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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.

12 Comments

  1. Coventry cathedral was not restored, the ruins still stand with a new cathedral standing adjacent. As for not knowing Coventry had industries within it is a bit naive; it’s a city., You sound as though this makes the bombing acceptable. Had Mr Hitler (elected by the people of Germany) not decided to invade Europe, none of these dreadful events would have occurred.

    Comment by jan — February 19, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

  2. Wow! Has german guilt really got to the point where they deny the murder, looting,destruction,and mass rapes committed by the wonderfull red army savind them from there own people? Unbeleivable!!!

    Comment by jj evans — January 5, 2011 @ 12:29 am

  3. Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that the German flag is being flown upside down. The only German flag that I have ever seen in Germany was at the Reichstag in Berlin. German people never fly the flag on their homes, as far as I know, but you see lots of Israeli flags in Germany.

    To read some history of World War II, you should get Pat Buchanan’s book “Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World” which you can buy from the Amazon website. I am not sure that Amazon is allowed to ship this book to Germany, but you can buy a used copy from Amazon which will be shipped by a private bookseller.

    If you live long enough, maybe you will have the opportunity to learn the true history of your country. I would recommend buying old books from used book stores, if they have not all been burned in Germany.

    Comment by furtherglory — July 25, 2010 @ 7:37 am

  4. I found my 9th grade history textbook (“Geschichte. Lehrbuch für Klasse 9”, printed in 1987, in East Germany), and it states 35,000 people died in the Dresden bombings.

    The last time I was in Dresden was for a wedding photo shooting two years ago, and even though it is a wonderful city for taking pictures, I must confirm it is difficult to handle if you are even remotely aware of the history of the city. Each time I have been to Dresden during the last 20 or so years, there had been one lonely person with huge photographs and some pamphlets about the bombing and the aftermath on the square infront of the Frauenkirche.

    I never dared approach them. I’d probably try to talk to them now; but until a few months ago, I was very insecure about what is allowed to be remembered and investigated or not. It is very creepy if you try to learn about the history of the country you live in and most youtube videos on that topic are blocked in your country, and at the same time you know people are in prison for speaking their mind — and those are the lucky ones, as they didn’t get suicided at least.

    Re: the German flag… it is okay to display it during the soccer world cup. This summer, many cars had flag attached to their roofs and mirrors.

    But did you know it is actually upside-down?! Look at old German paintings, there the gold is on top, as a symbol of Germany’s future. The black at the bottom stands for the oppressive past that the Germans overcame, and the red is the break of dawn. The fact our flag is upside down, which people who served in the military usually recognize as a signal of distress, is downright creepy.

    Comment by Rachel — July 24, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  5. It just occured to me that those memorials would have been placed inside that church ruin by the East German government when East Berlin was part of the Soviet Bloc. But the Western “democratic” authorities of today do not remove any of what was erected by the Soviets from that time.

    In both Berlin and Dresden, I saw several statues and monuments put up by the communists in honor of the “soviet worker” or communist leaders, but everything that was a part of Hitler’s National Socialist regime has been removed or turned into a “Documentation Center” where the officially approved historical condemnation is explained.

    Another thing I always wonder about is why communist and super left-leaning political parties are allowed in Germany, and Europe as a whole, but not right-wing, or what they call fascist parties. Isn’t one as bad as the other? And doesn’t democracy demand equal rights for all?

    Sorry if I have gotten off the subject, but this is some of my impressions from modern day Germany.

    Comment by sceptic — February 14, 2010 @ 1:55 am

    • You are correct – there are lots of monuments in the former East Germany to the victorious Soviet Union, but none to the defeated Germans. There are streets in the former East Germany named after Communists, but no streets in Germany are named after Nazis. Every day, the Germans in those cities have to be reminded of their defeat in World War II. The Germans must forever remember the Holocaust, but never the suffering of the German people in World War II. The only German heroes are those who were traitors to their country, for example, the men who tried to kill Hitler. There is a piece of property, worth billions, that is close to the Brandenburg gate in Berlin; it is filled with concrete blocks in honor of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. There is no monument to the German soldiers who died in World War II. As Ronald Reagan said in a cemetery at Bitburg, they were victims too.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 14, 2010 @ 4:15 am

  6. I viewed that church ruin in Berlin, but I didn’t go inside. I didn’t know it had memorials to the English and Russians who destroyed Berlin. I would have been shocked if I had been able to read the inscriptions. I am shocked by your telling it. What an insult to all the brave German soldiers who died defending Berlin from the brutal Soviet onslaught. I’m sure there is no memorial to them inside that church ruin or you would have mentioned it.

