"Private Boyle loved the smell of smoke as a boy -- the deep, acidy, peppery, savory smoke that would swirl through his tree house as his Dad was smoking his famous brisket. Standing amidst the macabre, frantic activity of the Dresden Market, the ground radiating heat through the souls of his boots, Private Boyle choked violently on the dark, oily, chemical and animal smoke passing across the apocalyptic ruins of the yet cracking and creaking Frauenkirche, the statue of Martin Luther standing, unharmed, just as it had three days before, now under a new heaven -- a heaven that had brought hell.
Unteroffizier Fritz Backstedt, taking in the scope and horror of the destruction of his hometown fought desperately the urge to scream or fall onto the ash covered pavement -- an afflicted, wrecked ball. He wanted to stand in tragic, human solidarity with his two prisoners. He wanted them to weep with him or him with them but instead he jabbed Private Vonnegut in the back with his Walther, pointing the way forward, unable to look his charges in the eye.
"Fritz, you know we can talk you and I, I'm sorry," said Private Vonnegut, Vonnegut could speak German.
"What did you say?" asked Private Boyle.
Private Vonnegut rejected the offer to speak English. In that moment he refused to make the sounds of those that did this.
As they were rounding the eastern corner of the fallen church a small group of wailing and burnt and wild women stood in alarming attitudes -- very similar to the figures in Rodin's Burghers of Calais, thought Private Vonnegut. One of the younger women, with severe burns on her arms, the back of her long,blond hair charred and singed, was desperately clutching a Nazi flag. Recognizing the American uniforms of the two prisoners, she began a flat, guttural litany. Private Boyle had an overwhelming urge to go comfort her. Noticing that he was moving toward her, Private Vonnegut grabbed him by the arm, shaking his head.
"She just called us Jew-loving pigs, sh*t-eaters and communist pimps, among other things," said Private Vonnegut.
Unteroffizier Backstedt slowly walked toward the still speaking woman, tears finally rolling through the grime on his cheeks, holding out his hands, it was not clear if he was making an offering or asking for one. Gently, he grasped the tattered swastika adorned flag, hurling it onto a pile of broken, beautifully carved stone that had once been part of a soaring groin vault in the proud church..." From "Dresden, February 17, 1945" By Franklin Cincinnatus
(Article changed on May 27, 2018 at 15:23)