Mythbusting: the truth about Dresden, Winston Churchill and the German-British War

The truth about Dresden:

The academics who retell the Dresden bombing story for the Federal Republic of Germany do not doubt that more than 12 000 buildings in the city were reduced to dust during the hellish firestorm, nor do they doubt that the people in these dwellings were instantly transformed into ashes after the bombing due to a heat of 1600 degrees Celsius; however, they claim that, although Dresden had 600 000 inhabitants - and nearly another 600 000 refugees had found shelter in the overcrowded city - only 35 000 persons perished in the firestorm that came with the bombing of Dresden. Considering that a superficies of 7 x 4 kilometers (28 square kilometers) was completely destroyed in the attack, the figure of 35000 dead would imply that less than 1,5 persons died for every thousand square meters despite the overcrowding. In February 2005, a commission of "serious historians" further reduced this figure by claiming that only 24 000 Germans had been killed in Dresden. Notably, the figure of 35 000 dead only represents the small number of victims who could be fully identified. Erhard Mundra, an investigation member of the so-called "Bautzen committee", reported for the German national daily newspaper, Die Welt, the following:

"According to the former general staff officer of the military district of Dresden and retired lieutenant colonel of the Bundeswehr, D. Matthes, 35 000 victims were fully and another 50 000 partly identified, whereas further 168 000 could not be identified at all.”(Die Welt, 12 February, 1995, page 8)

It goes without saying that the hapless children, women and old people who the firestorm had transformed into a heap of ashes were among those who could not be identified.

In 1955, former West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer stated:

"On 13 February 1945, the attack on the city of Dresden, which was overcrowded with refugees, claimed about 250 000 victims.” (Deutschland Heute, edited by the press and information service of the federal government, Wiesbaden 1955, page 154)

In 1992, the city of Dresden gave the following answer to a citizen who had inquired about the death toll:

"According to reliable information from the Dresden police, 202040 dead, most of them women and children, were found until 20 March. Only about 30% of them could be identified. If we take into account those who are missing, a figure of 250000 to 300000 victims seems realistic.” (Letter by Hitzscherlich, Sign: 0016/Mi, date: 31 - 7 - 1992)

At the time of the attack, Dresden had no anti-aircraft guns or military defenses; in fact, the only major air-raid shelter in Dresden was the central train station. The city was considered a safe haven that was just beyond the reach of British and American bombers from the West. At the same time, Dresden was crowded with refugees who had fled from the advancing Red Army in the East. The British and American leaders knew this. In fact, the memo given to the British pilots before they were sent to bomb Dresden stated:

"Dresden, the seventh largest city in Germany and not much smaller than Manchester is also the largest unbombed builtup area the enemy has got. In the midst of winter with refugees pouring westward and troops to be rested, roofs are at a premium, not only to give shelter to workers, refugees, and troops alike, but to house the administrative services displaced from other areas [...]" (quoted by Stewart Halsey Ross, Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts, 2003, page 180)

Following the briefing, from 13 to 14 February 1945, the city became what, on the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing, even Die Welt called a "crematoria". The quote was as follows:

"When the city became a crematoria [...], Professor Dietmar Hosser from the Institute for Construction Material, Massive Construction and Fire Prevention deems it highly probable that the temperatures above ground reached up to 1600 degrees Celsius." (Die Welt, 3 March, 1995)

Winston Churchill, the leader of the United Kingdom (UK) had commissioned the attack, which led to almost 700 000 incendiary bombs being dropped on Dresden – in other words, more than one bomb for every two people who had crowded into the city. But Dresden was not the only city to be liquidated in an aerial bombardment campaign:

"80% of all German cities with more than 100 000 inhabitants were destroyed between 1942 and 1945. The air forces of the Allied forces dropped "40 000 tons of bombs in 1942, 120 000 tons in 1943, 650 000 tons in 1944 and another 500 000 tons in the four last months of the war in 1945." (Die Welt, 11 February 1995, page G1)

As the bombs fell and the firestorm in Dresden began, women who were giving birth to children in the delivery rooms of the burning hospitals jumped out of the windows; within minutes, these mothers and their children, who were still hanging at the umbilical cords, were reduced to ashes too. Thousands of people who the incendiary bombs had transformed into living torches jumped into the ponds - but phosphorus continues to burn, even in the water. Even the animals from the zoo, elephants, lions and others, desperately headed for the water, together with the humans. But all of them, the new-born child, the mother, the old man, the wounded soldier and the innocent animal from the zoo and the stable, horribly perished in the name of "liberation".

