Terror v. Terror

 

And so, at the behest of Israel, the U.S. is poised to effect yet another round of regime change, this time in Syria. 

Assad in Syria, Morsi in Egypt, Khadafy in Libya, Saddam in Iraq . . . the list goes on.  Despite the fact that 91% of Walmart shopping American sports fans are against yet another in a long litany of wars, it doesn’t matter one thin dime.  Israel wants regime change and good old Uncle Stooge, with a host of Jewish lobbyists kicking him in the pants, is happy to oblige.

Israel’s menu for Uncle Stooge:

a) first, Syria

b) second, Iran

c) third, Russia

And you actually thought you had a choice, a voice in decisions, didn’t you Americans? We Americans have not had a voice in U.S. foreign policy for decades. With nearly 90% of Americans against war in Europe in 1941, FDR and his Jewish ‘advisers’ worked like beavers to goad the Japanese into attacking, thereby enabling the U.S. to enter the war against Germany via the ‘backdoor.’ You know the rest.   And that has been the pattern ever since. Stage an incident—back then it was Pearl Harbor, today it is poison gas in Syria–and the Jewish media will happily turn that 90% against war into 90% FOR war. No Texas rancher ever herded his cattle with greater ease than the U.S. welfare/warfare state and its Jewish media herd Americans.

The fact is, the corrupt and criminal U.S. government will do exactly as Israel directs, polls or no polls, Trump or no Trump.

Rotten Eggs

Seems there is a growing problem in America with public Easter Egg hunts.  Seems some such events are scrubbed each year.  Seems cheating is the problem. Seems adults, not kids, are the cheaters. . . .

Seems “helicopter parents” (adults who hover over their children and see it as their mission in life to flatten every friggen speed bump that lay in their kids’ path), are so fearful that their precious darlings will not find an egg or two and will thus be so terribly traumatized as a result that it might actually spiral out of control until their kids face a future full of failure as a result—drug addictionism, high school drop outism, living out their miserably failed lives in a van down by the riverism—and all because they didn’t find a fuggin’ Easter Egg. . . .

Anyway, these “adults” are so stressed that their kids might not find some candy during the hunt that they themselves cross the barriers and like ridiculous bird dogs point their kids to the eggs. When one or two idiots cross the ropes, of course, those left behind are disgusted and rightly think, “NOT FAIR!” However, instead of simply allowing these moron parents to publicly display their moronitude under the scornful glare of all, many of the outraged parents join the original morons and cross the ropes to help their own little Baileys, Addisons, Mackenzies, and Emersons.

As I see it, the parents who originally cross the ropes make a really bad decision . . . but for a good reason.  Although they display no more intelligence and maturity than their four- and five-year-olds, no doubt these “grown-ups” knew something of deprivation as children, knew a bit about failure during kidhood, knew the insecure feeling and low self-esteem that only ineptitude, ignorance and inadequacy can deliver . . . and by God, come hell or high water they are now bound and determined that their kids will have it different than they.  Okay, fine.  But who can doubt that their actions are creating a whole new set of problems for their kids?  What these well-meaning, but unthinking, parents forget is that the truly stronger character traits come from BOTH sides of the line, the winning as well as the losing.

And while we are at it, who can doubt that the screaming outbursts and sobbing spectacles witnessed last election night by the Hillary loser loons were a direct consequence of those well-meaning, but clueless, helicopter parents who had flattened every bump and pointed to every Easter Egg in their kids’ lives, lives now locked in a ridiculous and revolting state of perpetual immaturity?

 

***
Killer KlownsA while back, over on Florida’s Kosher Koast, this guy—let’s call him Bart—was just a hankering for a hamburger.  How hungry was Bart for a hamburger?  Well, he apparently was starving to death.  So. . . .

When Bart yelled at the old lady—let’s call her Barb—to whip him up a burger, and make it snappy, Barb told Bart to get off his good-for-nothing lazy ass and fix it himself. Since these were not the words a starving maniac wants to hear, nor were the words spoken in a manner a starving maniac wants them spoken, Bart got off his lazy ass, walked to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, then killed Barb.  With that little matter out of the way, Bart went to work on that hamburger he so ravenously craved.

Once his hamburger hunger had been thoroughly sated, Bart realized he might be in a bit of trouble for severely stabbing Barb to death.  Although the sassy bitch had it coming, unless he thought fast, Bart reasoned, this might prove one expensive hamburger.  And so, the hub tore the hell out of the kitchen, trying to make it look like a burglar had been extremely hungry for a burger as he was looting the place and when Barb had refused to fry him that burger the burglar had gone bonkers.  Bart would tell the cops he had seen it all. They would never guess, right?

In near record time—maybe 30 seconds or less—this case was solved and Bart the mastermind murderer now lays on his lazy ass in jail on a Murder Two rap.  The chow is gratis now, of course, courtesy of the state, but there are, alas, no hamburgers on the prison menu.  Poor fellow.

Bart is 83 and counting.  Bart’s ex-wife, Barb, was, is, and will now always remain, 70-something forever.

Meanwhile. . . .

A Forty-eight-year-old individual—let’s call him Jerrygot into a physical misunderstanding a piece back up at a so-called ”Gentleman’s Club” in Tampa. Since he was bounced out on his head, I reckon old Jer lost the fight. Drunk, stupid, mean, murderous, and above all, mad, when Jerry saw a chap—let’s call him Fred—coming out of an adjoining adult book store a short time later he mistook the steamer for his former fight foe and yelled a curse or two at him (well, he was drunk and the bar was dark).  When Fred fled, Jer jumped into his truck and gave chase up Interstate-4 toward Orlando, determined to get some revenge for his public beat-down. Fred, of course, didn’t have a clue why a maniac was chasing him.

As the terrified Fred pegged in 911 on his cell, Jerry drew alongside and began pointing a pistol out his window.  The 911 call taker answered—“Okay, what’s your beef?  Talk to me”—heard gunfire, then her phone went dead.  Pun intended.

After his little regular-rage which ended in road-rage, Jerry now calls state prison his home and forty-seven forever Fred is winging his way around all those big X-rated porn shops in the sky.

Gentleman’s club? Adult book store? These mother-muckers sound like anything but gentlemen or adults.

Darkie Dystopia

By Taylor McClain

In the summer before my eighth birthday, I sat on my Grandmother’s screen porch, relaxed in the two-toned, metal gliding chair, and read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novella The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I had never heard of the author. The story was inserted into an anthology of science fiction stories titled The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics. I was a member of a science fiction book club and once a month I would receive in the mail one volume of my choice, sometimes a collection and other times a single work by one author. I believe this was the first work of fiction that viscerally bothered me. I could not stop thinking about the implications of the narrative. What was the author trying to tell us? Why did the woman allow herself to fall in love with a grown man and then care for him, as he became an infant? At what age did Benjamin’s caring for the woman as a lover morph into his love for her as his mother? What would society be like where this aging pattern in reverse was the norm?

Before subjecting myself to the torment of Button, I read comic books. My Mother, instead of discarding them in the trash when I had read the latest Captain Marvel, Archie, Aquaman, Superman, and others, would place each one into a brown kraft paper grocery bag that she kept on the top shelf of her bedroom closet. I still have those comic books, thanks to my Mother’s obsessive/compulsive behavior, and occasionally I’ll drag them out from my own closet and read one randomly selected. I am always intrigued that the plots and the characters drawn in the cartoons show more about our culture at the time than we might otherwise imagine. I don’t read comic books published today. Instead, I view them in their movie or TV adaptation. But the comics still reveal the truths of people, groups, and culture just as they did when I was young.

The other night I could not sleep, so I turned on the bedroom TV and began watching Netflix’s The Iron Fist. I won’t bore you with the plot, but for those of you old enough to remember the 1970s TV drama Kung Fu starring the weird-to-the-end David Carradine, The Iron Fist is a reimagining of that show. But Carradine’s character, Kwai Chang Caine, was more compelling because he remained faithful to his Shaolin monk teaching despite the many temptations of the American Wild West. He was always harkening back to his dialogues with his blind teacher Master Po during troubling moments:

Master Po—“Vengeance is a water vessel with a hole. It carries nothing but the promise of emptiness.”

Young Caine—“Shall I then repay injury always with kindness?”

Master Po—“Repay injury with justice and forgiveness, but kindness always with kindness.”

The Iron Fist (real name, Danny Rand), on the other hand, upon returning to civilization after being raised in a Himalayan monastery for fifteen years, quickly gives up his moral virginity to the lure of the 51% phallus of a massive technology company.

Danny meets an Asian woman, Colleen Wing, who owns a small Dojo that is financially struggling. But Danny likes her and admires her skills (at stick fighting). He shows up at the Dojo one evening to surprise her with an expensive catered dinner brought in by three white coated waiters who set up a table and folding chairs. However, Colleen has been teaching a private lesson to another woman who is African-American.

Now here comes the teachable moment about culture or rather the difference in “cultures” among people born and reared on the same soil. Anyone who has spent any appreciable time at all with AAs knows that they are “different” from White Americans. It does not matter if you live in Alabama, Illinois, Montana, or wherever—the observed differences are shared among Whites. Sometimes we speak of them by telling a humorous anecdote about an event from school or work. We might then laugh and go our ways knowing that our bias has been confirmed by the other White person who might say, “Yep, that is so true.”

Lest the reader conclude that racial prejudice is rearing its ugly head in my narrative, let me inform that AAs make the same observations about White people, to the extent they can observe, recall, and retell.

So, in episode 5 of the Iron Fist, the waiters leave the Dojo, and Danny, Colleen, and the AA student share an awkward moment. It is made awkward by the student inviting herself to a seat at the banquet table. This behavior is gauche, but perhaps she believes she is protecting Colleen from, hmm, a handsome, virtuous, well-dressed billionaire, who bows to Colleen at every opportunity because she is the Master of the Dojo and is to be accorded respect.

The student chows down while asking prying and personal questions of Danny about his life, which he answers as if he were channeling his spiritual Zen Master of the Himalayas. Finally, the student has had her fill and are we, the viewer glad so that Danny can now get to the point of his being there, which is to ask Colleen a favor.

This next scene, the one when the student exits stage right is the cultural tableau. After watching this scene, I called five of my friends, all White, three men and two women, the next day and asked them to watch the six to eight minutes of the catered dinner scene of episode 5. I told each of them that I wanted their reaction to any part that made a light go off in their head, rang a bell, or provided an “Aha” moment. That was it, even when they would ask, “What should I be looking for?” I gave no further instruction.

They all called me back within two-three days, and they all gave the same response in almost the identical wording!

So, what was it? What was in this scene that six White people from different backgrounds, from three different states, with different occupations, observed with no hesitation?

As the scene played out, the AA student slyly smiled, picked up her dinner plate and walked to the makeshift hunt board on which sat several other covered trays of food. Just as we think she is going to throw her plate in the trash can, she turns to Danny, gives him a roguish smile, and asks, “Do you mind?” I wondered what she was going to say or do next, but as the TV series writer scripted it, Danny instantly knew what she was referring to, and he replies, “Oh, no. Go ahead, help yourself.”

The AA student then folds her arms around four of the covered trays and scurries out the door. This is it. The cultural phenomenon that all AAs engage in at picnics, dinner parties, wedding rehearsal dinners, and any gathering where someone else has provided the food. AAs never leave the festivity empty handed. They always treat these occasions as if the host has not only served up a meal for the persons in attendance but also for the AA’s extended family and friends.

This behavior, which Whites view as rude, is engaged in by AAs with nary a second thought. Now if this behavior is typical at AA functions, we might understand that they would practice the same way with no intended perfidy at a gathering hosted by a White person. But as viewed through the lens of white culture, food cost money whether the host prepares the food or has the event catered. So when a person feeds their guests in their home, it can hardly be expected that the invitation carried a subliminal message that the invitee’s family were to be fed later. Thus, Whites have been conditioned to expect this pilfering by AAs, and thus prepare enough food to satisfy the craving of two to three times the number of AAs personally in attendance.

When my friends called me back to say that this was the standard behavior of AAs, each of them related to me stories of their discernment of this at their workplace or elsewhere. One told me that where he worked (a large doctors’ offices), the AA staff kept insulated food containers under their desks should the occasion arise when a vendor might bring the doctors pizza or sandwiches.

Another friend related to me that AAs don’t seem to understand that this is especially vexatious at catered wedding parties where the food and beverages are costly since the caterer counts each plate whether the food is eaten at the party or not. She said that one young girl in her office was getting married for the first time and that she and her fiancé were bearing the expense of the wedding party as the parents could not afford the high-end caterer. She let it be known that the AAs should leave their insulated containers at the office, as no food would be taken away from the party. All the AAs in the office were invited but only a few attended.

Why is it that this behavior of two groups of people, raised in the same country, the same cities, and neighborhoods, has diverged so completely? Is it that some biological imperative, some strange genome sitting on a chromosome, can account for this? Why is it that all Whites act one way and all AAs act in an entirely different way, when it comes to this conduct that if it happened occasionally would be seen as humorously innocuous? But it does not happen occasionally—it is the rule rather than the exception. I wish I knew the answer to this particular comportment that is proven through the shared knowledge—the conventional wisdom—of all White people.

There are many more expressions of this divergent cultural evolution between these two groups. We shall examine some of these shortly.

As I said at the beginning of this discussion, comic books can teach us a lot about our culture and belief systems.

Taylor McClain is a practicing attorney and a University of Alabama alumnus 

Unspeakable

Every month, it seems, yet another movie is released based upon some real or some fanciful event of World War Two. Invariably, like some stylized Greek drama in which the actors all wear the same masks and all chant the same lines, the cast in these propagandistic morality plays are as predictable as the message. . . .

