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Eyewitness Götz Bergander Recalls the Bombing of Dresden (Retrospective Account)

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While I was still fiddling with the radio dial he came running down into the cellar and called, "It's getting light, it's getting light, it's bright as day outside! They're coming, they're coming, the dive bombers are here!" I told him: "But that's impossible, dive bombers can't fly at night." He said: "I saw them, they came right over the Friedrichstadt hospital." After the war we found out that he had really seen Mosquitos come down with target flares. They dropped the target markers about 500 yards from where we lived, and the markers exploded in the air before they hit the ground. The so-called "Christmas trees" came down by parachute. Everything was quiet for awhile, until we heard the bombers and the first explosions.

It was as if a huge noisy conveyor belt was rolling over us, a noise punctuated with detonations and tremors. It lasted for about 25 minutes before it gradually ceased. Then there was absolute quiet.

I had tuned in to the local air raid broadcasts, and their last announcement had been, "Attention! Attention! This is your local air defense office. Bombs in the city area. Citizens, keep sand and water ready." Then it was cut off.

I went outside after this first attack because our warden told us we had to look for incendiaries. We didn't find any, but coming out of the cellar was unforgettable: the night sky was illuminated with pink and red. The houses were black silhouettes, and a red cloud of smoke hovered over everything. I left our courtyard and climbed onto the roof of the factory next door with my camera. I thought, "You have to take a picture of this."

People ran toward us totally distraught, smeared with ash, and with wet blankets wrapped around their heads. These people made it out of the burning areas without too much difficulty, because the firestorm only developed about half an hour to an hour after the first of the two night attacks. All we heard was, "Everything's gone, everything's on fire."

In the meantime, many people had gathered in our courtyard. They had all come to our house because it was still intact. Everyone talked at once until someone yelled, "They're coming back, they're coming back!" 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 were a target not even the worst shot could miss. We rushed into the cellar, and the second attack began just like the first one.

The first raid was flown by the famous 5th Bomber Group which had been specially preselected for the initial incendiary attack. The rest of the bomber groups came in for the second attack. The British really put everything they had into the air that night, though not all of it was used against Dresden. Approximately 800 planes were deployed against Dresden, and another 300 went against a refinery near Leipzig.

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