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Bombing of Dresden in World War II

From Academic Kids

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Dresden1945.jpg
View from the city hall tower, which remained standing.

The bombing of Dresden by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) between February 13th and 15th, 1945 remains one of the most controversial events of World War II, even after 60 years.

According to British historian Frederick Taylor:

"The destruction of Dresden has an epically tragic quality to it. It was a wonderfully beautiful city and a symbol of baroque humanism and all that was best in Germany. It also contained all of the worst from Germany during the Nazi period. In that sense it is an absolutely exemplary tragedy for the horrors of 20th Century warfare . ."Template:Ref
Contents

Reasons for the attack

Early in the year 1945, the higher Allied Western political-military leadership started to consider how they might aid the Soviets with the use of the strategic bomber force. The plan was to bomb Berlin and several other eastern cities in conjunction with the Soviet advance. The discussions were codenamed Operation Thunderclap. In the end the initial plan was shelved and a more limited plan was made. Sir Charles Portal, the Chief of the Air Staff, noted on January 26 1945, that "a severe blitz will not only cause confusion in the evacuation from the East but will also hamper the movement of troops from the West".Template:Ref However he mentioned that aircraft diverted to such raids should not be taken away from the current primary tasks of destroying oil production facilities, jet aircraft factories and submarine yards. Sir Norman Bottomley, the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff requested Arthur "Bomber" Harris, C-in-C of RAF Bomber Command and an ardent supporter of carpet bombing, to undertake attacks on Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz as soon as moon and weather conditions allowed, "with the particular object of exploiting the confused conditions which are likely to exist in the above mentioned cities during the successful Russian advance"Template:Ref.

On the same day, Winston Churchill pressed the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair: "I asked [yesterday] whether Berlin, and no doubt other large cities in East Germany, should not now be considered especially attractive targets. Pray report to me tomorrow what is going to be done"Template:Ref. On January 27 Sinclair replied:

"The Air Staff have now arranged that, subject to the overriding claims of attacks on enemy oil production and other approved target systems within the current directive, available effort should be directed against Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig or against other cities where severe bombing would not only destroy communications vital to the evacuation from the east, but would also hamper the movement of troops from the west."Template:RefTemplate:Ref

The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had come to the conclusion that the Germans could reinforce their eastern front with up to 42 divisions (half a million men) from other fronts and that, if the Soviet advance could be helped by hindering that movement, it could shorten the war. They thought that the Germans could complete the reinforcement by March 1945. The JIC's analysis was backed up by Ultra Enigma-code intercepts, which confirmed that the Germans had such plans. Their recommendation was:

"We consider, therefore, that the assistance which might be given to the Russians during the next few weeks by the British and American strategic bomber forces justifies an urgent review of their employment to this end. ... Attacks against oil targets should continue to take precedence over everything else,...""Template:Ref

The Soviets had had several discussions with the Allies on how the strategic bomber force could help their ground offensives once the eastern front line approached Germany. The US ambassador to Russia, W. Averill Harriman, discussed it with Joseph Stalin as did General Eisenhower's deputy at SHAEF, British Air Marshal Arthur W. Tedder in January 1945, when he explained how the strategic bomber could support the Soviet attack as Germany began to shuffle forces between the fronts. On January 31 after studying the JIC recommendation which was contained in a document entitled "Strategic Bombing in Relation to the Present Russian Offensive" and consulting with the Soviets, Tedder and his air staff concurred and issued a recommendation that Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, and associated cities should be attacked. The intention to use the strategic bomber forces in a tactical air-support role was similar to that for which Eisenhower had employed them before the Normandy invasion in 1944. He was counting on strategic airpower in 1945 to "prevent the enemy from switching forces back and forth at will" from one front to the other.Template:RefTemplate:Ref

When the Allies met the Yalta Conference on February 4, the decision to target Dresden had already been taken by the Western Allies. The Deputy Chief of the Soviet General Staff, General Aleksei Antonov raised two issues at the conference relating to the Western Allied strategic bomber force. The first was the demarcation of a bomb-line running north to south, where to avoid accidentally bombing Soviet forces, Western Allied aircraft would not bomb east of the line without specific Soviet permission. The second was to hamper the movement of troops from the western front, Norway and Italy, in particular by paralysing the junctions of Berlin and Leipzig with aerial bombardment. In response to the Soviet requests, Portal (who was in Yalta) sent a request Bottomley to send him a list of objectives which could be discussed with the Soviets. The list sent back to him included oil plants, tank and aircraft factories and the cities of Berlin and Dresden. In the discussions which followed the Western Allies pointed out that unless Dresden was bombed as well, the Germans could route rail traffic through Dresden to compensate for any damage caused to Berlin and Leipzig. Antonov agreed and requested that Dresden was added to his list of requests. Once the targets had been agreed at Yalta, the Combined Strategic Targets Committee, SHAEF (Air), informed the USAAF and the RAF Bomber commands that Dresden was among targets selected to degrade German lines of communication. Their authority to do this came directly from the Western Allies' Combined Chiefs of Staff.

