Noilly Prattle: Dresden

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


checkered pattern of fire blackened
and new stone in the Frauenkirche
fire blackened stone in
columns new stone in cornice
You can't be in Dresden without being reminded of what happened here in February of 1945. You can find before and after photographs (in Wikipedia for example) of the result of the firestorm that occurred in the wake of the aerial bombardment of the city with explosive and incendiary bombs by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force. But the reconstructed buildings reassembled with a mixture of fire blackened stone and new stone are mute testimony, neither in the abstract nor ambiguous, to 1) the unconscionable targeting of civilian populations that are so much the norm in modern warfare and 2) the indomitability of the human spirit rising Phoenix-like from the ashes and debris. I can't imagine how, but it is said that the blackened stones intermingled with new stone have been juxtaposed to match their original positions in the buildings.

extensive square around the
clearly defined fire blackened
and new stone

There is a certain vast sense of missing things in the enormous cobblestone squares in cent-ral Dresden. It's as if large parts of the disappeared city have simply been paved over. (I don't know if the original city had such large squares.) Walking late at night in the cold of mid-winter the streets and squares are eerily lonely and quiet—vast spaces and silent emptiness—seemingly in a ghost town. In the morning light snow is falling and the square around the Frauenkirche is still almost empty. We are walking from our hotel to breakfast in a restaurant across the square and wondering if it is really open or if we will find anyone there. But the ghost town of last night was only an illusion, or maybe a brief mental salute, to the 25,000 or more civilians who went up in the flames of Dresden. The restaurant is open and warm and the buffet excellent, but the snow is falling silently outside on the quiet streets of Dresden.

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