and setup for the exploration)
An elderly farmer stood up and motioned the Man of The Cloth to sit down. The farmer hesitated when the hall became quiet. "Forgive me," said the farmer in an English sounding dialect, "I'm not a religious man. I've been a bomber pilot during the war." He looked at his hands. "These hands have killed more people than all the murderers that ever lived in the state of North Carolina. These hands have killed innocent people, children, babies, women, and old men, people that I had never talked to, strangers that I had never met. I burnt them with firebombs. I destroyed their houses. We all did. We suffocated them in the holocaust of their own cities. But this was respectable. They were Nazis, were they not? I have a medal to prove it. The chaplain always said, 'God is on our side! God is your copilot!"
He paused and resumed moments later. "I have visited our ruins after the war. Of course I couldn't tell which exactly were mine. Everything burnable had been consumed. I saw a desert of rubble and broken stone, facades burnt white by a fire that no one can imagine, pointing eerily against the sky. I remembered those ruins again years later on the day when our neighbor's barn had burned down. We couldn't get near enough to put water on it. The heat was so intense. We simply let it burn to the ground. When I remembered our ruins that day I realized that we hadn't just set one building ablaze, but the entire city all at once. I couldn't begin to imagine what we had done to the people that had lived there; how terribly they must have died while the chaplain kept on saying that God is..., well that God is on our side."
The farmer paused and then continued quietly. "I was a British airman in those days. I was one of many. We were fighting the Nazi beast, and I was proud of it. We set out that night on another run on what began like the normal routine. I was a part of the first wave. We were a 244-plane armada of Lancaster bombers. Each of us was loaded up with 700 phosphorous incendiary bombs and other high explosive bombs. The target was a small city seven hundred miles away, named Dresden, which had remained undamaged through the entire war. We were told that the city had virtually no antiaircraft defenses. It hadn't been of any military significance. We were never told the particular reason for this night's run. The city was dark when we arrived. It was just past ten at night. We set our markers. After that we did our duty to God, King, and country, and returned. My nightmares didn't begin until weeks later when I visited our ruins."
The farmer paused and then continued. "It took me a long time to discover why we would do such a thing. We were not fighting a war anymore. The city lay in the path of the advancing Red Army that was only thirty miles distant from it. Over 600,000 people had fled into the city in the advance of the Russian Army. The city was bursting at its seams, a city of children, women, and old people. Dresden was also a hospital city caring for the wounded from the front.
"I was told when I came as a visitor, when I saw those ruins, that on this fateful night shortly before our arrival a circus had performed to a full house to cheer the solemn mood of those that had narrowly escaped the horrors of war, that they had probably seen far too much of already. I was told that little girls had been dancing in the streets in carnival costumes to bring smiles to people's faces. Smiles were hard to come by in those days, but the seemed important in such difficult times. That's when we changed their world. I arrived that night together with 244 other pilots and crews. We ended their hope. Our rain of terror began shortly after ten that night, with the commencement of our bombing run. We were trained professionals in precision saturation bombing. God, we should have heard their screams at seven thousand feet above them. Indeed, we might have heard them had it not been for the drone of our thousand Merlin engines that drowned out their cries.
"That night, over the space of 14 hours, mine, and a thousand other planes, dropped 700,000 firebombs onto this small city of 1.2 million, one bomb for every two persons. Before we turned away fifteen minutes later, after completing the first wave, the city started burning. Those weren't single little fires that I saw, but one large sea of fire. I was told the city burned with one single flame fed by a vast inferno hot enough to melt steel. I was told that the ground turbulence of the in-rushing air exceeded the power of the most powerful hurricane recorded. In its path people were swept up like being sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner. Most, though, simply suffocated in their shelters for the lack of oxygen, before they too fell victims to the flames.
"Three hours later the second wave of bombers arrived. The second wave was more than twice as large. It was made up of 529 Lancaster Bombers from four different bomber groups. I was told that the second wave had been delayed by those three hours in order to draw people out of their shelters, enticing them to escape the fire, and to allow others to come in to attempt rescue operations. It was expected that many people would escape to the Great Garden, a city park a mile and a half square. In anticipation some of the firestorms were drawn by the second wave bombers into the park. The result was as predicted, a grotesque hell of uprooted burning trees, bodies, bicycles, all becoming one with the howling tornado of fire. They said that the smoke of the city could be seen as far away as London, 700 miles distant.