The documents written by the RAF Air Staff state that it was their intention to use RAF bomber command to "destroy communications" to hinder the eastwards deployment of German troops and to hamper evacuation, not to kill the evacuees. The priority list drafted by Bottomley for Portal, so that he could discuss targets with the Soviets at Yalta, included only two eastern cities with a high enough priority to fit into the RAF targeting list as both transportation and industrial areas. These were Berlin and Dresden. Both were bombed after Yalta.

Soviet military intelligence asserted that trains stuck in the main station were troop trains passing through Dresden to the front. This proved to be false, as they were trains evacuating refugees from the eastTemplate:Ref. RAF briefing notes mention a desire to show "the Russians, when they arrive, what Bomber Command can do.". Whether this was a statement of pride in the RAF's abilities, or to show the Soviets that the Western Allies were doing all they could to aid the Soviet advance, or an early cold war warning, is not clear.

The attacks

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Dresden1945-3.jpg
The former city plan of Dresden with the amounts of destruction
Black = total destruction; checkered = damages

The railway yards, near the centre of Dresden, had been targeted and bombed twice before the night of February 13 by the USAAF Eighth Air Force in daytime raids. The first time was October 7 1944 with 70 tons of high-explosive bombs. The second with 133 bombers on January 16, 1945 which dropped 279 tons of high-explosives and 41 tons of incendiaries.

The firebombing campaign should have begun with an USAAF Eighth Air Force raid on Dresden on February 13 but bad weather over Europe prevented any American operations. So it fell to RAF Bomber Command to carry out the first raid. During the evening of February 13 796 Avro Lancasters and 9 De Havilland Mosquitoes were dispatched in two separate waves and dropped 1,478 tons of high explosive and 1,182 tons of incendiary bombs by the early hours of February 14. The first attack was carried out entirely by No. 5 Group, using their own low-level marking methods, which allowed the first bombs to be released over Dresden at 22:14 (CET?) with all but one bomber releasing all their bombs within two minutes. This last Lancaster bomber of No 5 group dropped its bombs at 22:22. A band of cloud still remained in the area and this attack, in which 244 Lancasters dropped more than 800 tons of bombs, was only moderately successful.Template:Ref

The second attack, 3 hours later, was an all-Lancaster attack by aircraft of 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups, with 8 Group providing standard Pathfinder marking. The weather had by then cleared and 529 Lancasters dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy between 01:21 and 01:45. RAF casualties on the two raids were 6 Lancasters lost, with 2 more crashed in France and 1 in EnglandTemplate:Ref.

Later on 14th from 12:17 until 12:30 311 American B-17s dropped 771 tons of bombs on Dresden, with the railway yards as their aiming point. "Part of the American Mustang-fighter escort was ordered to strafe traffic on the roads around Dresden to increase the chaos"Template:Ref. There are reports that civilians fleeing the firestorm engulfing Dresden in February 1945 were strafed by American aircraft, but these claims have been refuted by recent work by the historian Götz Bergander. Template:RefTemplate:Ref. During this raid there was a brief, but possibly intense dogfight between American and German fighters around Dresden, some rounds may have struck the ground and been mistaken for strafing fireTemplate:Ref. The Americans continued the bombing on February 15 dropping 466 tons of bombs. During these four raids a total of around 3,900 tons of bombs were dropped.

The fire-bombing consisted of by-then standard methods; dropping large amounts of high-explosive to blow off the roofs to expose the timbers within buildings, followed by incendiary devices (fire-sticks) to ignite them and then more high-explosives to hamper the efforts of the fire services. This eventually created a self-sustaining 'fire storm' with temperatures peaking at over 1500 °C. After the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area became extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside and people were sucked into the fire.

There were two further raids on the Dresden railway yards by the USAAF. The first was on March 2 by 406 B-17s which dropped 940 tons of high-explosive bombs and 141 tons of incendiaries. The second was on April 17 when 580 B-17s dropped 1554 tons of high-explosive bombs and 164 tons of incendiaries.

