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Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004

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London, Thursday, April 15, 2004

Rebuilt church reopens row of Dresden bombs

From Roger Boyes
in Berlin

THE GIANT jigsaw puzzle of rebuilding Dresden's Frauenkirche, which was destroyed in the devastating Allied [sic. British] bombing raid of 1945, was close to completion yesterday when the last sandstone block was levered into position - but this symbolic act was overshadowed by a fierce debate on whether the attack constituted a British war crime against German civilians and their cultural heritage.

Only an orb and cross, crafted by Alan Smith, a British goldsmith, has still to be hoisted on to the dome of the 18th-century Lutheran church. The 18ft cross was sponsored by the British-based Dresden Trust.
click for origin

David Irving comments:

AFTER I SPOKE IN Dresden's Kulturpalast on the anniversary of the raid in February 1990, before the reunification of the two halves of Germany, I directed that my share of the "gate money" taken for that function should be donated to the Frauenkirche reconstruction fund which was just then being set up.
   I also provided the photos used by the British Trust which has shared in the cost and the project.
   IBM donated a virtual-reality computer display of the reconstructed cathedral soon after, and for a long time my own contribution, and my pioneering book on the air raid which first brought it to the attention of the English-speaking world in 1963, were commemorated in the IBM display.
   Alerted to this infamy by Der Spiegel and other newspapers, the German Government then intervened, and ensured that my name was expunged from all references to the air raid. . .
   Being permanently banned from German soil, I am of course unable to attend any of the commemoration ceremonies. But I am there in spirit, as regular readers of this website will attest.

Mr Smith's father, Frank, was one of the Lancaster bomber pilots who flew in the raid. "He could never forget the bombing and, until the day he died, he thought it was morally wrong," Mr Smith said. The reconstruction work, which began after the fall of communist East Germany, is regarded as one of the most successful attempts at British-German postwar reconciliation. However, a new book by the historian Frederick Taylor has scratched open wounds in Germany that were supposed to have healed in the slow, painstaking rebuilding of the church. The Dresden Trust has raised money not only for the cross, but also for a stained glass British window surrounded by 96 large stones, all sponsored by British benefactors.

The implicit aim is to make amends and acknowledge that the bombing and subsequent firestorm of a city known as the Florence of the North was a dreadful error of judgment in the dying days of the war. More than 35,000 people were killed; one of the most terrible images was that of 90 asphyxiated young girls found sitting upright in a basement as if still alive.

Mr Taylor argues that Dresden was a legitimate military target and puts the raid in the context of the overall Allied bombing campaign, pointing out that Dresden was producing not only porcelain but also weaponry, and that it was a significant railway junction.

The raid on February 13, 1945, came at a significant strategic moment, the Eastern Front having edged very close to the city. His critics reply that the existence of a railway junction meant merely that the city was bursting at the seams with civilian refugees, women and children, who were unable to shelter when the fireball rolled through the streets. Allan Russell, the British chairman of the Dresden Trust, regrets that the book

"does not answer the question of why the old city centre was targeted when the military installations were mainly outside the centre . . . I personally know many pilots who were very unhappy about what they had to do, and stayed unhappy for the rest of their lives."

The dome of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) was almost as high as that of St Paul's. It stayed seemingly intact until the morning after the raids, and then collapsed with what one witness described as "a whisper". The eight sandstone pillars supporting the dome -- known as the Stone Bell because of its distinctive shape -- exploded; the outer walls shattered and 6,000 tonnes of stone plunged to the ground.

The wreckage of the church was kept untouched as an anti-war symbol. Only after the end of communism was it possible, with the help of computers and electronically generated images, to start piecing the church together. Each stone, each chunk of rubble was numbered; the effect was of a giant jigsaw puzzle. Dresden will win back its skyline on June 22, when Alan Smith's orb and cross are carried by crane to the top of the dome.

Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd.


Free download: David Irving, Apocalypse 1945: the Destruction of Dresden.
Our Dresden air raid index
Our Operation THUNDERCLAP index

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