In Dresden, Obama Does Not Disappoint ... Germans

Inside the Frauenkirche, Obama lit a candle under the battered "old cross" that formerly stood atop the church's dome. It is said that the Frauenkirche is a symbol of "reconciliation." But, as noted in the Saturday edition of Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the "old cross" obviously symbolizes something else. The cross "used to be the highest point of the church," the FAZ writes:

[I]t was rediscovered under the rubble. In its twisted metal, one can still perceive what the cross went through in the firestorm, and with it the church and with it the people.

A symbol of the suffering of Christ reinvested with the significance of German suffering. It was before such a cross that Obama placed a candle in Dresden.

Obama did not say much about the significance of his visit. During his press conference in Dresden, he merely alluded vaguely to the "tragedies" that the city had undergone. It is interesting to note that Angela Merkel did not even go that far. She merely noted matter-of-factly that the city was “destroyed during the Second World War” and “then rebuilt.”

But as the ZDF's Guido Knopp would note later in the day, Obama did not have to say anything. The heavily loaded symbolism of the Frauenkirche visit did the talking for him. By virtue of his visits to Buchenwald and the Frauenkirche, as Knopp put it, Obama had paid tribute to "all the victims," i.e., both the victims of Nazi persecution and the German "victims" of the Allies. Knopp, the director of numerous popular television documentaries on the Third Reich, even mumbled something about remembering everybody's "crimes," thus making the assertion of moral equivalence more explicit still. (For the Obama administration and the American media, the Buchenwald visit was, of course, above all about commemorating the specifically Jewish victims of Nazi persecution: the victims of the Holocaust. In fact, however, Buchenwald was, so to say, an "all-purpose" concentration camp and not one of the camps, like Auschwitz or Treblinka, that was specifically devoted to the extermination of Jews. On this subject, see my "Obama Flunks History, Again".)

Was the Allied bombing of Dresden a "tragedy"? Well, in any case, not for everybody. The philologist Victor Klemperer was a resident of Dresden. After the war, Klemperer would write the definitive study of the language of the Third Reich LTI (Lingua Tertii Imperii). As so happens, the bombing of Dresden saved his life. A Jewish convert to Protestantism -- hence according to the Nazi "racial laws," a Jew nonetheless -- Klemperer had managed to avoid deportation by virtue of his marriage to an "Aryan" wife. Here is how he recalls the bombing of Dresden in LTI (author's translation):

On the morning of February 13, 1945, the order came to evacuate the last persons in Dresden who wore the yellow star. Having hitherto avoided deportation as members of "mixed" marriages, their certain fate had now caught up with them. One would have to get rid of them on the road, since Auschwitz had long since fallen into the hands of the enemy and Theresienstadt was under threat.

On the evening of that February 13, catastrophe struck Dresden: the bombs fell, the buildings collapsed, the phosphorous streamed through the sky, the burning timbers fell on both Aryan and non-Aryan heads, and one and the same firestorm brought death to both Jew and Christian. Whoever among the approximately 70 persons wearing the yellow star was spared, however, for him that night meant salvation. In the generalized chaos, he could escape from the Gestapo's clutches.