Impact of the attack

Out of 28,410 houses in the inner city of Dresden, 24,866 were destroyed. An area of 15 square kilometers was totally destroyed, among that: 14,000 homes, 72 schools, 22 hospitals, 19 churches, 5 theaters, 50 bank and insurance companies, 31 department stores, 31 large hotels, 62 administration buildings as well as factories such as the Ihagee camera works. In total there were 222,000 apartments in the city. 75,000 of them were totally destroyed, 11,000 severely damaged, 7,000 damaged, 81,000 slightly damaged. The city was around 300 square kilometres in area in those days. Although the main railway station was destroyed completely, the railway was working again within a few days.

The precise number of dead is difficult to ascertain and is not known. Estimates are made difficult by the fact that the city and surrounding suburbs which had a population of 642,000 in 1939Template:Ref was crowded at that time with up to 200,000 refugeesTemplate:Ref, and some thousands of wounded soldiers. The fate of some of the refugees is not known as they may have been killed and incinerated beyond recognition in the fire-storm, or they may have left Dresden for other places without informing the authorities. Earlier reputable estimates varied from 25,000 to more than 60,000, but historians now view around 25,000-35,000 as the likely rangeTemplate:RefTemplate:Ref with the latest (1994) research by the Dresden historian Friedrich Reichert pointing toward the lower part of this rangeTemplate:Ref. It would appear from such estimates that the casualties suffered in the Dresden bombings were not disproportionate to those suffered by other German cities which were subject to fire raids during area attacksTemplate:Ref.

Contemporary official German records give a number of 21,271 registered burials, including 6,865 who were cremated on the Altmarkt.Template:Ref There were around 25,000 officially buried dead by March 22, 1945, war related or not, according to official German report Tagesbefehl (Order of the Day) no. 47 ("TB47"). There was no registration of burials between May and September 1945.Template:Ref War-related dead found in later years, from October 1945 to September 1957, are given as 1,557; from May 1945 until 1966, 1,858 bodies were recovered. None were found during the period 1990-1994, even though there was a lot of construction and excavation during that period. The number of people registered with the authorities as missing was 35,000; around 10,000 of those were later found to be alive.Template:Ref In recent years, the estimates have become a little higher in Germany and lower in Britain; earlier it was the opposite.

There have been higher estimates for the number of dead, ranging as high as 300,000. They are from disputed and unreliable sources, such as the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels, Soviet historians, and David Irving, the once popular, but now discredited self-taught historian who retracted his higher estimatesTemplate:Ref. Both the Columbia Encyclopedia and Encarta Encyclopedia list the number as "from 35,000 to more than 135,000 dead", the higher figure of which is in line with Irving's retracted "authoritative" higher estimates.

The Nazis made use of Dresden in their propaganda efforts and promised swift retaliation. The Soviets also made propaganda use of the Dresden bombing in the early years of the Cold War to alienate the East Germans from the Americans and British.

The destruction of Dresden was comparable to that of many other German cities, with the tonnage of bombs dropped lower than in many other areasTemplate:Ref. However, ideal weather conditions at the target site, the wooden-framed buildings, and "breakthroughs" linking the cellars of contiguous buildings, conspired to make the attack particularly devastating. In late 2004, an RAF man involved in the raid said in an interview on the BBC's Radio 4 that another factor was the lower-than-expected level of anti-aircraft fire, which allowed a high degree of accuracy on the part of the bombers.

Responses to the bombing

German

German political response to the raid took several turns. Some of the leadership, especially Robert Ley and Joseph Goebbels, wanted to use it as a reason to abandon the use of the Geneva Conventions on the Western Front. In the end, the only positive political action the Nazi government took was to use it as a propaganda prop. Template:Ref

Goebbels had the numbers of the dead inflated by a factor of ten and German diplomats circulated the figures along with photographs of the destruction, the dead, and badly burned children in neutral countries. By coincidence, the day before the Dresden raid, a German Foreign Affairs document had been circulated to neutral countries criticising Arthur Harris "The arch enemy of Europe" and as a leading proponent of "Terror Bombing". Template:Ref

On February 16 Goebbels ministry issued a press release which outlined the Nazi propaganda line: Dresden had no war industries, it was a place of culture and clinicsTemplate:Ref. On February 25 a new leaflet with photographs of two burnt children was released under the title "Dresden – Massacre of Refugees" and stating that not 100,000 but 200,000 had died. At this time no official figure had been released so the numbers were speculative but the foreign press like the Stockholm Svenska Morgonbladet were using phrases like "privately from Berlin" Template:Ref. Fredric Taylor state that "there is good reason to believe that later in March copies of – or extracts from – [an official police report] were leaked to the neutral press by Goebbels's Propaganda Ministry... doctored with an extra zero to make [the total dead from the raid] 202,040" Template:Ref. On March 4 Das Reich a weekly newspaper founded Goebbels ran a lengthy article for the German public emphasising the suffering and the destruction of a cultural icon without mentioning any loss the destruction had caused the German war effortTemplate:Ref.

