Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ken Burns' "The War": Some thoughts on the bombing of London [1940]

Now I am watching Ken Burns' documentary on World War II. He just described the bombing of London. Every time I see something about that I wonder why all the attention to the bombing of Dresden and its Allied "war crime" status ?

Was is Dresden considered more of a crime [which I don't think it was] but the bombing of London escapes notice? Strafing, bombing of residences, and no military targets....

What am I missing here?

[And now back to Ahmadinejad....]


Anonymous said...

Deborah: I am not aware that the bombing of London has been ignored either in popular culture or serious scholarship. It was barbaric. I don't think it "escapes notice."

But can we acknowledge that Dresden was also a horror and nightmare for the thousands of civilians who lived through it and died during it; maybe even needed to end the war but tragic for civilian victims nonetheless?

I am sure you have read Victor Klemperer's diary entry on the Dresden bombing. Whatever its military necessity, men, women and children were burned alive and acknowledging the tragedy of that fact does not even slightly diminish the significance and uniqueness and magnitude of the Nazi genocide.

Ii irks me that Irving and many of the other lunatic deniers have been the ones to raise Dresden. And they do so more to make points in their ongoing obessesion than out of compassion.

But just as I refuse to cede an inch to them on the reality of the Holocaust, or to grant them any legitimacy, neither will I allow them to steal and own sadness about the bombing of Dresden and death of civilians.


Deborah Lipstadt said...

I don't think there is any debate about the bombing of London. I do know that there is a heated debate about Dresden.

Civilians? Of course civilians always suffer during a war. They are almost always the innocent casualties.

I am reminded, however, of the fierce loyalties the Dresdeners showed the Nazi party, celebrating its Nazi identity even after Hitler was dead. Had these people been a little less exuberant about Nazism a few years earlier maybe they would not have suffered in 1945....

It's a fact.

BTW, check out my book, History on Trial or Richard Evans' Lying About Hitler to see how Irving completely distorts the history of Dresden.

You can also find the information at Go to experts' reports and check out Evans' report.

Anonymous said...

My Lord, History on Trial and Lying About Hitler are (and I don't say this gratuitiously) two of my favorite and most personally significant books. I know them extremely well. And I know the arguments about Dresden and I know about Irving's lies and distortions. Finally, from years of study of the Klemperer diaries, I know that Dresden was a poisonously Nazi city.

All I am trying to say is that I don't want Irving's lies and distortions to negate that what hapnened in Dresden was tragic.....perhaps inevitable, perhaps necessary, perhaps an approporiate response to their slavish and criminal support of NSDAP......but tragic.


Deborah Lipstadt said...

Of course, it was tragic. The whole thing -- the war and all it caused -- was one tremendous bloody tragedy.

And thanks for the nice compliments about History on Trial.


Dresden was bombed in retalitation for the Germans bombing of Britains prominent ancient cities, Canterbury, Bath and York. It was a tit-for-tat raid. The fact is all German cities 'at that time were poisonous Nazi cities', but do we bomb them? Being an English builder I say "no we don't". But saying this during the war would have had you thrown in the Tower of London right sharp. The writers family home was destroyed during a wartime 1943 raid on Middlesbrough, England, and he was dug out of the rubble by firemen 'still sound asleep'. His personal views on waging total war is that its far too strenuous an undertaking and he would would prefer NOT to take part!

Deborah Lipstadt said...

If you want to learn more about Dresden's military and strategic significance take a look at Dresen: February 13, 1945 by Frederick Taylor.

This was not a simple tit-for-tat affair.

It was tragic but so was the entire war which, let us not forget, was instigated by Germany and the very Dresdeners who ardently supported the Nazi regime.

The Sanity Inspector said...

The British author of a history of the air war in Europe put condemnation of the Dresden bombing down to post-war English self-loathing. The author said that London was so thoroughly wrecked that he was wargaming in its ruins as a young Royal Marine in the early 50s. It only made sense to hit the Nazis everywhere, with everything to hand, at the time. We've got the whole rest of history to second-guess.


My father served in the RAF, we lived just one mile from the airbase and we were an 'hit them back were its hurts family'. But did it do any good? I'd say it didn't and proof of this [of sorts] is Air Marshall Downing and 'Bomber Harris'were openly shunned and ignored after the war. You see we, and our main Allies [the Yanks] lost far too many fine young men. Count the graves, add up the cost of all those downed aircraft, and ask yourself 'What good did it do'. Defeating Germany was at all times a land invasion project with well armed field soldiers, proved by Normandy, all the rest was macho / gung-ho window dressing. Fairplay.