"The third wave was a US Air Force operation, so I was told. I was told that there was nothing much left for them to bomb, but the broken rubble itself, which they bombed again. However, the American bombing wave did something worse. The bombers came with a fighter escort of P-51 Mustangs. The fighter aircraft took to the ground and began strafing the city, killing everything that moved, especially the people that had massed along the Elbe River to get away from the inferno. They machine-gunned everything, the wounded, the dying, even a column of rescue vehicles that had been rushing into the city to evacuate survivors. The orders must have been given to leave none alive.
The farmer looked around the room. "I was told that some fires continued to burn and smolder for weeks. I was also told that they counted more than 260,000 bodies, or what seemed to have been once bodies of men women and children. Some say that 500,000 may have died that night. The rest got caught up in the fire-hurricanes. Nobody knows for certain how many really died. But as I saw it, it was without doubt the single most extensive and horrific orgy of genocide against a defenseless people that ever occurred in the entire history of mankind. We certainly achieved a great victory that day. But nothing was won by it, was it? In fact, we lost badly as the result of this victory. We lost the most precious that a nation can have. We lost our humanity, or at least a part of it.
"It is being said that the bombing that burned 500,000 people to death that night, was required for political purposes," said the farmer, "to illustrate to Stalin the resolve and the power of Allied might. Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt had met in Yalta for seven days, just days prior to our bombing. At the conference in Yalta they had rearranged the world for the postwar period. A big show of force had been planned for that occasion to impress on Stalin how impotent his forces were and that the time had come for him to integrate Russia into the western world-empire. I was told that the planned demonstration of awesome force at the Yalta meeting had been called off due to bad weather. The city of Dresden gave Churchill a second opportunity two days later to make up for what was missed. Had they hesitated one more day it might have been too late to implement their terror demonstration. The city would then have been liberated.
"Years later I learned that there might have been a second reason, that was also linked to Yalta," said the farmer. "It was decided by all parties at the Yalta conference that in the postwar period all prisoners of war would be repatriated to their respective countries. This was good news for the American and British soldiers, but not for the Russian prisoners of war who were considered to be traitors and had been routinely executed or sent to the gulags from which few ever returned. Under the terms of the Yalta agreements, a million Russians had been forcibly repatriated by American forces back into the hands of Stalin, and to their death. It has been suggested that the refugees that died in Dresden, would have suffered the same fate. I was also told that when America eventually changed course and turned against the Soviets, ending the forced repatriation, Stalin retaliated and kept 50,000 American and British prisoners of war that were never heard of again."
The farmer looked quietly into the direction of the Man of The Cloth. "When I visited the ruins from my last bombing run," he said quietly, "seeing what we had done, the horror that I could only imagine. if that, marked the beginning of a private war. It became a war of nightmares and despair. The God that I had learned to love as a child, had become a murderer." The farmer paused and pointed a finger at the Man of The Cloth. "If you want to see a God-fearing man," he said angrily to him, "then look at me! The very word causes me pain. You talk about believing in God, because you don't know what you are talking about. You have no idea what God is, do you? You only claim to know. The Hindus, the Moslems, the Greeks, the Jews, the Buddhists, all make the same claim, and with the same breath they deny each other's claims. And so do the communists, the capitalists, the socialists, the nationalists, the Marxists, the monetarists, the racists, and the terrorists. Endlessly, the murdering goes on, and it goes on in the name of God, country, empire, honor, or the good of the people. The common factor is always bloodshed, murder by any means, destruction and burning. Of course I don't know for which of these many reasons we burned the city of Dresden to the ground. We have burned to death twice as many people that day than later burned to death in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. We also destroyed one of the greatest cultural heritages of mankind, the city that was once called the Florence on the Elbe."
He paused for a second as if gasping for air. "The killing hasn't ended, has it?" he said quietly. "The flames keep on burning and consuming. With the ban of the DDT pesticide we are killing a million people each year in Africa alone, year after year, imposing malaria that was once nearly eradicated. That larger killing on a continental scale makes my holocaust a small thing in comparison, doesn't it? And nobody can say that any of that wasn't intentional. The proof lies in the codenames that they picked. Our first great holocaust of unleashing a fire hurricane in a city was named, Operation Gomorrah, in memory of the biblical cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, that is said to have completely vanished in one of the great catastrophes in ancient times. The cities had been located right on the fault line between two giant tectonic plates. They simply disappeared. That evidently had been our intent for the cities of our bombing runs. In this earlier ritual that took place in a city called Hamburg, we left 50,000 dead, a million homeless, and 250,000 houses in rubble. The codename proves that the planners knew what they were doing. In Dresden our mighty armada of military machines was not unleashed to hasten the end of the war such as by pounding the Nazi troops that were still resisting the Russians thirty miles away. No, our might had been unleashed against babies and children, women and seniors, nurses and wounded, and refugees. When I found out what we did, it was plain to see that we too had lost the war, and not just Germany alone. Hitler's Nazi regime had been fast fading into oblivion, but we had grabbed Hitler's sword from him and were holding it high, and carried it forward into the future.
