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Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dresden's Hiroshima

When you visit Dresden, you can't escape the destruction of Dresden that occurred on the night of 13-14 February 1945, in the final months of the Second World War.  That event was Dresden's Hiroshima; indeed the city is still recovering today.  Virtually all the buildings that look centuries old are in fact almost new, having been completed in only the last decade.  

At the old gasworks on Gasanstaltstrasse, an exhibition of a very different kind - Panometer Dresden - is currently on display about the bombing of Dresden, which killed 25,000 people on a single night.  It features photographs taken at the time, but which have been enlarged to such massive proportions that visitors need to climb a 15-metre high platform to view the panoramic scenes of destruction, draped around a large inner wall 30 metres high and 100 metres in circumference, inside a circular building.  The photographs, I understand, were then painted over to result in a product unlike anything seen before of that tragic event.  The exhibition is by Asisi. See www.asisi.de
Scenes of Dresden, following its destruction in February 1945.  The bare facades remind one of New York on September 11, 2001.
This is the Kreuzkirche, which inexplicably survived the bombing.
British and American bombs rained mercilessly on Dresden, reducing it to rubble at a time when its defences had been removed, owing to the belief it would not be attacked by the Allies.  The city also had a tremendous influx of refugees and forced foreign labourers.  
Building facades stand alone like empty shells.  Their former interiors, and the lives and workplaces that once existed there, all gone.  
In November 1940, the Nazis bombed the English city of Coventry, wreaking utter destruction.  Some parallels are made between it and Dresden, although the actual death toll paled when compared to that of Dresden.  After Coventry, the Nazis invented a new verb - 'to coventrate' (coventrieren), meaning to destroy a city through German air power.  Today, there is a Coventry-Dresden association of some kind.  Indeed, when the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche was nearing completion, its golden tip was donated by Britain.
Anita John lost her parents in Dresden at the age of 12 on the night of the raid.  The city itself is still recovering today.  Not everything has been rebuilt yet and may never be.

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