Frederick Taylor makes the point that this propaganda was very successful, because not only did it affect attitudes in neutral countries at the time, but it reached into the British House of Commons when Richard Stokes used information from Goebbels's German Press Agency. Taylor continues by saying that although the destruction of Dresden would have affected peoples perception of the Allies claim to absolute moral superiority, part of the outrage is Goebbels's final propaganda master piece. Template:Ref

British

According to the Oxford Companion to the Second World War, at an off-the-record press briefing held by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force two days after the raids, British Air Commodore Grierson told journalists that the aim of Operation Thunderclap had been to bomb large population centres and prevent relief supplies from getting through. Howard Cowan, an Associated Press war correspondent, subsequently filed a story saying that the Allies had resorted to terror bombing. There were follow up newspaper editorials on the issue and a long time opponent of strategic bombing Richard Stokes MP asked questions in the House of commonsTemplate:Ref.

The destruction of the city provoked unease in informed circles in Britain. According to Max Hastings, by February 1945, attacks upon German cities had become largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war and the name of Dresden possessed a resonance for cultured people all over Europe — "the home of so much charm and beauty, a refuge for Trollope’s heroines, a landmark of the Grand Tour." He argues that the bombing of Dresden was the first time Allied populations questioned the military actions used to defeat the NazisTemplate:Ref.

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Churchill, who approved of the targeting of Dresden and supported the bombing prior to the event, distanced himself from itTemplate:RefTemplate:Ref. On March 28, in a memo sent by telegram to General Ismay for the British Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff he wrote:

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land … The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing. I am of the opinion that military objectives must henceforward be more strictly studied in our own interests than that of the enemy.
The Foreign Secretary has spoken to me on this subject, and I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive."
Template:RefTemplate:Ref</blockquote>

Having been given a paraphrased version of Churchill's draft memo by Bottomley, on March 29, Harris wrote to the Air Ministry (the words "worth the bones of one British grenadier" was a deliberate echo of a famous words of Bismarck "worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier")Template:Ref:

"I [...] assume that the view under consideration is something like this: no doubt in the past we were justified in attacking German cities. But to do so was always repugnant and now that the Germans are beaten anyway we can properly abstain from proceeding with these attacks. This is a doctrine to which I could never subscribe. Attacks on cities like any other act of war are intolerable unless they are strategically justified. But they are strategically justified in so far as the tend to shorten the war and preserve the lives of Allied soldiers. To my mind we have absolutely no right to give them up unless it is certain that they will not have this effect. I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.
The feeling, such as there is, over Dresden, could be easily explained by any psychiatrist. It is connected with German bands and Dresden shepherdesses. Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things."
Template:RefTemplate:Ref

On reflection, under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff and in response to the views expressed by Portal and Harris among others, Churchill withdrew his memo and issued a new oneTemplate:RefTemplate:Ref. This final version of the memo completed on April 1, 1945, stated:

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies… We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy's war effort."Template:RefTemplate:Ref

Points of view

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View over the Altmarkt square (the old market)

Was the bombing a war crime?

The nature of the bombing of Dresden has made it a unique point of contention and debate. Critics of the attack come from across the political spectrum, from far left to far right. Günter Grass, the German novelist and Nobel laureate for literature, and Simon Jenkins, the former editor of The Times, have both referred to the Dresden bombing as a "war crime" Template:RefTemplate:Ref. The historian Max Hastings said in an article subtitled 'the Allied Bombing of Dresden' "I believe it is wrong to describe strategic bombing as a 'war crime', for this might be held to suggest some moral equivalence with the deeds of the Nazis. Bombing represented a sincere, albeit mistaken, attempt to bring about Germany's military defeat"Template:Ref. Harald Jaehner, a German literary critic stated: "Look at the bombing of Dresden, which was really an assault on the civilian population."

