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 Why did I feel so bad ?

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Gwynno
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PostSubject: Why did I feel so bad ?   1/3/2010, 23:04

I've just had a wonderful week in Werzburg, meeting up with some old friends, sampling local hostelries oh and doing a bit of work as well. When I visit a city that I am not too familiar with I try to take a tour which I did one evening with a local historian, some German tourists and a mixed bunch of Europeans from the conference that I was attending.

It was an excellent tour, mainly discussing Churches, Cathedrals and Wine Distilleries. We were introduced to the complex structure of royal Bavarian dignitaries and how the town reflected the riches that they'd brought. Then we came to a small museum in the Rathaus with a model of the town as it was in March 1945 just after the British had flattened it to "break the will of the people". Now I know full well what Germany did to Coventry just weeks before and how most key cities throughout Britain endured night after night of relentless bombing with 1000's of people being killed every day.

So why did I feel so bloody awful listening to the stories such as the one about the little children being ushered down into the kellers only to have lungs ripped apart by the soaring heat from the fires that followed the bombing.

I know some of you will say you soft git grow up that's war and maybe I should visit a similar museum in Coventry to get a perspective. But I cannot feel that this was just a mindless destruction of a town (86% of all buildings destroyed) and 1000's of its townsfolk killed in just 12 minutes of bombing.

The fact that I was the only Tommy in the Group made it worse, I don't mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during the quiet hours that followed back in my Hotel Room. Then I came to my senses and felt guilty for all the British families that endured as much terror if not even more,

I phoned my wife later that evening and told her how I'd felt and she said "Ah that's sad, anyway the good news is our two kids are home this week end from Uni". And that's supposed to make me feel better !

The following night I met up with some friends and we went to a small Bar and had a Bratty supper and a few Jars of local Pils - we laughed and recalled stories and had a wonderful evening.

But it's now a week later and I still feel crap so I thought I'd unload my troubles and share it with you guys - I expect some ribbing but what the heck, maybe some of you have had similar experiences where you just cannot rationalise why you feel so bad about something when a voice in you your head is telling you - they deserved all they got.

Sorry for the long rant - I feel better already.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   1/3/2010, 23:13

Gwynn,
I was in London for the whole of the Blitz in 1940,when you sow the wind you reap the whirlwind. Coventry didn't take long either.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   1/3/2010, 23:26

Tony,

I cannot even start to imagine what you went through, my Grandad plus 5 brothers spent most of the war as fire-fighters in Liverpool and amazingly all survived. My grandad would never speak of his experiences, my Gran said they were too painful to remember and that he dealt with it by blocking them out.

I totally agree with your sentiment and I guess I'm just confused why I reacted the way I did - maybe it was just sentiment, Or maybe I simply felt uncomfortable listening to the stories amongst German friends.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   2/3/2010, 09:21

Nothing to be ashamed of, Gwynn. Ages does sometimes bring wisdom, compassion and a desire for reconciliation. Just think about the unimaginable horrors that were Hamburg and Dresden.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   2/3/2010, 13:28

Don't lose any sleep over it Gwyn. When the Germans had won the war we inferior races were going to be their slaves.
Next time you feel it getting you down just think of those little kids going into the gas chambers at Auschwitz and all the other extermination camps. The Nazis got what was coming to 'em
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   2/3/2010, 16:49

brum wrote:
Don't lose any sleep over it Gwyn. When the Germans had won the war we inferior races were going to be their slaves.
Next time you feel it getting you down just think of those little kids going into the gas chambers at Auschwitz and all the other extermination camps. The Nazis got what was coming to 'em

Interesting idea Brum. However I just wonder how many of the inhabitants of Würzburg were actually "Nazis" by choice, if at all. And how many of them knew at the time of the "extermination camps".

By that definition, if Germany had indeed conquered Britain, would that then make anyone living in Britain a Nazi?

Just a thought!
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   2/3/2010, 19:26

I should imagine that most of the occupants of "Wurzberg" were Nazis, by necessity. Thats the way it works in a free system? The taking of a life should never be condoned, we as members or former members of HM Forces, I do not believe, join up to do so.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   2/3/2010, 20:35

Gywn...what you experienced is exactly what happens when one is exposed to the "human" side of such things.