On one side are arrayed the Allies, the good guys; generally, these are the happy-go-lucky gum-chewing Americans who are heroically “fighting for freedom” and are striving to save the world and the folks back in Ohio from slavery. On the other side are the arrogant Germans, the evil Nazis; this is the dark force the world is being saved from, those overbearing monsters who live only to murder, rape, torture, kill, and make lampshades and bars of soap out of defenseless, harmless Jews.

It has now been over 70 years since the conclusion of the so-called “Good War.”  Thousands of books, articles and movies have been devoted to this pivotal period and the supposedly heroic sacrifice of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” Despite the sheer tonnage of material dedicated to the victor’s version of WWII, there has yet to be an honest, accurate and straight-forward retelling of that cataclysmic event and what it really looked like, not merely from the victors’ perspective, but through the eyes of the vanquished, as well.

The following is from my book Hellstorm—The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947. To date, this book remains the only in-depth account of what the end of the war and the beginning of the so-called “peace” looked like from the German perspective.  To this day, what happened to Germany and her people, especially after the war, remains the darkest and best-kept secret in world history. And to this day, what happened to Germany and her people also remains, by far, the greatest and most sadistic crime ever committed in the history of mankind.

***

Since the German invasion of the Soviet Union in September 1941, the fight on the Eastern Front had been little better than a savage war of annihilation. A contest between “European Nationalism” on the one hand, and “International Communism” on the other, would have been a most desperate struggle under any conditions. But then, fighting for his life, Josef Stalin deliberately exacerbated the situation.

Dubious over the loyalty of his armed forces, aware of the massive Russian surrenders during the First World War, the Red premier steadfastly refused to sign the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war or the Hague Treaty regarding land warfare. It was Stalin’s belief that if a soldier had no guarantee of survival in captivity, then he must of necessity fight to the death in battle. Despite such ruthless measures, Soviet troops surrendered by the hundreds of thousands in the first weeks and months of the war. Swamped by the flood of prisoners, strained to adequately clothe, feed and house such numbers, and understandably hesitant to even do so unless the Russians reciprocated, the Germans time and again tried to reach an accord with Stalin. The efforts were flung back with contempt.

“Soviet soldiers do not surrender,” communist officials airily announced. “[A] prisoner captured alive by the enemy [is] ipso facto a traitor…. If they had fulfilled their duty as soldiers to fight to the last they would not have been taken prisoner.”

“Everyone who was taken prisoner, even if they’d been wounded . . . was considered to have ‘surrendered voluntarily to the enemy,’ ” wrote Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, whose own brother was captured and promptly disowned by her father.  “The government thereby washed its hands of millions of its own officers and men . . . and refused to have anything to do with them.”

Hence, growled a disgruntled captain of Russian artillery, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “[Moscow] did not recognize its own soldiers of the day before.”

Not surprisingly, many Red Army men, including General Andrei Vlasov, swiftly turned on their government after capture and became “traitors” not only in name, but in fact, by joining the Germans in their anti-communist crusade.

That the Soviets would treat their own troops in such a deplorable manner bode ill for that German soldier, or Landser, unlucky enough to fall into enemy hands. Although responses varied greatly among Soviet units and some captured Germans were treated as POWs, most were not. During the first glorious days of German victory in 1941, the Red Army’s headlong retreat precluded the likelihood that large numbers of Landsers would be captured. Nevertheless, thousands of unwitting Germans did fall into communist hands and were dispatched on the spot.

On July 1, 1941, near Broniki in the Ukraine, the Soviets captured over 160 Germans, many of them wounded. In the words of Corporal Karl Jager:

After being taken prisoner . . . other comrades and I were forced to undress. . . . We had to surrender all valuable objects including everything we had in our pockets. I saw other comrades stabbed with a bayonet because they were not fast enough. Corporal Kurz had a wounded hand and . . .  could not remove his belt as quickly as desired. He was stabbed from behind at the neck so that the bayonet came out through the throat. A soldier who was severely wounded gave slight signs of life with his hands; he was kicked about and his head was battered with rifle butts. . . . Together with a group of 12 to 15 men I was taken to a spot north of the road. Several of them completely naked. We were about the third group coming from the road. Behind us the Russians commenced the executions . . . panic broke out after the first shots, and I was able to flee.

“My hands were tied up at my back . . . and we were forced to lie down. . . ,” said another victim in the same group. “[A] Russian soldier stabbed me in the chest with his bayonet. Thereupon I turned over. I was then stabbed seven times in the back and I did not move any more. . . . I heard my comrades cry out in pain. Then I passed out.”

In all, 153 bodies were recovered by advancing Germans the following morning. Despite the summary slaughter of their own men at Broniki and elsewhere, Wehrmacht field marshals strictly forbid large-scale reprisals. One group which could expect no mercy from the Germans was the communist commissars who traveled with Red Army units. Composed “almost exclusively” of Jews, it was these fanatical political officers, many Germans felt, who were responsible for the massacres and mutilations of captured comrades. Explained one witness, Lieutenant Hans Woltersdorf of the elite SS:

One of our antitank gun crews had defended itself down to the last cartridge, really down to the last cartridge. Over thirty dead Russians lay before their positions. They then had to surrender. While still alive they had their genitals cut off, their eyes poked out, and their bellies slit open. Russian prisoners to whom we showed this declared that such mutilations took place by order of the commissars. This was the first I had heard of such commissars.

With the threat of torture and execution facing them, many idealistic German soldiers had an added impetus to fight to the death. In the minds of most Landsers, the war in the east was not a contest against the Russian or Slavic race in particular, but a crusade against communism. In the years following World War I, Marxist revolutionaries had nearly toppled the German government. Because most of the leaders were Jews, and because Lenin, Trotsky, and many other Russian revolutionaries were Jewish, the threat to Nazi Germany and Europe seemed clear. Hence, from Adolf Hitler down to the lowliest Landser, the fight in the east became a holy war against “Jewish Bolshevism.”

“The poor, unhappy Russian people,” said one shocked German soldier as he moved further into the Soviet Union. “Its distress is unspeakable and its misery heart-rending.”

“When you see what the Jew has brought about here in Russia, only then can you begin to understand why the Fuhrer began this struggle against Judaism,” another stunned Landser wrote, expressing a sentiment shared by many comrades. “What sort of misfortunes would have been visited upon our Fatherland, if this bestial people had gotten the upper hand?”

Following the devastating German defeat at Stalingrad in 1943, the “upper hand” did indeed pass to the enemy. Supplied by the US with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of goods, from tanks and planes to boots and butter, the resurgent Red Army assumed the offensive.

As the heretofore invincible Wehrmacht began its long, slow withdrawal west, a drama as vast and savage as the steppe itself unfolded, the likes of which the modern world had never witnessed. In dozens of major battles, in thousands of forgotten skirmishes, a primeval contest was waged wherein victory meant life and defeat meant death.

***

Overwhelmingly outnumbered in men and materiel, especially the dreaded tank, for young German recruits sent to fill depleted ranks there was no subtle transition from peace to war on the Eastern Front—they simply stepped straight from the train or truck into the inferno. Likewise, the step from boy to man could, and often did, come within a matter of moments once the recruit reached the lines. Guy Sajer’s youth ended abruptly one day when his convoy was ambushed.

Anybody hit?” one of the noncoms called out. “Let’s get going then. . . .” Nervously, I pulled open the door [of the truck]. Inside, I saw a man I shall never forget, a man sitting normally on the seat, whose lower face had been reduced to a bloody pulp.

“Ernst?” I asked in a choking voice. “Ernst!” I threw myself at him. . . . I looked frantically for some features on that horrible face. His coat was covered with blood. . . . His teeth were mixed with fragments of bone, and through the gore I could see the muscles of his face contracting. In a state of near shock, I tried to put the dressing somewhere on that cavernous wound. . . . Crying like a small boy, I pushed my friend to the other end of the seat, holding him in my arms. . . . Two eyes opened, brilliant with anguish, and looked at me from his ruined face.

In the cab of a . . . truck, somewhere in the vastness of the Russian hinterland, a man and an adolescent were caught in a desperate struggle. The man struggled with death, and the adolescent struggled with despair. . . . I felt that something had hardened in my spirit forever.

“The first group of T34’s crashed through the undergrowth,” another terrified replacement recalled when Russian tanks suddenly shattered his once peaceful world.

I heard my officer shout to me to take the right hand machine. . . . All that I had learned in the training school suddenly came flooding back and gave me confidence. . . . It had been planned that we should allow the first group of T-34’s to roll over us. . . . The grenade had a safety cap which had to be unscrewed to reach the rip-cord. My fingers were trembling as I unscrewed the cap . . . [and] climbed out of the trench. . . . Crouching low I started towards the monster, pulled the detonating cord, and prepared to fix the charge. I had now nine seconds before the grenade exploded and then I noticed, to my horror, that the outside of the tank was covered in concrete. . . . My bomb could not stick on such a surface. . . . The tank suddenly spun on its right track, turned so that it pointed straight at me and moved forward as if to run over me.

I flung myself backwards and fell straight into a partly dug slit trench and so shallow that I was only just below the surface of the ground. Luckily I had fallen face upwards and was still holding tight in my hand the sizzling hand grenade. As the tank rolled over me there was a sudden and total blackness. . . . The shallow earth walls of the trench began to collapse. As the belly of the monster passed over me I reached up instinctively as if to push it away and . . . stuck the charge on the smooth, unpasted metal. . . . Barely had the tank passed over me than there was a loud explosion. . . . I was alive and the Russians were dead. I was trembling in every limb.

Another Landser who found truth facing Russian tanks was eighteen-year-old Guy Sajer. Armed with single-shot “Panzerfausts,” a shoulder-held anti-armor weapon, Sajer and five comrades cowered in a shallow hole. “Our fear reached grandiose proportions, and urine poured down our legs,” admitted the young soldier. “Our fear was so great that we lost all thought of controlling ourselves.”

Three tanks were moving toward us. If they rolled over the mound which protected us, the war would end for us in less than a minute. I [raised] my first Panzerfaust, and my hand, stiff with fear, [was] on the firing button.

As they rolled toward us, the earth against which my body was pressed transmitted their vibrations, while my nerves, tightened to the breaking point, seemed to shrill with an ear-splitting whistle. . . . I could see the reflected yellow lights on the front of the tank, and then everything disappeared in the flash of light which I had released, and which burned my face. . . . To the side, other flashes of light battered at my eyes, which jerked open convulsively wide, although there was nothing to see. Everything was simultaneously luminous and blurred. Then a second tank in the middle distance was outlined by a glow of flame. . . .

We could hear the noise of a third tank. . . . It had accelerated, and was no more than thirty yards from us, when I grabbed my last Panzerfaust. One of my comrades had already fired, and I was temporarily blinded. I stiffened my powers of vision and regained my sight to see a multitude of rollers caked with mud churning past . . . five or six yards from us. An inhuman cry of terror rose from our helpless throats.

The tank withdrew into the noise of battle, and finally disappeared in a volcanic eruption which lifted it from the ground in a thick cloud of smoke. Our wildly staring eyes tried to fix on something solid, but could find nothing except smoke and flame. As there were no more tanks, our madness thrust us from our refuge, toward the fire whose brilliance tortured our eyes. The noise of the tanks was growing fainter. The Russians were backing away.

After pulling wounded from the burning tanks, Sajer collapsed in a heap. As the young Landser and his exhausted comrades well knew, however, the respite would be brief: “They would undoubtedly reappear in greater numbers, with the support of planes or artillery, and our despairing frenzy would count for nothing.”

Sajer was correct. In yet another contest between man and machine, the soldier and his companions could only watch in helpless horror as the steel monsters overran a gun emplacement.

Our cries of distress were mingled with the screams of the two machine gunners and then the shouts of revenge from the Russian tank crew as it drove over the hole, grinding the remains of the two gunners into that hateful soil. . . . The treads worked over the hole for a long time, and the Russian crew kept shouting, “Kaputt, Soldat Germanski! Kaputt!”

Many scenes from the East Front, like the above, seemed scripted in hell. After a hastily organized force of mechanics, bakers and cooks had beat back one enemy assault, a group of Landsers, including Hans Woltersdorf, crept up to a damaged Russian tank. “The men looked into the tank,” the lieutenant remembered, “and they were near vomiting, so they didn’t look further but instead went away, embarrassed. A headless torso, bloody flesh, and intestines were sticking to the walls.”

Several soldiers did succeed in pulling an injured driver from the wreck. “He lay there, wearing a distinguished award for bravery,” noted Woltersdorf.

The back of his head was gaping open and bloody brains were pouring out. He was foaming at the mouth and his breath was still rattling, the typical rattle after an injury to the back of the head. You’re dead but your lungs are still puffing….I took his military papers and the award. Later, when it was all over, I would send them to his family and write to them that he had fought bravely to the last for his country . . . he had given his best … they could be proud of him … what does one write at such times?

Terrible in their own right, sights and sounds such as the above were made doubly horrifying by the haunting suspicion that the viewer was gazing down on his own fate. “One always sees oneself sticking to the walls in thousands of pieces like that,” confessed Woltersdorf, “without a head, or being dragged from the tank with a death rattle in one’s throat.”

***

LandsersNationalArchive78Facing cold, robot-like tanks was terrifying enough. When humans became such, the results were devastating. Perhaps the most frightening moment in any Landser’s life came when he first faced the human wave. In a nation so vast that it compassed two continents, men were a resource the Soviets could afford to waste . . . and did. Following a Russian artillery barrage upon his position, Max Simon redeployed surviving soldiers along a ridge.

