So It Goes

On the nights of February 13 and 14, 1945, a mere ten weeks before Germany’s surrender, with the German miltary all but destroyed, combined British and American Air Forces dropped a total of 650,000 incendiary bombs (more than one per inhabitant) on the city of Dresden, a beautiful Baroque city known as “Florence on the Elbe” — a cultural capital with no military or strategic importance.

The resulting firestorm killed tens of thousands of men, women and children, many of whom were Silesian peasants fleeing the onslaught of an avenging Red Army, only to find themselves the target of allied revenge for the German bombing of British cities earlier in the war. The debate over the exact number of dead remains a painful subject, an ember within the collective memory that refuses to flare out.

As we try to do each year on Hiroshima Day as well, we pause to reflect upon the relationship between such barbaric acts and the American Dream Machine, richly oiled with delusions of moral righteousness.

Excerpts below are from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, interwoven with paintings by the pacifist Otto Dix, who was forced into the German Army in 1945, immediately surrendered to the nearest adversary, and spent a year in a prison camp.

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