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Monday, October 31, 2005

Museum or real church?

Following its almost-total destruction in the Second World War, Dresden's magnificent Lutheran cathedral, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), was re-consecrated over the weekend in a ceremony that included the Duke of Kent, and both Germany's outgoing chancellor, Gerhard Schroder,  and its new one, Angela Merkel. The church was almost completely destroyed by RAF saturation bombing in February 1945, leading the Duke to say its rebirth was a "symbol of the reconciliation between Great Britain and Germany. Its destruction...was a tragedy."

One expects that many commentators will weigh in on the significance of the comments -- on whether they amount to an unwarranted apology for waging total war against an evil enemy which itself had unleashed the concept of total war six years earlier.

However, I am more interested in what will become of the church itself. Given Europe's precariously declining birthrates and its peoples' continuing abandonment of the religion of their forefathers, I fear the building will be little more than a quarter-billion-dollar monument, not only to the Second World War, but also to the continent's Christian heritage, rather than a new centre for a vibrant Christian community.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on October 31, 2005 in Religion | Permalink


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It will become a mosque.

Posted by: John | 2005-10-31 12:50:19 PM

Surviving the Firestorm

Victor Klemperer, a Christian of Jewish descent, wrote what many feel is the best account of what day-to-day life was like for Jews in Third Reich Germany. In all liklihood, the bombing of Dresden saved him from being sent to the Auschwitz gas chambers. Here is his diary entry describing his survival of the Dresden firestorm.

Diarist Victor Klemperer produced a first hand account of living through Nazi terror.
Victor Klemperer's description of surviving the destruction of Dresden was recorded in a diary entry made from Feb. 22 to Feb. 24 while in Piskowitz.

We sat down for coffee at about half past nine on Tuesday evening, very weary and depressed because during the day, after all, I had been running around as the bringer of bad tidings, and in the evening Waldmann has assured me with very great certainty (from experience and remarks he had recently picked up) that those to be deported on Thursday were being sent to their deaths ("pushed on to a siding"), and that we who were left behind would be done away with in just the same way in a week's time -- then a full-scale warning sounded. "If only they would smash everything up!" said Frau Stuehler bitterly, who had chased around all day, evidently in vain, to get her boy freed from the work duty. more >>>>>>



Posted by: maz2 | 2005-10-31 12:55:32 PM

A good piece by John Keegan in the Daily Telgraph, Oct. 31: "Necessary or not, Dresden remains a topic of anguish"


'In the circumstances of early 1945 there were pressing reasons for persisting in the bombing. The Germans were still hitting London with pilotless weapons, the prospect of victory, apparently so close at hand in the autumn of 1944, had sharply receded after Hitler's great December offensive in the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge, which had caused more American casualties than any other battle in the west. Moreover, it was strongly believed - and not only by the bomber barons - that bombing severely damaged and might soon break German morale...

Can there ever be a final verdict? None has been reached among the wartime generation, who prefer not to dwell on what Bomber Command did to Germany during the war. Even the most blinkered survivors of the war years know that the strategic bombing campaign achieved results from which they shrink, 600,000 civilian casualties, the majority women and children, many burnt to death.

In the last, remembering Dresden forces one to recognise that there is nothing nice or admirable about any war, and that victory, even a victory as desirable as that over Nazi Germany, is purchased at the cost of terrible human suffering, the suffering of the completely innocent as well as of their elders and their parents in arms. It is right to remember Dresden, but chiefly as a warning against repetition of the mass warfare that tortured Europe in the 20th century...'

In my view the real problem of Bomber Command's "area bombing" campaign was that its results were in no way decisive and were not commensurate with the British and Commonwealth resources it sucked in.

Bomber Command lost 57,000 dead, the most highly skilled and trained members of the Commonwealth armed forces--and killed around 600,000 people, mainly civilians (I will not go into the effect on the German war effort). Just think about that as a loss ratio.

But when area bombing by night was adopted in early 1942 by Harris, the head of Bomber Command, it was because that was the only way anything of
significance could be hit in Germany without catastrophic loss. Area bombing was simply the only way for Britain to do anything to attack the German homeland at a time when it seemed the war might well be lost (the Germans, despite defeat outside Moscow, still occupied most of the western USSR and the Japanese were raging with Singapore falling and the US about to lose the Philippines).

The campaign kept growing and by mid-1943 at the latest so many military and industrial resources had been devoted to it that it would have been unthinkable to reverse course.


Posted by: Mark Collins | 2005-10-31 1:34:01 PM

Yeah, I guess you could say _almost_ destroyed


Posted by: JM | 2005-10-31 11:04:23 PM

War is unspeakable but repression by one's own country's government is unthinkable. When a people have a common enemy the soul does not die; when the enemy is a child, a friend or a neighbour, the death of the soul by a thousand cuts is catastrophic to that nations' people. Cuba, the former USSR and colonies, the middle east (Saddam Hussain and his followers), China, ... how can a people live with guilt like that? Internal repression is much worse than war. Just ask the voters in Iraq.

Posted by: jema54j | 2005-11-01 12:43:30 AM

Is a beautiful church building. Hopefully on Sundays many will be in there, learning Christianity plus helping their community. Christianity often helps to prevent or at least is against the powerful ruthless state dictator types.

Posted by: Larry | 2005-11-01 5:17:21 AM

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