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, wrote: "The Nazi Holocaust was among the most evil genocides in history. But the Allies' firebombing of Dresden and nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also war crimes - and as Leo Kuper and Eric Markusen have argued, also acts of genocide"Template:Ref. Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn write in their book "The History and Sociology of Genocide" (page 24) that "[the] definition of genocide also excludes civilian victims of aerial bombardment in belligerent states. In this we differ from Jean-Paul Sartre and Leo Kuper."Template:Ref

Far right politicians in Germany also use Dresden as a symbol, holding rallies on the anniversary of the bombing, and arguing that Dresden represents moral parity between the allies and the Axis. They promote the term Bombing Holocaust for the Allied aerial bombings, especially for the Dresden raids. By using this term in a speech to the parliament of Saxony on January 22, 2005, the leader of the National Democratic Party of Germany sparked a new public discussion about how to deal with the right wing extremists. Many German mainstream politicians consider their use of firebombing as an attempt to advance neo-Nazi causes by exploiting the intense sentiment surrounding the bombing: not only to win votes, but also as propaganda to place Nazi crimes in a more relativist context, especially the Holocaust. Some consider the term a violation of German law which forbids Holocaust denial. Nevertheless, the loss of life from bombing in several German cities is comparable with the casualties in other bombings such as Guernica, Coventry, Stalingrad or Tokyo.

The case for the bombing being a war crime

While the idea that the bombing of Dresden represented a regrettable or excessive attack is widely held, the case that it rises to the level of a war crime is less widely subscribed to. The case rests first on the cultural significance of Dresden, a factor which was expressly included in the Hague conventions. Public declarations of this view began shortly after the scale and scope of the attack became known.

Dresden was known as Elbflorenz, or Florence on the Elbe, regarded as a beautiful city and a cultural centre, with noted architecture in the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden State Opera House, and the Frauenkirche, its historic cathedral. Before the war, the city's main industries had been china production, cups and saucers, and cigarettes. British historian Anthony Beevor writes Template:Ref that having been spared previous RAF night attacks Dresden was considered relatively safe and that at the time of the raids there were up to 300,000 refugees in the city escaping from the fighting in the east.

The absence of direct military presence in the centre of the city, and the devastation created by firebombing, is regarded by advocates of the position that the bombing represented a war crime as establishing this "on its face". For many, there is no need to argue any further than the absence of military necessity, the civilian death toll, and Dresden's cultural significance.

In his work, Der Brand, controversial German historian Joerg Friedrich documents the available evidence that the large scale bombing campaign, the "bombenkrieg", constituted atrocities, and that, because the Nazi forces were in full retreat by February of 1945, that Dresden represents a war crime because the military goal was disproportional to the destruction to civilians. He argues that because the Allies intended to cause as many civilian casualties as possible, that even under the legal standards of the time, that the attack on Dresden counts as a war crime.

He also argues that previous bombing attacks, rather than providing a defense, show that the Allied forces knew the destructive potential of incendiary bombs, and knew that because of the collapse of German air defense and improvements in bombing precision, that future attacks were likely to cause more and more civilian deaths. He spends a great deal of time documenting the oral history and local records from Dresden, and the memories by local people of what happened and how they felt.

Friedrich is careful to distance himself from Neo-nazi sympathizers, saying that the use of the word "holocaust" to describe bombing is wrong, because it blurs the distinction between total warfare, and outright genocide.

Friedrich's case is, however, disputed, even by historians that regard Dresden as regrettable, specifically they dispute the crucial part of his case: namely the state of the German army in February of 1945 - and his willingness to place credibility on the post-war narrative of Dresdeners as to their level of complicity in the National Socialist government. Joerg Arnold of the University of Southampton asserts that Friedrich's work is "seriously deficient" as an analytical text, despite its tremendous value in documenting the German experience of the air war.

The case against the bombing being a war crime

For details on the treaty obligations of the Allies see aerial area bombardment and international law in 1945

"In examining these events in the light of international humanitarian law, it should be borne in mind that during the Second World War there was no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property, as the Conventions then in force dealt only with the protection of the wounded and the sick on the battlefield and in naval warfare, hospital ships, the laws and customs of war and the protection of prisoners of war"Template:Ref.

The United States military lays out the following historically based case that bombing of Dresden did not constitute a war crimeTemplate:Ref

  1. The raid had a legitimate military end, brought about by exigent military circumstances.
  2. That there were military units, and anti-aircraft defense within a sufficiently close perimeter to disqualify the town as "undefended".
  3. The raid did not use extraordinary means to achieve this end, but was comparable to other raids used against comparable targets.
  4. The raid was carried out through the normal chain of command, pursuant to directives and agreements then in force.
  5. The raid achieved the military objective established without "excessive" loss of civilian life.

The first point has two parts, the first in reference to the American precision bombing of the railyards, which rests on the assertion that there was an exigent military circumstance that made the railyard an important military target, beyond its usual value as a communication centre, and the second that Dresden was an industrial and military target, which would make the attack on the city centre an object of legal military action.

