Air raids on Dresden

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View from the tower of the Kreuzkirche over the inner city of Dresden, which was destroyed by the air raids, towards Pirnaischer Platz (1945)

The air raids on Dresden and the greater area of ​​the city by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II first took place in autumn 1944 and culminated in four waves of attacks from February 13th to 15th 1945. According to the latest investigations, this massive bombardment claimed between 22,700 and 25,000 deaths. Large parts of the city center and parts of Dresden's industrial and military infrastructure were also destroyed. There is no reliable evidence for the six-digit number of victims that the Nazi propaganda brought into the world.

The attacks of February 1945 intensified criticism of the air warfare of the Western Allies since 1942, particularly of the British Area Bombing Directive . Historians are still debating whether these area bombings were militarily necessary and appropriate and whether they should be classified as war crimes .

The destruction of Dresden is still the subject of peaceful remembrance today, but has also been instrumentalized by right-wing extremists for their political purposes on a regular basis since the late 1990s .

Background and goals

The course of the war from 1943 to 1945

In the autumn and winter of 1944 the Allies advanced more slowly than planned. The German Wehrmacht prevented the Allied Operation Market Garden from crossing the Rhine despite its own scattered troops . The German Ardennes offensive on the western front followed at the end of the year . The advance of the Red Army also stalled from Operation Bagration (summer 1944) to the Vistula-Oder Operation (from January 1945). Even after that, the Germans held other cities east of the Oder that had been converted into "fortresses", including Breslau and Königsberg .

At that time the Allies were preparing their ground troops to march into “Fortress Germany” for the decisive battle against the Nazi regime. From February 1945, the Western Allies began intensified air raids to conquer the Ruhr area and used their air superiority , which had existed since March 1944, to bomb numerous German military, transport, administrative and government facilities, production facilities and large and small German cities. The Red Army came to the end of January 1945 the latitude of Berlin to the Oder before and came close Silesia to conquer. It was only to grow to the strength necessary for the Battle of Berlin by March . Millions of Germans fled from Silesia, mainly to Central Germany . Wehrmacht units scattered around tried to reach recovery rooms behind the as yet unsecured Soviet front line.

Since the summer of 1944, the British RAF Bomber Command had been planning a particularly serious destruction attack ( Operation Thunderclap ) in order to finally break the Germans' will to persevere. But in January 1945 the British secret service calculated that the Wehrmacht could relocate up to 42 divisions to the Eastern Front . Now the attack plans for the RAF and USAAF have been modified. On February 2, 1945, Dresden was planned as an alternative target for a heavy bombing raid on Berlin when the weather was bad there. At the Yalta Conference from February 4 to 11, 1945, the Soviet Colonel General Alexei Innokentjewitsch Antonov urged the Western Allies to bomb important East German transport hubs in order to prevent further German troop transports to the Eastern Front and thus relieve the Red Army from counter-attacks and to facilitate their advance. On February 7, 1945, the Allied air force staff mutually agreed on an eastern target line for these bombings. On February 8, US General Carl A. Spaatz sent a new target list of upcoming USAAF bombing attacks to Moscow, on which the traffic centers of Berlin, Leipzig , Dresden and Chemnitz were classified in the second highest urgency level after 21 East German hydrogenation plants . On February 12, Spaatz announced the USAAF attack on the Dresden marshalling yard for the following day, February 14 if the weather is bad. The nighttime RAF attack on February 13 was not specifically announced to the Soviets.

Dresden at war

According to the census of May 17, 1939, Dresden had exactly 629,713 inhabitants before the start of the war , making it the seventh largest German city. The urban area was spared from air raids until August 1944, because until then it was outside the range and thus the target planning of Allied bombers. In the autumn of 1944, Dresden was the last major undamaged traffic junction, economic and administrative location of the German Reich, alongside Breslau.


The Dresden railway junction was the third largest rail transshipment point in the German Reich. Railway lines to Berlin, Prague , Breslau, Warsaw , Leipzig and Nuremberg crossed here . Since the railway systems of other cities were already badly damaged, from 1944 rail traffic in the Leipzig – Berlin – Dresden area was largely handled via the Dresden-Friedrichstadt freight and marshalling yard , the main train station and Dresden-Neustadt station . In addition, the systems supplied the industrial companies in Freitals and mining companies in the Ore Mountains as well as the industrial areas of Heidenau , Pirna , Radebeul , Coswig , Bautzen and Görlitz . The large industrial companies in Dresden were connected to the Alberthafen and the freight yard in the Leipzig suburb (Neustadt) via the coal station. Dresden was the seat of the Reichsbahndirektion Dresden , which organized the railway operations in most of Saxony and in the north-western Sudetenland . The Deutsche Reichsbahn also operated a repair shop and a railway depot in Dresden . Locomotives and wagons from more endangered regions of Germany were parked on low-traffic routes in the surrounding area and in tunnels.

