Graz the Ragman trundled his barrow through a landscape he did not recognize, though he had lived all his life in Dresden. Where the Frauenkirche had stood was now a tumble of scorched stones, smoke and dust hanging in the air like a shroud. The baker where his mother had sent him for the Sunday loaf of rye had vanished altogether, replaced by a smoldering crater.
In the haze ahead he a saw little dog trotting between piles of rubble. It was carrying something in its mouth. Graz could see it now. A child’s arm.
He could not unsee it.
Beginning on the night of February 13, 1945, more than 1,200 heavy bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Dresden in four successive raids. An estimated 25,000 people were killed in the bombings and the firestorm that raged afterward. More than 75,000 dwellings were destroyed, along with unique monuments of Baroque architecture in the historic city center. The scale of the death and destruction, coming so late in the war, along with significant questions about the legitimacy of the targets destroyed have led to years of debate about whether the attack was justified, or whether it should be labeled a war crime.