Myth #1: the Germans began the bombing war with the United Kingdom

The UK and France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, and the UK began dropping bombs on German targets the same day. The first attack was on the German fleet in the city of Wilhelmshaven. Eight German Kriegsmarine men were killed. The British also bombed German warships in Cuxhaven and Heligoland.

It was more than a month before the Germans responded in force. When they did, on the 14th of October, they went after Britain's High Seas fleet at Scapa Flow with a single submarine. Two days later, the Germans engaged the same fleet from the air and attacked British warships located at the UK's Royal Navy Dockyards at Firth of Forth, too. However, there were no further aerial assaults by Germany in or around the UK. In fact, on 25 January 1940, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces) issued an order which specifically forbade air raids against the UK, including her ports. Hitler's OKW Direktive Nr. 2 and Luftwaffe Direktive Nr. 2. prohibited attacks upon enemy naval forces unless the enemy bombed Germany first, and stated: "the guiding principle must be not to provoke the initiation of aerial warfare on the part of Germany."

After the Altmark incident, in which the UK illegally stormed a German tanker in neutral waters, Germany launched a second aerial attack on the British fleet at Scapa Flow, on 16 March 1940. In response, the UK bombed a German airbase at Sylt on 31 March, striking a hospital. Fortunately, nobody inside was killed.

On 10 May 1940, Germany engaged the French forces by storming into France. Across the English Channel, in Britain, Winston Churchill was named the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. The next day, Churchill ordered a new aerial bombing offensive; he did not inform his own citizens of his decision. Kiel was attacked, and so were industrial and railway targets in Cologne (11 May), Mönchengladbach (11 May), Gelsenkirschen (14 May), Bremen (18 May) and Hamburg (18 May). The Hamburg raid resulted in 106 casualties, including 34 deaths. The British had used the tactic of firebombing for the first time: 400 incendiary bombs, or fire bombs, were used as well as 80 regular, non-incendiary explosives. It was a tactic that would be repeated over and over again as the war progressed, with increasingly larger payloads. By the end of May, Essen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Hanover had also been bombed. In June, Cologne was attacked for the second time, and attacks on Dortmund, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Bochum followed.

Myth #2: Churchill's government wanted peace

On 22 June 1940, France and Germany signed an armistice and the fighting between the two countries came to an end. The French promised the UK that they would not turn over their High Seas fleet to the Germans. Likewise, the Germans had declared that they would make no such demands for France's navy. Nonetheless, on the 3rd of July, the British attacked the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir, killing 1,297 French sailors and others, to be certain that the ships would not end up in German hands. On 3 July, the British also bombed train facilities in the German city of Hamm; the night before, the UK had bombed German warships in Kiel. Clearly, the UK wanted to continue the war.

On 10 July 1940, the Germans began their first UK-wide air offensive. Before the attack, Germany's leader, Adolf Hitler, had given Hermann Göring, the head of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force), very specific instructions regarding the conduct of the campaign. Göring had penned these instructions in a 30 June memo:

"The war against England is to be restricted to destructive attacks against industry and air force targets which have weak defensive forces. ... The most thorough study of the target concerned, that is vital points of the target, is a pre-requisite for success. It is also stressed that every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary loss of life amongst the civilian population."

- Hermann Göring (quoted by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster in:The Narrow Margin: The Battle of Britain and the Rise of Air Power, 1990, page 117)

Hitler's No. 17 Directive, issued 1 August 1940, further established the rules for the conduct of war against the UK, and specifically forbade the Luftwaffe from conducting "terror raids"; Hitler made it clear that terror attacks could only be a means of reprisal, as ordered by him. In the meantime, Hitler delivered several speeches in the German Reichstag (German parliament) in which he challenged the British to arrange a peace. But the British never did.

