This year’s Dresden Memorial Day reflection will be short. This will afford new readers the opportunity to study the more detailed posts on the massacre written in 2007 and 2008. Anyone who does not know who Arthur “Bomber” Harris was, or what the significance of Dresden is for understanding what the WW2 Allied bombing campaign was really all about, should study the information in those posts carefully.
I supplement with two brief, somewhat miscellaneous ruminations:
1. As I strolled around the cities of Germany, a few parts of which are still being rebuilt after more than a half-century, something struck me: the hard part of building a great civilization is the design, the plan, the concept; not the lugging bricks around and laying them. You can always do that; but only a few can design.
And the design has already been done! It is in our heads.
Imagine an analogy: a musical Bomber Harris tries to destroy every manuscript containing the works of Beethoven, and say he succeeds. But Beethoven is in our hearts and inner ears. There are undoubtedly musicians that have memorized long stretches, and even more that could finger it out from the audio memory. At length, there is little doubt that nearly the entire opus of Beethoven would be reconstructed and recommitted to paper.
2. There is a tendentious group that is trying to shave a digit off the number of victims of the Dresden bombing raid, i.e. to convert 130,000 into 30,000 dead. I have a theory for what is motivating such people, but the first point to make is that it is neither here nor there from an ethical standpoint.
Churchill and Harris knew that Dresden was swollen with refugees from the East, with more than a million jam-packed into its timber-framed downtown. From an ethical standpoint, from the standpoint of intent, they are, therefore, guilty of the murder of well over a million. That the actual number killed was only a tithe of that is to be accounted to several things, but one thing it cannot be accounted to is the good intentions of Churchill and Harris.