Scrapbookpages Blog

February 13, 2010

The bombing of Coventry … and Dresden

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 11:08 pm

A few years ago, I was sitting in an airport in France when an older woman sat down beside me.  She had recognized me as being possibly British.  If you see anyone with blond hair in France, you can be pretty sure that they are not French.

She introduced herself to me and said that she was from Coventry. Then without any prompting from me, she said that she was a child during World War II and that she was there when Coventry was bombed several times because of the munitions factories in the city.  This was news to me.  I had always heard that Coventry was bombed by the Germans for no good reason, but only once, because there was nothing there of any military importance.

February 13th is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by British and American planes.  The bombing of Dresden is usually  only mentioned with the word Coventry in the same sentence, as in “The Germans in Dresden got what they deserved because the Germans started it by bombing Coventry.”

I have since learned that Coventry was an industrial city of about 320,000 people when World War II started; the city  had metal working industries, including factories that made airplane engines and, since 1900, the city was noted for its munitions factories. The most devastating bombing raid on Coventry occurred on November 14, 1940; the raid lasted more than 10 hours and left much of the city in ruins.  The bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe destroyed a 14th century cathedral, which has since been restored. Three quarters of the factories in the city were also destroyed, along with around 4,330 homes.

The estimated number of people killed in the bombing on the night of November 14th varies between 380 and 554, with hundreds more injured, for a total of around 1,000 casualties.

I have been to Germany many times, but never to Dresden.  I can’t stand the thought of standing where so many people were burned to death 65 years ago today. I couldn’t even finish David Irving’s book about the bombing of Dresden.   In all the news stories today, the number of people killed in the bombing of Dresden is given as 25,000.

In Berlin, there is a bombed out church that has been preserved with a new modern building right beside it, as shown in the photo below.

Ruined church in Berlin that is now a memorial

The German people today love to hang their heads in shame over what their ancestors did in World War II,  and they never miss an opportunity to acknowledge German guilt in starting a war that killed 60 million people.  It is considered politically incorrect to say that you are proud of being German.  The Germans don’t display their country’s flag, nor do they sing their national anthem.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, he gave the Germans back their pride after their defeat in World War I and look what that led to:  the killing of 6 million Jews and around a half a million Gypsies.

Inside the ruined church in Berlin is a memorial to the bombing of Coventry and a memorial to the brave Soviet soldiers who liberated Berlin in 1945.

Coventry memorial inside ruined church in Berlin

Cross in ruined Berlin church in honor of Soviet soldiers who liberated Berlin from the Nazis

While I was inside the ruined church, taking these photos, I was followed around the whole time by a young Gypsy boy who was begging for money.  The church was filled with German tourists, but he had targeted me, probably because my camera served to identify me as a rich American.  He didn’t speak a word of English, so I had to rely on my limited German.  “Geh weg!”  (Go away.) He refused to leave me alone and I appealed to some of the German tourists to speak to him in German for me, but they respectfully declined.

I didn’t want to give this boy any money because he was dressed better than I was, and he was obviously young and healthy, perfectly able to work.   I tried to explain this to him, but he couldn’t understand what I was trying to say, so I finally just left the church.

Holocaust survivor turned cartwheels at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:36 am

Upon arrival at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the Jews had to go through a selection process, as shown in the photo below.  Dr. Josef Mengele was one of 36 SS men that decided who would live and who would die.

Selection for the gas chamber or work at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Every Auschwitz survivor has his or her own unique story about how they beat the odds. Some lied about their age when they went through the selection line, claiming that they were 4 or 5 years older than they actually were, so that they would be selected for work. Some jumped off the truck  that was taking them to the gas chamber. A few lucked out because the gas chamber was already full by the time they got there. Others survived  because they could play a musical instrument or paint pictures.

Then there is Holocaust survivor, Dr. Edith Eger, who not only survived Auschwitz, but also Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, two of the worst camps in the Nazi system.

According to a news article in the Del Mar Times, written by Delores Davies on Feb. 11, 2010,  Edith  “foiled an attempt to drag her to the gas chamber by disorienting a guard by doing a cartwheel and the splits.”

Dr. Josef Mengele, Commandant Rudolf Hoess, and Josef Kramer

Delores Davies also wrote the following in her article about Dr. Edith Eger:

“At Auschwitz, Eger, who was a talented gymnast as a child, was selected by SS officer and physician Josef Mengele to dance for him when he visited the barracks. As a token of thanks, Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, would give her a piece of bread.”

You can read the full article about Dr. Edith Eger here.