“Then,” the SS general wrote, “quite a long distance from our positions there were lines of brown uniformed men tramping forward. The first of these crossed a small river and was followed at about 200 meters distance by a second line. Then there rose out of the grass—literally from out of the ground—a third wave, then a fourth and a fifth.”

“To see them, the Ivans, rise up from the ground and just stand there, thousands of them, was really frightening,” said another who faced the human wave. “They would stand there, within range . . . silent, withdrawn and not heeding those who fell around them. Then they would move off, the first three lines marching towards us.”

Returning to General Simon:

The lines of men stretched to the right and left of our regimental front over-lapping it completely and the whole mass of Russian troops came tramping solidly and relentlessly forward. It was an unbelievable sight, a machine gunner’s dream. … At 600 metres we opened fire and whole sections of the first wave just vanished leaving here and there an odd survivor still walking stolidly forward. It was uncanny, unbelievable, inhuman. No soldier of ours would have continued to advance alone. The second wave had also taken losses but closed up towards the center, round and across the bodies of their comrades who had fallen with the first wave. Then, as if on a signal, the lines of men began running forward. As they advanced there was a low rumbling “Hoooooraaay.”

“The sound of that bellowing challenge was enough to freeze the blood,” admitted one trembling Landser. “Just the sound alone terrified the new recruits.”

Again, Max Simon:

The first three waves had been destroyed by our fire, but not all of the men in them had been killed. Some who dropped were snipers who worked their way forward through the grass to open fire upon our officers and machine gun posts. The rush of the fourth wave came on more slowly for the men had to pick their way through a great carpet of bodies and as the Soviets moved towards us some of our men, forgetful of the danger, stood on the parapets of their slit trenches to fire at the oncoming Russians. The machine guns became hot from continual firing and there were frequent stoppages to change barrels….

The great mass of the Soviet troops was now storming up the slope towards us but our fire was too great and they broke. About an hour later a further five lines of men came on in a second assault. The numbers of the enemy seemed endless and the new waves of men advanced across their own dead without hesitation…. The Ivans kept up their attacks for three days and sometimes even during the night. Suddenly they stopped and withdrew.

While the slaughter of thousands in such suicidal assaults seemed senseless, the results were not altogether one-sided. The psychological wounds inflicted on the Germans were, as Gen. Simon acknowledged, perhaps an even greater blow than the physical havoc wrought on the Russians. “The number, duration and fury of those attacks had exhausted us… ,” confessed Simon. “If the Soviets could waste men on our small move, and there was no doubt that these men had been sacrificed, how often, we asked ourselves, would they attack and in what numbers if the objective was really a supremely important one?”

The carnage following battles such as the above was truly horrific. Although most recruits soon became hardened after two or three similar encounters, no soldier ever became complacent about war. The battlefield had many grim faces and no two were alike. Surprisingly, some of the most shattering moments in a Landser’s life concerned the dreadful impact war had on horses, thousands of which served both armies. Harald Henry remembered vividly one animal in particular, lying by the wayside:

It reared, someone gave it a mercy shot, it sprang up again, another fired…. [T]he horse still fought for its life, many shots. But the rifle shots did not quickly finish off the dying eyes of the horse…. Everywhere horses. Ripped apart by shells, their eyes bulging out from empty red sockets…. That is just almost worse than the torn-away faces of the men, of the burnt, half-charred corpses.

After just experiencing what he imagined was all the horror one battle had to give, Lieutenant Friedrich Haag noticed a “beautiful white horse grazing by a ditch.”

An artillery shell … had torn away his right foreleg. He grazed peacefully but at the same time slowly and in unspeakable grief swayed his bloody stump of a leg to and fro….I don’t know if I can accurately describe the horror of this sight. . . . I said then . . . to one of my men: “Finish that horse off!” Then the soldier, who just ten minutes before had been in a hard fight, replied: “I haven’t got the heart for it, Herr Lieutenant.” Such experiences are more distressing than all the “turmoil of battle” and the personal danger.

Although massed human assaults and tank battles were dramatic, earth-shaking events, surviving German soldiers could normally expect a welcome, if brief, respite between contests. Not so with the ever-lurking partisan war. For that Landser behind the front who dropped his guard, the result could mean instant death … or worse. “When German soldiers were captured by guerrillas, they were often abominably treated,” one Wehrmacht general recounted. “[I]t was not unusual for the Soviets to torture their prisoners and then hang them up, sometimes with their genitals stuffed in their mouths.” Other Landsers were released, then sent staggering down roads toward their comrades, naked, bloody, eyes gouged from sockets, castrated.

Unable to deal decisively with the civilian-clad irregulars, German reprisals against the surrounding communities were swift, grim and arbitrary.

“A partisan group blew up our vehicles,” recorded one private, “[and]. . . shot the agricultural administrator and a corporal assigned to him in their quarters…. Early yesterday morning 40 men were shot on the edge of the city. . . . Naturally there were a number of innocent people who had to give up their lives…. One didn’t waste a lot of time on this and just shot the ones who happened to be around.”

As with commissars, “no quarter” was the standard fate of guerrillas who fell into German hands. Wrote a witness:

Businesslike, the men of the field police emerge and tie with oft-practiced skill seven nooses on the balcony railing and then disappear behind the door of the dark room…. The first human package, tied up, is carried outside. The limbs are tightly bound …a cloth covers his face. The hemp neckband is placed around his neck, hands are tied tight, he is put on the balustrade and the blindfold is removed from his eyes. For an instant you see glaring eyeballs, like those of an escaped horse, then wearily he closes his eyelids, almost relaxed, never to open them again. He now slides slowly downward, his weight pulls the noose tight, his muscles begin their hopeless battle. The body works mightily, twitches, and within the fetters a bit of life struggles to its end. It’s quick; one after the other are brought out, put on the railing…. Each one bears a placard on his chest proclaiming his crime…. Sometimes one of them sticks out his tongue as if in unconscious mockery and immoderate amounts of spittle drip down on the street.

***

As the Wehrmacht was pressed inexorably west, the daily attrition was staggering. Repeated Russian attacks opened gaps in German ranks simply too great to be filled. Outnumbered sometimes ten to one, each Landser was thus expected to fight as ten if they were to survive. Many did. After beating back waves of Soviets with only a handful of men, Leopold von Thadden-Trieglaff refused to abandon his tiny section of line. Holding on throughout the night, the surrounded squad again fought furiously the following dawn.

“[A] hail of fire rained on us, from right, from left,” recorded the young soldier in his journal. “In a few minutes our bunker was full of wounded and I struggled to quiet the poor fellows. . . . Screams and groans, and singing. I had to strain every nerve in order to remain as calm as before.”

Finally, a German counterattack broke through and rescued the survivors, ending “the most terrible night and the hardest battle of my life. . . ,” wrote Thadden-Trieglaff. “As I returned to my command post in the village I gaped at the dead comrades. I was so shaken that I almost cried. . . . When might this hideous defensive struggle come to an end?”

For the heroic twenty-year-old, that end came the following day when he was killed.

As the crushing attrition ground the German Army into the Russian mud, the turnover rate from death and wounds was tremendous. Green recruits often found themselves within months, even weeks, the oldest veterans in their unit.

“I noticed that it was particularly in the first few days that newcomers were most likely to get killed,” observed Jan Montyn (below).

Jan Montyn (Courtesy of Jan Montyn)Gert was one of those newcomers. He was sixteen….I saw in his eyes, behind his round spectacles, the same bewilderment that I had felt myself when I was finding my way around that first day—almost a month ago now. His legs were trembling, he kept blinking. He had never held a real gun in his hands before. And I felt that he would not be with us for long. “You have to think carefully about everything you do,” I told him. “You must not allow anything to become a habit. On the other side there are snipers on the look-out day and night. If you as much as strike a match, you are finished. They notice every regularity in your behavior. When you have to scoop out a trench, don’t throw the earth over the side in the same place twice. . . . Gert nodded. He would remember. But less than two hours later I heard a cry. He had climbed out of the trench. He had been hit with his trousers down. In ten paces I was with him, and pulled him back into the trench by his legs. Oh, you idiot! Did I have to say that …? There was a big hole in his groin. I pulled a roll of substitute bandage out of my breast pocket. But the poor quality paper was drenched within a few seconds. I tried to close the wound by pressing on it with my thumbs, begging and praying that someone might come along. I dared not call; that might provoke mortar fire. Gert lay panting, his mouth half open. He did not seem to feel any pain. For God’s sake let someone come. No one came. The blood that gushed through my fingers mingled with the mud. And Gert no longer moved.

Added to the trauma of watching comrades die one by one, was concern for the safety of loved ones at home. Unlike Allied soldiers, whose words from home brought comfort and cheer, for the German Landser a letter from a loved one was merely one more burden to bear. Penned Martin Poppel in his diary:

My wife wrote to me: “Today we are worn out after this terrible hail of bombs. To be hearing the howling of these things all the time, waiting for death at any moment, in a dark cellar, unable to see. . . . Everything gone. . . .”  

No, here at the front we musn’t think about it…. We understood the feelings of the people at home, suffered with them and feared for our loved ones who had to bear terror bombing.

“A few days ago,” scribbled a tormented sergeant, “I found out that just at the same time as we dreamed of home, the rubble was smoking in my home city of Mannheim. What a bitter irony.”

“These pigs . . . think they can soften us up in that way. But that is a mistake, a mistake,” growled another sergeant. “Ah, if only the Fuhrer would send a pair of … divisions to England. They would deal a death dance that would give the devil himself the creeps. Oh, I have a rage, a wild hatred.”

Despite official orders against killing prisoners, the unofficial reality was often quite different. Living without hope, dealing with death on a daily basis, aware of the fate their loved ones at home were facing, as well as their own should they be captured, many crazed, brutalized individuals could not be restrained.

“A prolonged and penetrating cry rose from the hole on my left…,” Guy Sajer noted after one desperate fight. “Then there was a cry for help.”

We arrived at the edge of a foxhole, where a Russian, who had just thrown down his revolver, was holding his hands in the air. At the bottom of the hole, two men were fighting. One of them, a Russian, was waving a large cutlass, holding a man from our group pinned beneath him. Two of us covered the Russian who had raised his hands, while a young [corporal] jumped into the hole and struck the other Russian a blow on the back of his neck with a trenching tool. . . . The German who had been under him . . . ran up to ground level. He was covered with blood, brandishing the Russian knife with one hand … while with the other he tried to stop the flow of blood pouring from his wound.

Where is he?” he shouted in a fury. “Where’s the other one?” In a few bounding steps he reached the … prisoner.

Before anyone could do anything, he had run his knife into the belly of the petrified Russian.

Following three days of frenzied fighting, Sajer and his sleepless comrades finally snapped.

Sometimes one or two prisoners might emerge from their hideout with their hands in the air, and each time the same tragedy repeated itself. Kraus killed four of them on the lieutenant’s orders; the Sudeten two; Group 17, nine. Young Lindberg, who had been in a state of panic ever since the beginning of the offensive, and who had been either weeping in terror or laughing in hope, took Kraus’s machine gun and shoved two Bolsheviks into a shell hole. The two wretched victims … kept imploring his mercy…. But Lindberg, in a paroxysm of uncontrollable rage, kept firing until they were quiet.

We were mad with harassment and exhaustion. . . . We were forbidden to take prisoners…. We knew that the Russians didn’t take any … [that] it was either them or us, which is why my friend Hals and I threw grenades . . . at some Russians who were trying to wave a white flag.

Nevertheless, amid the insane upheaval of combat, the same soldier who might one moment murder helpless prisoners could the next risk his own life to pull men from burning enemy tanks. Hans Woltersdorf stood for one eternal instant, his machine-gun trained on several Russians he had surprised, the last flicker of humanity struggling mightily against all the dark forces of his past.

“Do I shoot or not? ” the lieutenant asked himself, as the terrified prisoners begged for mercy. “They got up. . . , stumbled backwards a few steps more to the fir thicket, turned round, put their hands down and ran like the devil…. Did I try to shoot? Did my machine gun really fail to function, as I claimed later?”

Very often, death was the highest act of kindness one could show an enemy. “On Tuesday I knocked out two T-34’s… ,” one Landser wrote. “Afterward I drove past the smoking remains. From the hatch there hung a body, head down, his feet caught, and his legs burning up to his knees. The body was alive, the mouth moaning. He must have suffered terrible pain. And there was no possibility of freeing him…. I shot him, and as I did it, the tears ran down my cheeks. Now I have been crying for three nights about a dead Russian tank driver.”

“From time to time one of us would emerge from torpor and scream,” admitted Guy Sajer. “These screams were entirely involuntary: we couldn’t stop them. They were produced by our exhaustion. . . . Some laughed as they howled; others prayed. Men who could pray could hope.” Sajer continues:

We felt like lost souls who had forgotten that men are made for something else . . . that love can sometimes occur, that the earth can be productive and used for something other than burying the dead. We were madmen, gesturing and moving without thought or hope…. Lindberg … had collapsed into a kind of stupor…. The Sudeten … had begun to tremble . . . and to vomit uncontrollably. Madness had invaded our group, and was gaining ground rapidly….I saw … Hals leap to his machine gun and fire at the sky….I also saw the [sergeant] … beat the ground with his clenched fist…. [I] shout[ed] curses and obscenities at the sky…. After hours and then days of danger … one collapses into unbearable madness, and a crisis of nerves is only the beginning. Finally, one vomits and collapses, entirely brutalized and inert, as if death had already won.

