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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Fifteen: Karlovy Vary to Dresden

Michael Palin - New EuropeOf all the countries I've visited on this journey Germany is the one which resonates most personally with me. I was born in the Second World War and many of the books and films I was brought up on replayed that war, telling and retelling tales of the bravery and tenacity of our boys, and the inhumanity of the enemy.

There was, however, always one episode of which no books ever boasted, something that was spoken of in subdued voices, if at all, a tale to which heroism just wouldn't stick. It was the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945. An estimated 35,000 people died, many of them refugees fleeing the Russian advance. Some of the finest buildings in Europe were destroyed overnight.

The single word Dresden is a chilling symbol of a peculiar horror, the aerial bombing of civilians. Both sides had been doing it throughout the war. The citizens of London, Coventry, Hamburg and Berlin knew what it was like to be terrified from the air, and yet it is Dresden, the capital of Saxony, the city we are approaching in low sunlight on a fast autobahn, which stands, alongside Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a synonym for the worst and darkest excesses of aerial destruction.

It isn't the easiest place for an Englishman to spend his first night in a new country.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Fifteen: Karlovy Vary to Dresden
  • Country/sea: Germany
  • Place: Dresden
  • Book page no: 268

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