14 February 1945 Dresden …

Piles of corpses in front of destroyed buildings in Dresden after air raids

The Saxon city’s population, similar to that of say Liverpool, was teeming with refugees fleeing the Red Army. It is reasonable to assume that Dresden was host to 1,500,000 doomed souls when the first of the RAF and USAAF carpet bombing raids commenced on St Valentine’s Night 1945. By the morning of February 14, some 800 RAF bombers had dropped over 2,500 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs.


Official reports from the Dresden police, states that circa 200,000 died, mostly women and children. Only 30% of these could be identified. Allied official figures put the dead at only 25,000 to 30,000/35,000.

While the British did not tout their targeting of civilian infrastructure, some acknowledged it. “For a long time, the government, for excellent reasons, has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call military targets,” the head of Britain’s bomber command said in November 1941. “I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.”

“As the incendiaries fell, the phosphorus clung to the bodies of those below, turning them into human torches. The screaming of those who were being burned alive was added to the cries of those not yet hit. There was no need for flares to lead the second wave of bombers to their target, as the whole city had become a gigantic torch,” Victor Gregg, a British paratrooper held in the city during the bombing, said 68 years later. “Dresden had no defenses, no anti-aircraft guns, no searchlights, nothing.”

“I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967. It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has,” Kurt Vonnegut, a prisoner of war in the city, wrote in his novel “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which depicted the bombing. “There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground.”

A front cover

“It is Melitta!”


Dressed all in black, we attend a close-knit family gathering. 

In the middle of the gathering Anima opens her mouth and captures, and then swallows, a Bumble Bee that flies into the midst of us. ‘She’ is alive and kicking inside her mouth and I am initially horrified. Then I realize that it is perfectly normal for her to swallow a living bumble bee. Maybe the bee knew its destination all along?

A few weeks later, Anima and I are walking along a busy ‘shopping-market’ kind of street.  We pass a tightly-knit group of red headed women, of all ages. From teenagers to mature woman, they have ‘startling’ flame-red or ginger hair.

Anima stops suddenly and goes back to one of the young women. I am as taken aback as the teenager, and indeed the whole group.

They all stand still, each one looking in different directions, as in a classical Rembrandt painting. Anima touches the right-hand side of the young woman’s face, just below the cheek-bone, and says, with a profound sense of re-cognition, “It’s Melitta. I recognize the skin graft from when she was burnt as a child”.

The group stands still and silent.

Anima reiterates her discovery by touching her cheek once again, “It is Melitta!”

They don’t appear to be disputing the fact, but are speechless on discovering that not only was Melitta spotted but also that she was recognized by someone who knew her from an early ‘marking’ and had personally taken care of her.

The whole episode was so dramatic, ‘colourful’ and, dare I use the word, ‘unique’, and maybe even, if I may be so bold, epoch making?