Tag Archives: Slaughterhouse 5

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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Almanac – November 11

HOLLANTIDE

If ducks do slide at Hollantide
At Christmas they will swim.
If ducks do swim at Hollantide
At Christmas they will slide.

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1493 – Paracelsus born.  Aka Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. The alternate birthdate of 17 Dec is sometimes given.
German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist. He is also credited for giving zinc its name, calling it zincum.
“Paracelsus”, meaning “equal to or greater than Celsus”, refers to the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus from the 1st century, known for his tract on medicine.

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1831 – Nat Turner executed.  American slave who led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths,the largest number of fatalities to occur in one uprising prior to the American Civil War in the southern United States.

Turner was convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged. In the aftermath, the state executed 56 blacks accused of being part of Turner’s slave rebellion. Two hundred blacks were also beaten and killed by white militias and mobs reacting with violence.

Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislators passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.

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1869 – The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act was enacted in Australia, giving the government control of indigenous people’s wages, their terms of employment, where they could live, and of their children, effectively leading to the Stolen Generations.

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1880 – Australian bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged at Melbourne Gaol.  He is considered by some to be merely a cold-blooded killer, while others consider him to be a folk hero and symbol of Irish Australian resistance against the Anglo-Australian ruling class

It was reported that Kelly intended to make a speech, but instead merely said, “Ah, well, I suppose it has come to this,”  as the rope was being placed round his neck.

In August 2011, anthropologists announced that a skeleton found in a mass grave in Pentridge Prison had been confirmed as Kelly’s. His skull, however, remains missing.

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1922 – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. born. American writer.His works such as Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction.

As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical leftist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

 While a prisoner of war in WW2 he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which destroyed most of the city. Vonnegut was one of a group of American prisoners of war to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used by the Germans as an ad hoc detention facility. The Germans called the building Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five) which the Allied POWs adopted as the name for their prison.

 Vonnegut said the aftermath of the attack was “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.” This experience was the inspiration for his famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a central theme in at least six of his other books.

In Slaughterhouse-Five he recalled that the remains of the city resembled the surface of the moon, and that the Germans put the surviving POWs to work, breaking into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for mass burial, while German civilians cursed and threw rocks at them. Vonnegut eventually remarked, “There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes.”

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