fbpx

The Destruction of Dresden

One of the most controversial Allied actions of the war

old town Dresden

A view of old town Dresden, 1910. Source.

The bomb raid

February 13, 1945. I was 8½ years old. Schools were closed. Restaurants, Railroad stations were filled to capacity with refugees and wounded. It was Shrove Tuesday. A happy day, similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

But we had very little or no food, and many refugees were crowding into Dresden running away from the fast approaching Russian Army and leaving everything behind.

They were looking for a safe place until the war was over. What a mistake.

It was about 9:30 PM, my little brother and I were in the bedroom, with Dark green shades drawn so no lights would be visible from the outside. I noticed that it was very bright outside. It was so bright one could read the newspaper without difficulty. I got up to see my mother who was listening to the radio, the BBC, which was “illegal”. We were not supposed to know what was going on in the war, only what the local, controlled radio stations were telling us was allowed.

USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress

USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Europe. Source.

 

Suddenly the apartment house was shaking, bombs dropping all around us, and as we have been trained to do, we jumped into our “training suits” now called sweat suits, grabbed our rucksack ( backpack which my mother made for us children in case we had to flee the Russian army) and went into the basement with all the others from the apartment house. Bombs were dropping all around us, the house was shaking and vibrating. This lasted about ½ hr. When we came out of the cellar, my mother as an air aid warden had to leave to help others whose houses were burning, ours was still standing but all the windows were blown out, and our curtains from the 2nd floor were hanging down to the street in strips. Almost all the apartment houses in our neighborhood were completely engulfed in flames. I suddenly heard ONE siren sounding somewhere in the west from us.

destroyed Dresden 1945

View of a destroyed Dresden, 1945. Source.

The journey to school

My mother arrived, and we all went back into the cellar. We now wanted to get out from there, my mother took blankets and towels soaked them in water in a tub that was there for just this purpose, we wrapped them around our bodies and heads to keep flames and embers from sticking to us and we headed towards our school. I will never forget the sights, every building looked like a glowing charcoal, with the steel girders a darker red. We saw parts of the “Firestorm” just ahead of us, and had to back away. We stayed for this 2nd raid in the school surrounded by wounded soldiers. The next morning my mother and a neighbor went back to our house, and it was totally collapsed. My mother left a note on the ruin, as many other people did just in case somebody was looking for us, just to let them know that we were alive. We did not know where we would go from here, except for the moment, back to school.

Hundreds, thousands of people were leaving the burning city to look for safety and the main route out was near us, so we joined them, hoping that our dangers were over. They were not.

Bodies awaiting cremation

Bodies awaiting cremation. Source.

Machine-gunning civilian refugees

It was mid morning when we got on the road eastward from Dresden. One of a couple of streets accessible to leave the city. It was filled with people in pajamas, sweat suits, some looked like they were sleepwalking.

We were walking on a long country road lined with poplar trees, when suddenly we heard airplanes approaching. The two previous raids had totally destroyed the city and killed tens of thousands — what was there left to bomb? But this was the 3rd raid, and this time it was low flying fighter planes machine gunning civilians trying to leave the still-burning city. Everybody ran and jumped down into the roadside gullies. It was the first time I saw an American flag. It was on the side of an airplane.

I stumbled over so many bodies just to get back onto the street, and into a school house in a field on the other side. There were thousands of people (at least from a child’s point of view) and in the mayhem we lost my brother, 3 years old. About ½ hr later I saw his red pompom hat in a group of people, grabbed onto it, and we were all together again. Heading into the unknown. Anywhere. Just away from this hell on earth.

 

This article is part of the Time Witnesses archive.

young angela

A young Angela, the author of this article. She eventually moved to the USA, and passed away in September 2004.

This article combines two of her stories in chronological order: ‘The destruction of Dresden’ and ‘Machine-gunning civilian refugees.’

 

Spread the word

Related stories