Hughes asks whether the fire-bombing of Dresden and the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima are somehow different from the Nazi massacres in the concentration camps. He asks, “If Dachau was not legitimate, were Hiroshima and Dresden?” He refers to the pursuit of Nazi war criminals and asks whether it is “wise and just” to pursue these issues of “reported misdeeds” from so long ago.
Yes, it is “wise and just”; it is even necessary and essential. It is necessary because people like V. W. Hughes have to ask if there is a difference between Dresden, Hiroshima and Auschwitz. Hughes states that the Allies’ decision to fire-bomb Dresden was a conscious effort to convince Germany of the futility of continuing the war. Harry S. Truman saw the bombing of Hiroshima as a means of avoiding a continued series of bloody battles that might cause the deaths of many American as well as Japanese soldiers.
One may well debate the morality of the Dresden and Hiroshima bombings, which resulted in the loss of many civilian lives. One may debate the morality of any killing and of war itself. Dresden and Hiroshima were attempts to end the war and to save American lives by destroying a civilian population. The morality of saving American lives by killing “civilian enemies” may be debated by politicians, philosophers and the families of those whose lives were at sake.
The slaughter of concentration-camp victims was not an attempt by the Nazis to win the war or to save German lives. In fact, it deprived the German military of valuable railroad, fuel and labor resources, which could have helped them in the war. The concentration-camp slaughters were motivated by a sadistic and malevolent hatred of other human beings and it constituted an openly avowed genocidal attack on certain religious and national groups.
This is what makes it essentially different from Dresden and Hiroshima. This is what makes it inherently and clearly evil. This is why it is an issue that is not open to debate. The failure of many people, including Hughes, to understand this obvious and basic differences is the reason that it is indeed “wise and just to repeatedly open these old wounds,” by continuing the hunt for Nazi war criminals.
MARVIN S. BEITNER