 “[We were] the dead or the dead to be,” stated one Landser simply.

***

As the East Front moved steadily west, the struggle became even more desperate. By the winter of 1944, the Red Army had finally driven the invaders from Russian soil and was pressing them through Poland. Although enormous losses had melted away much German manpower, and although the odds remained overwhelmingly in the Soviets’ favor, the Red Army suffered grievously as well. For every German casualty on the field of battle, there were four Russians. Many Soviet units had been reduced to a mere 50% of their original strength. Consequently, Red ranks were increasingly filled by troops from far eastern provinces. “This is not the Red Army,” spit one Russian officer. “The Red Army perished on the battlefields in 1941 and 1942. These are the hordes of Asia.”

In addition to Asians, Soviet officials called up a motley reserve— boys as young as thirteen, women, cripples, even convicts. “We opened up our penitentiaries and stuck everybody into the army,” Stalin admitted. If possible, these raw levies were thrown away with more criminal disregard than ever. Wrote a German soldier:

It does not matter that these conscripts are untrained, that many are without boots of any kind and that most of them have no arms. Prisoners whom we took told us that those without weapons are expected to take up those from the fallen. …I saw … attacks which were preceded by solid blocks of people marching shoulder to shoulder across the minefields which we had laid. Civilians and Army punishment battalions alike advanced like automata, their ranks broken only when a mine exploded killing and wounding those around it. The people seemed never to flinch nor to quail and we noticed that some who fell were then shot by a smaller wave of commissars or officers who followed very closely behind.

“This was not war anymore,” a Landser who witnessed the massacres confided. “It was murder.”

Of all the horrors the East Front could inflict—human waves, Red crewmen bolted inside burning tanks, murder of prisoners, partisan atrocities—the facet most frightening to the average Landser was undoubtedly “Ivan” himself.

“The Russian infantryman . . . always defended himself to the last gasp. . . ,” remembered Gen. Max Simon. “[E]ven crews in burning tanks kept up fire for as long as there was breath in their bodies. Wounded or unconscious men reached for their weapons as soon as they regained consciousness.”

Added another German soldier, Erich Dwinger:

Among the prisoners waiting to be ferried back across the river were wounded, many of whom had been badly burnt by flame-throwers. . . . Their faces had no longer any recognizable human features but were simply swollen lumps of meat. One of them also had had his lower jaw torn away by a bullet and this wound he had bandaged roughly. Through the rags his windpipe, laid bare, was visible and the effort it made as his breath snorted through it. Another soldier had been hit by five bullets and his right shoulder and his whole arm was a ragged mass of flesh. He had no bandages and the blood oozed from his wounds as if from a row of tubes….

Not one of them was moaning as they sat there in the grass. . . . Why did they not moan? But this was not the most tragic picture of that day. . . . [S]ome of our soldiers brought out barrels of margarine and loaves of Russian bread. They began their distribution more than thirty metres distant from the place where the badly wounded were lying and these rose up, yes, even the dying rose up quickly and in an inexpressible stream of suffering hurried toward the distribution point. The man without a jaw swayed as he stood up, the man with the five bullet wounds raised himself by his good arm . . . and those with burned faces ran … but this was not all; a half dozen men who had been lying on the ground also went forward pressing back into their bodies with their left hands the intestines which had burst through the gaping wounds in their stomach wall. Their right hands were extended in gestures of supplication. . . . [A]s they moved down each left behind a broad smear of blood upon the grass . . . and not one of them cried … none moaned.

As Dwinger makes implicit, such scenes left a profound impression on thousands of Landsers. The almost unearthly stoicism of the Russian, his fatalism, his willingness to suffer and die in silence, was bewildering to German soldiers. To some, it was as if the harsh climate and crushing conditions of communism had molded a man in which normal human emotions were no longer important.

“It’s not people we’re fighting against here,” one Landser burst out, “but simply animals.”

Perhaps. And yet, as deep as their differences undoubtedly were, there were also similarities, some as elemental and ancient as the earth itself. On December 24, 1944, a strange, seemingly impossible understanding was reached by the deadly foes in which each side promised to stop hating the other “from four o’clock in the afternoon until six o’clock the following morning.”

“An unreal silence fell,” recalled Jan Montyn.

Hesitantly, we crawled out into the open. We on our side. They on theirs. Step by step we approached one another, almost timidly. And the enemy, of whom we had seen nothing until then but the vague movement of a helmet or the barrel of a gun, suddenly turned out to be boys like ourselves. They too were dressed in rags, they too were starving, ill, filthy.

We met in the middle of no-man’s land. We shook hands, exchanged names and cigarettes. They tried out their few words of German, we our Russian. We laughed at one another’s accents. Merry Christmas. We made big bonfires, shared out our Christmas rations….

When we withdrew, after midnight, each to his own side, the fires in no-man’s land were still glowing. For several hours the silence lasted. Then firing broke out. Was it heavier than the day before? Not at all. But there were more casualties than ever. The break, however brief, had broken the resistance of many of us.

Obviously, by the winter of 1944, German soldiers on the East Front were well aware that all their sacrifices during three years of war had been for naught; defeat was inevitable. Close as victory had once been, by invading the Soviet Union tiny Germany had unleashed a force of almost unlimited resources; a colossus spanning much of the globe. To continue the struggle against such a giant was hopeless. And yet, many German soldiers, especially those of the elite SS, were determined to fight to the death, or, as one private wrote, “to sell our skins as dearly as possible.” Explained an observer:

Even the last soldier was aware that the war was lost. He was aiming to survive, and the only sense he could see was to protect the front in the East to save as many refugees as possible. . . . [H]e was hoping for a political solution for ending the war…. but … the demand for unconditional surrender left in the light of self-respect no alternative but to continue the hopeless fighting.

As was the case during the Christmas truce, when “Fritz” looked into the face of “Ivan” the White Russian, or “Popov” the Ukrainian, he generally saw himself reflected. Not so the inscrutable Mongolians and other Asiatic “slit eyes” that usually followed just behind the front. In their faces the German saw something ferocious and frightening and something not seen in Europe since the days of Ghengis Khan. Lurking in the back of every Landser’s mind, especially after the horror at Nemmersdorf, was the nightmare should this new “yellow peril” reach the Reich to run loose among the cities, towns and farms of Germany, among wives, sweethearts, sisters, and mothers.

Trial By Ambush

By Taylor McClain

As a lawyer, I am often asked by a friend or acquaintance about the “Miranda” decision. What they are really asking is “Don’t you think it’s unfair to coddle these criminals, especially murderers, with all these ‘rights’ that some smart (translation: “crooked”) trial lawyer will use to get the punk off on a technicality?”

So, one day I decided to write a short narrative that explained if not defended, the rationale for the Miranda decision that I could hand out, now email, to anyone who inquires about this subject. I call it “trial by ambush’ because that is what all lawyers, prosecutors and defense lawyers, called the tactic.

A grievous example of “trial by ambush” was revealed in the prosecution of nineteen-year-old Harry Solberg for the murder of homemaker Dorothy Thompsen in Litchfield County, Connecticut, on June 15, 1965. The case pitted one renowned Connecticut State investigator, Major Harry Rome, who famously had never lost a case, against a team of local investigators led by ambitious Lieutenant Cleveland Fuessenich.

Rome, who conducted the initial investigation, focused on the decedent’s mother-in-law, sixty-four-year-old Agnes Thompsen, who was living in an apartment on the second floor of the Thompsen home. Her son Arnfen and his wife Dorothy occupied the first floor. Agnes previously was institutionalized in the Connecticut Valley Hospital for paranoid schizophrenia.

On the day of the murder, Agnes’ first words to her son Arnfen upon his return home from work was, “Is she dead yet?”

Arnfin returned Agnes to the hospital the next day.

Rome knew that Agnes was insane and could never be well enough to stand trial for the killing assuming she did it. His task was to try to establish events or thing Agnes knew which would coordinate with the evidence found at the scene of the murder. He was not trying to get a confession from her to be used in court—he was trying to solve a murder for which there might never be a criminal prosecution.

There were plenty of items found at the grisly murder scene that Rome could use to establish Agnes’ familiarity with the event. The attack against her was ferocious. Dorothy had been stabbed in the neck and back multiple times with a meat fork, bashed in the head with a sledgehammer then with a heavy rock, strangled with an electrical cord (though she was probably already dead by this time), dragged through her kitchen and flung off the porch balcony where, because of the electrical cord catching on a rail, she hung until the cord broke.

Rome’s methods of interrogation were theatrical. He even had a fellow police officer pretend to act as Agnes’ legal counsel. The judicial system would not countenance such stark bravado in the politically correct world of today. This was 1965, however, and the famous Harry Rome was heading the investigation. All the questioning took place in the presence of the hospital’s doctors and nurses with the understanding that the hospital staff could halt the bizarre tableau at any time they felt it was detrimental to Agnes’ mental health.

When the questioning was over, Rome was satisfied that Agnes was the killer. She simply knew too much about the crime; had too many details. When his critics, and there were many, decried his methods and questioned the dependability of the verbal ejaculations of a deranged mind, Rome instantiated that, “Even from an insane mind you can get details that can be corroborated. She can’t dream these things up. No matter what inducement you offer, she cannot tell you what she doesn’t know.”

But nine months later, Harry Solberg, mentally slow and ill-educated, was accused of the murder by Fuessenich’s team. If Rome’s investigation was a theatrical farce, then Fuessenich’s was a legal travesty. Over a three-day period, Solberg was ruthlessly questioned, lied to about the evidence supposedly arrayed against him, denied access to his parents, refused legal counsel, given a bogus polygraph examination, and never warned of his Miranda rights even though the investigation focused squarely on him; no one else was even considered as a suspect.

Solberg consistently denied any involvement in the killing and wrote out in his own hand the events as he recalled them on the day of the murder.

On my ride back from Granby I stopped into their house to see if my report information he (author’s note- ‘Arvin’) had gotten for me was there. I went inside because the front door was open and the baby was crying. I was going to leave a note, but no one answered. I walked into the kitchen and I saw blood on the floor and I saw it in the living room, too. Then I saw her, Dotty, out on the ground because the blood went that way. I tried to help her but she was too full of fight so I grabbed the latter (author’s note- ‘letter’) and ran through the house and got out. I was work with my father. This is all I can remember except for the letter. [signed] Harry Solberg.”

Solberg wrote this letter on March 14, 1966, at 8:27 p.m.

But on March 15, 1966, at 12:13 a.m., Solberg, after being tirelessly (some might argue ruthlessly) examined by Lieutenant Fuessenich, answered a series of questions to which he mostly responded “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember.” Here is a portion of that question and answer session.

Q. Why are you here, Harry?

A. Because I am accused of killing Dottie Thompsen.

Q. Did you?

A. Do I have to answer that, right now?

Q. Don’t you want to answer it, right now?

A. No. I killed her. That’s what you want.

Q. Is that the truth?

A. That’s my answer.

Q. Is that the truth?

A. That’s my answer.

Q. Is that the truth?

A. I can only give you my answer.

Q. What is your answer?

A. I killed her.

The state’s attorney, Thomas Wall, who nursed a grudge against Major Rome, used the March 15 statement to reopen the investigation and indict Harry Solberg for capital murder. Astoundingly, Wall never reviewed Rome’s investigative file and never consulted Rome about the case.

Not so surprisingly, as it was the days of trial by ambush, was that the March 14 handwritten letter of Solberg in which he denied any participation in the murder was concealed by Wall from Solberg’s lawyers! Instead, Wall used Solberg’s March 15 forced confession to seek the death penalty for an innocent man.

Luckily, for Solberg, the jury could not reach a verdict at the first trial. In June 1966, the Supreme Court handed down its famous Miranda decision. At the second trial, begun in January 1967, a different trial judge threw out the forced confession based upon the police not reading Solberg his Miranda rights. Wall finally gave up his “Police Inspector Javert” pursuit of Solberg.

Such were the typical events in every jurisdiction of trial by ambush.

Taylor McClain is a practicing attorney and an alumnus of the University of Alabama

 

A POLITICALLY INCORRECT MARDI GRAS

By Taylor McClain

Last Tuesday marked the end of the Mardi Gras season and the beginning of the Lenten season. For those of you non-Catholics and non-Mardi Gras celebrants, Lent lasts forty-six days and marks a period of austerity and frugality, and is generally a period of fasting of at least one food or drink.

Mardi Gras is the time of joy and celebration—and much inebriation. During the last few years, many cities have begun their own parades, emulating Mobile and New Orleans in that respect. There is one parade however, that is distinct and can only be viewed in Mobile—the Comic Cowboys parade. It is not the colorful spectacle associated with other parades—the floats are quite drab—nor is it that the “Queen” of the organization is a male (see here) member in drag (only men comprise the organization); rather it is the large wooden signs affixed to the floats on which are written very funny, witty, ribald, and often scatological one or two sentence barbs.

The signs are most often directed at local politicians, but a few are well-aimed and hit the bullseye of state and national figures. This year, the most commonly lampooned targets were Alabama Republican Governor Bentley and President Donald Trump. Bentley was prominently featured because of his alleged extra-marital affair and divorce woes. And Trump—well, because he’s Donald Trump.

Up until this year, everyone who was targeted by this misogynistic, homophobic, racist, feminist-baiting, union bashing, un-politically correct, federal government trashing, gaggle of boozehounds looked askance and the next day all was forgiven. After all, it is Ash Wednesday.

That is until this year.

