by Tom Endress
This summer I realized a dream that had been growing for about a decade. This was to return to Germany and visit with Werner Dettmar, the author of a book on the 1943 firebombing of Kassel. When I lived in Germany for two years in the late 1950s I became acquainted with many survivors of the horrendous WWII firebombings of Kassel, Hamburg, and Dresden. But because I was connected with the Church of the Brethren European headquarters in Kassel I became intimately familiar with what the citizens of that historic city had suffered through. Consequently, these firebombing survivors I learned to know have been close to my heart through the years.
It is unfortunate that many Americans simply dismiss the citizen casualties of these bombings as “collateral damage”. “People get caught in the crossfire during war and die,” is a common rational I hear. But as Werner Dettmar carefully demonstrates in his book Die Zerstörung Kassels im Oktober 1943: Eine Dokumentation (The Destruction of Kassel in October 1943: A Documentation) the bombing of Kassel was a carefully planned operation by the British. They not only sought to destroy the armament factories in Kassel but also to kill as many of the citizens of Kassel as possible. Sir Arthur Harris, the RAF’s Air Marshall developed the philosophy, supported by Prime Minister Churchill, that if you killed the civilians and workers surrounding the armament factories and military installations by carpet bombing large areas, the surviving German citizens would rise up against their government and insist on an end to the war.