Why did the citizens of Dresden gather in the square before the church on the first night of the allied powers saturation bombing (February 13, 1945)?
Robert M. Doll
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Dear Mr. Doll,
If you are referring to the Altmarkt with its nearby Kreuzkirche, the relative mass gathering there consisted of survivors of the first bombing attack, congregating which such belongings as they were able to recover. A second nocturnal raid followed, this time without an air raid warning, and many of the people gathered in the Altmarkt, aware that there was a large water tank there, sought shelter and protection from the heat in there, only to drown because there were no handholds and they were dragged under the water by other struggling, panicking occupants. According to the Tagesbefehl in its first report on March 22, 1945, 20,204 bodies it had recovered up to that date; 6,865 were found cremated or drowned in the Altmarkt. Some 10,000, however, had been similarly congregating in the Gross Garten (the royal park) with whatever they recovered from the first raid when the unheralded second strike came over, with thousands of more deaths. And thousands of refugees who had come in from the east were living as best they could around the railroad station when it was bombed, again suffering especially during the second strike.
Not everyone necessarily thinks alike, but if you can imagine yourself under such a bombing attack and emerging from it without knowing that more are on the way, ask what you’d do or where you’d go. Maybe that might provide an insight as to the choices made by the desperate Dresdeners.
World History Group
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