In reference to the first an inquiry conducted on the direction the American Secretary of War, General George C. Marshall affirmed that the military necessity of the raid was established by the available facts. The inquiry would establish that, in the view of American military planners, that cutting the ability of the German ability to either reinforce a counter attack against Marshall Konev's extended line, or to retreat and regroup using Dresden as a base of operations. That Dresden had been largely untouched during the war left it as one of the few remaining working rail and communications centres. A secondary objective was to disrupt the industrial use of Dresden for munitions manufacture, which American intelligence believed to be the case. The fear of a Nazi break out, as had so nearly happened during the Battle of the Bulge, which ran from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945, less than three weeks before the bombing of Dresden, was present on the minds of Allied planners.

The second part is in reference to whether Dresden was an militarily significant industrial centre. An official 1942 guide described the German city as "one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich" and in 1944, the German Army High Command's Weapons Office listed 127 medium-to-large factories and workshops which supplied the army with materielTemplate:Ref.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey listed at least 110 factories and industries in DresdenTemplate:Ref. The city contained the Zeiss-Ikon optical factory and the Siemens glass factory, both of which, according to the Allies, were entirely devoted to manufacturing military gunsights. The immediate suburbs contained factories building radar and electronics components, and fuses for anti-aircraft shells. Other factories produced gas masks, engines for Junkers aircraft and cockpit parts for Messerschmitt fightersTemplate:Ref.

Because of this concentration of industry, made even more important by the relatively undamaged nature of Dresden at the time of the raids, the allied planners had reason to believe that Dresden was a crucial prop in the German effort to maintain supply for the defense of Germany itself.

The second point is crucial for meeting the standards of prohibitions, in place since 1899, and reaffirmed in 1907 and 1938, against use of bombardment against "undefended" towns. Since no specific convention was in place at the time of Dresden, in part because of German opposition to the 1938 draft convention, the defense against charges of war crimes for Dresden asserts that the presence of active Germany military units in the area, and the presence of both fighters and anti-aircraft near Dresden are sufficient to qualify Dresden as "defended" under the Hague II.

The third point is that the size of the Dresden raid, in terms of numbers of bombs, their type, and the means of delivery were commensurate with the military objective. On February 3rd, 1945, the Allies bombed Berlin, and caused an estimated 25,000 civil fatalities, other raids in Japan caused civilian casualties over 10,000. The tonnage and types of bombs listed in the service records show that the raid was of comparable throw weight to other raids carried out in early 1945.

The fourth point is that no extraordinary decision was made to single out Dresden, or to take advantage of the large number of refugees for the purpose of "terrorizing" the German populace. The intent of area bombing was to destroy the morale of workers in industrial production, not to kill dislocated, and therefore not involved in the war effort, civilians. The American inquiry established that the Soviets, pursuant to allied agreements for the United States and the United Kingdom to provide air support for the Soviet offensive into Germany to Berlin, had requested area bombing of Dresden in order to end the threat of either a counter attack through Dresden, or a German retreat and regroup using Dresden as a regrouping point.

The fifth point is that the firebombing achieved the intended effect of destroying, crippling, or disabling, a substantial fraction of industry in what was one of Germany's last centres of industrial production. American estimates had over 25% of industrial capacity disabled or destroyed, and it prevented the use of Dresden by the Germany military to launch any counterstrikes to check the Soviet advance.

A sixth point is that, insofar as Europe has been at comparative peace for sixty years, and Germany has actively played a part in fostering that peace, it may be that the underlying policy of carrying the war into Germany in 1945 has worked. It is notable that Dresden, the cultural city, has more obviously kept this subject alive than has Dortmund for example. The policy may have saved many more lives than the number lost in the Dresden raid.


Post-war reconstruction and reconciliation

After the war, and especially after German reunification, great efforts were made to rebuild some of Dresden's former landmarks, such as the Frauenkirche, the Semperoper or the Zwinger. A new synagogue was also built. Despite its location in the Soviet occupation zone (subsequently the DDR), in 1956 Dresden entered a twin-town relationship with Coventry, which had suffered the worst destruction of any English city at the hands of the Luftwaffe, including the destruction of its cathedral. Groups from both cities were involved in moving demonstrations of post-war reconciliation. During her visit to Germany in November 2004, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a concert in Berlin to raise money for the reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche. The visit was accompanied by speculation in the British and German press, fuelled mostly by the tabloids, over a possible apology for the attacks, which did not occur. On February 13, 2005, a cross made from medieval nails, which were recovered from the ruins of the roof of the cathedral in Coventry after the bombing in 1940, was presented to the Lutheran Bishop of Saxony.