Transports of troops and material to the front and of prisoners to the extermination camps were handled via Dresden. Millions of refugees streamed from the east, mainly to central Germany. When more and more people fled from the East at the end of 1944, Dresden, which was not allowed to move in, was a transit station for them.


Dresden's densely built-up city center consisted mainly of buildings from the Renaissance , Baroque and mixed areas of the Wilhelminian era on a medieval floor plan. At that time, industrial companies were built in backyards of residential buildings or as larger complexes directly next to settlements.

According to the information provided by the Dresden Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1941, the city was “one of the first industrial locations in the Reich”. By 1944, the majority of the factories had almost completely converted to armaments. According to the USAAF, "at least 110" factories and companies were located in Dresden in February 1945 that represented "legitimate military targets". The arms industry alone employed 50,000 workers. The main state archive in Dresden shows the economic importance and productivity of the intact metropolitan area: It names 44 companies in the monetary, banking and insurance sectors, 29 mechanical engineering companies, 13 industrial companies specializing in electrical engineering and device construction, 12 companies in the food and beverage industry, mainly the cigarette industry, 6 Precision mechanical and optical industrial companies as well as other factories, which until then had largely been converted to the war economy and had not been destroyed. The following companies are also mentioned as militarily significant, especially according to local sources:

The Sachsenwerk , Avus and MIAG produced machine parts in Niedersedlitz ; the MIAG-Mühlenbau tank factory (formerly Mühlenbau Gebr. Seck) was located in what was then the Zschachwitz district of Sporbitz . Companies in Dresden- Löbtau and in the southern region ( Erzgebirge ) manufactured hand grenades . The armaments factory Universelle-Werke JC Müller & Co. produced in the Südvorstadt (Zwickauer Strasse, Florastrasse) with prisoners of war who were interned on the site of the MIAG mill building in Leuben and in several other camps. Dresden's industry was supplied with forced labor from camps across the city. So far we know of ten outposts of the Flossenbürg , Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps in the city.

From the end of 1944 another 5,000 concentration camp prisoners were transported to Dresden, including around 2,000 Jews . Until the attacks, they were housed with Dresden Jews in overcrowded " Jewish houses " and, for example, forced to work in the armaments factories of Goehle , Osram GmbH, Bernsdorf and Co. and the Reichsbahn repair shop (see extermination through work ).


In February 1945, Dresden was the last intact garrison town in the rear of the Eastern Front. At the end of the 19th century, Albertstadt was established as a military district on the northern outskirts. It comprised extensive barracks complexes and supply facilities with siding and their own train station, warehouses, loading ramps, army bakery, metal processing and handicraft businesses such as saddlery and tailoring. In addition, it was provided with parade grounds, cannon firing ranges, a church and the army officers' school . Barracks were also built or expanded in Mickten and Johannstadt .

From 1921 units of the Reichswehr were stationed in Dresden . After the National Socialists came to power , the city was also expanded militarily until 1939 and received the military area command. In 1935 the Air Base 38 / III Dresden-Klotzsche was built (today: Dresden Airport ). The Klotzsche Air War School (LKS 1) on Hermann-Göring-Strasse (today Zur Wetterwarte) was the first in the German Reich to start operations in 60 buildings. From 1940 the airfield was used exclusively for military purposes. The Luftgaukommando IV was set up in Dresden-Strehlen on the edge of the city center. In Nickern south of the city, another extensive barracks complex of 1939/40 was Air Force .

In addition, in 1939 there were around 20,000 men of the IV Defense Area (Army Corps) of the 6th Army in Dresden. In the course of the war, most of the regular troops were transferred to the front. In December 1944 and January 1945, the light and heavy flak were withdrawn from Dresden to the Ruhr area and Silesia. To protect the two hydrogenation works Maltheuern ( Sudetenland fuel works ) and Ruhland , a total of 252 anti-aircraft guns remained. Allied pilots reported flak fire on the approach to Dresden. The barracks were mostly replenished with replacement troops to be trained. The garrison town became a hospital and supply town. The well-known ballrooms, restaurants and Elbe steamers were also converted into hospitals and camps.

Defense and fortress area

In November 1944, ten battalions of the Volkssturm were recruited and sworn in for the expected fight against the Red Army , including units for building entrenchments, tank hunting commandos, communication units, transport battalions from all Dresden trucks and drivers. Some of them were assigned to the Eastern Front in January. The majority of around 20,000 men, including the Hitler Youth , remained barracked in Dresden. These hastily thrown together units were also trained in schools like army units, but could no longer be adequately armed and equipped due to the priority supply of the Wehrmacht, SS and police and were therefore used to build positions.

