Eye witness

Lothar Metzger was 9 years old and lived in the centre of Dresden with his mother, older sister and twin baby sisters.

“We lived in a 3 room flat on the 4th floor in a working class region of our town. I remember celebrating Shrove Tuesday (February 13th) together with other children.”

“About 9:30 PM the alarm was given. We children knew that sound and got up and dressed quickly, to hurry downstairs into our cellar which we used as an air raid shelter. My older sister and I carried my baby twin sisters, my mother carried a little suitcase and the bottles with milk for our babies.”

“Some minutes later we heard a horrible noise — the bombers. There were nonstop explosions. Our cellar was filled with fire and smoke and was damaged, the lights went out and wounded people shouted dreadfully. In great fear we struggled to leave this cellar. My mother and my older sister carried the big basket in which the twins were lain.”

“We did not recognize our street any more. Fire, only fire wherever we looked. Our 4th floor did not exist anymore. The broken remains of our house were burning. On the streets there were burning vehicles and carts with refugees, people, horses, all of them screaming and shouting in fear of death. I saw hurt women, children, old people searching a way through ruins and flames.”

Source: Hans-Joachim Dietze

“We fled into another cellar overcrowded with injured and distraught men women and children shouting, crying and praying. No light except some electric torches. And then suddenly the second raid began. This shelter was hit too, and so we fled through cellar after cellar. Many, so many, desperate people came in from the streets. lt is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. lt became more and more difficult to breathe. lt was dark and all of us tried to leave this cellar with inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon, luggage was left or snatched up out of our hands by rescuers. The basket with our twins covered with wet cloths was snatched up out of my mothers hands and we were pushed upstairs by the people behind us. We saw the burning street, the falling ruins and the terrible firestorm. My mother covered us with wet blankets and coats she found in a water tub.”

“We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.”

“The basket with the twins had disappeared and then suddenly my older sister vanished too . Although my mother looked for her immediately it was in vain. The last hours of this night we found shelter in the cellar of a hospital nearby surrounded by crying and dying people. In the next morning we looked for our sister and the twins but without success. The house where we lived was only a burning ruin. The house where our twins were left we could not go in. Soldiers said everyone was burnt to death and we never saw my two baby sisters again.”

“I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them”1.

The Firestorm photographed from the Dresden train station by 15 year old Hans-Joachim Dietze

Victor Gregg was a British prisoner of war in Dresden awaiting execution for sabotage. Along with his fellow condemned prisoners they saw the raid commence through the glass ceiling of their makeshift prison in the centre of the city’s Altstadt.

“From inside the building we saw the flares through the glass cupola, filling the night sky with blinding light, like enormous Christmas tress they floated to earth dripping the burning phosphorus onto the streets and buildings. Then, without any warning about four incendiaries burst through the heavy glass roof, breaking it into fragments and shredding the luckless men under the cupola into pieces.”

“The phoshporous clung to the bodies of the injured men turning them into human torches. Nothing could be done to help them.”

Gregg and some other prisoners escaped into the centre of Dresden when a blockbuster bomb shattered the building.

“The first thing that hit me when I emerged from the shaking fabric of the building was the heat. I found myself, along with the few survivors in the centre of a huge bonfire.”

Eventually Gregg and his fellow survivors made their way to open ground where they witnessed the second part of the raid.

“A lot of survivors from the burning ruins were now out in the open,spread low along this embankment with no shelter or cover of any kind. The inferno was growing fiercer and noisier by the minute, but even so, above the noise I could hear the pulsating throb of hundreds of heavy aircraft bearing down on us”

“Dresden had no defences, no anti-aircraft guns, no searchlights, nothing.”

“The new bombs were so big it was possible to see them falling through the air. Even the incendiaries were of a different type. Instead of the smallish metre long sticks that dropped the first raid, we were now subjected to huge four ton objects that hit the ground and exploded so that a ball of fire blossomed from the point of impact incinerating anything, man-made or human, within a radius of nearly two hundred feet.”

“As if this was not enough, another terror was making it’s presence felt.”

“It wasn’t really what you could call a win or even a gale;the air that was being drawn in from the outside to feed the inferno was like a solid object, so great was it’s force.”

“We could see people being torn from whatever the were hanging on to, picked up by an invisible giant hand and drawn up in to the ever-deepening red glow . We watched, as if looking at a giant circus act. People of all shapes, sizes and ages got slowly sucked into the vortex by the force of the winds and then, with a final whisk, they were lifted up into the sky, with their hair and clothing alight.”

“Above the noise of the wind and the roar of the inferno came the interminable, agonised screams of the victims as they were roasted alive.”

The following day Gregg and some of his fellow POWs aided the rescue efforts. They went into the centre of the city where the fires still burned to try and locate survivors trapped in the bomb shelters.

“Inside we found the victims, in most cases the bodies were shrivelled up to half their normal size or worse. Children under the age of three or four were impossible to identify at all, these tender human beings just melted in the heat of the oven they were sitting in.”

“There were no real complete bodies, only bones and scorched articles of clothing matted together on the floor and stuck together by some sort of jelly substance. There was no flesh visible, what had once been a congregation of people sheltering from the horror above them was now a glutinous mass of solidified fat and bones swimming around, inches thick, on the floor.”

“You can’t explain it, there’s no way you can.Just look at it as we were bombing people who couldn’t hit back.2

Victor Gregg and other POWs worked for 5 days on the grim task of looking for survivors in the bomb shelters. They found only 6 people alive.Source:DWP

1.http://timewitnesses.org/english/~lothar.html

2.’Dresden. A Survivors story’ Victor Gregg. Rick Stroud.https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dresden-9781448211456/

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