Sunrise in Dresden
(Dresden is located in East Germany)
"You guys burnt the place down, turned it into a single column of flame. More people died there in the firestorm, in that one big flame, than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined." --Kurt Vonnegut (American soldier imprisoned in Dresden and witness to the 1945 bombing. Also author of Slaughterhouse Five)
I took off for a 6:30am sunrise run in Dresden and had the above quote burning in my mind. As I cut through the city, springing off the cobblestone, and jetting down to the Elbe River, I could not stop thinking about the death and rubble these streets endured.
The prior day I went on a guided tour of the city and got a taste of the holocaust over Dresden. In 1945, Dresden was known as the Florence of the North. It did not posses any military value during WWII since it did not hold one single military unit. Instead, it was a cultural center and an asylum for refugees fleeing the Red Army.
British and US Allies felt that bombing this cultural mecca would break the German morale. And so on the eve of Valentine's Day 1945, more than 700,000 phosphorus bombs were dropped on 1.2 million people - one bomb for every 2 people. An inferno tornado was created with the hundreds of smaller flames joining into one vast conflagration. The city was levelled, leaving tens of thousands of charred corpses.
Mind boggled by the devastation I picked up my cadence - a bridge was in sight. Midway across the bridge I paused and looked over the hushed city of Dresden. You could see new steeples and domes, but much of the cityscape was colored with cranes and machinery. Sixty-two years later, and the city was still rebuilding. The final nail into a new building was another nail into the coffin of their past. It was as if ever steeple erected was piercing the bomber plane that took it down.
The past is a living memory in Dresden. The city is multi-colored - different shades of charred black fitted with fresh white. The city has been built out of the rubble and elevated with new pride.
With the final back stretch of my run, I was breathing deep, inhaling the scourched smells and exhaling a clean fresh breathe. I broke through the finishing tape at the Frauenkirche. After a cool down lap around this famous church, I layed down on the ground and looked up; the dome was reflecting the morning's rays, awakening the city of Dresden.