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ROGER SIMON

What It's Like When the Bombs Begin to Fall

January 27, 1991|ROGER SIMON

In Hamburg, in July and August, 1942, allied bombers created firestorms by using incendiary bombs. These created temperatures of more than 1,800 degrees and a literal hurricane of fire in which wind speeds reached 100-150 m.p.h., incinerating even those people who had escaped to underground shelters.

At least 50,000 people were killed in the Hamburg raids, a million more fled the city, half the houses were destroyed and more than half of those houses left standing were damaged.

Yet morale did not break. It didn't break in London and it didn't break in Hamburg. That is one of the more interesting lessons of World War II (and later Vietnam). Conventional bombing, though at least partly designed to break the spirit of civilians, instead seems to strengthen it.

Astonishing creatures, these human beings.

But most astonishing, perhaps, is how people got used to the bombing, how life struggled for normalcy amid the madness. How people kept a stiff upper lip. How they muddled through. And how they just began to ignore the war.

"Really, sometimes we would just not go down to the shelters when the bombing began," Marga says. "After a while, we sometimes took our chances. Life went on. Life always goes on."

Marga Vogel is Marga Alexander now (actually she is Lady Alexander, but that's another story) and she turned 69 a few weeks ago. Her twin sisters also came through the war just fine and later moved from London.

Today, one lives in Haifa and the other lives in Jerusalem. They will muddle through.

In cities throughout the Mideast, while the warriors make their war, the people will muddle through.

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