It seems that the ‘Boys’ signage crossed over the PC line when a City Councilperson was the object of a well-slung arrow that took aim at his trip to Africa. The sign did not question the purpose of his trip, be it personal vacation time, personal business matters, or City of Mobile taxpayer funded recruitment of—what, the importation of Dashikis or to foster a “sister city” relationship? None of these. It was their reference to the robbery and shooting of the Councilmember, whose name is C. J. Small, and who happens to be Black, while he was there.

In case you were not aware, the City of Mobile is populated by 50% African Americans and has a very high rate of violent crime. Some might argue that the violent crime statistics of Mobile match that of similar-sized African towns or townships, or whatever they call an aggregation of Blacks on that continent.

And with that as context, the sign admonished Mr. Small that it would have been cheaper for him to stay in Mobile and taken a bullet from one of the Saturday night specials possessed by a member of one of the many local gang members. The sign didn’t mention that Small was Black but most everyone in Mobile knows this. See here. There was also a sign on a different float that hit two separate targets with one arrow. It read that the President’s “outreach’ program to Africa was similar to his campaign slogan but slightly more nuanced to read, “Make America Mo’ Great Again.” You can interpret this one, however, you will, but it is telling that both Whites and Blacks signified it the same way—the dire education of Blacks in both Mobile and America. And, finally, there was the stone the ‘Boys threw at the controversial, hate mongering organization, Black Lives Matter. That sign announced that the Black Lives Matter group demand justice, but “They’ll Settle for Big Screen TVs.”

Okay, so that is one send up of Blacks generally, one well-placed spear chunked in the foot of a local politician, and one critique of a racist trolling tribe that has no doubt heard this before. But no matter—all hell broke loose in Mobile.

A City Council meeting was convened the following week at which there was much preening, virtue signaling, gnashing of pearly whites, and lamentations that were probably heard all the way back to Pretoria. The Mayor and a White councilmember doxed themselves, expressed umbrage in their best “look at me carrying the cross” manner, and resigned their membership in the ‘Boys.

Paula Deen could not have been more proud if the two of them had been her own sons.

Mayor Stimpson said . . .

“And even though to some, what they’re trying to do may be humorous, to others it’s very hurtful. And so, as the mayor, I can’t afford to be associated with an association that is being divisive, so I tendered my resignation.”

In other words . . .

“I’m up for reelection this year, and I need the Black vote.”

There are several noteworthy items here. First, Mr. Small’s comment that the sign about him implied that Mobile was overrun with violent crime. That was a “disservice,” he said. But was it? And if so, then who was disserved? The three Canadians who flew into town to snatch candy and plastic cups from the air during the parades? The Councilmembers who moralized that they kept their children home on the day of the ‘Boys’ parade so that they would not be exposed to the material that was “likely” to be unfit for them to read?

I imagine that these same parents are going to keep their children home from school on the day the teacher discusses “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is filled with a vivid description of rape, racial discrimination, violence against children, dirty words, and on and on.

But this is more than just an issue of free speech; it is rapidly devolving into an issue of one’s ability to exercise free will. When the President of the local Mobile County Branch of the NAACP tells the City Council that not only is an apology required from the ‘Boys but also the council should enact a city ordinance, “to eliminate such embarrassing and bad behavior from people like the Comic Cowboys.”

What she and other Blacks want is the iron hand of government to hammer White men into cowering submission so that Blacks will no longer be embarrassed by rednecks behaving like, well, you know, rednecks.

This kind of governmental overreach would be far beyond laws criminalizing speech that is hateful; it is a call to ban behavior that is annoying or bothersome—to Black people. And, Lord knows we certainly don’t want to agitate a Black woman ahead of us in the checkout line at the grocery store when she can’t find her EBT card in her purse.

Small’s attitude seems to imply that his feelings were hurt only because the ‘Boys poked fun at the fact that he was shot, and not because he was shot in Africa. But suppose the shooting had occurred in a white neighborhood in Mobile or while he was traveling in Iceland; would he still be so mortified?

Blacks in Mobile want the right not to be embarrassed by misbehaving White folks, and I can imagine Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court writing a decision opining, “Yep, here it is right here in the Constitution and I found it—the right of persons of color not to be embarrassed by Caucasoids.”

But what of the right of White people not to be bewitched, bothered and bewildered. There were no complaints emanating from Blacks or the Council or the local newspaper about that despite the ‘Boys’ knuckle-dragging cartoons about the White race, especially of the male subspecies. See here.

Or this cartoon of Attorney General Jeff Sessions shown cutting out Klan-style robes for the Supreme Court. See here.

Small took umbrage at the ‘Boys implying that Mobile’s level of violence was high, but what he was really saying was that the sign about him implied that the level of Black violence was high. Perhaps he was correct in his observation, which may be the reason there was, let’s call it, a spontaneous meeting on March 5, 2017, of Black youth at the local mall to discuss this issue and see if a consensus of opinion could be arrived at. See here.

There had been many such spontaneous discussions in recent years at this same mall with no resolution, which may be the reason mall officials issued new guidelines concerning unsupervised teens holding meetings on Friday and Saturday nights. These rules follow similar restrictions implemented last year at local movie theaters after a spontaneous meeting of Black teens where it was alleged that someone had a knife and also alleged that someone else had a gun. Moreover, it was alleged that someone heard gunshots. The four teens with bullet wounds taken to the ER in an ambulance seemed to confirm the allegations.

Theater management announced that in order to provide the public with a more “family friendly” environment has made the theaters “gun free” zones.

I recall when Tipper Gore in 1985 called for a ban on offensive language in music recordings and a warning label on the covers of CDs containing curse words or foul language. In like manner, I suggest that the Comic Cowboys have the lead float in their parade carry a large sign (in English and Spanish) announcing that, “People of color and members of the Snowflake generation should beware—potentially embarrassing or offensive signs to follow.”

Taylor McClain is a practicing attorney and an alumnus of the University of Alabama

 

 

On Men & Arms

Ever heard of John Wesley Powell? He was the man back in 1869 who explored the Colorado River.

Can you imagine what Powell and his nine-man crew must have thought upon entering the Grand Canyon in those little boats on that roiling river? If one can envision the first mission to Mars, one would probably be just about dead-on. Imagine a canyon so vast that there was no earthly standard to go by. It is easy today to see the grand adventure in rafting the Colorado through this colorful chasm because we were brought up on these images via TV, movies, calendars, and tedious home slide shows. But Powell & Co. had no such luxury.  They were the first men on Mars, so to speak. For all these explorers knew there were giant lizards just ahead waiting to gulp them down like popcorn, or a great whirlpool around that next bend which would suck this Jason and his American Argonauts down to China. Bravery has many faces. This grand adventure in the grandest canyon of them all was one of America’s grandest moments.

What Powell did ranks right up there with other famous American explorers, including Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone and John C. Fremont.  But guess what?  Powell did all his exploring with just one arm.  If you imagine that this is no big deal, not so tough, then let me suggest that next time you jump into a swimming pool or climb a cliff that you do so with one arm tied behind your back.  I think pretty quick you will see what I mean.

Does anyone remember “Mr. Merriweather”?  He was that crusty character in the movie, Little Big Man, who showed up bye and bye, but each time he did so he was always short another body part?  An arm here, a leg there, an eye, an ear. . . .

“Hey, Mr. Merriweather,” laughs Jack Crabb as he lays drunk in the mud. “You better watch out or pretty soon there won’t be enough of you to bury.”

Merriweather reminds me of a fellow I ran into during research for my Indian War book, Scalp Dance.

Back in the 1860s, during a prolonged siege by the Sioux against Fort Phil Kearny in Wyoming Territory, soldiers mysteriously began turning up drunk. When officers investigated they found, just beyond sight of the fort, a mule cart containing two barrels of “rank poison.” Tending this portable saloon was a tough-looking customer, 50 or 60 years of age, who also sported a peg leg. Hundreds of miles of wilderness . . . the prairie alive with hostile Indians . . . alone and encumbered by a wooden leg . . . and yet this wily old pirate somehow managed to not only survive, but make a living.

For the fellow above, for Mr. Merriweather, for Major Powell, for tens of thousands of others who had lost limbs in the American Civil War, there were no handicap parking stalls, no ramps at the mall and no rails at the library to aid them; it was a life in which you either sank or you swam. Surprisingly, many not only “swam,” many also conquered.

WHAT FAKE NEWS CAN YOU BELIEVE?

by Taylor McClain


On Saturday, March 4, 2017, a British newspaper, The Guardian, reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was, in the 1980s a “Gun for Hire” during his tenure as the U.S Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The newspaper alleges that Sessions used his power to “target Democrats” at the behest of Republican Party politicians. The article goes on to say that Sessions worked from a “hit list” of names of Democratic Party politicians and officials indicting one after another for corruption.

The article uses phrases like “Sessions had no direct evidence” in most of the cases, “a flimsy, weak case,” “remarkably thin prosecution cases,” “he went after political enemies,” “he’s an ideologue,” and “the evidence…was far from clear cut.”

Also, the article points to Sessions’ prosecution of Mobile County Commissioner Lambert Mims on corruption charges arising out of “obscure four-year-old negotiations” over the contract for a waste recycling plant, as curious since the indictment arose after a prominent Republican announced that he, in addition to Mims, was running for Mayor. But one might ask about the relevance of The Guardian’s rehashing of thirty-five-year-old claims against Sessions especially since Sessions has already been confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General. This is more than curious.

Yet, the article does not mention that Sessions was just the prosecutor and not the jury that convicted the Republican Party defendants. And if all the pejorative phrases the article levels against Sessions were true, then how did Sessions’ office achieve a solid 98% conviction rate during his term as the U.S. Attorney?

Jeff Sessions has to be one of the most investigated and background-checked people in Washington, D.C. and in 1986 an independent Justice Department investigation into the same claims made by The Guardian confirmed that the charges against Sessions were “utterly without foundation.”

So, what dog does The Guardian, a British tabloid, have in this hunt?

On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, The Guardian ran a piece that boldly announced . . .

“Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source.”

For those of you who are not anglophiles, both The Guardian and the Daily Mail are British newspapers, which have U.S. editions online. Both compete for the same eyeballs in the U.S. For the Daily Mail to be tarred and feathered as a news source that is not dependable because of poor fact checking and sensationalistic by the prestigious online encyclopedia Wikipedia, would certainly be a kick down the ladder for the conservative Daily Mail and by derivation a step up for the liberal The Guardian.

Or would it?

Noteworthy is that the Wikipedia editors have asked for volunteers to review about 12,000 links to the Daily Mail already on Wikipedia and replace them with alternative sources wherever possible. And what alternative sources are there? Hmmm…The Guardian perhaps.

So, this all begs the question of the reliability of both The Guardian and Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is administered by volunteers of content editors who are tasked with fact-checking the articles since anyone can post anything on the site. But the decision to ban the Mail — the only major news outlet on the face of the Earth to be so censored — was supported by a mere 53 of its editors or 0.00018 percent of the site’s 30 million total, plus five ‘administrators.’

Banned as source material by many universities, Wikipedia’s reputation for carrying fake news has seen it claim (among other things) that Robbie Williams eats domestic pets, that the Greek philosopher Plato was a Hawaiian surfer who discovered Florida, and that the TV news presenter Jon Snow has been patron of the British Conifer Society. (For the record, Mr. Snow himself has said: ‘I hate conifers, and I’m not the society’s patron.’)

It seems as though Wikipedia is now aggressively recruiting colleges to shore up their reputation. And, “Today, educators are among those more concerned than ever with standards of truth and evidence and with the lightning-fast spread of misinformation online.” Do you believe this assertion? According to National Public Radio, it is true and on February 22, 2017, published an article in the NPREd online site that praised Wikipedia for giving professors the technical assistance they need to assign students, instead of writing a research paper, to write a brand-new Wikipedia entry, or expand an existing entry, on any topic in virtually any discipline.

This spring, 7,500 students are expected to participate—lots of opportunities for social justice warriors to expand their reach. And with the recent announcement of a 10-year, $100 million “permanent safekeeping” endowment, Wikipedia has the wherewithal to replenish its corps of unpaid volunteers with generous contributions to professors and colleges. What a great deal—the students continue to rack up tuition debt and their college fills its coffers by offering them as debt serfs to Wikipedia.

Sweet.

But I digress—back to the fake news. So, while climate science deniers on both sides of the Atlantic are working in concert to whip up a media storm to spread doubt and misinformation amongst the public about climate science, Leftist publications like The Guardian and TLE are, in concert with Wikipedia, diligently enlightening us with the whole truth.

Right.

For those of you who missed the story. climate change eccentric William Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. “Fake news” is an old story, used extensively by radical climate alarmists and environmentalists. But when author Lawrence Solomon tried to correct an article in Wikipedia that claimed that Dr. Bennie Peiser, a world renowned climate change skeptic, agreed with climate change scare scientist Naomi Oreskes, he found there was a problem—a big problem:

Of course Oreskes’s conclusions were absurd, and have been widely ridiculed. checked with Peiser, who said he had done no such thing. I then corrected the Wikipedia entry and advised Peiser that I had done so.

Peiser wrote back saying he couldn’t see my corrections on the Wikipedia page. I made the changes again, and this time confirmed that the changes had been saved. But then, in a twinkle, they were gone again. I made other changes. And others. They all disappeared shortly after they were made.”

As noted in the notrickszone.com and by Andy May in WUWT.com, William Connolley and his team tried to show that the global cooling scare of the 1970s was a myth. They also tried to scrub Wikipedia of any mention of the Little Ice Age or the Medieval Warm Period. A perfect example of fake news. They claimed only seven scientific papers of the period discussed global cooling. There are actually 163 papers on the subject, including seven that claim CO2 is causing global cooling not warming and include an article by the CIA. 

