What did Winston Churchill do in World War I.

Greatest Brit a war criminal?

T he story will be kind to me because I intend to make history, ”said Winston Churchill. He did it, twice: as British World War II premier who brought Hitler to his knees, and as an author

T he story will be kind to me because I intend to make history, ”said Winston Churchill. He did it, twice: as British World War II premier who brought Hitler to his knees, and as the author of a multi-volume history of the war that has a permanent place in the libraries of the educated middle class. It was predicted to be benevolent to him, to historiography, and so was the British people. Last Sunday, it voted Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill the “greatest British of all time” by telephone vote. Victory!

One of them, however, disturbs the British idyll, scratches the Churchill monument and may even want to overthrow it. And this one is - you hear it on the island with horror - a German, a "Fritz". His name is Jörg Friedrich and he has just published a book about the Allied bombings of German cities in World War II.

"Germans call Churchill a war criminal," was the headline of the British Daily Telegraph after the German tabloid "Bild" made a series of Friedrich's book. "We could perhaps apologize to the Indians, to the Africans we have abducted, to all the peoples we have subjugated - but not to the Germans," snapped the conservative "Independent". After all, the Germans started the war and the bombs, so it's your own fault and that's that.

Friedrich had not asked for a British apology and certainly not questioned the German guilt for the war. What the book "Der Brand" is about is the suffering of the civilian population under the Allied bomb carpets. In greater detail than any other before, the work describes the development of area bombings and their further development into a terrible weapon. American and especially British bombers threw around a million tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs on cities where 30 million people lived. Over half a million died, most of them in the final months of the war.

But it is not these numbers that suggest the horror. These are the scenes in the burning cities, where people were burned, suffocated, and torn apart by the pressure of the air in an oppressively precise manner on almost 600 pages. It is the sober language of the historian Friedrich who sets the immeasurable suffering in a strange contrast to the cool engineering of those responsible for the bomb weapon, who no longer even pretended that they were concerned with the destruction of militarily important facilities in advance: the more perfect the bomb weapon became, points out According to Friedrich, the more it was directed against civilians. Children, women, old people, prisoners of war, refugees, the sick and - also, but only from statistical coincidence - Nazis. Churchill was the chief in command of the British Air Force, which planned and carried out the bombings. «Winston Churchill was the greatest British butcher of all time. In any case, I don't know of anyone else in Great Britain who would have the death of 45,000 boys and 30,000 girls on their conscience, ”says the author of the book. So was Churchill a war criminal, Herr Friedrich? Is the historian a judge? He asks back. And then, in the language of the lawyer he is: “A war criminal is someone who has been convicted of a war crime. But a victor is never a war criminal because there is no one to charge him. "

The suspicion of possibly being a war criminal weighs heavily enough on the "greatest British of all time." And it is not made easier by the fact that British historians are now critically questioning the bombing war against Nazi Germany. "Maybe it is time for us to express our regrets," says Mark Connelly of Kent University, who has published on the subject himself and believes it has been proven that Britain's bombers flew to kill civilians.

Churchill's closest allies, however, are in the editorial offices of those German newspapers to which any reference to the suffering of Germans during the World War seems inappropriate. But because the facts cannot be disputed, they criticize the historian's style. Friedrich intone in his book "the great lament of the cities in the furnace", complained the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", he was sailing on the "wave of sentimentalization". Feelings, according to the logic of the "Süddeutsche", are intended for the victims of Germany, but in no way for German victims. And then the inevitable sentence: "It doesn't help, it was the Germans who started it."