Which film would you not have bombed

13./14. February 1945 The myth of Dresden: the long shadow of a bombing night

More than 100 German cities were targeted by Allied air raids during the Second World War. More than half a million people lost their lives in the process. But not a name on the long list borrowed from the Royal Air Force and U.S. bombers. Cities hit by the Air Forces became as famous as the old Saxon residence city of Dresden. Just a few days after the devastating attack on Dresden's old town in February 1945, the political instrumentalisation of the catastrophe began.

I have never seen a city in which the criminal will to destroy our enemies rioted so satanically as here in Dresden. This is murder, this is crime, this is diabolical. We know what to expect from them. They want to bring us to our knees, but right now they should not succeed. Don't get soft now, be hard now, harder and harder, don't give in now, especially not now.

Original sound from Nazi radio, February 16, 1945

Propaganda and military legitimation

At the instruction of the Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, the number of victims was increased. In return, the British and Americans endeavored to legitimize the attack on the Baroque city as a military necessity: "Dresden was in reality," wrote British Marshall Arthur Harris, who was responsible for planning the attack, in March 1945, "a heap of armaments factories intact administrative center and an important traffic junction. It is no longer all that. "

You got a couple of bombings from the British side in WWII that were perfect. Hamburg was one, Kassel was another, Dresden was a third. They were a rarity, but they were what one had always planned and wished for. That was the perfect Dresden bombing raid. It was like a masterpiece.

Frederick Taylor, British historian

Ongoing debate in Dresden

This laid the cornerstone for the ongoing debate about the destruction of Dresden: On the one hand, the city was stylized as the "German Hiroshima" with thousands of innocent victims of a "terrorist attack". On the other hand, the destruction of the Elbe metropolis was dismissed as more or less regrettable "collateral damage" or a legitimate "retaliatory strike" by the Allies.

Dresden became a myth. This did not change much when a commission of historians finally presented its final report in 2010 after more than five years of interdisciplinary research and specified the number of victims. If the information previously fluctuated between 35,000 and a million, they have now been set in the range between at least 18,000 and a maximum of 25,000.

Dresden appears to the Germans as innocence personified: My God, what have they done, that's a work of art, pictures by Canaletto, there is no SS and no extermination of Jews.

Jörg Friedrich, historian

If you take other hard-hit cities - such as Hamburg, where 35,000 people died within two days, or Pforzheim with 18,000 dead - Dresden has lost its unique selling point in terms of the number of victims.

At one point, however, Dresden retains its particularity. And that is this strong propagandistic symbolic charge, the strong political claim to what happened in Dresden in February 1945 - in East Germany, but also far beyond, in West Germany, in Europe, in the world.

Matthias Neutzner, Dresden Historical Commission

Open questions: Why Dresden?

Nevertheless, the question remains why, of all places, the world-famous baroque city became the target of such a devastating Allied air strike a few weeks before the end of the war. What military and political benefits did the British and Americans expect from the planned destruction of Dresden's old town? At the time of the bombing, it was clear that Germany would lose the war. But the "big three" - Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin - decide on the strategy of "moral bombing" at the Yalta conference. So create chaos in the enemy hinterland to make the German civilian population war-weary. Among other things, the air raid on the Elbe city is decided and approved by Stalin at the conference.

MDR television | 02/13/2020 | 8:15 pm