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

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This attack left exhaustion and tension in its wake, a feeling of utter helplessness and terror. Since high-explosive bombs came down in our immediate vicinity, we had no idea of what it looked like outside. Neither did we hear the slapping sound of incendiaries. There was an indescribable roar in the air: the fire. The thundering fire reminded me of the biblical catastrophes I had heard about in my education in the humanities. I was aghast. I can't describe seeing this city burn in any other way. The color had changed as well. It was no longer pinkish-red. The fire had become a furious white and yellow, and the sky was just one massive mountain of cloud. The blaze roared, with intermittent blasts of either delayed-action bombs or unexploded bombs which were engulfed by the flames.

In the morning I turned on my radio and listened to the BBC. On the seven o'clock news, the BBC reported: "Last night, Dresden, one of the few German cities thus far to be spared, was attacked by RAF bombers with great success."

Later, people arrived from the inner city asking if we still had water. We said yes and opened the hydrants. Several of them settled into our house, but many others told us, "Out, out, get out of the city. Get away from here," and went on. Some were speechless with horror. They only said, "My home and everything in it are gone."

Since the factory supplied its own power and water, it could be kept running. My father, who was the manager, had to decide whether work should continue. We produced yeast for baked goods. My father said that food was important, so we'd have to keep operating. And the workers showed up too. I don't know if anyone can work like the Germans. It was amazing. Some even came on their bicycles between the two night raids. I still remember one of them pedaling up and my father asking him, "What are you doing here?" And he replied, "I just had to see if the shop's still in one piece."

The city was absolutely quiet. The sound of the fires had died out. The rising smoke created a dirty, gray pall which hung over the entire city. The wind had calmed, but a slight breeze was blowing westward, away from us. That's how, standing in the courtyard, I suddenly thought I could hear sirens again. And sure enough, there they were. I shouted, and by then we could already hear the distant whine of engines. We rushed down into the cellar. The roar of the engines grew louder and louder, and the daylight attack began. This was the American 8th Air Force, and their attack came right down on our heads.

Normally, there were only 20 to 25 of us down in the cellar. But now, with many people off the street, including those who'd stopped over at our house, there were about 100 of us. Nevertheless, no one panicked—we were too numb and demoralized from the night before. We just sat there. The attack rolled closer, and then a bomb hit. It was like a bowling ball that bounced, or jumped perhaps, and at that moment the lights went out. The whole basement filled with dust. When the bomb carpet reached us, I crouched in a squatting position, my head between my legs. The air pressure was immense, but only for a moment. The rubber seals on the windows and the steel doors probably helped to absorb some of the impact. Someone screamed, and then it was quiet. Then a voice shouted, "It's all right, nothing's happened." It was the shelter warden.

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