On the 24th of August, fate took an odd course; two German bombers flying over the UK still had their ordinance from a mission and needed to drop it in order to reduce plane weight and have enough fuel to return home. When the bombs were released, they hit London (1,2,3), which went directly against Hitler's orders. The responsible air crews insisted that the attack was an accident. Nevertheless, the next day, the British press launched a fierce anti-German propaganda campaign and a British attack on the German city of Berlin followed, striking the Siemen's plant there. This drove Hitler into a fury. In a speech before the Reichstag, Hitler declared:

"The other night, the English had bombed Berlin. So be it. But this is a game at which two can play. When the British Air Force drops 2000 or 3000 or 4000 kg of bombs, then we will drop 150 000, 180 000, 230 000, 300 000, 400 000 kg on a single night. When they declare they will attack our cities in great measure, we will eradicate their cities. The hour will come when one of us will break - and it will not be National Socialist Germany!"

- Adolf Hitler (in "Wir werden sie ausradieren" Spiegel Online)

Germany began a new bombing offensive on 7 September 1940. The goal was to destroy the UK's military complex and war-spirit so the British people would turn against Churchill. However, the plan did not work. The production of war materials in the UK continued unabated and the public rallied behind Churchill, no doubt to avenge those who had been killed in the German raids.

One should note that it was not Germany's goal to kill (or, as the British later said of their own bombing campaign goals, "de-house") Britain's population in the raid; historian and bomber warfare expert Horst Boog is clear on this point (see: Horst, Boog, Germany and the Second World War. Volume VII: The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5, 2001, page 365). The statements of the UK's own Sir Basil Collier, General Harry H. Arnold and even "Bomber" Harris, the man who reportedly laughed about the fate of Dresden, point in that direction as well. In the words of Sir Basil Collier:

"Although the plan adopted by the Luftwaffe early September had mentioned attacks on the population of large cities, detailed records of the raids made during the autumn and the winter of 1940-41 does not suggest that indiscriminate bombing of the civilians was intended. The points of aim selected were largely factories and docks. Other objectives specifically allotted to bomber-crews included the City of London and the governmental quarter rounds Whitehall."

- Sir Basil Collier (in his war memoirs, "The Defence of the United Kingdom," 1950, page 57)

Air-warfare expert Sönke Neitzel also concludes:

"Indisputably during the first years of the war all heavy attacks of the German Luftwaffe against cities were planned as military blows and cannot be defined as terror raids." (Darmstädter Echo, 25 – 9 – 2004, p. 4)

In May 1941, Germany ended its air war over and with the UK. But by then, the conflict had already expanded; Italy had declared war on the UK back in June 1940, and the British responded by attacking the Italians at Fort Capuzzo, Fort Maddalena and along the border of British Egypt and Italian North Africa. Afterwards, the Italians initiated an offensive against the British in Egypt, which was quickly turned back, triggering a long, British counteroffensive that sent the Italians reeling. Italy called upon Germany for help and, in February 1941, the Germans arrived in Africa. Hitler wanted a strictly defensive campaign. Nevertheless, by aiding the Italians in the desert sands, the conflict between the Germans and the British had expanded and a new, fatally-permanent front had been opened up.

On 10 May 1941, Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, flew to the UK to meet with Churchill's opponents in secrecy and negotiate a peace between Germany and the UK. Hess' peace terms were dictated on 9 June 1941 in an interview with Lord Simon, and later repeated to Ivone Kirkpatrick and Lord Beaverbrook. Although nothing became of the effort except Hess' lifelong imprisonment and murder by British intelligence (which was lied about for decades), the terms were as follows:

  1. In order to prevent future wars between England and Germany, spheres of interest shall be defined: Germany's sphere of interest is [Continental] Europe; England's sphere of interest is her Empire

  2. Return of German colonies

  3. Indemnification of German nationals who had their residence before the war or during the war within the British Empire and who suffered damage in their persons or property through measures of a Government of the Empire or through any occurrence such as tumult, pillage, etc. Indemnification on the same basis by Germany of British subjects

  4. Armistice and peace to be concluded with Italy at the same time

Fact #1: Historians say the British and American governments share the burden of guilt for the genocide of the Germans...

