How Small the World Can Be at Times…
Talk About Connecting the Dots!
Let me tell you a little story about a couple of people – one famous, one not. This true story is centered in Dresden, Germany. It’s OK if you don’t know of Dresden or its history. I only know of it coincidentally and accidentally. However, the way that I do know of it is pretty powerful. And it bears telling.
It has been said that life is the weaving of thread into a tapestry. This is my very small thread of that tapestry.
Dresden – Located on both banks of the Elbe River, it is situated in mid-eastern Germany, near the Czech border. It is a beautiful German city with historical importance as the Capital of Saxony. Dresden is known, amongst other things, for the quality of the fine china that it crafts.
Kurt Vonnegut – Renowned American author born into a family of German immigrants.
Marianne – Born in Germany, but now a long time American.
Frankly Francis – Curious social observer and commentator.
Act One – World War II
Dresden is fortunate, as a German city, in that it has very limited, if any, military value. It is considered a “safe” city.
Kurt Vonnegut, like so many young men of his day, is a private in the U.S. Army. Because of his heritage, he could be shooting at his own family and they could be shooting back at him. War can be like that.
Marianne could have been any teenage girl anywhere at anytime, but she happened to be in Germany when the Germans were about to lose the war.
Vonnegut is taken prisoner by the Germans and is held in Dresden.
Marianne, being as young as she is, is relatively oblivious to understanding what is happening all around her. What is crystal clear is that she must travel and find her way to the advancing Americans. At all costs she has to avoid the advancing Russians.
Dresden is an easy target for Allied bombing. The British are really pissed that the Germans have bombed their old city of Coventry virtually out of existence. Plans are made and set in motion.
Marianne’s mother is apparently skilled at hiding her teenage daughter from the men. Nonetheless, Marianne, to this day, cannot forget the cries of the women being raped by the soldiers. Can you imagine living through that? You see, the Russians felt that they had been treated terribly by the Germans and now it is their turn to inflict a little treatment of their own.
Dresden is Fire Bombed shortly before the end of WWII. Historical reports estimated deaths in the range of 150,000 to 250,000, which would be more than those directly killed by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. A recent report has substantially lowered the estimates to no more than 25,000 deaths. Whatever the actual total, it was a horrendous, apocalyptic event. 13 square miles of city were leveled.
Kurt Vonnegut survives the Fire Bombing of Dresden underground, in a meat storage locker. Can you imagine living through that? He later uses that address as the title to his book, “Slaughterhouse Five.”
Act Two – After the War
Marianne makes her way to America. She becomes close with my family. I think of her as family.
Frankly Francis, becoming sentient, rabidly reads everything Vonnegut writes. Frankly Francis concurs with John Stewart, who would later say, “Kurt Vonnegut made growing up bearable.”
Marianne and Frankly Francis are together at a birthday dinner for Maria, sister of Frankly Francis.
Frankly Francis, never one to waste an opportunity to mention that he had lunch with Kurt Vonnegut, talks of that meeting and Vonnegut’s past, including his having survived the Fire Bombing of Dresden.
Marianne, never one to waste a word, says simply and succinctly that she passed through Dresden on the day it was Fire Bombed and watched the destruction from just outside of town.
Frankly Francis has made a loud sound by falling off of his chair.
Dots are connecting! What are the odds that this little thread would come into direct contact with two others who lived through an event of that magnitude?
Kurt Vonnegut and Marianne were within miles of each other on that day that so many died. Both were in very adverse, but dramatically different circumstances. Both hoped for something better to come. Both were able to move forward, but both were never the same.
And so it goes…