Kurt Vonnegut’s new book Armageddon in Retrospect is about war and peace. Included is a letter he wrote to his family in 1945 explaining the late author’s stint as a POW in Dresden. His experiences became the basis of the book Slaughterhouse Five.
On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. Their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden—possibly the world’s most beautiful city. But not me.
After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.
When General Patton took Leipzig we were evacuated on foot to Hellexisdorf on the Saxony-Czechoslovakian border. There we remained until the war ended. Our guards deserted us. On that happy day the Russians were intent on mopping up isolated outlaw resistance in our sector. Their planes (P39’s) strafed and bombed us, killing fourteen. But not me.