It's one thing to know, on an abstract level, that the Allies 'bombed the hell' out of Wurzberg (or the Nazis bombed the hell out of Coventry) and quite another to be presented with the reality of that, by hearing the stories of children having their lungs ripped apart by the searing heat of the bomb-fueled fires.

Remember the photo of the naked Vietnamese girl running down a country road screaming in pain from the Napalm that had just engulfed her village? I do and was a young teenager in 1968-69 when that photo was released to the world. Again, one thing to know the Americans were dropping bombs on Viet Cong (or suspected Viet Cong) and quite another to see a little girl burned by the napalm.

We humans, for all our foibles and aggressions, are an empathetic species and we feel for those who suffer when we see the suffering or learn of it.

No doubt having toured around Wurzburg and seeing what a beautiful city it is then seeing what it looked like smoldering in ruins in 1945...well, the impact between the one reality and the other would be dramatic.

We create museums like this for a reason...and the effect it had on you is exactly the effect the museum founders sought. It has nothing, or very little, to do with propaganda. Sixty years on, the need for propaganda is long past. But it is designed, for lack of a better word, to ensure those generations coming after the war have some understanding of the effects of war on innocent populations.

The Nazis didn't suffer from the bombing, Wurzburgers suffered. Mom and dad and the kids suffered. People like your neighbours, like your own families....folks just trying to get by the best way they knew how. The Nazi leaders in Berlin....they didn't suffer. At most, they were inconvenienced by the economic and morale issues arising out a major city being pulverized.

Abuses occurred on both sides....the bombing of Coventry and the blitzkrieg that devastated London and other major urban centres throughout Britain was horrendous. So were the bombings of Dresden, Wurzburg, Hamburg, Essen etc.

Civilian populations are not supposed to be targets during war but of course always are. We know this and we know such actions created hardship and trauma and horror but we don't 'see' it, we don't totally get it until we are presented with it on a personal one-on-one level, like you experienced and of course you responded/reacted. If you hadn't, I'd be a damn sight more concerned about you.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 00:09

Have some posts gone AWOL from this thread?
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 07:36

Your'e right mate, one of yours certainly. Something I sent to "Sounds and Smells....." last night never appeared either
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 18:59

"....The Nazis didn't suffer from the bombing, Wurzburgers suffered. Mom and dad and the kids suffered. People like your neighbours, like your own families....folks just trying to get by the best way they knew how. The Nazi leaders in Berlin....they didn't suffer. At most, they were inconvenienced by the economic and morale issues arising out a major city being pulverized".

Stephen, who was it lined the streets (in Würzburg and every other German city) with their right arm outstretched when the SA & SS marched through the streets? It was the ordinary people who saluted!

Without the support of the population, Hitler would never have placed them in the position he later did.

I have dramatic video of them all happy to see Warsaw, London, Rotterdam, bombed into oblivion safe in the knowledge that Göring had promised the German people that no British bombs would fall on a German city!

It was too late when British and American bombs DID fall on those cities for ordinary Germans not to expect revenge for the deeds of their masters.

Think about it!
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 19:49

Good on yer Ian.
It seems to me that people's opinions on this subject have a lot to do with their age. I know I grew up surrounded by people who'd actually fought the Germans and seen the evil things they'd done and my attitudes have been partly influenced by them.
What really grieves me is the fact that, in the current climate, it is now considered unacceptable to erect a memorial to the fifty-odd thousand men of Bomber Command who died taking the war to Germany, when none of the other services were able to.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 20:27

Proves the OP has feelings if nothing else but surely at his age his parents like mine had not long been through a war when he was born? Sometimes I can't quite grasp that five years before I was born, the horrors of Belsen were being uncovered plus numerous other atrocities.

True Belsen wasn't a death camp in the sense of people being sent there to be gassed, but gas or starvation, it all equals a nasty death. As someone else previously stated, it is fine to feel for babies suffering from bombing but what about those babies torn from their mothers arms and their heads smashed against a wall or mother and baby being forced to march to the gas chambers while husbands could only watch?

Like many ex forces, I watch the old factual war documentaries and see them all howling mad, arms raised hailing the leader. Later on when all is lost, there isn't a nazi to be seen.

