25,000 died in Dresden bombing, historians say
VIENNA — The Allied bombing of Dresden in the Second World War resulted in far fewer deaths than previously thought, according to new research by a German government commission.
Some historians have claimed that the Allies killed up to 500,000 civilians in the raids between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15, 1945.
But a commission of 13 prominent German historians has concluded that the figure was exaggerated or derived from dubious sources. They believe that no more than 25,000 people died, debunking the claims of many revisionist historians who sought to compare the bombing to the Holocaust.
The commission, headed by Rolf-Dieter Muller, one the country’s most prominent military historians, studied all the available evidence about the event — much of which was examined for the first time.
Muller said that the final report of the commission, to be pub- lished next year, aimed to end the “ludicrous speculation” about the Dresden casualties, which were used for propaganda by the Nazis.
“In the course of its research the commission has so far identified around 18,000 victims of the air raids in Dresden,” Muller said. “The commission estimates that a maximum of 25,000 people lost their lives in the February attacks.”
Unofficially, the commission members indicated that they did not expect the final figure to exceed 20,000.
Immediately after the bombing, the wartime authorities of Dresden estimated the number of casualties to be up to 25,000, but Nazi propaganda chiefs circulated much higher figures.
The commission findings showed that the temperatures created by the incendiary bombs were not sufficient to make a human body completely disappear — a claim used at the time to justify the inflated casualty figures.