In September 1988, military historians from five countries met at a conference in Freiburg, Germany. The event had been organized by the Institute for Military Research of the Bundeswehr. For a week, American, British, German, French and Italian specialist discussed various aspects of air warfare in the Second World War. After the conference, the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a detailed and highly-interesting article. Under the headline "Bombing the Cities”, the author of the article, Professor Günter Gillessen, wrote:

"It is a remarkable fact that the Wehrmacht stuck to the traditional principles of moderate warfare until the very end, whereas the two Western democracies resorted to a revolutionary, radical and reckless type of air warfare."

Gillessen also wrote:

"It cannot be disputed that the principles of international law forbade total carpeting bombing [...] The historians considered the indiscriminate bombing as an abomination, but refused to lay the whole guilt on Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris or the Bomber Command. According to them, the entire staff of the RAF, but even more the political leaders, especially Churchill and Roosevelt, shared the burden of guilt."

Fact #2: Churchill intended to melt every German house in every city

Churchill once said the following:

"You must understand that this war is not against Hitler or National Socialism, but against the strength of the German people, which is to be smashed once and for all, regardless of whether it is in the hands of Hitler or a Jesuit priest."

Winston Churchill (quoted by Emrys Hughes in Winston Churchill - His Career in War and Peace, page 145)

On 13 February 1990, forty-five years after the destruction of Dresden, British historian David Irving spoke at the Dresden "Kulturpalast". In his speech, Irving claimed that Winston Churchill said "I don't want any suggestions how to destroy militarily important targets around Dresden. I want suggestions how we can roast the 600 000 refugees from Breslau in Dresden."

Regardless of the veracity of that statement, Churchill’s war strategy included the hope of destroying every house in every German city. As Die Welt reported in 2005:

"If it has to be, we hope to be able to destroy nearly every house in every German city."[...] In March 1945 Churchill began to doubt the wisdom of bombing German cities ‘simply for the sake of increasing the terror’, but the terror continued." (Die Welt, 11 February 2005, p. 27)

Fact #3: the German elite exonerate the Allied perpetrators and attack the victims:

In 1956, Germany's elite awarded Winston Churchill the honor of the "Karlspreis of Aachen". Aachen was one of the countless cities that Churchill's air-force had reduced to rubble. One attack, which took place on 14 October 1940, had killed ordinary human beings, like Polish actress Diana Karenne. Of course, she was not alone; between 1940 and 1945, about fifteen million German civilians were killed by Allied bombs. The German semi-weekly magazine Der Spiegel reduced this figure, in a January 1995 issue, to "about six million Germans." Although this is a grotesque underestimate, at least Der Spiegel did not exonerate the perpetrators at the time; by contrast, just one month later, on 12 February 1995, Ernst Cramer suggested in Die Welt (page 12) that the guilt of the Allied perpetrators should be ignored when the victims of the bombing are acknowledged. Speaking in Dresden on 13 February 1995, German president Roman Herzog pushed everything aside and suggested that it is "meaningless" to talk about Dresden because it happened so long ago. In his exact words:

"It is meaningless to discuss if the bombing war, the inhumanity of which nobody disputes, was legally justified or not. What are such discussions good for, considering that fifty years have elapsed?” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14 February 1995, p. 1)

To review, Die Welt admitted that the German cities were "transformed into crematoria" during World War Two; the total amounts of bombs dropped on the German cities had been confirmed by the Allied forces, and even Der Spiegel kept the German civilian dead around six million, all of which is being pushed aside for new numbers and estimates produced at fancy. In connection with these developments, we are told that the bombings should be forgotten and we make excuses for the perpetrators who, in a single night, murdered several hundreds of thousands people and destroyed countless cultural treasures.

Note how differently the issue of Auschwitz (concentration camp) is treated, where it is illegal to conduct the research to even produce new findings for consideration; in several countries, it is illegal to say anything that could be considered a challenge to the mainstream narrative, lest it insult the dead by changing the legacy as it is remembered. Multiple times each year, stories run in the press to keep that legacy alive. In fact, schools in the West have mandatory policies covering the subject. When it comes to the Auschwitz death toll (according to political scientist and journalist Fritjof Meyer, three and a half million Auschwitz victims were simply invented in order to denigrate the German people) the professionals never say: "It is meaningless to discuss this...what are such discussions good for, considering that so many years have elapsed?” Instead, all leading German politicians claim that the state and its people are guilty forever. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

On occasion, the victims of the Allied city bombings have even been reviled. For instance, it has been suggested that the bombing was warranted because the people had voted for Hitler twelve years earlier or, in Dresden, were close to the hub from which Jews were being transported to Auschwitz. In 2005, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Dresden's annihilation, the city's mayor at the time, Ingolf Rossberg, delivered a speech echoing the above message. Die Welt covered the speech:

"60 years after the devastating bombing, which claimed tens of thousands of victims, mayor Ingolf Rossberg warned against misunderstanding Dresden as an ‘innocent city’."(Die Welt, 12 February 2005, online version).

