The other day I was surprised to discover that the library I work in has an original edition of Walter Weidauer's "Inferno Dresden : Ueber Luegen und Legenden um die Aktion "Donnerschlag" (Inferno Dresden: lies and legends about Operation Thunderclap). It was published in East Berlin in 1965, and is noteworthy for providing a historical perspective of the firebombing of Dresden grounded in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik's "really-existing socialism" (a term that residents of the DDR considered as blackly humorous as did non-residents).
So far I've only read the author's preface and looked through the illustrations. Naturally the illustrations include dead German soldiers outside Moscow in 1941 along with a caption about the fascists freezing to death, and some reproductions of death sentences pronounced by the fascists on sensible deserters from the Wehrmacht. There are even a few illustrations relating to the bombing of Dresden, including the spectacular rebuilding of the city into ugly concrete shitheaps by the happy and industrious socialist citizens of the DDR, with the generous support of their Soviet comrades.
The author is keen to stress that we need to keep the example of Dresden in front of us, as there are forces in the West keen to see a similar bombing campaign against the cities of the DDR, this time using atomic weapons. All I can say is, I wish he'd be more specific about these forces because they sound bloody dangerous. Some time is also spent demolishing Western historians of the raid for the egregious distortions and lies with which they attempt to make the socialist saviours of civilisation from the fascist menace look bad.
So far, my main thought has been that it must have been such an unspeakable prick of a thing to visit the bookshop or library knowing that this kind of old cobblers was going to be characteristic of every single title available. It'd be like a new circle of Hell - those who enjoy reading and didn't do enough to prevent bolsheviks taking over get to be surrounded by huge numbers of books, all of them spouting laughable bolshevik propaganda.
I'm torn between the fact that this book is going to be very high in amusement value, and the fact that its subject matter is the mass murder of tens of thousands of people. To counteract the humour value of the above story, here's Kurt Vonnegut on his experience of the raid. An exerpt:
For “salvage” work, we were divided into small crews, each under a guard. Our ghoulish mission was to search for bodies. It was rich hunting that day and the many thereafter. We started on a small scale – here a leg, there an arm, and an occasional baby – but struck a mother lode before noon.
We cut our way through a basement wall to discover a reeking hash of over 100 human beings. Flame must have swept through before the building’s collapse sealed the exits, because the flesh of those within resembled the texture of prunes. Our job, it was explained, was to wade into the shambles and bring forth the remains. Encouraged by cuffing and guttural abuse, wade in we did. We did exactly that, for the floor was covered with an unsavoury broth from burst water mains and viscera.
A number of victims, not killed outright, had attempted to escape through a narrow emergency exit. At any rate, there were several bodies packed tightly into the passageway. Their leader had made it halfway up the steps before he was buried up to his neck in falling brick and plaster. He was about 15, I think.
It is with some regret that I here besmirch the nobility of our airmen, but, boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children. The shelter I have described and innumerable others like it were filled with them. We had to exhume their bodies and carry them to mass funeral pyres in the parks, so I know.
The funeral pyre technique was abandoned when it became apparent how great was the toll. There was not enough labour to do it nicely, so a man with a flamethrower was sent down instead, and he cremated them where they lay. Burnt alive, suffocated, crushed – men, women, and children indiscriminately killed.
For all the sublimity of the cause for which we fought, we surely created a Belsen of our own. The method was impersonal, but the result was equally cruel and heartless. That, I am afraid, is a sickening truth.