Influences on art and culture

Author Kurt Vonnegut had been captured during the Battle of the Bulge and was a prisoner of war held in Dresden during the bombing. He later wrote about his experiences and feelings in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Science fiction novelists Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle placed the general who ordered the bombing of Dresden in hell in their novel Inferno. British comedy group Monty Python's Flying Circus has created a sketch in 1972 depicting a boxing match between Harry the Reaper and Harry the Bomber. Since 1990, the bombing of Dresden has became an increasingly popular theme in German culture, becoming the subject of many books and documentaries (like that of Guido Knopp).

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See also

Notes

  1. Template:Note "Dresden Bombing Is To Be Regretted Enormously" (http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,341239,00.html), interview with Frederick Taylor, Spiegel Online, February 11, 2005
  2. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 332, see bibliography
  3. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 212, see bibliography
  4. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 212, see bibliography
  5. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 332, see bibliography
  6. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 213, see bibliography
  7. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, pages 206-208, see bibliography
  8. Template:NoteHISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE 14-15 FEBRUARY 1945 BOMBINGS OF DRESDEN (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm) Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section ANALYSIS: Dresden as a Military Target, paragraph 9 (backup site (http://www.earth-lights.net/dresden/Dresden_Bombing_Document.htm)) pages 14,15 and 16.
  9. Template:NoteAIR FORCE Magazine Online: The Dresden Legend October 2004, Vol. 87, No. 10 (http://www.afa.org/magazine/oct2004/1004dresden.asp)
  10. Template:Note Berlin: the Downfall, 1945. by Antony Beevor page 83, see bibliography
  11. Template:Note Official RAF site: Bomber Command: Dresden, February 1945 (http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/dresden.html)
  12. Template:Note Official RAF site: Bomber Command: Dresden, February 1945 (http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/dresden.html)
  13. Template:NoteOfficial RAF site: Bomber Command: Dresden, February 1945 (http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/dresden.html)
  14. Template:Note Dresden im Luftkrieg: Vorgeschichte-Zerstörung-Folgen. by Götz Bergander, see bibliography
  15. Template:Note The Bombing of Dresden in 1945 (http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/evidence/evans005.asp#5.2), by Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, a detailed critique of problems with David Irving's book.
  16. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 497-498, see bibliography
  17. Template:NoteHistorical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm) Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section The Immediate Consequences of the Dresden Bombings on the Physical Structure and Populace of the City. (backup site (http://www.earth-lights.net/dresden/Dresden_Bombing_Document.htm)) paragraph 28. Chart
  18. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 262-266, see bibliography There were an unknown number of refugees in the Dresden, so the historians Matthias Neutzner, Götz Bergander and Frederick Taylor have used historical sources and deductive reasoning, to estimate that the number of refugees in the city and surrounding suburbs was around 200,000, or less, on the first night of the bombing
  19. Template:Note Dresden im Luftkrieg: Vorgeschichte-Zerstörung-Folgen. by Götz Bergander, see bibliography
  20. Template:Note The Bombing of Dresden in 1945:Falsification of statistics (http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/evidence/evans005.asp#5.2d), by Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, a detailed critique of problems with David Irving's book .
  21. Template:Note Friedrich Reichert, Verbrannt bis zur Unkenntlichkeit - Die Zerstörung Dresdens 1945, Dresdner Museum, Dresden, 1994
  22. Template:Note Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm) Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section: The Immediate Consequences of the Dresden Bombings on the Physical Structure and Populace of the City. (backup site (http://www.earth-lights.net/dresden/Dresden_Bombing_Document.htm)). Paragraph 29. The comparisons use data extracted from "Fire Raids on German Cities", United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Physical Damage Division, January 1945. Supporting Document No. 34.
  23. Template:Note The Bombing of Dresden in 1945 (http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/evidence/evans005.asp#5.2), by Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, a detailed critique of problems with David Irving's book .
  24. Template:Note Luftkriegslegenden in Dresden von Helmut Schnatz (http://www.geschichtsthemen.de/dresden_1945.htm)
  25. Template:Note The Bombing of Dresden in 1945 (http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/evidence/evans005.asp#5.2), by Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, a detailed critique of problems with David Irving's book .
  26. Template:Note The Dresden Raids letter to the Editor (http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/i/irving.david/ftp.py?people/i/irving.david//irving-dresden-casualties-01) from The Times 1966/07/07 a correction to "The Destruction of Dresden (http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Dresden)". By David Irving Pub: William Kimber; London 1963; In this letter Irving, who had previously used figures as high as 250,000 admitted the confirmed casualty figures were actually 18,375, expected to rise to 25,000 including when those not registered in the city were taken into account. Despite the admission of his mistake contained in the letter, he has still used figures as high as 100,000 in articles and books on his own web site fpp.org some written as late as 2004.