Thus spoke the mayor of a city which, in 1945, had received streams of people, animals and carriages from the east and other areas under bombardment, in which meadows and parks had been transformed into huge shelters and hospitals filled with women, children and the wounded, from all across the country. When the fatal hour approached, about 1.13 million people had flooded into Dresden - nearly two times the city's pre-war population.

Fact #4: the German media once quoted "Bomber Harris" and called it "naive" to suggest the death tolls in Dresden were inflated:

5. February 1995Welt am Sonntagpage 23:
"The destruction of Dresden was the result of blind rage and hate! Bomber Harris said: 'Dresden? A place of such a name no longer exists'."

3. March 1995 Die Welt page 8:

"In the center of the city, a densely populated area of 15 square kilometers, the firestorm did not spare a single house. The fire was brought about by 650 000 incendiary bombs and continued to rage for two days and two nights. In the center of the city, the asphalt was burning. On the following day, the hurricane was still so strong that a Turkish student felt its power even on a bridge over the river Elbe: 'A gigantic hurricane caused by the fire raged over the Elbe. We had to creep over the bridge and cling to the railing in order to avoid being whirled away by the winds.'”

"At the Altmarkt-Square of Dresden, three meters below street level, they excavated cellars in which the original sandstone layer had become translucent discoloured from white-beige into red. Partly the stone had become 'glazed' [...]

Berlin archaeologist Uwe Müller said: ‘From that we can see that the temperatures must have ranged between 1300 to 1400 degrees celsius and the area lacked oxygen ... Above ground the temperatures must have been even much higher, as high as 1600 degrees celsius [...] Human beings were transformed into ashes'."

"To avoid a general panic among the German population, Goebbels mentioned a death toll of 40 000, although he had got a report from the vice-chief of the propaganda office in Dresden according to which the real figure was 350 000 to 400 000. Even after the war political considerations prevented an objective evaluation of the number of victims. Too high figures spoilt the idea of reconciliation."

"It would be very naive to think that the Nazi propagandists were interested in exaggerating the death toll. [...] As the allied bombing war had the declared purpose of breaking the morale of the civilian population, any propagandistic inflation of the real figures would only have increased this effect."

Fact #5: There are multiple accounts and reflections on the bombing that speak of its effects

"It is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. It became more and more difficult to breathe. It was dark and all of us tried to leave this cellar with inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon, luggage was left or snatched up out of our hands by rescuers. The basket with our twins covered with wet cloths was snatched up out of my mother's hands and we were pushed upstairs by the people behind us. We saw the burning street, the falling ruins and the terrible firestorm. My mother covered us with wet blankets and coats she found in a water tub. We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from. I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them."

- Lothar Metzger, survivor (in "Timewitnesses", moderated by Tom Halloway, The Fire-bombing of Dresden: An Eyewitness Account, recorded May 1999 in Berlin)

"To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire. Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then — to my utter horror and amazement — I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground. (Today I know that these unfortunate people were the victims of lack of oxygen). They fainted and then burnt to cinders. Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: "I don't want to burn to death". I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn."

- Margaret Freyer, survivor (quoted by John Carry in "The Bombing of Dresden," in Eyewitness To History, 1987, pp. 608–11)

"The Germans would have to be angels and saints to forget and forgive all the injustices, atrocities and cruelties which they have suffered, twice in a generation, without any provocation, from the allies. Just imagine what would we, as Americans, do if we had been treated as we treated the Germans. Our cruelty would have no limits in revenging our suffering!"

- Reverend Ludwig A. Fritsch, Ph. D., D. D. emer., Chicago, 1948.