Remembering Dresden’s darkest hours

Saxony Tourism

Saxony Tourism

Remembering Dresden’s darkest hours

Seventy four years ago on February 13, 14 and 15, 1945, the bombs strafed the jewel box city of Dresden over and over again ripping the inner city and the old town to shreds and setting fire to homes, factories, museums and churches. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five turns 50 this year and incorporates this history.

With the attack of the Allied forces 74 years ago, Dresden’s city center was completely obliterated and with it the beauty and culture of hundreds of years. This horror was witnessed and chronicled by none other than the American author, Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote about his experience through his characters’ eyes in his famous novel, Slaughterhouse Five, which this year recognizes its 50th anniversary. The stories of Dresden’s survival of the last 74 years since the end of WWII are nothing less than mesmerizing, even if often horrific. Becoming aware of the history and the survival is essential to understanding the reconstruction and rebirth of Dresden today.

There are special tours for visitors who are interested in learning about Dresden at the time of 1945 and about the stories and history that saturate Vonnegut’s novel with so much horrific detail and intensity. These tours are offered by individuals who have educated themselves and become steeped in the legends, the past and the little-known facts of Vonnegut and Dresden in World War II. Danilo Hommel is one such self-taught expert and those visitors who opt to take his tour are in for a real experience. The company offers a special tour, In the Footsteps of Kurt Vonnegut, following the 30 kilometers that he marched as a prisoner of war from Dresden to Hellendorf and back. This is offered each year from May through September on Fridays and Saturdays. The Dresden local tour visits the basement of the slaughterhouse where Vonnegut was actually imprisoned in Dresden.

Another alternative perspective is offered by the tour guide Seema Prakash to her adopted city, Dresden. As a relative new comer to Dresden, she was fascinated by and also unafraid to dive into the difficult part of the city’s history and now she offers tours that address the most poignant questions, such as how Germany became so enthralled into accepting the charismatic but catastrophic leadership of Adolf Hitler. How did the people of Germany believe in such a terrible man and how did human motivations and emotions shape this dark period of world history. She addresses these questions while taking her groups on guided walks through the historic city center where she points out areas of interest in the time of WWII. She takes a deep look at the Third Reich era, the Hitler Myth, and then the repression during the Cold War period. She shares her knowledge and observations about the personal and civil courage and dissention that finally dissolved the Communist rule and led to the reunification of Germany in 1989.

Also, in remembrance of the firebombing of Dresden, Yadegar Asisi’s DRESDEN 1945 Panometer, the creation of an enormous panaroma in a former gasometer, has just re-opened focusing the themes of war and destruction during the devastating air raids on Dresden in February 1945. The scenery of the destroyed city opens up immediately after the bombing. Flames and columns of smoke rise from tens of destroyed houses. In the midst of the apocalyptic rubble landscape, human victims are covered in ash dust while survivors appear and seek refuge. In addition to a multitude of other cities destroyed in World War II in Europe, Dresden positions itself as a global memorial stone for all of the ravages of war. Asisi also deals with the fatal interactions of war. In the panorama room, photo motifs on 16 steles next to the destroyed German cities address numerous European cities, such as Rotterdam, Coventry, Stalingrad and Warsaw, which were also destroyed after German attacks in 1945.

Somehow, the spirit of Dresden did not break, the backbone of the people miraculously stayed intact despite the onslaught of Fascism, war and then Communism. Today, Dresden is experiencing a major renaissance as the people witness the final touches being put on their renovated city. At the same time, the people of Leipzig are celebrating the 30 years of the Peaceful Revolution which brought down the wall once and for all. To understand and learn about these important, world-changing events, come to Saxony and follow in the footsteps of the brave souls and experience the rebuilding of a great city, once again rich with art and architecture.

Source = Saxony Tourism
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