"Our planners also knew perfectly well what further holocaust they were unleashing with the repatriation of the Russian POWs into Stalin's hands," said the farmer. "They called the repatriation project, Operation Keelhaul. The keelhaul was the worst punishment that could be inflicted on a man aboard a ship. They would tie robes to the man's hands and haul him across the keel of the ship, a style of execution that hardly anyone ever survived. They knew that this would be the fate of the million people they delivered to Russia. They knew it also by the desperation of the people that had tried to get away from this fate. The victims had jumped off the trucks bound for Russia. They threw them back. They jumped off again. They beat them with their rifle buts until they were unconscious. They were thrown back like bags of potatoes. That was Operation Keelhaul, performed not by barbarian savages, but by God fearing men.
"When I heard their stories I knew for certain that we had lost the war," said the farmer. "All the three Allies - Russia, England, and America - had lost this war together with Germany, for we had all lost the most precious that a nation can loose. We had lost our humanity. I was proven right in that assessment by what the future brought. The DDT project didn't get a code name, only a number. I believe the number is 200. Under this number many more such projects have been launched, with the biggest yet to come. Some say the target is to eliminate four billion people. They say that the UN will convene another Cairo style conference soon to discuss how this goal can be reached. This intended tragedy illustrates how far we have sunk in this war against ourselves in which we have lost our humanity. I am delighted to hear that there are at least a few people among us in our community that stand with open arms and hearts to help heal this wound."
The man paused once more for a moment. "I'm only a farmer," he said finally. "As a farmer I know the Earth, I respect it. It is clean, pure. I witness the naked beauty of creation with every single blade of grass that grows. That's how I see my fellow man. Man is the noblest work of God. It says so in the Bible. Why, then, do you call it a sin, or the foreboding of disaster, if one faces the noblest work of God in naked honesty without being ashamed, without being covered up, without lying to oneself and without murdering and burning and imposing diseases on children in which they die in agony?"
He said that the girl who spoke before him was right. A society that is asleep in philosophy is too stupid to discern the infinite cycles of spiritual progress and discovery of universal principles and their own humanity. He pointed out that the alert mind hails the decay of outdated perceptions. This awakening precedes every new renaissance, unfolding new energies, new hopes, and new horizons. He challenged the Man of The Cloth to place himself in front of the weapons plants and atomic bomb factories and the smithies in which the new bombers are built where death is manufactured for God's people, instead of blocking the few people in this world who intend to honor more fully what God has created.
Then he hesitated for a moment and challenged the Man of The Cloth to face the poverty in his own thinking, in his own perception of truth, to face himself with the most naked honesty and discover his inner completeness as a human being, which every man should be capable of doing. He promised the Man of The Cloth that if he did this, he would not stand before the assembly of people as an accuser. "The beach people have my vote, they speak of love and back it up with deeds." he said, "I wish them well. We should thank them on our knees for choosing our area for honoring God by raising the dignity of man for the sake of peace, because there are too precious few that do this."
He turned to the Man of The Cloth. "I do not want to fear God. I want to love God. But the God I used to love has become tarnished, blackened, and now stinks. I want a God that I can love, that is not tarnished. It appears that nothing less than love itself will meet this requirement. But where do I find such a God that is Love? Obviously this God is not found in your church, sir," he said to the Man of The Cloth. "Your church is a church of hate as you have demonstrated. Most churches are churches of hate. They all hate something. They are all tarnished. Maybe the God that is Love cannot be found in any citadel. Maybe it can only be found in the wide world of our universal humanity. Maybe its church is on the beach where people see one-another primarily as human beings and are satisfied with that."
The farmer sat down again. But before he did, he quietly asked the anti-Valentine man about how he proposed to stop the burning of the human Soul in the Middle East in those ever-recycling waves of violence and retribution.
"Fotothek df ps 0000010 Blick vom Rathausturm" by Deutsche Fotothek. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons