On 13 February 1945, Victor Gregg was a 25-year-old British rifleman being held by the Germans in the beautiful city of Dresden. Having been captured in the Battle of Arnhem, he had twice tried to escape his POW camp, for which his punishment was to work in a soap factory, and this required him to walk 10 miles a day through thick snow (he was given a pair of wooden clogs). Unrepentant, he burnt down the soap factory, was sentenced to death and sent to Dresden for execution. There, he was held in an ad hoc ‘prison’, along with hundreds of other condemned men.
Like the guards and townspeople, Gregg did not believe the city would be bombed – there was a widespread understanding that the Allies would preserve its cultural heritage, just as the Germans had refrained from attacking Oxford. But, as he relates here, it was an unfounded assumption. Gregg was to witness unimaginable carnage that brought him decades of mental turmoil. Although a patriot, and by no means a pacifist, 70 years after the event he still believes that those who ordered the three-day bombing of Dresden could be guilty of a war crime, because they knew the devastation that would be wreaked on the civilian population.
After the raid, he eventually walked to the advancing Russian lines.
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