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WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: The Firebombing Of Dresden And A Very Personal Lesson

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Deutsche Fotothek
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Dresden, 1945. The view from city hall.

We live in an age where everyone loudly proclaims their rights, even when they inspire fear or threaten another's well-being. When I witness these vociferous defenses of the individual over the collective, I think back to a story my father told me.

As a teen, he and his family arrived in Dresden on Feb. 13, 1945. That night the incendiary bombs fell from the sky. In the school cellar where they were sheltered with other refugees, my grandfather managed to get a place next to a wall for himself and my father.

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My grandmother, seeing there was space right next to them, moved with my two aunts so the family could sit together. Once settled, another woman came with her family and insisted that my grandmother had taken her spot. Wanting to avoid a quarrel over seating arrangements when everyone could die in an instant, my grandmother and my aunts got up and looked for somewhere else to wait out the night.

A bomb fell near their cellar, and part of the wall collapsed. Ironically, the woman who had insisted on her right to the space next to my grandfather was buried by rubble, and she and her family died. My grandparents, father and aunts survived unscathed.

So, when you feel the urge to defend your rights and ignore how your actions might affect others, remember the woman in the cellar: she had a right to that space...and what did it bring her?

I'm Frances Jaeger, and that is my perspective.

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