FIVE DAYS OF SOLEMN DRESDEN HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE
This is a series of reports by Michael Hoffman, to be issued one per day from February 8 through February 13, 2020 - updated 2023
78TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MASS MURDER OF 125,000 GERMAN MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND REFUGEES FLEEING STALINIST RUSSIA, FEBRUARY 13 AND 14, 1945
DAY THREE: FEBRUARY 10, 2023
We are here (below) reprinting excerpts from a transcript of an illuminating discussion, hosted thanks to Britian’s Spectator (subscribe here), between the English polymath A.N. Wilson and journalist Sinclair McKay, the author of a book published this month on the Allied bombing of Dresden, which is being touted as the alpha and omega of archival research on the subject: The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945.
The complete conversation between McKay and Wilson is online at this link: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2020/02/did-britain-commit-a-war-crime-in-dresden-a-conversation/
We have placed our review of McKay’s assertions first, rather than as an afterword. The transcript of his talk with Wilson immediately follows Mr. Hoffman's review.
Dresden Holocaust Denial
Sinclair McKay Conforms to the Lipstadt Liturgy
By Michael Hoffman
In the course of their talk, the reader encounters Mr. Wilson’s largely accurate assessment of the Dresden mass murder and his angst in the face of the honors which the war criminals responsible have received. Not so with Mr. McKay, who breathes new life into the old script that appears whenever the study of German civilian victims of the Allies is undertaken.
The killing of Judaic civilians by the Nazis is almost always and everywhere presented by establishment academics and the media as utter evil without parallel, without possibility of modification or revision, and with no feasible diminution of its moral repugnance and iniquity (such diminution constituting a sacrilege). There is something different at work, however, when the study of Germans murdered by the Allies is undertaken.
In the case of the German victims it is almost inevitable that ambiguity and moral shades of gray will be applied to their murder and the perpetrators. Mr. McKay does not depart from this unvaried formula. For example, while it is a criminal offense in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and many other countries to reduce the figure of Six Million Judaic victims of Hitler to considerably less than that gematria, Mr. McKay takes the 100,000 to 125,000 victims of Churchill and Roosevelt in Dresden, and reduces them to 25,000. This is in keeping with the fixed minimalist liturgy of the sacerdotal dogma of relative Allied benevolence. (Don’t violate it if you wish to retain your job or reputation).
The purveyors of this benevolence legend, which is a pillar of the theology of “the Good War,” are determined to crush any moral equivalence between Auschwitz and Dresden (and the other incinerated German civilian centers).
All conforming academics and journalists follow the script put forth by Debroah Lipstadt, high priestess of the approved liturgy. They deny the actual casualty figure for Dresden by decreasing the numbers to the lowest regions of reductio ad absurdum.
Lipstadt’s rubrics were first established fifteen years ago in her essay in the New York Zionist newspaper Forward (February 18, 2005). In it she cites three different casualty ranges for Dresden which she deems acceptable: 25,000-40,000; 30,000, and 20,000 to 30,000.
And Prof. Lipstadt lays down her law: “...the bombing was not a unique and senseless crime against an innocent city...in order to thwart (the) attempt to engage in immoral equivalencies, those who do care about historical accuracy must abandon the exaggerated mythology of the bombing of Dresden.”
One is in awe in the face of Lipstadt’s lèse-majesté — the royal prerogative which this monarch of academia possesses, in light of the realization that no one in the West who values their good name or career would dare write, “Those who do care about historical accuracy must abandon the exaggerated mythology of the gassings of Auschwitz.” It is the Lipstadts of the world, and they alone, who have the power to not only deny the holocaust in Dresden, but also to callously dismiss the slaughter of the thousands of German innocents, as an “exaggerated mythology"— and this in the name of "caring about historical accuracy."
Mr. McKay does indeed care, and in just the way proclaimed by Prof. Lipstadt. He subserviently engages in additional holocaust denial by attempting to provide some justification for the mass murder of the innocents in Dresden, by suggesting that they were not so innocent, or rather that their city was not so innocent as has been claimed.
By a process of faintly insinuating collective guilt, we logically draw the conclusion from his insinuation, that the thousands of children burned alive, should have known better than to have resided in Dresden. You see, Churchill and Roosevelt were’t so bad after all. They were only personifications of those shades of moral gray.
McKay will surely take issue with our assertion, so let’s explain how he goes about this. He does so by suggesting that Dresden was not a city of “no military value.” As reviewer Dr. Barry Clayton writes, “McKay is of the opinion that despite the horrendous casualties caused by the firestorm that engulfed Dresden, the raid and indeed the whole campaign was justified in military terms.”
