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Posted Friday, April 13, 2007

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, published in 1969, was the result; he retails the same flattering story about its origins inside the novel.

click for origin

All photos are from David Irving: "Apocalypse 1945: the Destruction of Dresden" which is now available again in a new updated edition

April 13, 2007 (Friday)
London (England)

TODAY'S newspapers report the death in New England of American writer Kurt Vonnegut. He died surrounded by enviable wealth, after a colourful career as a writer and speaker, to which I inadvertently helped him; I shall no doubt die in considerably less wealth, though I hope my offspring will benefit as the passage of time exposes the worthlessness of history as written by my conformist contemporaries.

We noted on our website yesterday the sad news that Daedalus Books are already offering the million-pound opus of Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, remaindered for US$3.99 -- or rather less than two of our Old Europe pounds.

Kurt Vonnegut was held as an American prisoner of war in Dresden in February 1945 at the time we British blessed that city with our bomb-loads and wiped it from the map in rather the same manner as President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad is (wrongly) accused of wishing a certain sh*tty little country in the Middle East to be expunged.

first bomb falls on Dresden
Above: the first bomb falls on Dresden, a Target Indicator (TI) bomb dropped by RAF Flight Lieutenant William Topper. -- Below: the dreaded "Christmas Trees" - dazzling showers of flares and TIs float down above the already blazing city

ON the morning of February 14, 1945 Vonnegut emerged from the cold store of Dresden's Slaughterhouse Five, in which he and his fellow prisoners had taken refuge, to find the city gone; at first he thought little more of it, as he found only a half-inch story about it in his local newspaper files after he returned to Indiana, U.S.A.

The Daily Telegraph and The Independent and no doubt other newspapers have today lavished lengthy obituaries on him on an otherwise slow news day.

the raid builds up

All without exception have used my figure of 135,000 as the death roll resulting from the two hour raid -- I obtained the figure in 1960 as a best estimate from a man who had been the city official responsible for counting the casualties at the time. (I shall soon post a full dossier on just this topic.)

The Sunday Telegraph notably serialized my book "The Destruction of Dresden" when it first came out in April 1963.

The Independent runs an interview with Vonnegut, and a photograph of the ruins which they (wrongly in my view) attribute to the city's veteran photographer, the late Walter Hahn.

Interviewer: Did you intend to write about it as soon as you went through the experience?

Vonnegut: When the city was demolished I had no idea of the scale of the thing... I went down to the newspaper office, the Indianapolis News [in 1945] and looked to find out what they had about Dresden. There was an item about half an inch long, which said our planes had been over Dresden and two had been lost. ... Then a book by David Irving was published [in 1963] about Dresden, saying it was the largest massacre in European History. I said, "By God, I saw something after all!" I would try to write my war story whether it was interesting or not, and try to make something out of it."

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, published in 1969, was the result; he retails the same flattering story about its origins inside the novel. I believe we once corresponded, though many years ago -- all my files have been seized and destroyed, so I cannot tell. He too has now clanked off to join those legions of the dead.

the morning after


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Dresden index
Free download: "Apocalypse 1945: the Destruction of Dresden"
More on Prof Richard "Skunky" Evans and Hanns Voigt
Kurt Vonnegut obituary: Satirical novelist captured absurdity of war in Slaughterhouse-Five
Dresden photo gallery: air raid and effects
© Focal Point 2007 F DISmall David Irving