A View Through Postcards: Dresden, 1945 is an installation that uses a series of postcards with firsthand narratives as the medium to bring the history of the bombing of Dresden alive. Addressing the issue of how we learn about the same historical event through different perspectives worldwide, this project aims to provide an opportunity for the audience to learn about history through multiple perspectives and mediums. Challenging the traditional way of learning history, five postcard narratives trigger projection mapping, immersing viewers in the multiple perspectives represented by each survivor’s experiences, represented through the narratives and photographs of each postcard. This project reveals the many hidden layers of history and provides visitors with the opportunity to reflect on and develop their own interpretation of history through the different perspectives, backgrounds, and beliefs.
Everyone learns history. Whether in school, through the news, from family, or even on social media, we are exposed to the stories of the past and what came before us. However, we are taught history from a very ethnocentric point of view depending on where we grow up. What we learn depends on what the authorities want us to learn about our national heritage. This is used to reinforce the nation’s agenda of strengthening national loyalty and to enfold us into a collective national identity. As a result, the morals and values we learn from history differ based on who teaches them. By learning history from only one perspective, we are unable to empathize with others, leading us to inevitably make the same mistakes again.
A View Through Postcards: Dresden, 1945, aims to provide an opportunity for the audience to develop their own historical perspectives by creating a space where they can reflect on interpretations and perspectives from people with different backgrounds and beliefs. Additionally, it aims to provoke the question of how these different views impact the way we shape our understanding of the world and its history.
Before World War II, Dresden, Germany, was considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities because of its architecture and art treasures. The city was nicknamed “Florence on the Elbe.”
It is hard to imagine why a city so beautiful- a symbol of baroque humanism and all that was best in Germany, was completely destroyed during WWII. But we also cannot forget the evil present in the city during the Nazi period. Books were burned in Dresden on the Night of Broken Glass in 1938. That same year, the Semper Synagogue was destroyed by the SA. Dresden Jewish residents were murdered, and people who had psychological disorders and intellectual disabilities were gassed in the basement of the city.
The targeted airstrikes and bombing of cities began in 1940, ordered by Adolf Hitler. German Luftwaffe flew to London and Coventry to carry out the Blitz. In 1941, Allied forces began to carry out bombing campaigns in Germany. They aimed to target military facilities, industrial locations, and transportation hubs. At the same time, they had another goal- to spread fear and terror throughout the country and weaken the will to fight among the population.
On February 13, 1945, British and American bombers conducted a major bombing raid on Dresden. The city was so heavily bombed that the incendiary bombs caused massive fires that reached 1,000 degrees Celsius. An estimated 25,000 people were killed in both the bombing and the firestorm that raged afterward.
Unlike other major cities in Germany, the Allied forces hardly flew any air raids over Dresden. The development of bomb shelters had been neglected. Just a few weeks before the air raid, authorities dismantled and shipped away its antiaircraft guns and searchlights to the hard-pressed eastern front.
The city was completely unprotected.
Why Dresden, Germany?
As World War II recedes in time, the world faces a new challenge of teaching younger generations about the horrible realities of the world war through survivors and those who can speak from experience. What pushed me to pursue the firebombing of Dresden was the city’s history. A city that has evolved over centuries to become a city full of art, music, and architecture, was destroyed overnight due to the hands of humankind- something unfathomable for those who have not lived through the war.
What was shocking was the fact that the Japanese city of Kyoto, which was heavy in military industry, was initially designated as the prime target for the first atomic bomb. The city was spared only because the U.S. Secretary of War, Henry L Stimson, stepped in to save the city’s beauty, history, and art.
But Dresden was not spared.