Almanac – February 13

1692 – Massacre of Glencoe: About 78 Macdonalds at Glen Coe, Scotland were killed early in the morning for not promptly pledging allegiance to the new king, William of Orange.

The massacre began simultaneously in three settlements along the glen—Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achnacon—although the killing took place all over the glen as fleeing MacDonalds were pursued.

Thirty-eight MacDonalds from the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by the guests who had accepted their hospitality,  another forty women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned.

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1945 –  Royal Air Force bombers were dispatched to Dresden, Germany to attack the city with a massive aerial bombardment. In four raids between 13 and 15 February , 722 heavy bombers of the  RAF and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The resulting firestorm destroyed fifteen square miles  of the city centre. At least 22,000 people were killed, probably more – estimates vary.

Lothar Metzger, a survivor, remembered  –

It 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. It became more and more difficult to breathe. It 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 mother’s 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.

I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them.

Kurt Vonnegut‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is a satirical novel that used some elements from his experiences as a prisoner of war at Dresden during the bombing.

His account relates that over 135,000 were killed during the firebombings. Vonnegut recalled “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.”

The Germans put him and other POWs to work gathering bodies for mass burial. “But there were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Nazis sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes.”

In the special introduction to the 1976 Franklin Library edition of the novel, he wrote:

    The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.

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