Fear of Frying
Dresden, the Fire and the Darkness, Sinclair McKay, Viking (imprint of Penguin Books), 2020, reviewed by Leslie Jones
“Man is at bottom a savage, horrible beast”, Arthur Schopenhauer
Historian James Holland, a ubiquitous presence on television programmes about World War 2 these days, featured in ‘Lost Home Movies of Nazi Germany’. In the undated footage in question, a group of Jews are being deported from Dresden. Holland confides that he had always considered the city “an innocent place”, bombed needlessly in February 1945. But having watched this amateur film, he reminds us that it was also a rail hub with over 140 factories producing war material. For example, from 1942 the Zeiss Ikon camera plant produced precision instruments and optical technology for the military. It employed slave labour, including Jewish women. In this “hotbed of Nazism”, Holland maintains, the Jews were dealt with as brutally as anywhere in Germany. He acknowledges, however, that the Dresden firestorm was “horrendous”, something of an understatement.
In ‘Greatest Events of World War 2 – Dresden Firestorm’, Holland returned to this contentious subject. He referred to the German air raids on England, notably those on London and Coventry but conceded that in all of these attacks, ‘only’ 40,000 people were killed. Dresden suffered more losses between the 13th and 15th of February. Holland blames the Nazi authorities in Dresden, notably the Gauleiter of Saxony, Martin Mutschmann (‘King Mu’), for failing to build air raid shelters for the civilian population (but not for himself). Continue reading