Book Review: Dresden: A Survivor’s Story by Victor Gregg

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

Victor Gregg’s Dresden: A Survivor’s Story is a short work describing the author’s experience as  POW who got caught in Dresden in February, 1945 when the Allies bombed the city in what would become known as the Firebombing of Dresden.  The attack essentially destroyed the city center and killed an estimated 25,000 German’s.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the attacks that also discusses the controversy surrounding them that has grown up since the war.  To sum up the controversy, general anti-war people claim they were a crime and so do Neo-Nazi’s.  Both claim that Dresden was not a legitimate military target or that if it was the bombing did not hit them.

Back to the book.  Dresden: A Survivor’s Story, is the story of what one man saw and did just before, during, and just after the bombing.  Printed the book would only amount to roughly 40 pages.  It is an engaging tale and the author writes with a witty sarcasm that keeps the narrative flowing.  The events he relates surrounding the Dresden bombing seem fantastical but are probably accurate representations of what actually happened.  There is no doubt that the bombing of Dresden and it’s aftereffect were horrific.  Mr. Gregg’s narrative reflects this.  The only part of the book I take exception to is the afterword which I felt was a poorly written attempted rationale for why the Firebombing of Dresden was a war-crime.  I leave it to the individual reader to research it on their own and make the decision of whether a war-crime (A term I object to) occurred or not.

Editorializing: Personally, I find the whole talk of war crimes to be farcical.  It would be comical if so many people did not take the notion so seriously.  The term and the associated crimes against humanity, genocide, etc. Have been so misused that they no longer have meaning.  The traditional Laws of War stood the Western World in good stead for centuries and nothing that was done in WWII seems to me to have mitigated against their use.  What has happened in the last hundred years is a Quixotic attempt to civilize war, an activity that is inherently uncivilized.  The right of the victors would have sufficed perfectly to put the perpetrators of the holocaust against a wall but for some reason, the West felt the need for legalized vengeance.  Their invention of these crimes has subsequently turned around and bit them ever since.  There was no need to justify the destruction of Dresden, it was an enemy city and thus subject to attack.  The severity of said attack was and is irrelevant.  There is no such concept of proportionality in warfare, nor should their be.  Warfare is doing what you think you need to do to compel your enemy to submit; no more and no less.

Overall this is a well written work of personal reflection.  I recommend it for people that would like a description of what it was like to be in Dresden during and immediately after the bombing.  There is no great amount of detail here but it gives a good general description of what living through such an event was like.