Has anyone ever talked to Germans who were around in the war? I once met a U-boat crewman who never sank any British ships. Well according to him he never which in my opinion made him a bad U-boat man because that was his job and we were the enemy. I would have respected him more if he said Yes my boat sank so many British ships and I regret that but it is war. Too many Germans go on about the bombing yet fail to register the fact of Poland, Holland (Rotterdam in particular), Russian cities, Malta, Crete, France, Belgium, and before it all began, Spain.

In Britain we not only had Coventry but Hull which I believe was the most bombed place in Britain as the Germans used it to blood their new crews, i.e. bit of a milk run. Plymouth, Portsmouth, Bristol, Middlesbrough, some place called London (which was the only city bombed according to some) and my own city of Liverpool which was ablaze from end to end according to my mother watching from the other side of the Mersey. I was even told of a German who denied that Liverpool was ever bombed because it was too far to fly to. Tell that to my late dad who lost his house and the Three hundred plus souls that were lost in my town of Wallasey alone.

Yes I feel sorry for all kids and civilians killed in wars but never guilt. I feel more for the 50,000 plus bomber crews that never came back and get accused of being baby killers and terror fliers. Sew the wind etc!
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 21:35

My only link to WW2 was through my grandparent who are long gone. My mother was born in 1939 and she has few memories of that time.
The only time I heard anyone talk of bombing raids was my wife's maternal grandfather who was born in 1900 and died in 1992. He worked in a reserved occupation and lived about 20 miles from Glasgow. For him to speak of the war years was very rare but after 2/3 attempts would tell of standing in the scullery and seeing the sky to the west bright orange from the fires in Glasgow and Clyde side. As they lived in the Forth Valley it was not unusual for them to see German bombers either on their way to/from bombing raids .
As I said he was in a reserved occupation but he had brothers who served . One of whom returned from WW1 and gassed himself and another who returned from WW2 and drank himself into an early grave.

Its human nature to feel sorry that so many died but the Germans weren't exactly innocent.Civilians died on both sides but think how much worse things could have been if we as a country had held our hands up and said to Herr Schicklegruber.................come on down!!!

I heard a story , don't know how much truth is in it ....... After the liberation of Belsen the Burgermeister and town bigwigs were taken down to see for themselves what was on their doorstep. They denied all knowledge of the camp but given that the railway sidings are about 1/2 mile from town and on a main road to and from town if the story's true I find it hard to believe but how many said after the war................Nazis'?? there are no Nazis here!
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   4/3/2010, 22:18

Digressing slightly but have been thinking about this. Why do certain nations such as ourselves, Australia, Canada and the USA (plus others) never go in for having massive photographs of our leaders all over the place?

When you think of it, all the despotic nations have photographs, statues, busts etc of "the leader" yet we frown on that type of thing and rightly so.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Hussein, Ho Chi Mihn to name a few. It's not always perfect but there is a lot to be said for Western democracy.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   5/3/2010, 08:31

War is a nasty business as others have indicated

The British equivalent of the Wurzburg incidents was the German bombing campaign in 1940/41 known as the Baedeker Raids where by ancient heritage centres such as Bath or York with no military value and litttle economic were deliberately targetted with the result that buildings were destroyed and many innocent civilians killed or injured.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   6/3/2010, 01:25

Ian-redcap70 wrote:
"....The Nazis didn't suffer from the bombing, Wurzburgers suffered. Mom and dad and the kids suffered. People like your neighbours, like your own families....folks just trying to get by the best way they knew how. The Nazi leaders in Berlin....they didn't suffer. At most, they were inconvenienced by the economic and morale issues arising out a major city being pulverized".

Stephen, who was it lined the streets (in Würzburg and every other German city) with their right arm outstretched when the SA & SS marched through the streets? It was the ordinary people who saluted!

Without the support of the population, Hitler would never have placed them in the position he later did.

I have dramatic video of them all happy to see Warsaw, London, Rotterdam, bombed into oblivion safe in the knowledge that Göring had promised the German people that no British bombs would fall on a German city!

It was too late when British and American bombs DID fall on those cities for ordinary Germans not to expect revenge for the deeds of their masters.

Think about it!

I have thought about it...many times.

And I undertstand totally what you are saying, and agree to a significant degree...or at least, don't disagree.

What I was attempting to do here was to point out to Gwynno that his reaction was perfectly normal.

