Terror from the sky

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An outsider's view

I am an Australian born since the war. My father and two uncles were in Australian uniform during the entire war, in the Pacific theatre. I first became conscious of this subject (Bombenkrieg) on my first visit to Germany in 1974. I am sure I can recall, from those days, a fund-raising campaign to restore Frankfurt's historic Opera House. I soon became aware of the huge rebuilding that had gone on in the cities. I began to pay attention to the remaining historic buildings, often heavily rehabilitated.
Please let me say this much. Having read accounts of the large air raids, particularly against Hamburg, Cologne and Dresden, I reflected that for Germans to be unaffected by the horror, they would have to be inhuman.
I am unaware if anyone has rigorously explored what psychological impact the whole experience had on the minds of German survivors. I suspect curiosity about that impact explains Friedrich's motivation to research the subject. Upon pondering it further, I thought it was important for Germans to recognize their own compatriots' sufferings. After all, if they cannot grieve for their own, how can they empathize with the sufferings of any others? It would be impossible for Germans to feel sorry for Warsaw (a city that suffered much from occupation till final destruction ) if they cannot even shed a tear over what occurred in some of their own great cities.

An Australian view more than 3 years ago

Powerful plea

Even eight years later this plea has not lost any of its power. I've only recently discovered Sebald and through your interview I met Friedrichs. Born in West Germany in 1963, I'm almost a generation removed from the author and I can confirm that the numbness and the lack of words for the traumas of the war are very deep seated and have been passed on through the family systems. Germans need to find a way to speak about this, perhaps a new language is in order, perhaps a new way to wield language. As a writer I feel called upon by the seriousness of the situation to respond—though I don't know yet, how.

Marcus Speh more than 7 years ago

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