Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’

DRESDEN 1945 – THEY DON’T WANT SYMPATHY ANY MORE

February 16, 2014

2014-02-13 13.13.47

“Dresden was no innocent city!” The city’s mayor Helma Orosz is haranguing her citizens in the street. “When we remember the catastrophe which befell the city in 1945, we should think of German bombing of Coventry and Rotterdam. Remember the millions whom Germans slaughtered in Poland, the forced labourers, the destruction of the Jewish synagogue in Dresden, the deportations. There were many Nazis in Dresden and people knew what was going on.”

Where else in the world, I wonder, does a political leader castigate the fathers and grandfathers of her voters so harshly?

But her audience laps it up. It is the 69th anniversary of the British bombing of February 1945 which killed over 20,000 people and destroyed the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful historical cities. They are not sorry for themselves. I had come a little apprehensively as a Trustee of Britain’s Dresden Trust, set up to further reconciliation and help rebuild the ruined Church of Our Lady. Would they be hoping that I express regret, I wondered?

Not at all. When I tell a young journalist that for all the need to defeat Hitler, I felt the attack was not justified, she crisply retorts: “Why not? It was a military target.”

Well yes, in a way. But by my judgment the firestorms which Britain’s Bomber Command created in German cities were immoral. First they dropped high explosives to crack the buildings open, then thousands of incendiaries to light fires which, if the wind was right, came together in a fiery whirlwind that nobody could escape. They targeted town centres, where the old houses packed together burned better than the military targets located on the outskirts. That these houses were inhabited by civilian old men, women and children, they cared not at all. Indeed the plan was to break civilian morale (it did not work).

The British commander of the raid circling overhead radioed to an incoming wave of bombers, “It’s coming up quite nicely now,” as if he were talking of a bonfire at the bottom of his garden.

But Dresdners don’t have this on their minds today. They want to prevent neo-Nazis from streaming in from all over Germany, to rampage and demonstrate – trying to depict the British attack as a war crime relieving Germans of guilt for Auschwitz. Thousands of neo-Nazis used to come, giving the city a shameful reputation.

Now Dresdners have seized their commemoration back from the fanatics: Mayor Orosz calls on us to join a human chain around the historic centre as a symbolic barrier against the neo-Nazis. I can scarcely find space. 10,000 people last year, 11,000 this year.

It works. Although a few hundred neo-Nazis parade with burning torches the day before, none appear on the anniversary. There is no fighting, no disruption. The crowd clap. They may care little about politics otherwise, but they have done what Germans precisely did NOT do when Hitler was pushing his way to power. They have stood up en masse for normal, decent human values.

Actors, musicians and writers read texts at various points of the old centre. They too are doing what German intellectuals failed to do when the Nazis emerged in the 1930s. They are assuming responsibility for influencing hearts and minds.

I head for the magnificent Semper opera house, painstakingly rebuilt over several decades. The choir launches resoundingly into Verdi’s Requiem evoking the Day of Judgment when nobody can escape God’s fearful reckoning. Another tough choice: Dresdners certainly underwent their punishment by hellfire. After the soloists conclude by pleading God to forgive the sins of the dead and let them rest in peace, the conductor drops his baton, the musicians and audience of 3,000 rise to their feet, and for four or five minutes intense silence reigns. The cathartic emotions bursting to find relief in applause are turned inwards in silent contemplation.

As we file quietly out, the bells of Dresden peal out at 21.40 hours, the time when the first bombs fell on 13th February 1945. Some deep and funereal, others such as those of the Church of Our Lady higher in tone, suggesting life and joy after death and destruction.

In the square outside, hundreds of people stand with candles. At 22.00, the bells fall silent and we troop into the church. A choir chants Dona Nobis Pacem, and teenagers read texts they have written themselves. The pastor is expecting me and asks me to read a piece. It’s Jesus’s invocation to love thine enemy. That puts me on the spot. He says I can add a few words of my own.

When it’s my turn in the pulpit, I read my text and add (in German): “I have come here to represent the Dresden Trust of Britain in a spirit of reconciliation. My mother was German. She was anti-Nazi and was thrown out of her school. My father was English and fought in the British Army. My uncle was a bomber pilot, shot down and killed over Cologne in 1942.

“Immediately after the war, my mother insisted we go to Germany to renew contacts with her German family, even though some had been Nazis. From my German mother, who just died at the age of 101, I learned: after war should come peace.”

The pastor shakes my hand and says he is moved. So am I, and how. I stay in the dimmed splendour of the church till after midnight. When I slip out, Dresden’s teenagers are still going up to the pulpit, one after the other, humbly acknowledging their nation’s past and the terrible chastisement which followed.

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My talk at the German Historical Institute about 100 years of German history

November 8, 2013

Final

I shall be giving a talk about 100 years of German history at 5.30 pm, on Tuesday 12 November, at the German Historical Institute, 17 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1.

Open to the public. Free entry. All welcome.

See http://www.ghil.ac.uk/

First media interview for my new book “The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered”

September 26, 2013

25.9.2013 Jewish Telegraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

See …

http://amzn.to/15hyS3x

“Writing about people with difficult histories” – my author talk in London

June 22, 2013

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On 21st June 2013, I gave a talk in London on three books I have written about people with difficult histories. They are :

Slovenia 1945: Death And Survival After World War II
A Foot In Both Camps : A German Past For Better And For Worse
The Budapest House: Traumas Of Eastern Europe (to be published in September)

In all three countries, a catastrophic historical event continues to cause harmful divisions in societies today.

In Slovenia, it was the murder of 13,000 surrendered and disarmed Home Guard soldiers – 2% of the Slovene population – by Communist Partisans after World War II had ended.

For Germans, it was the fatal mistake of bringing Hitler to power, participating in genocide of the Jews and ravaging Europe with a World War.

For Hungarians, it was colluding in the dispatch of 500,000 of their Jewish compatriots to Auschwitz.

In all three countries, events confronted people were with finely-balanced moral dilemmas. Their choices had enormous consequences. Germany has accepted guilt and recovered, but in Eastern Europe, the resulting internal conflicts continue to hinder the harmonious development of societies.

Last chance to acquire 100 years of history for less than one penny per year

January 15, 2013

A Foot In Both Camps

Today 15th January 2013 is your last chance to experience 100 years of thrilling history, told through people who went through it, for less than one penny per year if you buy A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE as an ebook.

Special Offer: 99p, $1.99, €1.99. Ends at midnight tonight.

SPECIAL OFFER – A Foot In Both Camps – ebook at only 99p, $1.99, €1.99

December 15, 2012

A Foot In Both Camps

A Foot In Both Camps: A German Past For Better And For Worse, by Marcus Ferrar, is available as an ebook for only               99p, $1.99 and €1.99 in a year-end special offer. Valid until 15 January 2013.

Since launch this summer, the book has enjoyed excellent reviews and feedback. This is what readers have said:

not just good but brilliant
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… one of the best books about Germany
… the perfect introduction for anyone visiting the country for the first time
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… this book is unique … easy-to-read

Also available in paperback. Publisher LBLA digital. ISBN: 978-10908879-08-0


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