    On this anniversary date of the (beginning of) the great Dresden bombing, which came in three great waves separated by intervals to allow rescue workers to arrive and inhabitants to come out of their shelters and attempt to leave the city so they too could be bombed and killed, we are confronted by the spectacle of the Mayor of Dresden, Helma Orosz, condemning German citizens who have come to Dresden to march in a quiet memorial to the over 100,000 victims of that bombing — condemning them as “neo-nazis.” She says this date should be used by Germans as a reminder of who started the war. So it’s not only that Germans are not allowed to express any national patriotism, but they cannot even mourn or honor their own victims of the war.

    It is an unreal and intolerable situation that cannot continue to hold … someday it will break wide open.

    I was in Dresden too, and was disappointed in the city center. Yes, everything has been rebuilt, but it feels crowded because there’s lots of new stuff too. For instance, a huge new hotel (can’t remember which well-known chain it is) was being erected right in front of the reconstructed Frauenkirche, which has become a kind of symbol of Dresden. There is very little space between them and it will cast a very powerful shadow over the famous church. I just managed to get a picture of the entire structure from one location only. The entire city center had this disjointed feeling to it.

    I have looked at pictures of Dresden from before the bombing, and it appeared to be one of the most beautiful, peaceful, spacious, elegant places on earth. It’s not like that now, in spite of the reconstruction. You can’t really bring back what has been destroyed with such vengence.

    Thank you for your comparison of the two cities.

    Comment by sceptic — February 14, 2010 @ 1:43 am

    • A planned demonstration by neo-Nazis in Dresden today was blocked by 15,000 anti-Nazis who prevented the annual march through the city.

      You can read about it on this web site:

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/14/2818959.htm?section=world

      Comment by furtherglory — February 14, 2010 @ 4:24 am

      • This ABC article ends with these words: “Among those who perished were **hundreds** of refugees who had fled the horrors of the eastern front.” Now they’re writing it in such a way as to only use the word “hundred.” How many “hundreds” were there that eventually added up to “thousands?”
        What perfidy.

        In an article published in 1963 in Esquire magazine, a well-respected high-quality magazine of that day, the number of dead in Dresden was put at 120,000 to 150,000. Read it at: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/war/dresden1.html

        Today, they use the figure 25,000, as you said. The entire “rebuilding/reconstructing” effort was aimed at the tourist trade. It’s not for the Germans to have their city and culture back, but for the entrepreneurs to make a fortune via the tourist trade … remember the huge hotel going up right in front of the Frauenkirche I told you about. If anyone really cared about the Frauenkirche as other than a tourism draw, they wouldn’t allow such a violation of that so-called national treasure.

        People sorely need to pay attention and look below the surface to see what’s really going on. The city should have protected the marcher’s right to a peaceful demonstration, according to the law, no matter what their political persuasion, but they care more about not scaring the tourists away. The courts said the “mourners’ had to be given the right to march, but the city allowed the organized opposition to block them.

        When I was there, it was my misfortune that President Obama had come to town. The entire city center got fenced off for two days! and Dresden spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an incredible security check and preventive measures. There were scores of police vans and plainclothes agents inside the fenced in area. For that visit it was “hell with the tourists;” the Emperor of the World was arriving and nothing untoward must happen while he’s here. And he was only there a couple of hours!

        In contrast, the citizens of Germany who want to memorialize their own ancestors who were fried alive in a horrendous crime are treated like criminals themselves! That’s how I see it.

        Comment by sceptic — February 15, 2010 @ 5:56 am

    • The soldiers who defended Berlin to the last man are not honored in the ruined church. The soldiers who defended Berlin were the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen SS and they were French soldiers. Few people know that 60% of the Waffen SS at the end of the war were soldiers from other countries who were fighting against Communism. Berlin was in Communist East Germany after the war was lost.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 25, 2010 @ 7:24 am

      • I’m no fan of Communism but the brutal treatment of Berlin civilians, particularly women and girls, was allowed by Stalin as revenge for the treatment of civilians in the Nazi’s march to (eventual defeat) Stalingrad. The Gestapo “mop up” units were indescribably vicious and ordered by Hitler.

        Comment by Jaffrey Harris — November 11, 2014 @ 6:15 am


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