Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Slaughterhouse five (Schlachthof Fünf)

Slaughterhouse five (Schlachthof Fünf) is located about a 10 minute walk from the inner altstadt city center in Dresden. This is the actual area where Kurt Vonnegut was held prisoner during WWII and witnessed the contraversial firebombing of Dresden (February 13 – 15, 1945). Through his fictional character Billy Pilgrim, Vonneguts writes about his experiences in the book "Slaughterhouse 5 (or The children’s Crusade: a Duty-Dance with Death)" leading up to, during, and after the firebombing of Dresden.

The book Slaughter House Five is a real quick read and an interesting anti-war book, which gets its name from the location where Billy was housed; the Slaughter house with the 5 above the door. Some of the buildings in the area would have been seen by Kurt as he was put to work before and after the incident.
In the book Billy jumps around in time to both the bizzare (He is kidnapped by extraterrestrial aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. They exhibit him in a zoo) and realistic (in captivity in Dresden and in the War).

Some of the pictures I took are from early February the time of year when Kurt was in “Slaughter house 5” right before the bombing (taken precisely 65 years after the event):
The tallest building, part of the slaughterhouse complex (65 years later):
Messer strasse 5:
Different angle:

Sign about the old Slaughterhouse:
Slaughterhouse ring (building 24, behind me):
Could #5 have looked like this? Could this be #5? Don't really know. Notice the broken down gate in front:
Walled in buildings:
Inside the walls:


  1. i am doing research on the novel slaughterhouse 5 for my college english class and I am having a difficult time finding information on the actual slaughterhouse itself! can you please write more describing the area it was in, what the building was like, and anything else you may have learned? thank you!

  2. Here are some things that may help you.
    The story of Slaughter house 5 is not really known to the local Dresdner’s or the Germans. The area is not a tourist site at all and is an older forgotten area out of the way of most Dresdner’s. Next to the area is a large pasture that is used as a buffer zone for when the Elbe rises so it is a nice area for biking but it has a remote feeling. I was a bit nervous I attract the local police when I was taking the photos however I tried to not break any rules taking the pictures.
    I do believe that the actual building #5 has been removed (but I don’t know for sure). There is a marker from a special group that has created historical markers (Mahndeposts) for locations related to the bombings. The slaughterhouse 5 building marker (Ort63) is located right here (I wrote a letter to the group and they sent me this location):,13.717268&num=1&t=h&sll=51.050991,13.733634&sspn=0.224727,0.512238&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.06905,13.717214&spn=0.002215,0.005735&z=18

    The Mahndeposts are like time capsules, located in the gound, with information about each site located inside of them. The top of the Mahndeposts is a small circle visable at the surface (about 6 inches in diameter) with a engraving, for example ORT 63. The Mahndepot Ort 63 was added after the first batch of markers. I would like to get a picture of the actual marker but it seems to be in a controlled area (I may go back and ask it i can get a picture).
    Here is a link to the site that tracks these historical markers, again the Slaughter house link was added a year or so later then then first set of marker so it is not on the interactive map:

    Here are some reference points to help you understand the area:
    The tallest building of the old slaughterhouse:,13.718394&num=1&t=h&sll=51.070796,13.718834&sspn=0.004166,0.009903&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.070534,13.719242&spn=0.004166,0.009903&z=17
    Some of the older slaughterhouse buildings that were around when Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner in Dresden and witnessed the bombing.,13.71642&num=1&t=h&sll=51.071525,13.717858&sspn=0.004166,0.009903&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.071525,13.717858&spn=0.004166,0.009903&z=17

    Newer buildings, a lot of the old buildings were removed in this area and the actually building #5(I believe):,13.717064&num=1&t=h&sll=51.063097,13.719306&sspn=0.004167,0.009903&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.069927,13.719134&spn=0.004166,0.009903&z=17

    Messering 5:,13.717407&num=1&t=h&sll=51.069927,13.719134&sspn=0.004166,0.009903&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.069516,13.719392&spn=0.004166,0.009903&z=17

    Nearby Pastures:,13.712547&num=1&t=h&sll=51.069516,13.719392&sspn=0.004166,0.009903&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.0729,13.714478&spn=0.008332,0.019805&z=16

    Book that contains a map of the actual bombing areas, also a really good book about the bombings:

    Here are some more pictures from my smug mug picture collection with the actual pictures (I take more then I post) from the areas:

    These are my pictures from a visit I took right during the same time the bombing occurred:
    Img_5662 – img_5688

    Here are some more that I took at a later visit:
    Img_0069 – img_0133:

  3. I'm writing an article for a non-profit publication about a former Slaughterhouse Five POW. Could I use your pictures, with attribution? thanks,

  4. Linda,

    Yes you may us my pictures with attribution. They should be high resolution images, if you are having trouble getting the high resolution ones let me know I and will send you the ones you would like. Also could you send/email me a copy of your article, I am always interested in this sort of thing and think it would be great to read about more the people who were in the Slaughterhouse Five camp. Also i think it would be cool to see my pictures in use.


    Keith Gardner

  5. FYI: Messering has nothing to do with Messer (knife) and everything to do with Messe (convention). The largest structures in the Slaughterhouse complex, huge halls which are some of the first reinforced concrete buildings ever built, have been renovated and are now used as the Dresden Convention Center (Messe Dresden).

    1. Thanks - i have removed the incorrect translation.

  6. I was in Dresden many years ago and tried to find Schlachthof 5. I was only there for a day and nobody seemed to know what I was asking for (nb: my Deutsch is terrible. Enough to get by when I have money in my hand and it's a routine transaction but not enough to explain myself if I wasn't understood the first time). However I did come upon a Messerhalle. It was snowy at the time (and also several decades after Vonnegut's book was published) -- plus also many years ago at this point so I can't be sure of my memory.

    However, given my hazy recollection, I'll try to corroborate with the photos you took just in case it helps.

    #3 - looks kind of familiar

    #4 - maybe familiar

    #7 - looks VERY familiar

    #8 - looks familiar

    Again this was years ago, before the internet, but I think may be the Google Map of what I thought might have been SH5.

    Just noting this in case it helps you. Thanks for posting the pics. Hope you are enjoying Dresden.

  7. By the way I agree

    The story of Slaughter house 5 is not really known to the local Dresdner’s or the Germans. The area is not a tourist site at all and is an older forgotten area out of the way of most Dresdner’s.

    was my experience as well.

    Thanks again.

  8. Thanks for all of this. It's fascinating. Given the importance and wide readership of Vonnegut's book, it's kind of surprising that this is almost completely forgotten. The legacy of the DDR, and maybe the book doesn't translate well into German. Poo-tee-weet!

  9. Hallo Dresden has the German Military museum not one mile West of the New Stadt. There is a lot of gear there from the time of Vonneguts work from that time.

  10. Keith,

    I'm interested in using one of your photos of the slaughterhouse for a documentary.

    Can you contact me at this email address to discuss further?