and American air forces, 75 years ago. He came across as a very ordinary man, honest and straightforward, probably with little education beyond the elementary that would have been standard when he was school age.

Talking with the interviewer, he describes scenes so harrowing you just don’t want to hear of them – at least, in one sense you don’t. But in another, you do; we all do; scenes which we need to hear about in order to lead us to feel in our hearts what he did that night – a night when the ‘stupidity’ of war, as he put it, was so blatantly, cruelly exposed. And to realize what equally inhuman cruelty is being visited on other human beings, on a day-to-day basis even now, by governments in our name.

Describing those scenes, as he does, in his dry, undramatic – yet from time to time emotion-choked – words, brings home a truly terrifying reality. It would be a thick-skinned listener, man or woman, who did not have to wipe a tear from their eye. Towards the end of the recording, the interviewer asks him if there had been any one event that night which he would remember above all others.

Yes, he said. There was. It was after the bombardment had ended and he was working with a German fire crew. They discovered, in a corner of a cellar so choked with still burning hot rubble and fallen masonry that it took them an hour to get into it, four women with two small children, still miraculously alive. It took the men another hour to get them out. Having achieved that, in the midst of the still red hot chaos of the firestorm the British and American bombers had created, everybody in that fire crew – “ – don’t matter what nationality they were,” he says, ” we were holding each other and were so happy we’d found these people alive – we were united in the feeling that even in the midst of something as terrible as that, people are really all one.”

‘People are really all one’.

Those few words, spoken by a very ordinary man who, with his companions, had lived through a man-made hell, is a summation of all that is in the Bible, in Vedanta, Zen, The Tao etc. And he knew the truth of it, not simply because he had lived it, but because he was it. He knew that because he was that. As are we all.

For information – In four night raids, over 1200 British and American heavy bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tonnes of bombs and incendiary devices, creating a firestorm which destroyed 6.5 square kilometres of the city and killed 25,000 people.


About besonian

Writer, photographer, film director
This entry was posted in Governments, has life a point?, human conflict, human intellect, Human intolerance, Life, love and living, Paths of Glory, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to 13/15 February 1945

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    We really shouldn’t need to continue going to those extremes of horror before we realise the truth of that statement.

  2. besonian says:

    We shouldn’t Sue, but however appalling the barbarism gets – witness what’s going on right now around Idlid in Syria – it makes no difference. I’ve said in posts before – I think the human race is part insane. You surely have to have some pretty fundamental screws loose to knowingly design and carry out the mayhem of those nights in Dresden – where the firestorm was so intense that it sucked the air up off the streets so that thousands not only burned but died of suffocation. And here we are today – the UK, the US and others – setting up international arms fairs and blithely selling arms way more sophisticated than anything dropped on that German city.

  3. Pingback: 13/15 February 1945 ~ Jeff Grant | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  4. willowdot21 says:

    Sadly, war is, war was and war always will be 💜

    • besonian says:

      God willowdot21, I hope you’re wrong. It really doesn’t have to be that way.

      • willowdot21 says:

        I really agree with you it does not have to be but it is. Man has always fought, was has always been around from time immemorial, it still is and because it is so lucrative for the fat cats I can’t see it changing anytime soon 💜

  5. besonian says:

    I’d have to agree with you it’s not going to change soon. But I think what might bring that change about at some point in the futre is if some real catastrophe hits us and our planet – as might be starting to happen now, a catastrophe brought about by our own selves. It might be such as to force the nations of the world to actually stop acting like children throwing stones at each other in a playground, and get together in order to try and save our own and our children’s lives. And even as I write that I’m haunted by the feeling of speaking about cloud cuckoo land. But something somewhere sometime is going to give. Nothing so out of balance as we we’re becoming can stay upright for much longer.

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    The question we must ask is, “Why do we keep doing this? Why do we not learn and commit similar atrocities over and over?” It beggars belief. We’re supposedly the most ‘intelligent’ of species, but somehow I wonder about that.

  7. besonian says:

    I agree – that’s what we must ask. But whenever we do, we come up with the same answer. I think we are, as a species, ‘intelligent’ – but it seems that most of the time – in the greater part of the world now – intelligence is bypassed in the interests of power, self-advancement, money, possessions and all those things. But I suppose that still begs the question – why do we allow that to happen to our ‘intelligence’? And the answer to that I’m convinced, lies in the fact that most of society now is run, not by insight or intelligent perception of what’s right or wrong, but by our minds. As I’ve written in my book ‘Albatross’ – and have experienced myself in very painful ways – the mind is a wonderful servant; but a terrible master. And in the world now, the mind is master. But it cannot go on that way – the mind, left to run amok, is entirely selfish. Selfishness breaks things up. But we – as the man in my post said – are all one. There is a conflict coming which the mind cannot win.

  8. Thanks for the follow, Jeff. When I searched for your blog to write this, I was surprised at your post about the bombing of Dresden. My mother told me of the night of the bombing (she lived about 80 km south of Dresden) and I have used her description in my novel “Julia’s Violinist.” The cover is pictured on the sidebar of my blog if you are interested, or you might want to visit my website anneli-purchase.com. Please feel free to contact me through the website contact link if you would like to do that. I appreciate your unbiased way of talking about these horrible events. Thanks again for the follow.

  9. besonian says:

    Thank you, wordsfromanneli – your very welcome re the follow. As for Dresden – it’s so poignant that all the acuity and intelligence of British Bomber Command and the USAF is shown up to be little more than mindless brutality by a very ordinary and probably quite uneducated man who saved the lives – along with a German fire crew – of four women and two children. And in the process glimpsed and touched a truth quite lost to those who devised that appalling raid.

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