Yes, the 'average German' did in fact embrace Hitler if not Nazism itself and while we can now see just how odious it all was, I think it is also important to understand the context within which it all happened ... which is NOT to excuse or explain away or diminish what happened.

Hitler promised a reborn Germany, a proud Germany, a successful and healthy and vibrant Germany...who wouldn't buy into that in their own country?

Yes, he was militaristic but as any of us know who have spent time living in Germany, the Germans -- right wrong or indifferent as it may be -- have a 'thing' about uniforms and militaristic pomp (check out your average Schutzenfest, for instance!!). Personally, I always thought it interesting and I really have no idea where this comes from, but it didn't spring up complete and whole in the 1930's....there is a lot of history around this attraction going back to Imperial Germany. It's and odd national quirk, at best....

As for films showing crowds of people gleefully lining parade routes and doing the straight arm salute....first off, these are propaganda films so of course they show 'the masses' adoring Der Fuhrer. Secondly, and again setting aside what we know now of the regime, such displays really are not much different from any patriotic display, it just depends which side one is on. Thirdly, if one didn't participate and display the correct amount of enthusiasm it could get very dangerous for oneself and one's family; certainly later on.

Hitler and the Nazis were, at least in the early years, seen as the saviours of Germany and a refreshing change from the corruption, decadence and arrogance of the 2nd Reich (Bismarck and the old Kaiser-connected politicians, many of whom were blamed for getting Germany into a losing war (WWI) to begin with and the subsequent shame and economic devastation Germany endured post-war and because of the Treaty of Versailles). I suspect by the time the 'average person' realized, if they realized, what was really going on, it was too late.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the famous piece about 'when they came for the communists, I didn't say anything because I wasn't a communist...' and goes through a whole list of those groups rounded up by the Nazis and ends with "And by the time they came for me, there was no one left to speak up."

it was written by a Protestant pastor who was rounded up by the Gestapo for being 'an enemy of The State' and sent to one of the concentration camps.

As for the footage you have of them "happy to see Warsaw, London, Rotterdam, bombed into oblivion safe in the knowledge that Göring had promised the German people that no British bombs would fall on a German city!" I quite believe it...because the propaganda churned out, and which was the only information available unless one had a secret wireless that could access non-German sources of information (and which was dangerous to have and listen to!), would have cast the Allies as 'the bad guys', your average Briton (to say nothing of Poles and, to a lesser degree, the Dutch) as evil and corrupt and smug and against all that was pure and good and wholesome. So...'those bastards deserved what was coming to them.' (not quoting anyone but an imaginary German there).

I want to be very clear...I am not attempting to whitewash or exonerate or make excuses for the horrors of the Nazi regime....but what I am doing is to illustrate that 'average folk' are average folk, on whichever side they may be on and when such folk are caught up in the effects of war -- especially a war like WWII that, for the first time, brought war smashing down on one's own head to a far greater extent than wars had previously done and for a far greater number of people, due to technological advances in warfare -- their experience is not unlike what 'our side' would experience in the same circumstances.

What Gywnno experienced in the Wurzburg museum was a human, and empathetic, response and one he needs to understand as that.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   6/3/2010, 05:38

We DO see where you are coming from Stephen, especially those of us who lived through it all and to those of us that had studied the German Language and Literature.

It's a pity that some posts suddenly disappeared from this thread because, having studied the history of National Socialism in Nazi Germany over a long period of time, I agree with much of what you say!

I also stayed in Würzburg (1979) and wondered at the arts there.

I first saw Belsen, in August 1953 while we were on manouvres encamped on the ranges close by. Some of the lads asked locals what they knew of the place just a few short years before. Those locals that had not been moved out by the authorities in the thirties to make way for the Hohne ranges DID know about the place and were petrified to say anything-in case they ended up inside!

It was Churchill who ordered the bombing of that lovely city of Würzburg-his sole intention was to break the will of the German people by destroying as many German cities as was possible. But, I don't blame him. I blame Hitler and his followers for the destruction of a culture that I had personally admired.
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   6/3/2010, 19:55

Thank you, Ian.

