feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilisation."
Here was a committed Socialist (as Orwell described himself), a volunteer for a Marxist militia in the Spanish Civil War, remembered as a leading "anti-totalitarian" author, seemingly expressing deep regret at what had just happened to "Nazi Germany". The war, in that essay, comes off almost like a catastrophe of nature, one that had just reduced city after city of this major world power to heap after heap of smoldering debris.
Elsewhere in the essay, Orwell wrote:
The people of Britain have never felt easy about the bombing of civilians and no doubt they will be ready enough to pity the Germans as soon as they have definitely defeated them; but what they still have not grasped---thanks to their own comparative immunity---is the frightful destructiveness of modern war
In Dresden, the worst firebombing raid of the war in Europe occurred on my birthday (Feb. 13th). The city was overloaded with refugees, and many of them were killed in the firestorm. A young Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden at the time. He used the shock of the experience, twenty years later, to write the classic "Slaughterhouse Five". (In visiting Dresden in December 2010, I located the spot where the Vonnegut "slaughterhouse" POW-prison must have been, though it is all different now except for the street name. It was snowing the night I walked the street, just as it was when Vonnegut arrived in December 1944, according to his book.)
About the Dresden firebombing, a German poet wrote the following shortly after it occurred:
[He who has forgotten how to weep can learn to do so again from the destruction of Dresden]