The Dresden Firebombing

Memory and the Politics of Commemorating Destruction

The Dresden Firebombing

The firebombing of Dresden marks the terrible apex of the European bombing war. In just over two days in February 1945, over 1,300 heavy bombers from the RAF and the USAAF dropped nearly 4,000 tonnes of explosives on Dresden's civilian centre. Les mer
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The Dresden Firebombing

The firebombing of Dresden marks the terrible apex of the European bombing war. In just over two days in February 1945, over 1,300 heavy bombers from the RAF and the USAAF dropped nearly 4,000 tonnes of explosives on Dresden's civilian centre. Since the end of World War II, both the death toll and the motivation for the attack have become fierce historical battlegrounds, as German feelings of victimhood complete with those of guilt and loss. The Dresden bombing was used by East Germany as a propaganda tool, and has been re-appropriated by the neo-Nazi far right. Meanwhile the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche- the city's sumptuous eighteenth-century church destroyed in the raid-became central to German identity, while in London, a statue of the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris, has attracted protests. In this book, Tony Joel focuses on the historical battle to re-appropriate Dresden, and on how World War II continues to shape British and German identity today.

INTRODUCTION
The Destruction of Dresden and the Shifting Dynamics of German Victimisation Discourse
Dresden as paradigm of German victimisation and sacrifice
Writing about the Dresden bombing and its aftermath
Conceptual framework and key terms
A mythical taboo
Victimisation discourse in divided Germany
Bombing and victimisation discourse in reunified Germany
Application of concepts

CHAPTER 1
The Western Allies' Strategic Bombing Offensive and Dresden's Transformation from European Kulturstadt to Germany's Opferstadt
Build-up
Watershed
Escalation
Why is Dresden special? Or, why Dresden is special
Wartime reactions
Issues of interpretation: shaping and reflecting controversy
Conclusion

CHAPTER 2
The Fashioning of Dresden's Destruction into a Political Asset: 1946 to the Early 1980s
The Nuremberg interregnum
The 1950s
The 1960s
The 1970s and early 1980s

CHAPTER 3
Dresden's Last Milestone Gedenktag before the Fall of the Wall: 13 February 1985
West German mass-mediation of Dresden as Opferstadt
The party's Gro?kundgebung
The reopening of the Semperoper
The Frauenkirche ruins
Conclusion





CHAPTER 4
Dresden Memory Politics in the Schwebezeit: 1989-90
Kohl, the ruins, and "die Einheit der Nation"
Church over ruins?
Dresden's stateless Gedenktag: 13 February 1990
Conclusion

CHAPTER 5
A British Dimension to Dresden Commemorative Politics: 1992-2000
Homage to a hangman, or misunderstood memorialisation?
Dresden: the awkward but obligatory interlude
Britain responds to the Ruf: the Dresden Trust
The 1995 Gedenktag and a signal of intent
The 2000 Gedenktag and making good on a promise
Conclusion

CHAPTER 6
Dresden as a Memory Battleground: 13 February 2005
The Queen and Dresden: revisiting a theme, but not the city
Depicting Dresden as the "Bomben-Holocaust"
Renewed focus on longstanding controversies
Reconciliation remains a central plank
Making a statement in absentia
Mixed messages and the struggle over commemoration
Conclusion

CONCLUSION
Memory Work-in-Progress: Remembering the Past, Reflecting on the Present and Future

NOTES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Focuses on the historical battle to re-appropriate Dresden, after the terrible bombing of February 1945, and explores how World War II continues to shape British and German identity today.

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