McKay himself relates to A.N. Wilson, “Dresden did have military significance...(was) devoted to war work...”
At this juncture, we put to Mr. McKay a question: are you expecting us to believe that because Washington D.C. was far more than just “devoted to war work”—that it was in fact a vital center of the Allied war effort —that it would have been “somewhat understandable” and “not entirely without justification,” if the Nazi Luftwaffe had set the American capital on fire, from one end to the other, and let the devil sort out the guilty from the innocent in the charred ruins—as Satan surely did in Dresden?
We have difficulty envisioning Sinclair McKay offering so much as a scintilla—much less a shade —of gray, in any scenario that countenanced burning alive the civilian population of Washington. Such a holocaust would no doubt be viewed as totally evil. Meanwhile, he hints at certain (albeit limited) justifications, (though certainly qualified), for the Allied bombing of Dresden. In this way the usual Talmudic hierarchy of victimhood is maintained: while completely innocent Judaics were killed by unreservedly demonic Nazis, for Dresden McKay makes the case that the unfortunate German inhabitants, compromised by the Nazi leadership, were very reluctantly killed, only for practical purposes, by a conscience-stricken Winston Churchill who, poor chap, was compelled by necessity, to implement a necessarily utilitarian war-time measure.
By the preceding exculpatory prestidigitation, Churchill and Roosevelt’s holocaust in Dresden is transformed into an unpropitious military attack that occurred in the course of a cruel war, and while all decent people should be saddened by the tragic outcome, still, other considerations make it less clear that it was indeed a holocaust, or a war crime, or even an unambiguously evil act, when we evaluate the ramifications of the complexities of war, and the nuances of military policy.
These are the disgraceful alibis which excuse-maker McKay offers for what was, in Dresden, February 13-14, 1945, clearly, by dictionary definition, an unconscionable holocaust (and for that matter in Lübeck, Hamburg, Pforzheim, Hanover, Darmstadt, Koeln, etc.).
The offense of Mr. McKay’s whitewash is compounded by his admission in his interview with A.N. Wilson, that the British fire-bombed the German city of Lübeck when it “had no military significance whatsoever.” Since that is a fact of history, how can it possibly be the case that Winston Churchill is not a war criminal for having ordered the mass murder of thousands of civilians in Lübeck?
Then there is the sordid spectacle of McKay’s prolonged excursion in his book though the funerary rites and mourning rituals which the people of Dresden have composed in commemoration. McKay wants it both ways: he sets out to prove that ultimately, the mass murder of the people of Dresden was justified, while he also simperingly displays his sensitive side, and commiserates with survivors and their descendants, by dolefully lingering in the serenaded ashes of their ancestors.
Sinclair McKay’s The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945 is a morally repugnant exercise in hypocrisy and holocaust denial.
From The Spectator
February 8, 2020
In February 1945, the Allies, led by Sir Arthur Harris and Bomber Command, destroyed the historic city of Dresden, killing 25,000, most of them civilians. For the 75th anniversary, Sinclair McKay, author of a recent book on the bombing raid, and A.N. Wilson discuss whether it should be regarded as a ‘war crime.’
SINCLAIR McKAY It was an atrocity. But I hesitate about war crime because war crime is a legal term and not a moral one. It is a legally defined concept.
A.N. WILSON Certainly at one stage of 20th-century history it was a crime to deliberately kill non-combatants and civilians who weren’t in the line of fire for warfare.
McKAY Indeed, but there are then a number of follow-on questions that come with the label war crime. Who would you accuse of having committed this crime? Who would be held most responsible? Who would stand trial at that tribunal?
WILSON One of the greatest columnists that The Spectator ever had was Auberon Waugh, who would say what a pity it was in 1945 when they had the Nuremberg Trials not to have put Churchill on trial and to have hanged him for this and the bombing of the other German cities.
McKAY Well, the other point that I was going to bring up about the term ‘war crime’ is that the people in Dresden feel uncomfortable that there was so much focus on their city and not other German cities that were bombarded horrifically as well. Every-where from Hamburg to Lübeck, from Essen to Hanover to Cologne, Magdeburg…
WILSON In Hamburg there were pregnant women running along on fire, getting into the canal which was on fire. The whole place was an inferno. Harris started with Lübeck and he chose that…
McKAY He chose it in 1942 as a sort of laboratory for bombing. Lübeck had no military significance whatsoever. Harris wanted to know if it was possible to create a firestorm. He had very little time, rather like the Luftwaffe actually, for normal bombs and explosives. They wanted to create fire, that oldest, most terrible impulse of all…
WILSON There is this conversation that W.G. Sebald quotes at the end of his book (On the Natural History of Destruction) in which he says the Germans are right to look at what the RAF and the US Air Force did in Germany but they must always remember what the ambitions of their leader were during the second world war. He quotes this conversation that took place in 1940 over the supper table in which Hitler says precisely what you’ve just said Harris said: ‘We don’t want ordinary bombardment, we must drop incendiary bombs.’ Göring had looked at a map of London and realized that 200 years ago, as he inaccurately said, there was the Great Fire of London, and London is so narrowly built that you could actually destroy the great capital of the British Empire in a couple of days with incendiary bombs. So that was their ambition. That doesn’t make our ambition better or worse.
