Slaughterhouse Five

The excellent Letters of Note has a scan and transcript of the letter Kurt Vonnegut sent home in May 1945 to inform his family of his capture, imprisonment and survival of the firebombing of Dresden. As a prisoner of war during the bombing, he was held in an underground slaughterhouse known as Slaughterhouse Five, which would save his life and lend its name to his famous 1969 anti-war novel.

From the transcript:

It was our misfortune to have sadistic and fanatical guards. We were refused medical attention and clothing: We were given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: — one boy starved to death and the S3 Troops shot two for stealing food.

On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden — possibly the world’s most beautiful city. But not me.

After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.

Letter home from Kurt Vonnegut, 1945

(via 3 quarks daily)