Monday, February 1, 2010

Dealing with the past in Dresden

Another excellent issue of the New Yorker (Feb. 1). It includes an interesting article on Dresden's troubled confrontations with its own history (full text available through university library's ejournals). Dresden is well-known as the victim of the best known (and likely most lethal) fire-bombing campaign by the allied forces in WWII, killing 25,000-40,000 people. By most any definition, the campaign (Feb. 13-15, 1945) qualifies as a war crime. This has made it easier for some to paint Dresden as some innocent victim, which of course it was not.

The article offers some interesting thoughts on the implications of architecture for the way a city confronts its past. Berlin certainly offers a striking contrast to Dresden, as Packer points out. However, the implications are more general. Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes similarly offers some insightful musings on how different Pacific islands remember/commemorate their connection to captain James Cook. And what does Athens, GA's own double-barreled cannon say about Athens' institutional memory of the Civil War? It is worth noting that this cannon became a tourist attraction almost as soon as the Civil War ended.

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