McKAY No, it doesn’t. Yet at the same time, for the Allies, the concern is to make the global crisis stop. What is the most effective way to make the enemy stop? We’re putting the focus on Harris and Bomber Command but it’s not just him, it’s Archibald Sinclair, it’s Charles Portal…
WILSON Charles Portal is among those who would have been on trial —if it was a trial of justice at Nuremberg then those people would all have been on trial.
McKAY But would they though?
WILSON I don’t know if they would all have been hanged, but they would definitely have been on trial. Harris came up with the classic Nuremberg defense for himself when this accusation was made against him, he was only obeying orders. He was obeying the will of Churchill and Portal.
McKAY It has been argued by another historian that if we are looking for the people responsible specifically for the bombing of Dresden, you might as well put Clement Attlee in the dock as well, because he sat on the committee that approved Dresden as one of the targets.
WILSON And also, while we’re at it, one has to remember the habits of mind. If you talked to anybody who was old enough to have lived through the last year of the second world war, most people were honest enough to say that when the bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, they felt simple relief that the whole thing was now going to be over. Perfectly humane decent people in the West thought that. Likewise, the Harris argument that if you just reduced the German cities to ash and destroyed the German spirit this would hasten the end of the whole war, that was very widely believed in Britain.
McKAY It was called ‘morale bombing’ for exactly that reason. You see some kind of switch flipping in 1941. Bomber Command has been carrying out raids, they have all been wildly ineffective and inaccurate. But there comes a point where Churchill’s very singular scientific adviser, Lord Cherwell, came up with the phrase ‘de-housing’. That is so chillingly and starkly cynical, the idea that all we have to do is simply de-house the populace and then their morale will go and then they will collapse like ninepins. Harris comes in on a wave of that. It’s not that he creates this new psychopathic belligerence. And then we had the bombing of Lübeck in 1942 and then we have the day’s long bombing of Hamburg in 1943 in which some 37,000 people died.
WILSON All civilians, nearly all.
McKAY It’s a figure that’s just too great to comprehend in any meaningful way. In that we see again this terrifying firestorm rising up into the sky, the very elements themselves being bent and twisted, the air turning inside out, lungs being scorched, organs being scrambled. It was altogether too terrible to contemplate.
WILSON You might say nobody should fly a Lancaster bomber over Germany and drop these terrible things without knowing what they were doing, but one of the things you bring out in the book is how the young boys, some of them little more than teenagers, who were doing these things — four out of five of whom were going to die — didn’t actually know what they were doing to any large extent. There had been a tremendous dislocation of awareness because the bombers flew so high up.
McKAY Those who were dropping the bombs were 10,000 or 13,000 feet high.
WILSON They were consistently lied to. They were told that there had been intelligence coming from the Soviets that the Germans were getting military supplies passed from the centre of Dresden and that was why it was right even to bomb the Altstadt, the beautiful historical centre of Dresden, and that was just a complete lie.
McKAY No, actually that wasn’t. Dresden did have military significance, it may not have been very much military significance, but it did have it. There was German troop movement going through Dresden and it was a very busy railway hub as well. On top of that, all the factories in the city which ringed the Altstadt, they were quite close in, they weren’t out in the suburbs. All these factories were devoted to war work, they were producing technical components, they were producing ammunition.
WILSON Was that known?
McKAY Yes, it had been known since about 1942/3. There had been intelligence, there were maps of Dresden before 1945 showing the city as ringed zones and it shows where they think the main factories were.
WILSON But it’s not justification for fire-bombing tens of thousands of citizens.
McKAY No, but here’s the other point I was going to make: obviously that is not a justification, but in terms again of military value, February 1945 was not the last time that Dresden was bombed. The Americans returned in March and in April. Now if anyone is saying this is a war crime because the town had no military significance, they have to then ask why did the Americans return to bomb it again? It wasn’t out of bloodlust or revenge or retribution, it was simply because they were targeting those railway marshaling yards and those factories. They were doing what they could to help the Red Army smash through. Also, I doubt it would have occurred to Harris, even in his most bloodlust-filled states, that they would have killed 25,000 -people in one night...
