Dresden, Germany

Bombed 1945

The Disappointed Tourist: Frauenkirche, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 24 x 218″ ( 61 x 46 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The Dresden Church of Our Lady (German: Dresdner Frauenkirche) was a Baroque Lutheran church built between 1726 and 1743. It was designed by George Bähr and was built as a symbol of the citizens’ commitment to Protestantism. It was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in 1945 when Anglo-American forces dropped some 650,000 incendiary bombs on the city, killing an estimated 25,000 people and destroying 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city. The church held up through two days of bombing until the it finally exploded. The bombing, which was explicitly framed as retribution for the Nazi bombing of Coventry was controversial from the start. The ruins were left as a war memorial by the East Germany authorities, becoming the focus of a growing peace movement in the 1980s. After the reunification of Germany, the church was reconstructed using many of the salvaged stones, with donations from German, British and American sources. The reconstruction was completed in 2005. This painting is based on a photograph from the Library of Congress taken between 1860 and 1890.

Churchill was advised against the raid and was urged by some advisors to at least spare the Kirche, but Bomber Harris prevailed. The result: an unforgettable atrocity left a moral stain on British “virtue” or “innocence”. (The Germans were already damned.) Postwar analysis showed that the Allies’ strategy of bombing civilian targets in the hope it would break German’s public morale was a total failure. John T.