Sunday, July 04, 2010

Dresden

I'm now back home.  I realize I often get to visit civilized cool places that many people never see.  I generally never actually experience them either, as I am generally busy in meetings most of the time I am in these places.  Or perhaps it's better to say that I do experience the places, as I am working there as so many others do.

I did however, get a little bit of time to reconnoiter Dreseden...

It's an odd place, at least in the "Old Town" (Altstadt)  I was in.  The Altstadt of course isn't old at all; there is  no old part of Dresden..  This is because in the Second World War, planners in Defense Departments commissioned engineers to draw up plans and calculations about how to create a firestorm.  The calculations were evidently correct...

In case you didn't know what a firestorm is, here's Wikipedia's entry on the subject:

A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires. The Black Saturday bushfires, the Great Peshtigo Fire and the Ash Wednesday fires are examples of firestorms. Firestorms can also be deliberate effects of targeted explosives such as occurred as a result of the aerial bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, Stalingrad, Tokyo, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and The Blitz during World War II....


A firestorm is created as a result of the stack effect as the heat of the original fire draws in more and more of the surrounding air. This draft can be quickly increased if a low level jet stream exists over or near the fire. As the updraft mushrooms, strong gusty winds develop around the fire, directed inward. This would seem to prevent the firestorm from spreading on the wind, but the tremendous turbulence also created causes the strong surface inflow winds to change direction erratically. This wind shear is capable of producing small tornado- or dust devil-like circulations called fire whirls which can also dart around erratically, damage or destroy houses and buildings, and quickly spread the fire to areas outside the central area of the fire. A firestorm may also develop into a mesocyclone and induce true tornadoes [1]. Probably, this is true for the Peshtigo Fire.[2]

The greater draft of a firestorm draws in greater quantities of oxygen which significantly increases combustion, thereby also substantially increasing the production of heat. The intense heat of a firestorm manifests largely as radiated heat (infrared radiation) which ignites flammable material at a distance ahead of the fire itself.






As in Munich, but much more recently (after reunification) the Germans rebuilt part of the town along the lines of the way the original city stood.  Because of the recentness of the restoration, as well as the fact that Dresden, unlike Munich experienced a firestorm,  the overall feeling I felt here is one of strangeness and disorientation.  Dresden's "old" buildings are signifiers of buildings that no longer exist - because of this the whole city shouts out that it was the object of a firestorm more directly than Tokyo, which was largely rebuilt from the ground up after the war.  In Tokyo, with some small exceptions (such as Asakusa and the Diet) there is no "old" city visible; the aftermath of Tokyo's firestorm and surrender has rendered it relatively new, if somewhat staid relative to Osaka (or perhaps it was always that way).
But Dresden is different.

In Dresden one cannot help but feel unsettled.   The very existence of the rebuilt buildings points to the horible karma that this city experienced; you cannot look at Altstadt without thinking of the firestorm.  Even in the rebuilt part of Altstadt "history" ends with the Kaiser.  The nature of the look of the town does not do anything but point to its horrors.

Or perhaps  that was simply me.  Dresden sits in the former East Germany; it is near the Czech Republic and Poland.   I am of mixed Polish, German and Slovak descent; significantly more than Munich or for some reason Berlin, it seems like the people around here resemble distant relatives of me.

Here is part of where Slavs and Germans mixed.  This area was evidently at one time settled by Slavs, and then by Germans.  Today there is a Sorbian Slavic minority in this general region; in the church in Dresden there is a poster commemorating one Alois Andritzki, who was apparently murdered by the Nazis for suggesting that perhaps it wasn't a great idea to be subjugating non-Germans.  Sorbs, according to Hitler  were just Germans who just happened to speak a Slavic language, and had Slavic customs.  After the war the Sorbian people haven't had much prominence on the world stage; whatever national aspirations these people have haven't had the press that other national movements have.

As for today,  Wikipedia notes:



After the unification of Germany on 3 October 1990, Lusatians made efforts to create an autonomous administrative unit; however Helmut Kohl’s government did not agree to it. After 1989 the Sorbian movement revived, however it still encounters many obstacles. Although Germany supports national minorities, Sorbs claim that their aspirations are not sufficiently fulfilled. The desire to unite Lusatia into one country has not been taken into consideration. Upper Lusatia still belongs to Saxony and Lower Lusatia to Brandenburg. Liquidations of Sorbian schools, even in areas mostly populated by Sorbs, still happen, under the pretext of financial difficulties or demolition of whole villages to create lignite quarries.

Today (2008) Sorbian institutions serving 60,000 Sorb people supposedly receive less money for preservation of their culture than one German theater's yearly budget in Berlin[3], an annual state grant of 15.6 million Euro by the Federal and the Saxon governments[4]. Faced with growing threat of cultural extincton the Domowina issued a memorandum in March 2008 [5] and called for "help and protection against the growing threat of their cultural extinction, since an ongoing conflict between the German government, Saxony and Brandenburg about the financial distribution of help blocks the financing of almost all Sorbian institutions". The memorandum also demands a reorganisation of competence by ceding responsibility from the Länder to the federal government and an expanded legal status. The call has been issued to all governments and heads of state of the European Union[6].














May peace prevail on earth.

2 comments:

Petteri Sulonen said...

It's not just you. I had very much the same impression when I visited last spring. I tried to capture some of it in some photos...

智超智超 said...

一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼............................................................