I accept that on such a topic there will be different points of view and even disagreement, and that's fine. My concern was not being understood. It appears you have understood and so I am satisfied :-)

I whole-heartedly agree with you re blaming Hitler and his followers for the destruction of a culture we clearly both admired. And, it might be worth noting here, Hitler for all his "Germanness" wasn't even a German, but an Austrian! Germanic, sure, but not "German".

The Germany of Goethe, of Beethoven, of Bach, of Rilke, Schubert, Luther, and all the shining luminaries of art, science, literature, and music was dismissed by the thugs and louts that made up the brownshirts, certainly, and later the blackshirts and the National Socialists themselves.

The crackpots who headed the Party (Goering, Himmler, and the rest) opted instead for what in this day and age could be described as the Velvet Painting view of 'culture.'

They went in for weird arcane flim-flammery of some sort of mythic "Germanic past" that had nothing to do with reality. An odd bunch, to be sure, who if it were not for a few quirks of history would have been relegated to the footnotes of history as some sort of peculiar political fringe group, like so many in the latter part of the 19th and early parts of the 20th Centuries were.

The SS, for instance, wasn't just some elite guard. There is a whole mystic 'thing' attached to them and those involved believed it to be a modern mystical order, like the Teutonic Knights or Knights Templar. Totally pagan, to boot. Highly ritualistic.

But I digress..... lord, get me started on that aspect of National Socialism, which fascinates me, and I'll be going on for hours!!! LOL
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PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   8/3/2010, 22:42

Thanks for all your responses to this thread. You guys never cease to surprise me with regard to your immense historical knowledge, your passion for this subject, your compassion and your "balls" to utter forthright statements when they are needed that come straight from the heart and based on personal experiences- I feel I received the full gamut of responses based on your own values and beliefs.

Forgive me but I held back responding to individual comments because I felt that most of you had more right to reply than me since I have never been to war or suffered/witnessed atrocities or even donned a uniform (other than that stag do in Prague but that's another story).

Collectively you have helped me to understand how I felt after my trip to Würzburg and for this I thank you one and all. I think I have learned that I need to reflect on such experiences not just for what they seem but to consider the bigger picture.

I enjoy this site and I, like many others I suspect, often follow threads without contributing just to gain historical knowledge, to hear of experiences I'll never acquire yet my father certainly did, to share trips down memory lane and mostly to enjoy the humour as threads develop.

Thanks again Smile
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Norman
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Number of posts : 56
Age : 81
Localisation : East Yorkshire
Cap Badge : RASC/RCT
Places Served : Farnborough, Aldershot, Sennelager, Hildesheim, Hannover.
Registration date : 2009-10-19

PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   25/1/2011, 17:16

I have enjoyed reading this topic and I agree with one of the first postings that said 'you reap what you sow'.
It came back to me with a documentary on TV last year sometime which was about the carpet bombing of Dresden, and a young German lady was saying how horrible it must have been. Her final words were "Why did they have to do it, so late in the war"? My immediate thought was that at precisely the same time the Germans were raining V1's and V2's down on our southern towns and cities with total disregard for anyone or anything. and that was "So late in the war".
I was brought up in Hull during the entire war and we sure had our fair share of destruction and loss of life. I also saw plenty of open spaces which would have been built up areas when I first went to Germany in 1955, and as an amateur historian I have read much about their loss of life.
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Themaadone
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Number of posts : 270
Localisation : Near London
Cap Badge : RAOC/RLC/AGC
Places Served : Bielefeld, Guetersloh, Viersen, Bracht, Falklands, Aldershot, Leconsfield, NI, Rwanda, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan
Registration date : 2010-09-02

PostSubject: Re: Why did I feel so bad ?   26/1/2011, 15:02

Gwynn - I grew up in Germany, had German mates, knew their families and listened to similar stories all through my childhood. When we went home, my Aunts and Uncles recounted the bombings they endured in Liverpool, in much more graphic detail.

I never felt upset until I actually witnessed suffering myself. Being in Bosnia and Rwanda made me realise the suffering and the desparity of suffering at another mans hands (albeit from perspective of a Bomb aimers release button).

We all have cried - it what makes us compassionate men and I would dare say there is not one person here who in their lifetime has not been ashamed/embarrassed or shocked by something another person has done, so much so that they have felt personally responsible. I think your reaction is perfectly normal and good on you for admitting how you feel!

Martin
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