The Death Tolls are now believed to be considerably less than is often reported
For more than 60 years Britain's Bomber Command led by Arthur 'Bomber' Harris has been vilified for causing up to 500,000 deaths in the carpet bombing of Dresden during World War II.But now, after a four-year investigation, a panel of German historians has said that the true number of dead from the Allied air raids in January 1945 was between 18,000 and 25,000.They reached the figure after combing through death certificates, hitherto sealed eyewitness reports, registration cards for people made homeless and hospital records.
It now emerges that the high number of deaths from 'Operation Thunderclap' was a myth invented by the Nazis, perpetuated by Communists and re-born in the past decade to serve the aims of ultra-nationalists.The myth took form barely after the vapour trails of the bombers disappeared in the skies over the city.It suited the Nazi propaganda machine to claim that half-a-million women and children had been incinerated in the firestorm. It helped persuade a struggling population that this was awaited them all unless they fought for Nazism with their last breath.
Then the Communist East Germans perpetuated the myth, mindful that it served their purposes by showing the destructiveness of capitalism and fascism combined.In the last decade neo-Nazis have sought to keep the lie alive as they praise many of the policies of the Third Reich.By the mid 70’s historians were beginning to question the real total of casualties. Although many records lay in the still-Communist archives of Dresden, the accepted figure dropped to between 50, 000 and 150,000 deaths, based on Nazi German records and declassified Allied intelligence reports.Then, when the wall fell and more records became available, the accepted number dipped even further, to 35,000.
A fortnight ago the myth was revealed as just that. A panel of German historians tasked by the modern-day rulers of Dresden said the dead numbered between 18,000 and 25,000.They worked through miles of archived paperwork for the past four years to arrive at their figures, using death certificates, hitherto sealed eyewitness reports, registration cards for people made homeless and hospital records.The historians found most people died in cellars, suffocated when the oxygen was sucked out of their hiding place or killed by the concussion of the falling bombs.Strange climactic conditions combined to create 2,000 degree centigrade “firestorms” which whipped walls of flames through the heart of the city, incinerating everything in their path.By contrast Operation Gomorrah, the saturation bombing of Hamburg, did indeed cause at least 50,000 deaths.