  27. Template:Note Official RAF site: Campaign Diary March 1945 (http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/mar45.html) Note 11 March, Essen (1,079 aircraft) and 12 March, Dortmund (1,108 aircraft)
  28. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 420-426, see bibliography
  29. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 421, see bibliography
  30. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 421, see bibliography
  31. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 423, see bibliography
  32. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 424, see bibliography
  33. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 424, see bibliography
  34. Template:NoteDresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 426, see bibliography
  35. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 344, see bibliography
  36. Template:Note Still Explosive (http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm), RA Magazine, Spring 2003, Verified 2005/02/26 from http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm. N.B. this source appears to be a personal workstation and not the official online version of the magazine which was non-functional at the time of verification
  37. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 345, see bibliography Churchill quote source: "The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany" (SOA), HMSO (1961) vol 3 pp 117-9
  38. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 431, see bibliography
  39. Template:Note British Bombing Strategy in World War Two (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/area_bombing_01.shtml), Detlef Siebert, 2001-08-01, BBC History, verified 2005/02/26
  40. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 430, see bibliography
  41. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 432, see bibliography
  42. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 346, see bibliography
  43. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 432, see bibliography
  44. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 346, see bibliography Harris quote source: Public Records Office ATH/DO/4B quoted by Lord Zuckerman "From Apes to Warlords" p.352
  45. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 433, see bibliography
  46. Template:Note "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate", page 346, see bibliography
  47. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 432, see bibliography
  48. Template:Note Eyes Open to the Past (http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm), RA Magazine, Spring 2003, Verified 2005/02/26 from http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm. N.B. this source appears to be a personal workstation and not the official online version of the magazine which was non-functional at the time of verification
  49. Template:Note Europe: Then And Now (http://www.time.com/time/europe/etan/story.html), Michael Elliott, Time Magazine Europe, 2003/08/10, retrieved 2005/02/26 from http://www.time.com/time/europe/etan/story.html
  50. Template:Note How we can prevent gonocide (http://www.genocidewatch.org/HOWWECANPREVENTGENOCIDE.htm) by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch.
  51. Template:NoteThe History and Sociology of Genocide" (http://imaginarymuseum.org/MHV/PZImhv/) by Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, page 24
  52. Template:Note Still Explosive (http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm), RA Magazine, Spring 2003, Verified 2005/02/26 from http://195.172.125.151/03SPRING/grass.htm. N.B. this source appears to be a personal workstation and not the official online version of the magazine which was non-functional at the time of verification
  53. Template:Note Berlin: the Downfall, 1945. by Antony Beevor page 83, see bibliography
  54. Template:NoteHistorical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm) Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section ANALYSIS: Dresden as a Military Target, paragraph 9 (backup site (http://www.earth-lights.net/dresden/Dresden_Bombing_Document.htm)) pages 14,15 and 16.
  55. Template:Note Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor, page 169, see bibliography
  56. Template:Note The Law of Air Warfare (http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList200/42F64C9A4212EA07C1256B66005C0BF1) 30 June 1998 International Review of the Red Cross no 323, p.347-363 by Javier Guisández Gómez
  57. Template:NoteHistorical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden (http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm) Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section ANALYSIS: Dresden as a Military Target, paragraph 9 (backup site (http://www.earth-lights.net/dresden/Dresden_Bombing_Document.htm)) pages 14,15 and 16.
  58. Template:NoteAIR FORCE Magazine Online: The Dresden Legend October 2004, Vol. 87, No. 10 (http://www.afa.org/magazine/oct2004/1004dresden.asp)(PDF (http://www.afa.org/magazine/oct2004/1004dresden.pdf)) (Google Cache (http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:6LGbZJgAdAcJ:www.afa.org/magazine/oct2004/1004dresden.pdf+Dresden+was+a+mass+of+munitions+works&hl=en))

Bibliography

  1. Taylor, Frederick. Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. By Frederick Taylor;
  2. "The Bombers" by Norman Longmate, Hutchins & Co, (1983), ISBN 0091515087,
  3. Götz Bergander, Dresden im Luftkrieg: Vorgeschichte-Zerstörung-Folgen (Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, 1977)
  4. Antony Beevor, Berlin: the Downfall, 1945. ISBN 0670886955

External links

he:הפצצת דרזדן sl:Bombardiranje Dresdna fi:Dresdenin pommitukset zh:德累斯顿轰炸

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