Getting back to the Mail censor by Wikipedia, the Mail discovered that the architect of the anonymous ban was a Wikipedia editor who goes by the alias of—are you ready for this—Hillbilly holiday. The Mail reported that “in the modern world, bigoted oddballs who are over-familiar with the internet can wield tremendous power — and this potty-mouthed man is a case in point” who posts obscene images and racist sentiments. According to the Mail, “His Facebook page includes an image of two gay men performing a sex act in public, a photograph of a naked, dark-haired man having oral sex with himself, and a painting that depicts bestiality between a man and a sheep.”

So, what news organization can the public put their faith in for reliable fake news? I’m not necessarily the best judge of these matters, but I find The Onion to consistently be the most reliable source for up to the minute fake news. Just yesterday The Onion reported that Jeff Sessions spit in the face of an FBI interrogator who tried to get him to turn on President Trump. But Sessions told the interrogator . . .  

“I’m not gonna crack, so you G-men can threaten me with whatever the hell you want—you’re just wasting your time. I’ll fucking die before I flip, so you got the balls to kill me?”

However, unhappily, The Onion reported that later, Sessions “had begun to break down and was frantically divulging everything he knew after agents asked him how long he thought he would last on the inside with all the people he had helped put away on marijuana charges over the years.”

Now there is some fake news you can depend on. 

 

Taylor McClain is a practicing attorney and an alumnus of the University of Alabama

Dresden, 1945

(The following is from my book, Hellstorm—The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947.  It describes one of the greatest crimes of World War Two and perhaps the largest one-day massacre ever recorded. )

***

Fashing is an annual German event similar to the Latin celebration of Mardi Gras. On this particular evening of “Shrove Tuesday,” normally staid, reserved Teutons don outlandish costumes, join friends or complete strangers, swarm into bars, restaurants and theaters, then partake for several hours in pointless, yet harmless, merry-making. Because of the exigencies of war, however, the celebration, like most else in the devastated Reich, had been all but abandoned. In only one city did the Fashing tradition continue much in the manner it always had, and on the night of February 13, women and children, along with the few remaining men, flooded its streets to celebrate.

Dresden was truly one of the world’s great cultural treasures. Known as the “Florence on the Elbe,” the ancient showcase in the heart of Saxony was a virtual time-capsule of Gothic architecture and medieval culture. At every turn on every narrow, cobbled street of the old town was an ornate palace, a museum, an art gallery, or a towering, centuries-old cathedral. Like Paris, Rome and Venice, Dresden was both beautiful, romantic and enduring. For decades, the city had been one of the “must stops” for continental travelers, especially those from Britain and America.

Welcome as it was, the fact that a city the size of Dresden had survived when all else was destroyed, mystified some residents and troubled others. Since only two tiny daylight raids had occurred during five years of war, many assumed Dresden’s salvation was due to its reputation as an “art city”; that as a priceless, irreplaceable gem of Western culture even “terror-bombers” lacked hatred sufficient to efface such beauty. Others surmised that since Dresden had almost no heavy industry—and what little it did have had no bearing on the war—the enemy simply did not deem the city a viable target. When skeptics pointed out that many other beautiful German towns with little or no industry had been systematically obliterated, rumors invented new reasons for Dresden’s miraculous survival.

One belief embraced by many stated that an aunt of Churchill’s lived in Dresden. Another hinted that the town was spared because of huge American investments. The fact that Dresden had become a “hospital city” with numerous medical facilities seemed a rational explanation to others. To some, the twenty-six thousand Allied POWs interred in the town appeared a more logical answer. Among many Dresdeners, however, perhaps the greatest explanation as to why their city lived when all else died was that undoubtedly a spark of mercy yet burned in the hearts of British and American flyers. Of all the many names it was known by, nothing better described Dresden in February, 1945, than “refugee city.”

Since the Soviet invasion in January, millions of terrified trekkers, desperate to put as much space between themselves and the Red Army as possible, had fled through Dresden in trains, cars, wagons, or afoot. Hundreds of thousands more, though—injured, wounded, starving, or simply separated from their families—washed up in Dresden like castaways on an island. At the main train station, a city within a city had sprang up wherein thousands of people, many of them lost or orphaned children, lived a semi-permanent existence. A seventeen-year-old Red Cross worker, Eva Beyer, offers a glimpse at the heart-rending agony:

Children were searching for their parents, parents were searching for their children, there was constant calling and asking. A boy of about nine years of age, holding his little four-year-old sister by the hand, asked me for food. When I asked him where his parents were, the boy said to me: “Grandma and grandpa are lying dead in the carriage and Mummy is lost.” The children had no tears any more. . . . In one compartment we found a woman. She had twenty-three children with her, and not one of them was her own. She had buried her own child three weeks ago. Her child had died of cold and tonsillitis. I asked her where all those other children came from, and she told me that all these were children whose parents were lost or dead. “After all, somebody has got to take care of them,” she said. . . . [T]hose children’s faces were not the faces of children any more. They were the faces of people who have gone through hell. Starving, wounded, lice-ridden, in rags. And the most treasured thing they had, security and the love of their parents, they had lost.

As truly appalling as the situation at the railroad station was, conditions were little better in the surrounding city. From a normal population of 600,000, Dresden had swollen by the night of February 13 to perhaps double that figure. Every which way residents turned they found frightened, ragged refugees.

“[E]ach restaurant, cafe, pub, and bar . . . was crammed full of people with suitcases, rucksacks and bundles,” a woman wrote. “You literally fell over these people and their possessions. It was so bad that you did not like to watch it, and it spoiled all the usual happy atmosphere of the Fashing.”

Nevertheless, in spite of the crowds and the fact that the Russians were a mere seventy miles away, thousands of Dresdeners were determined to take to the streets and celebrate what was certain to be the last Fashing of the war.

***

Just before ten p.m. the Dresden sirens sounded. There was no panic. Most residents simply ignored the sounds. Even had there been any public air raid shelters few would have fled to them for there seemed little doubt on this cold, yet cheery night, that like the 171 false alarms that preceded it, this warning too would end in nothing. Instead of the “All Clear” siren, however, seconds later Dresden heard another sound.

“Suddenly,” said one startled woman, “a thundering and roaring which made the whole earth tremble. An earthquake?”

Almost before this lady and others could guess the answer, the black sky above Dresden turned brilliant. Many spectators were dazzled by the colored lights and stared in awe. “It’s getting light, it’s getting light, it’s bright as day outside!” shouted an incredulous friend to young Gotz Bergander who was indoors listening to his radio.

Weary Red Cross worker, Eva Beyer, had just awakened moments earlier and paid a visit to the restroom:

I saw a green light shine through the window. What was this? When I opened the door, I could see what it was. The “Christmas Trees” were in the sky. . . . I went to warn the other people in the building. . . . I ran through the whole house, calling out: “Alarm! Alarm!” and waking everyone up. . . . Another five families lived in this building and together we totaled eleven women, six children, and one man—Kurt, the wounded ex-soldier. Then I went back to the flat and fetched the children from their beds. . . .  [T]hey started to scream because they didn’t know what was happening and there was no time to explain anything to them. We all went down into the cellar and I put just a blanket round each child, because there was no time for anything else. I myself was only in my nightgown, but I didn’t even feel the cold.

At the railroad station, Gisela-Alexandra Moeltgen was standing at the window of an idle train talking to her husband on the platform when the chilling lights showered down.

Many optimists stayed in order to secure a good seat, but I broke the window—it was only made of cardboard—grabbed the handbag in which I carried my jewelry, grabbed my fur, too, and got through the window. The others followed suit. We ran along the completely blacked-out platform in the dark and found that all the barriers were closed. Over the barriers, then! The police wanted us to go into the already overcrowded air raid shelter at the station, but we had only one urge—out, and away from the station!

We ran across the road to the Technical High School where, it was claimed, there was a good cellar. And above us—very low—the planes. Masses of people were already in the cellar when we arrived, and I collapsed then. It was my heart.

I was still very weak and all the running had exhausted me completely. Somebody asked us to move on, further into the crush in the cellar, and we did so.

“Air raid warning!” grumbled an indignant SS officer, Claus von Fehrentheil, as he lay in a military hospital with half his hip shot away. “After all, we understood we were in an open city, world-famous for its art, undefended, declared a ‘hospital town.’ ”

Only after very intensive efforts urging us to shelter, did we concede to go into the cellar. . . . For one thing, we regarded the whole affair as probably a mistake at this time. Then also, a soldier who had been on the Front felt too restricted in a cellar, a place where he could not dodge any threatening dangers. . . . So we stood in the passages and on the staircases outside the air raid shelter.

“Get dressed, get dressed! Quickly, get down to the cellar,” cried nuns in the hospital where twenty-year-old Annemarie Waehmann was a patient. “Bedridden patients were put into push-chairs, and there was nothing but hurrying and rushing about. We had hardly been in the cellar for five minutes when [the bombs fell]. . . . This is the end, we thought. . . . Many screamed in fear, and prayed, and we crept trembling under the beds.”

“All hell broke loose over us so suddenly that no one really had a chance to perceive what was actually going to happen,” recalled Erika Simon, whose parents had only seconds before whisked the little girl and her brother and sister to the cellar. “I remember I had my head in my mother’s lap under a blanket and was putting both hands over my ears in an attempt to blot out the horrific noise.”

As wave after wave of RAF bombers appeared overhead, ton upon ton of bombs tumbled down. “It was as if a huge noisy conveyor belt was rolling over us,” Gotz Bergander thought when he heard the strange, terrifying noise, “a noise punctuated with detonations and tremors.”

Added to the normal payload of high explosives, hundreds of two- and four-ton “Block-busters” slammed into Dresden, effacing entire neighborhoods. Centuries-old cathedrals, palaces, museums, and homes were reduced to rubble in seconds. At the railroad station, those hundreds of individuals on the trains who had refused to leave their coveted seats were blown to bits. At the huge indoor circus, spectators, performers and animals were slaughtered by blast and hissing shrapnel. In the streets, on the sidewalks, atop the bridges over the Elbe, costumed revelers with nowhere to run were slain by the thousands. Without let-up, the massacre continued.

Because Dresden lacked any sort of anti-aircraft weapons, enemy planes were able to fly so low that victims could be seen running through the streets. Despite this, and the fact that night was “as bright as day,” the numerous hospitals were not spared.

“We patients,” Claus von Fehrentheil recalled, “had been reassured that even the smallest hospital had the distinctive red cross on a white background painted on its roof. It seemed to us as the night went on that these served as excellent markers for the bombs of the English.”

Said Annemarie Waehmann from her own hospital: “There was crashing and thundering, whistling and howling. The walls trembled, swayed by the impact of the bombs. This is the end, we thought. . . . Then some of the doctors screamed: ‘Everyone out of the cellar, the whole building is going to collapse!’ I too ran for my life into the next building. . . . Everyone was in such a panic that all we wanted was to save our naked lives.”

Elsewhere, as the bombing rose in fury, horror-struck Dresdeners huddled against the onslaught. “Time and again I gazed at the ceiling, expecting everything to collapse on us,” confessed Margret Freyer from a cellar containing forty-three women. “Somehow I had switched off and was expecting the final catastrophe; it must have been for this reason that I did not join in the weeping and praying of the totally terrified women, but tried to calm them down as best I could.”

“The attack continued and the mood among us reached panic pitch,” remembered Gisela-Alexandra Moeltgen from the crowded high school basement. “Then a shout—‘At once, everyone leave, there is danger of collapse!’ Out through the narrow cellar windows we went, flames whipping down the staircase, the whole building alight. . . . Flames, flames wherever one looked.”

“I can see my father leaning against this wall,” reminisced Erika Simon, “and I felt that the walls were coming towards us and that my father was trying to stop them from falling down on us.”

“And then,” said the surprised little girl, “suddenly, the noise ceased.”

“There was absolute quiet,” another listener added.

Several minutes later, the welcome silence was broken by the even more welcome sound of the “All Clear” signal. Those who had clocks or watches and thought to look were stunned—what had seemed an all night trial by fire had actually occurred in just under half an hour. In those thirty minutes, however, one of the world’s most beautiful treasures had all but vanished. As the people stumbled from their holes they were stunned at the strange sight that greeted them.

“[C]oming out of the cellar was unforgettable,” wrote teenager Gotz Bergander. “[T]he night sky was illuminated with pink and red. The houses were black silhouettes, and a red cloud of smoke hovered over everything…. People ran toward us totally distraught, smeared with ash, and with wet blankets wrapped around their heads. All we heard was, ‘Everything’s gone, everything’s on fire.’ ”

“I saw only burning houses and screaming people . . . ,” added Margret Freyer when she entered the street. “It was frightening—I found myself completely alone, and all I could hear was the roaring of the fires. I could hardly see, due to the flying sparks, the flames and the smoke.”

Those who managed to reach the streets found their way almost entirely blocked by fallen trees, poles, wires, and collapsed buildings.

As the dazed survivors scrambled for safety, fire brigades arrived from outlying communities to battle the blaze. Red Cross workers also appeared and began pulling victims from the rubble.

Meanwhile, at the great city park in the center of town, another type of rescue was in progress. Like everything else in Dresden, the magnificent zoo had been heavily damaged. Remembered Otto Sailer-Jackson, the sixty-year-old zoo inspector:

The elephants gave spine-chilling screams. Their house was still standing but an explosive bomb of terrific force had landed behind it, lifted the dome of the house, turned it around, and put it back again. The heavy iron doors had been completely bent and the huge iron sliding doors which shut off the house from the terraces had been lifted off their hinges. When I and some of the other men . . . managed to break in to the elephant house, we found the stable empty. For a moment we stood helpless, but then the elephants told us where they were by their heart-breaking trumpeting. We rushed out on to the terrace again. The baby cow elephant was lying in the narrow barrier-moat on her back, her legs up to the sky. She had suffered severe stomach injuries and could not move. A cow elephant had been flung clear across the barrier moat and the fence by some terrific blast wave, and just stood there trembling. We had no choice but to leave those animals to their fate for the moment.

