Terror from the Sky – Allied Carpet Bombing of German Cities

British RAF and USAAF Carpet bombing of Dresden, February 1945
The destruction of Dresden, February 1945
Postwar Dresden – Die Gute 1945
When on the night of 24 August 1940 the German Luftwaffe accidentally and against Hitler's orders - dropped some bombs over London, the British prime minister Winston Churchill requested a retaliatory raid on Berlin. The Blitz, i.e. the air raids on London, began only after Britain had continuously bombarded German cities for three month. After the defeat in Dunkirk in June 1940, the heavy bombers remained the only means by which Britain could fight the Germans in continental Europe. RAF Bomber Command was later instructed to shift the focus onto the 'morale of the enemy civil population'. This new policy came to be called 'area bombing'. The aiming points for bombing raids were no longer military or industrial installations, but a church or other significant spot in the centre of industrial towns. German civilians had become a supposedly legitimate target. In 1944, the Americans too found themselves moving towards area bombing of cities. Although they would continue to claim that they were engaged in 'precision' bombing of military targets. By then, most German towns of industrial importance were all but destroyed. Since the heavy bombers were running out of targets, towns like Würzburg or Pforzheim, were selected primarily because they were easy for the bombers to find and destroy. Because they had a medieval centre, they were expected to be particularly vulnerable to fire attack. The raid on Dresden, filled with civilians and refugees, marked the erosion of one last moral restriction in the bombing war. Although these refugees clearly did not contribute to the German war effort, they were considered legitimate targets. The author and historian Jörg Friedrich presents a vivid account of the saturation bombing, rendering in acute detail the annihilation of cities such as Dresden, the jewel of Germany's rich art and architectural heritage in the book Der Brand (The Fire) in which he portrays the Allied bombing of civilian targets during World War II as systematic and in many ways pointless mass murder. The Fire is a rare account of the air raids as they were experienced by the civilians who were their targets. Friedrich previous work examining Wehrmacht crimes and Nazi justice enables him to approach the subject without risking automatic dismissal as a right-wing apologist. Quoted from Douglas Peifers review of The Fire. Credit: the writer Detlef Siebert. Though no one involved in the bombing of Dresden was ever charged with a war crime, historical research often characterize the Allied bombing campaign against German cities in the last months of the war as a war crime. Top clips: the destruction of the medieval city of Dresden on the night of 13-14 February 1945. Fair use. Bottom image: August Schreitmüller's sandstone sculpture “Die Gute” on Dresden's Rathaustrum somehow survived the bombings. It once overlooked a magnificent city. Now beyond its outstretched arms lies a sea of ruins. It took until the 1990s for the British and American governments to formally apologize to Germany for the unnecessary attack. Credit: Deutsche Fotothek. Fair use. 

1 comment:

  1. Brandstätten20/1/19

    The former chancellor Helmut Kohl praised the historian Jörg Friedrich's work.