I was very interested in the bomber crews. When you read their diaries you see that they weren’t cruel, they weren’t sadistic, they were intelligent, sensitive young men. You wouldn’t begin to say that any of those crews were war criminals: the bomb aimers, the flight navigators, the engineers.
WILSON No, I wouldn’t say that, of course. But I have known one or two people who flew in Bomber Command. They were kept isolated, even from other members of the RAF, and they didn’t have these conversations such as we’re having. One of them described an incident after the war. They’d landed in Germany and were -having a fag by the side of the road. A public school-educated army officer aged about 25 drove up in a Jeep and looked over and said, ‘Are you in Bomber Command? Are you responsible for all that?’, pointing to some smoldering ruin, and they said ‘Yes, sir’, terribly proud. He said, ‘You bastards!’ and drove off. It was the first inkling they’d ever had that anyone had a different view of bombing the German cities. He said the propaganda talks from Harris were wonderfully inspiring. They believed they were doing the work that we have both been talking about.
There is the whole business, which is a very fascinating one in your book — and indeed in our lives up to this moment — of what do you do with a figure like Harris? There was a lot of questioning over whether he should be honored at all, for example. I remember (in 1992) the Queen Mother, no less, going to St Clement Danes Church and unveiling a statue of Harris. For many people that was a step too far, knowing what we do know now.
McKAY Is it just my imagination or is it (Harris’s statue) perpetually covered in paint?
WILSON I’m sorry it’s not. In fact, I wish I could constantly pour slurry and paint over his head every single day of my life!
McKAY I am fascinated by the psychology of Harris. Going through his private papers, what I found slightly unexpected is that he was so articulate and witty. Part of the enduring fascination of the horror of the story is duality, isn’t it? You see this duality in Arthur Harris, a man who is nicknamed ‘Butcher’ and yet at the same time is capable of finer feeling. Then there is the duality that runs all the way through the city of Dresden too. The horrible fascination of how it was the most cosmopolitan, the most richly beautiful and exquisite in art, and open to all people. How did this fantastically civilized place so swiftly embrace Nazism?
WILSON There is a further deeper thing in your book even than that: namely that there is another person with a divided self, and that’s the reader. We all do have a mixture of feelings, precisely for the reason you said. The archive research you’ve done for the book is absolutely prodigious. You do get a sense of all these actual people, some of them people of prodigious brilliance and talent, and some of them what one could call ordinary people. There they all are and then there’s what’s going to happen to them: the inferno. One thing about the book too, it is a metaphor book. The world had gone mad by 1944/5. That’s what happens if you declare war, the fire gets out of control. We know now, we can’t have any doubts. After the first world war you might have had some doubts, but after the second world war you can’t have any doubts that if you start a war, it gets out of control, like a fire. Look at what Tony Blair did in Iraq, and that was just a small scale. By the end, you’re having schoolboy thoughts: ‘Shouldn’t we really all be pacifists?’ Discuss, answering on one side of the paper only! And your answer might well be: because there is a figure like Hitler and the Nazis, the answer must be no. So the awful question goes on and on.
McKAY The awful question goes on because you then have to sit down and ask yourself, right, you’re faced with Hitler and the Nazis, what is your approach? It has been suggested that Harris had it in his mind to stamp on German civilization because he saw German civilization as the root of Nazism and if he didn’t stamp on it, it would simply start all over again. There is nothing in any record anywhere that suggests that that was remotely the case.
WILSON But gather ten or 20 British people in a room and start talking about this subject and you will find that eight out of ten will feel that there is something about the German soul which is inevitably going to end up with Hitler. In my view this is obvious twaddle.
McKAY And very much in my view too. Freeman Dyson, the physicist, told this fascinating story about a post-war cocktail party he went to where the ethics of the bombing war were being discussed, and there was one rather smart lady there who said, ‘Obviously we had to bomb the babies, it was important to bomb the babies’, and he looked at her with incredulity and she said: ‘Well, in 20 years those babies would have grown up to be Nazis.’
WILSON That is a very good example of what we’re talking about.
McKAY But there is no evidence that Harris had enough idea of the culture to stamp on, I think. He associated Dresden with china and shepherdesses — he wouldn’t have known about the beautiful Baroque architecture. The hope was to wipe out morale and it very clearly did not do any such thing… (End Quote)
Read more at: https://www.spectator.co.uk/
Visit: Spectator.co.uk/DRESDEN to listen to the full discussion between Sinclair McKay and A.N. Wilson on Spectator Radio.
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