In other areas of the zoo, cages had been blown open and frantic animals had escaped to the park. When Sailer-Jackson approached a monkey, the terrified little animal reached to him for help. To the old man’s horror, he saw that the monkey had only bloody stumps for arms. Drawing his pistol, Sailor-Jackson sadly put the poor creature out of its misery.

As rescue work continued into the early morning of February 14, those in Dresden whose homes had escaped the flames began to mechanically sweep the glass and plaster from their beds and floors or fasten cardboard over windows to keep out the returning cold. “My God, the work was pointless!” admitted one woman, “but it calmed their nerves and their conscience.”

***

As shattering as the destruction of their beautiful city had been, no one in the stricken town was emotionally prepared for what came next. At 1:30 a.m., the earth began to shake again.

“[S]omeone yelled, ‘They’re coming back, they’re coming back,’” young Gotz Bergander recalled:

Sure enough, through the general confusion we heard the alarm sirens go off again. The alarm system in the city had ceased to function, but we could hear the sirens from the neighboring villages warning of a second attack. That’s when I was overcome with panic, and I’m also speaking for the rest of my family and those who lived in our house. It was sheer panic! We thought this couldn’t be possible, that they wouldn’t do such a .thing. They wouldn’t drop more bombs on a city that was already an inferno. . . . We rushed into the cellar

Margret Freyer was equally stunned: “[M]y friend and I looked at each other, terrified—surely it wasn’t possible? Are they coming a second time? I just caught the radio announcer’s message: ‘Several bomber units are approaching Dresden.’ The voice of the announcer was anything but steady. I felt sick—so they were coming a second time. Knees shaking, we went down into the cellar.”

Once more, the pathetic patients at Claus von Fehrentheil’s military hospital hobbled, crawled or were carried to shelter below. “From the sound of the engines,” noted the SS officer, “we could hear that this time a very large number of aircraft were taking part, definitely more than in the first wave.”

Yet again, as more than a thousand bombers roared overhead, a veritable rain of death showered down on Dresden. In addition to the usual payload of explosives, the second wave brought thousands of incendiary bombs. “[A] non-stop hail of bombs . . . ,” thought a terrified Margret Freyer. “The walls shook, the ground shook, the light went out and our heavy iron door was forced open by [a] blast. In the cellar now, there were the same scenes as had occurred before . . . a crowd of crying, screaming, or praying women, throwing themselves on top of each other.”

“This was hell, hell itself … ,” said Gisela-Alexandra Moeltgen. “I thought: ‘Surely this will have to stop some time.’ ”

I had the feeling that each individual plane tried to hit our house, because it was not on fire yet but brilliantly lit up by the burning house next to it. The planes flew just across the roofs, or at least, that is what it sounded like. I kept shouting: “Open your mouths!” The sound of the bombs—“bschi-bum, bschi-bum”—came wave after wave. There was no end to it. . . . The house seemed to come crashing down and shook continuously. When the direct hit came, no one noticed it, for the whistling noise of the bombs drowned all other noises. In any case, it was the others who confirmed that the house was on fire. From that moment on I felt a little calmer. My feeling was: “Thank God they have hit it at last and yet we are still alive.”

Unbeknownst to Gisela-Alexandra and thousands more, many of the bombs they heard hitting their homes were phosphorous. While Eva Beyer and the other women and children in her cellar huddled in terror, the wounded ex-soldier, Kurt, disappeared briefly.

Suddenly Kurt was beside me as I crouched. He whispered very quietly into my ear: “We have fire bombs in the coal cellar, come quick and help me throw the things out!” I gathered all my courage and went with him. Three incendiaries lay there, and we managed to throw out two. The third one we could only throw sand over because it had already started to smoke, and then there was supposed to be only thirty seconds before the thing would explode like a firework.

In a matter of minutes, the thousands of fire bombs ignited the debris in Dresden and a racing furnace of flame erupted. Unfamiliar with bombing raids and fire storms, most Dresdeners reacted slowly. Erika Simon and the nuns at a military hospital stood frozen in terror.

So there we were, paralyzed by horror and fear, clinging to the Sister in a corridor amongst the dead, the wounded, and soldiers who had just had their legs amputated and were now lying on stretchers, helpless amongst the chaos. Gruesome . . . [were] the Catholic Sisters constantly saying their prayers, murmur ing over their rosaries. I am sure nobody bothered to save the screaming soldiers.

One patient who had no intention of being broiled alive was the severely wounded officer, Claus von Fehrentheil.

Now I was in the open, no longer surrounded by walls, but by flames instead. . . . No path was recognizable between the buildings, no obvious path of escape, because walls were collapsing and adding to the heaps of rubble. The suction of the flames was . . . strong. . . . Even the pieces of clothing which I had hurriedly picked up and thrown over myself began to smolder. Because of the flying sparks my eyes became useless. I was blind. Small holes must have been burnt into the cornea, which were incredibly painful. They made it impossible for me to open my eyes even briefly, just to see where I was.

Another person determined to escape was Margret Freyer:

Out of here—nothing but out! Three women went up the stairs in front of us, only to come rushing down again, wringing their hands. “We can’t get out of here! Everything outside is burning!” they cried. . . . Then we tried the “Break-through” which had been installed in each cellar, so people could exit from one cellar to the other. But here we met only thick smoke which made it impossible to breathe. So we went upstairs. The back door, which opened on to the back yard and was made partly of glass, was completely on fire. It would have been madness to touch it. And at the front entrance, flames a metre and a half high came licking at short intervals into the hall.

In spite of this, it was clear that we could not stay in the building unless we wanted to suffocate. So we went downstairs again and picked up our suitcases. I put two handfuls of handkerchiefs into a water tub and stuffed them soaking wet into my coat pocket. . . . I made a last attempt to convince everyone in the cellar to leave, because they would suffocate if they did not; but they didn’t want to. And so I left alone. . . .

I stood by the entrance and waited until no flames came licking in, then I quickly slipped through and out into the street.

“[S]omebody screamed: ‘Everyone out of here, the place is on fire!’ ” Maria Rosenberger recalled. “When we arrived upstairs we saw that the street was on fire. . . . Burning curtain material was flying towards us and glowing pieces of wood came flying down on us from above. . . . Now everyone started to make a run for the outskirts in order to reach some open space.”

As with Maria and her companions, once in the streets victims did everything they could to escape the ancient inner city where the fire storm seemed centered. Here, in the heart of old Dresden, temperatures reached upwards of 3,000 degrees. Metal roofs, copper cupolas, glass, even sandstone, liquefied in the furious heat and poured down like lava. A hurricane of smoke, flame and dust roared toward the vortex from all directions as the cold air beyond Dresden was drawn in by the fire ball. Many disoriented victims, especially the thousands of refugees, took wrong turns on strange streets and were swept like feathers into the furnace.

“The whole of Dresden was an inferno,” said one teenage boy. “In the street below people were wandering about helplessly. I saw my aunt there. She had wrapped herself in a damp blanket and, seeing me, called out. . . . The sound of the rising fire-storm strangled her last words. A house wall collapsed with a roar, burying several people in the debris. A thick cloud of dust arose and mingling with the smoke made it impossible for me to see.”

“[I]t was like ‘The Last Days of Pompeii,’ ” remembered Eva Beyer. “People came crawling on their hands and knees, so as to be near the ground and be able to breathe better, but not knowing, as they crawled, whether they were really getting away from the fire-storm or merely heading into other burning areas of the city.”

As he groped blindly through the holocaust, Claus von Fehrentheil well knew he was only seconds from death:

One could forecast what must happen next: the oxygen in the air becomes completely burnt away, so one becomes unconscious and hardly notices that one is burning to death. Blind, I accepted that this must happen. Suddenly, someone touched my shoulder and asked me to come along. He had found a way through the rubble to the outside. And so, holding on to the arm of a comrade, I was led through burning Dresden.

Like von Fehrentheil and his timely guide, others were desperately trying to reach the huge city park or the open spaces along the Elbe River. The trials of twenty-four-year-old Margret Freyer were the trials of many:

Because of flying sparks and the fire-storm I couldn’t see anything at first. . . . no street, only rubble nearly a metre high, glass, girders, stones, craters. I tried to get rid of the sparks by constantly patting them off my coat. It was useless. . . . I took off the coat and dropped it. Next to me a woman was screaming continually: “My den’s burning down, my den’s burning down,” and dancing in the street. As I go on I can still hear her screaming but I don’t see her again. I run, I stumble, anywhere. I don’t even know where I am any more. I’ve lost all sense of direction because all I can see is three steps ahead.

Suddenly I fall into a big hole—a bomb crater, about six metres wide and two metres deep, and I end up down there lying on top of three women. I shake them by their clothes and start to scream at them, telling them that they must get out of here—but they don’t move any more. . . . Quickly, I climbed across the women, pulled my suitcase after me, and crawled on all fours out of the crater. To my left I suddenly see a woman. . . . She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire. It’s only my eyes which take this in; I myself feel nothing. The woman remains lying on the ground, completely still. . . .

[T]here are calls for help and screams from somewhere but all around is one single inferno. I hold another wet handkerchief in front of my mouth, my hands and my face are burning; it feels as if the skin is hanging down in strips. On my right I see a big, burnt-out  shop where lots of people are standing. I join them, but think: “No, I can’t stay here either, this place is completely surrounded by fire.” I leave all these people behind, and stumble on. . . . In front of me is something that might be a street, filled with a hellish rain of sparks which look like enormous rings of fire when they hit the ground. I have no choice. I must go through. I press another wet handkerchief to my mouth and almost get through, but I fall and am convinced that I cannot go on. It’s hot. Hot! My hands are burning like fire. . . .I am past caring, and too weak. . . .

Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then—to my utter horror and amazement—I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground.

I fall then, stumbling over a fallen woman and as I lie right next to her I see how her clothes are burning away. Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: “I don’t want to burn to death— no, no burning—I don’t want to burn!” Once more I fall down and feel that I am not going to be able to get up again, but the fear of being burnt pulls me to my feet. Crawling, stumbling, my last handkerchief pressed to my mouth . . . I do not know how many people I fell over. I knew only one feeling: that I must not burn. . . .

I try once more to get up on my feet, but I can only manage to crawl forward on all fours. I can still feel my body, I know I’m still alive. Suddenly, I’m standing up, but there’s something wrong, everything seems so far away and I can’t hear or see properly any more. . . . I was suffering from lack of oxygen. I must have stumbled forwards roughly ten paces when I all at once inhaled fresh air. There’s a breeze! I take another breath, inhale deeply, and my senses clear.

Through sheer will, some, like Margret, did succeed in reaching safety—but most did not. Standing alone on the far hills outside Dresden, one viewer stared in silent awe at the fiery massacre.

I did not understand what my eyes were seeing. I stood in the darkness, paralyzed, numbed, with my eardrums aching from the hellish uproar. . . . It was simply beyond comprehension, beyond the wildest imagination. It seemed actually unreal….I saw the rising of a flaming sea which . . . inundated the entire city in one huge glowing wave. . . . [T]he entire area was in flames. Huge red and yellow tongues of fire were roaring toward the sky. Streaming, trembling, madly onrushing clouds . . . intermingled with brilliant white, red, and yellow explosions out of which the big bombers seemed to rise like flocks of giant birds.

Without ever having been through a big air raid before, I knew at once that here something quite different was happening.

The view from above was even more compelling. “Dresden was a city with every street etched in fire,” said one RAF navigator.

“At 20,000 feet,” a comrade added, “we could see details in the unearthly blaze that had never been visible before.”

For those planes which ventured down, the view quickly became more personal. “I saw people in the streets,” admitted one crewman. “I saw a dog run across a road—and felt sorry for it.”

“Oh God,” one airman muttered over and over again, “those poor people.”

After half an hour or so, the bombers broke off the attack and banked for home. Equipped with a movie camera, a single aircraft remained to record the drama:

There was a sea of fire covering in my estimation some 40 square miles. The heat striking up from the furnace below could be felt in my cockpit. The sky was vivid in hues of scarlet and white, and the light inside the aircraft was that of an eerie autumn sunset. We were so aghast at the awesome blaze that although alone over the city we flew around in a stand-off position for many minutes before turning for home, quite subdued by our imagination of the horror that must be below. We could still see the glare of the holocaust thirty minutes after leaving.

It was on that dark return flight home, when crewmen had a chance to ponder, that some first came to realize that the war had gone “a step too far.”

“[F]or the first time in many operations,” a Jewish pilot confessed, “I felt sorry for the population below.”

“I was sickened,” echoed a comrade simply.

***

With the merciful departure of the planes, rescue teams soon began inching toward the center of town. “Because of the fire-storm, at first it was possible to give help only at the periphery of the fires,” explained one worker. “I had to look on, helpless, as people who were clinging to iron railings were seized mercilessly by the suction and plucked off into the flames. And not human beings only, but all sorts of things, even prams, were seized by this force and sucked into the sea of fire.”

When the inferno finally abated later that morning, rescuers and relatives entered the still flaming city to search for survivors.

