British planes dropped explosive and incendiary bombs on Dresden during the night of February 13th, 1945. American planes followed. In four raids, at least 3,900 tonnes of bombs were dropped.
The head of RAF Bomber Command in Britain, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, had said in 1943 that: “The destruction of German cities [was part of the] accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy.”
Breaking civilian morale was intentional then. Authorities point out that Hitler bombed civilians first.
Nora Lang is now 83. When she and her parents and brothers were bombed in Dresden, she was 13.
Lang recalls: “There was a ceaseless dropping of bombs, this booming noise. I always compared it to the sound as if coal or potatoes were dropped on my head. At the time, it was a very familiar sound to us.”
After the first wave, Nora and one of her brothers were brought to their neighbours’ cellar. Their parents and the other brother went back to their house to salvage some belongings. And yet they also survived the second wave.
Lang said: “For us, it was a happy ending. [begins to cry] I don’t want to cry about it but, in fact, everything was really terrible.”
A Historical Commission in 2010 put the official number of civilians killed at up to 25,000, close to the estimate by Dresden’s civil authorities at the time, although the figures have been disputed over the years.
Dresden had been renowned for its cultural splendour, even dubbed the Florence of the north, but historians point out it was also a Nazi powerhouse and a significant arms and transport hub.
The capital of the state of Saxony is held up as a rare East German success story today.
Historians like Frederick Taylor, however, say that even though “…the city has been largely rebuilt, the trauma is intense, [and] it has never recovered from a diffuse grief and cultural pessimism.”
The monumental ruin of the domed Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) was only rebuilt after Germany’s post-Communist reunification.