Although many more neo-Nazis marched through Dresden than originally estimated — Reuters
now says there were 5,000 marchers, not the initially reported 2,000 —
it turns out that 10 times their number of ordinary Germans, “up to 50,000 residents, wearing
white roses in a symbol of reconciliation, gathered in the city’s historic heart to light candles in
memory of all victims of war.”
Reuters goes on to say:
The sight of far-right marchers angered and dismayed many residents, who
later spelled out in flickering candlelight “This city is sick of Nazis” in
letters five yards high. [See photo.]
And here’s der Spiegel’s take. In the
meantime, Bill Osborne, whose notes on honky myopia I cited yesterday,
sent this message in response to BAD DAY IN DRESDEN:
Jan — There are more and more people in Germany who are not Nazis, but who
would say, “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and today Baghdad.” I regularly heard similar
comments even during the first Gulf War, and they were from people throughout the political
As you note, the whole line of thought is fraught with problems. The concept of total war —
which includes massive bombings of civilian populations — is one of the 20th century’s
contributions to history, but no one really understands this issue and all that it means and implies.
It will take much more time for us to morally define the concept of total war. But it is revealing
that the United States of America is the only country that has continued bombing cities after
World War II.
Twenty-five years ago, few in Germany spoke of the bombings as wrong or as war crimes,
but that has slowly changed, based in part on historical research completed since then. Of course,
Germans shy away from saying the bombings might have been wrong when they see Nazis
harping on it, because they do not want to be associated with such loathsome people and all of
their hidden agendas and specious arguments.
It would, however, be an error to let aversion to the Nazis influence any discussion. They
deserve no influence at all. Instead, the bombings should be considered in thoughtful ways, and
the neo-Nazis simply recognized for their loathsome arguments and falsifications of history. And
then they should be ignored.
For their part, Americans need to at least be aware of the increasing belief even among
average Germans that the bombings [of Dresden] were in some respects wrong. Based on what I
have seen, it is a theme that might become more important than we might suspect. Americans
need to think about how they are going to address this issue.
They also need to think more about a lot of other things. But as Bob Herbert writes this
morning in his column about Arthur Miller, “The Public Thinker,” the odds
are heavily against their thinking about anything unless it can be said “in 30 seconds.”
Thinking itself is “a notion that appears to have gone the way of the rotary phone,” he notes.
“Americans not only seem to be doing less serious thinking lately, they seem to have less and less
tolerance for those who spend their time wrestling with important and complex matters.”
Ignorance is in. The nation is at war and its appetite for torture may be
undermining the very essence of the American character, but the public at large seems much more
interested in what Martha will do when she gets out of prison and what Jacko will do if he has to
Herbert goes on to say:
Mr. Miller understood early that keeping the population entertained was
becoming the paramount imperative of the U.S. We’re now all but buried in entertainment and the
republic is running amok. Mr. Miller is gone, and if we’re not wise enough to pay attention, his
uncomfortable truths will die with him. (He felt, among other things, that most men and women
knew “little or nothing” about the forces manipulating their lives.)
Having fun yet?