What we saw . . . was indescribable, horrible. Thick smoke everywhere. As we climbed with great effort over large pieces of walls and roofs which had collapsed and fallen into the street, we could hear behind us, beside us, and in front of us, burnt ruins collapsing with dull crashes. The nearer we came to the town center, the worse it became. It looked like a crater landscape, and then we saw the dead.

“Dead, dead, dead everywhere,” gasped Margret Freyer as she stumbled through the ruins.

Some completely black like charcoal. Others completely untouched. . . . Women in aprons, women with children sitting in the trams as if they had just nodded off. Many women, many young girls, many small children, soldiers who were only identifiable as such by the metal buckles on their belts, almost all of them naked. Some clinging to each other in groups as if they were clawing at each other. From some of the debris poked arms, heads, legs, shattered skulls. . . . Most people looked as if they had been inflated, with large yellow and brown stains on their bodies…. [T]here were also so many little babies, terribly mutilated.

“Never would I have thought that death could come to so many people in so many different ways,” noted a stunned rescue worker.

[S]ometimes the victims looked like ordinary people apparently peacefully sleeping; the faces of others were racked with pain, the bodies stripped almost naked by the tornado; there were wretched refugees from the East clad only in rags, and people from the Opera in all their finery; here the victim was a shapeless slab, there a layer of ashes. . . . Across the city, along the streets wafted the unmistakable stench of decaying flesh.

Indeed, of all the hideous scents wafting through Dresden—sulfur, gas, sewage—the heavy, sweet stench of cooked flesh blanketed all. “There is nothing like it; nothing smells so,” one nauseous woman wrote. What were at first mistaken to be thousands of burnt, blackened logs scattered about the streets were soon found to be charred corpses, each reduced to roughly three feet. “All the way across the city,” said a horrified rescuer, “we could see [these] victims lying face down, literally glued to the tarmac, which had softened and melted in the enormous heat.”

“The thin and elderly victims took longer to catch fire than the fat or young ones,” observed another witness.

Horribly, many frantic relatives were compelled to examine countless such bodies in hopes of identifying loved ones. “I can still see my mother,” remembered eleven-year-old Erika Simon, “bending down and turning over dead children, or bits of dead children, for she was still desperately searching for my little brother.”

“One shape I will never forget,” a rescue worker recalled, “was the remains of what had apparently been a mother and child. They had shriveled and charred into one piece, and had been stuck rigidly to the asphalt. They had just been prised up. The child must have been underneath the mother, because you could still clearly see its shape, with its mother’s arms clasped around it.”

At every turn, a new nightmare awaited. When she kicked from her path what seemed a burnt piece of wood and discovered it was not, young Eva Beyer ran screaming round a corner. Once there, she froze in horror: Hanging with claw-like hands from a metal fence, like so many blackened rats, were those—men, women and children—who had vainly tried to scale the barrier to safety. The sight was too much; Eva vomited on the spot.

Wrote another witness:

In the middle of the square lay an old man, with two dead horses. Hundreds of corpses, completely naked, were scattered round him. . . . Next to the tram-shelter was a public lavatory of corrugated iron. At the entrance to this was a woman, about thirty years old, completely nude, lying face-down on a fur-coat. . . . A few yards further on lay two young boys aged about eight and ten clinging tightly to each other; their faces were buried in the ground. They too were stark naked. Their legs were stiff and twisted into the air.

Curiously, while most victims had been burned to cinders in the streets, others, according to one viewer, “sat stiff in the streetcars, bags in hand, open eyes, dead, with but a slight trickle of blood having run down their noses or coming from their closed lips.”

“One woman was still sitting in a destroyed tramcar as if she had merely forgotten to get out,” recorded Maria Rosenberger. Another victim, she continued, was a completely shriveled corpse of a man, naked, his skin like brown leather, but with his beard and hair in tact.

Adding even more horror to the scene, terribly burned and mutilated zoo animals screamed in pain amid the rubble.

At the main railroad station, where thousands upon thousands were sheltered prior to the attack, few escaped. In the vast basement under the station, no one survived. Unlike those above, victims below died from smoke and carbon monoxide poisoning. “What I saw,” said one who entered the tomb, “was a nightmare, lit as it was only by the dim light of the railwayman’s lantern. The whole of the basement was covered with several layers of people, all very dead.” Added another who witnessed the scene: “What we noticed . . . were not so much dead bodies as people who had apparently fallen asleep, slumped against the station walls.”

Aware that those in the old city would flee the flames to the open spaces, the RAF had hurled tons of high explosive bombs into the huge central park. Here, the slaughter was ghastly. “I could see torn-off arms and legs, mutilated torsos, and heads which had been wrenched off their bodies and rolled away,” commented a Swiss visitor who attempted to cross the park. “In places the corpses were still lying so densely that I had to clear a path through them in order not to tread on arms and legs.”

At the numerous hospitals in Dresden, the survival rate was naturally much lower and many wretched victims could only lay helpless as they slowly burned to death. When Eva Beyer passed a women’s clinic she made the mistake of glancing over as clean-up crews brought out victims.

“I went down on my knees, trembled and cried . . . ,” the young Red Cross worker recounted. “Several women lay there with their bellies burst open . . . and one could see the babies for they were hanging half outside. Many of the babies were mutilated. . . . Scenes like that one saw everywhere and very slowly one became numbed. One acted like a zombie.”

Later that morning, recalled Erika Simon,

the news spread in a most mysterious way, that all those people who were walking about lost and helpless should assemble in the [city park]. Thus a gray mass of people began to move along in a line. One had ceased to be an individual and was only part of a suffering mass. The gray line of people climbed over debris and over the dead. One’s feet stepped on burnt corpses and one didn’t even think about it.

As the stunned survivors assembled at the park and along the grassy banks of the Elbe, some found missing loved ones. Most, however, did not. Absorbed as they were with the hell all about, few were aware of their own condition. When Margret Freyer asked for a mirror, she was staggered by what she saw: “I . . . did not recognize myself any more. My face was a mass of blisters and so were my hands. My eyes were narrow slits and puffed up, my whole body was covered in little black, pitted marks.” Others suddenly realized that they themselves were seriously injured, or that their hair and much of their clothing had been burned away.

***

By noon, February 14, a strange silence settled over what once was Dresden. “The city was absolutely quiet,” Gotz Bergander remembered. “The sound of the fires had died out. The rising smoke created a dirty, gray pall which hung over the entire city. The wind had calmed, but a slight breeze was blowing westward, away from us.”

And then, shattering the calm, came the sounds. “I suddenly thought I could hear sirens again,” continues Bergander. “And sure enough, there they were. I shouted, and by then we could already hear the distant whine of engines. . . . The roar of the engines grew louder and louder.”

As US bombers began blasting the rubble to dust, American fighter planes zeroed in on the thousands of refugees at the park, along the river and in other open spaces. Recalled Annemarie Waehmann:

We looked up and saw how they flew lower and lower. “They’re coming here. . . ,” we screamed. A few men took over and gave commands: “Split up! Scatter! Run into the fields! Down on your faces!” While we were lying in the dirt, our hands clawing at the earth as if we wanted to crawl inside it, they came after us, wave after wave, circling, flying low, shooting with their machine-guns into the defenseless people. Popping noises right and left, clods of earth flying up, screams. Like everyone else, I expect, I prayed: Dear God, please protect me. A few seconds’ pause, as the planes circled in order to come back at us again. The men screamed: “Up, up! Run on! Run towards the trees!”  But again that popping noise as they fired without mercy into the people, and screams and clods of earth flying around. . . . I took Hilde by the hand and without turning round once, without even looking to see how many people did not get up again, we ran.

“[P]anic broke out,” said fifteen-year-old Gerhard Kuhnemund. “Women and children were massacred with cannon and bombs. It was mass murder. . . . While we literally clawed ourselves into the grass, I personally saw at least five American fighter-bombers, which from an altitude of approximately 120–150 metres opened fire with their cannon on the masses of civilians. My companion . . . was killed beside me in this attack. There was a hole in his back the size of a palm.”

Near the park, zoo-keeper Otto Sailer-Jackson watched in stunned disbelief as one American pilot mowed down people running in the street. “He attacked several times, flying very low, firing from cannon and machine-guns into the refugees. Then he flew low over the Zoo and made several firing runs at anything he could see that was still alive. In this way our last giraffe met her death. Many stags and other animals which we had managed to save, became the victims of this hero.”

Although the raid lasted only ten minutes, the Americans returned the next day, and the next, and the next, seemingly determined that not a single living thing should survive in Dresden. “There seemed to be no end to the horror,” said Eva Beyer.

Desperate to prevent epidemics, the survivors of Dresden scurried between raids to dispose of the corpses. With thousands of bodies littering the streets and parks, the task initially seemed simple. “They had to pitchfork shriveled bodies onto trucks and wagons and cart them to shallow graves on the outskirts of the city,” a British POW engaged in the cleanup observed. As the ghastly work continued, however, it soon became clear that in no way could such a slow process handle the enormous amount of bodies. Hence, huge grills were fashioned from girders in various parts of town and corpses were stacked on them like logs. When the piles reached roughly ten feet high and thirty feet wide, flame throwers were used to ignite the mass. Elsewhere, workers simply built great mounds. Eva Beyer watched in horror as men poured gasoline over a large pile composed entirely of heads, legs and other body parts. While that mound was ablaze trucks arrived and dumped more such loads.

As the recovery continued and workers entered the ruins, even greater horrors were in store. Acting like vast ovens, super-heated cellars had rendered their victims into liquid fat.

“[R]escuers were walking about up to their ankles in sludge,” recounted Margret Freyer.

With his father, ten-year-old Thomas Weyersberg entered the basement of his family’s business to salvage from the ruins. In spite of the horror already experienced, neither father or son was prepared for what they found. “We literally waded into the pit of hell,” the boy said, “carrying out fat-soaked documents, company books, stationery[,] even some typewriters. . . . The walls . . . were still warm when we progressed . . . wading ankle-deep in the fried human drippings.”

Despite Dresden’s frenzied efforts to recover the dead, ten days after the raids, “mountains of bodies” still awaited disposal and for weeks workers with carts and trucks hauled thousands of corpses through the streets. Clearly, the dead in Dresden outnumbered the living.

***

One month after the massacre, the Dresden Chief of Police reported that over 200,000 bodies had been recovered from the ruins. The official added that the toll might possibly reach 250,000. Later, the International Red Cross estimated that 275,000 had died in the raids. Because of the incredible density of Dresden’s population on the night of February 13–14, because thousands of victims were refugees with no records, because many bodies either lay buried forever in the ruins or had simply melted like wax, other estimates that place the death toll at 300,000 to 400,000 may well be closer to the mark.

***

As news from Dresden spread slowly throughout the rest of the Reich, there was shock and horror, but mostly their was anguish. “Dresden was a glorious city. . . ,” wrote Ruth Andreas-Friedrich in her diary. “It’s a little hard getting used to the idea that Dresden, too, no longer exists. I almost feel like crying.” And Rudolf Semmler, aide to the propaganda minister, also took note that public facades of strength and courage could easily crumble in private: “For the first time I saw Goebbels lose control of himself when two days ago, he was given the stark reports of the disaster in Dresden. The tears came into his eyes with grief and rage and shock. Twenty minutes later I saw him again. He was still crying and looked a broken man.”

When word of the Dresden bombing first reached Great Britain there was initial joy. That the seventh largest city in Germany should be scorched from the map was “wondrous news,” trumpeted the British press; that hundreds of thousands of women and children should be burnt to cinders in the process was also “an unexpected and fortunate bonus.” Cabinet minister, Sir Archibald Sinclair, heartily agreed with this attitude and lyrically termed the firestorm a “crescendo of destruction.”

As more facts and information from neutral Swiss and Swedish sources began to arrive, however, many throughout the world were horrified. For the first time in the war, those in England, America and elsewhere learned what Germans had known for three years—the Allies were engaged in “deliberate terror-bombing.”  Angered and shamed by such a course when the war was clearly on its last leg, Richard Stokes lashed out in the House of Commons: “What happened on the evening of 13th February? There were a million people in Dresden, including 600,000 bombed-out evacuees and refugees from the East. . . . When I heard the Minister speak of the ‘crescendo of destruction,’ I thought: What a magnificent expression for a Cabinet Minister of Great Britain at this stage of the war.”

Most outrage, high and low, was directed at Arthur Harris, Chief of Bomber Command.

“[W]e were told at the briefing that there were many thousands of Panzer troops in the streets [of Dresden], either going to or coming back from the Russian Front,” one angry RAF crewman later explained. “My personal feeling is, that if we’d been told the truth at the briefing, some of us wouldn’t have gone.”

“To just fly over it without opposition felt like murder,” added a comrade. “I felt it was a cowardly war.”

Once known affectionately by many of his men as “Bomber” Harris, after Dresden the air marshal earned a new nickname—“Butcher.”

“Butcher Harris didn’t give a damn how many men he lost as long as he was pounding the shit out of German civilians,” growled one British airman.

Meanwhile, the man directly responsible for the Dresden massacre began to publicly distance himself from both Harris and terror bombing. Winston Churchill:

It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretextsshould be reviewed. The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing. . . . I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives . . . rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction.

Public pronouncements to the contrary, the air terror continued unabated. Lost almost entirely in the furor over Dresden was the February 23 leveling of Pforzheim in western Germany. Although much smaller than Dresden, in nineteen  minutes  the city was utterly destroyed with nearly 20,000 dead. A short time later, the “hospital city” of Wurzburg was likewise incinerated. Additionally, in what appeared an attempt to broaden the war, American planes struck neutral Switzerland, raiding Schaffhausen in late February and striking Basel and Zurich on March 4.