The military leadership and responsible district leaders wanted to make the Elbe from Hamburg to Prague the last German line of defense against the advance of the Red Army. The cities near the river were to be developed into fortresses and defended by the Volkssturm. Colonel General Heinz Guderian gave the initially secret order to establish the Dresden-Riesa defense area on December 1, 1944. Tank barriers , tank trenches , trenches , artillery positions and minefields were to be built around the city . The authorities in the city were placed under the orders of the corps staff.

Martin Mutschmann , Gauleiter and Reich Governor of Saxony , was delighted at Christmas 1944 to "see his people on the attack again". From January 1945, the expansion of Dresden into a fortress area began. The population learned nothing of internal doubts about the military purpose of these measures. The contemporary witness Victor Klemperer noted at the time that the Nazi regime's “ever new inventiveness” to continue the war made him “no longer so certain of its defeat”.

After the first air raids, requests for replacement from the front increased in January 1945. Several were rejected, including the request from the commander of the 4th Panzer Army fighting in front of the city , Fritz-Hubert Gräser . Therefore, the Dresden garrison retained a considerable troop strength until May, which consisted primarily of troops from Division 404, the Waffen-SS , the Air Force, the poorly equipped flaker unit and the Navy (in Tharandt and Ottendorf-Okrilla ). However, the military police forces advanced to the Eastern Front in March.

Air raid

Air raid protection had been prepared throughout the German Reich since 1935 . The Gau capital Dresden was considered “extremely endangered”. In 1940 the propaganda film Baptism of Fire was also shown in Dresden , but according to SS reports, in view of the city of Warsaw destroyed by German air raids, the audience was “not heroically proud, but rather an oppressive, frightened mood about the 'horrors of war'”. Since October 1940 air raid shelters have been reserved for " Aryans " throughout the German Reich ; Jews had to go to separate and less protected rooms. The threat to Dresden was foreseeable at least since 1943/44, when several air raids on Leipzig were carried out just 100 km away . Letters and diary entries from the time show that the people of Dresden now expected bomb attacks every day and settled down with fear in everyday life.

From the end of 1943, the newly founded Dresden Building Authority for Air Protection had wall breakthroughs to neighboring houses and road tunnels with stairways installed as escape routes in the cellars of terraced houses, roof beams were impregnated, fire water cisterns were installed, and collection rooms were provided and marked. Air raid bunkers were hardly built in Dresden, however, as the authorities under Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann gave the war economy priority over the protection of the population. However, Mutschmann had a particularly elaborate bunker built under his villa . His subordinates reported this to Heinrich Himmler and it was included in critical reports by the SD . Immigration was forbidden, travelers and refugees were allowed to stay in the city for a maximum of one night. Both were strictly enforced. From 1944 onwards, children from Dresden were brought to safety with the Kinderlandverschickung . The inner city residents were asked to spend the night in quarters on the outskirts.

Industry and administration were also preparing for air strikes, the extent of which could be estimated from experience in other cities. On October 13, 1944, on the occasion of the funeral service for the dead after the October 7 attack, Mutschmann announced in a Dresden newspaper:

“Nobody should live under the illusion that their place, their city, would not be attacked. [...] There are no peaceful islands in Germany. "

This was the only press release about the first air raid on Dresden.

The individual air strikes

B-17 bomber (Flying Fortress)

Since 1944, there has been an increasing frequency of pre-alarms and air alarms in Dresden.

August 24, 1944

There was a first bomb attack by the 8th Air Force of the USAAF with 65 "Flying Fortresses" B-17 on the industry in Freital (mineral oil works of Rhenania-Ossag in Birkigt ), the industrial site Gittersee and residential complexes. A bomb fell on Coschütz . 241 people died in the attack.

October 7, 1944

29 B-17 bombers of the 303rd Bombardment Group (nickname "Hell's Angels") of the 41st Bombardment Wing of the USAAF attacked the alternative target Dresden, which was intended for the entire squadron , as a replacement for the cloud-covered primary target Brüx . With 72.5 tons of bombs, around 290 high-explosive bombs of 500 pounds each, they mainly hit the inner city area around the Dresden-Friedrichstadt train station and the industrial area north of it, including the Seidel & Naumann factory, which was then used for armaments production, and the Alberthafen . A total of 270 fatalities were registered.

January 16, 1945

The 8th Air Force bombed Friedrichstadt station again during the day as a secondary target from 133 four-engine B-24 "Liberator" with 279.8 tons of high explosive bombs and 41.6 tons of incendiary bombs . Also Cotta , Loebtau and Leutewitz were made. The attack left 334 dead. The attacks also weakened the air defense. After that , only 30 operational fighter planes and night fighters were available at the Klotzsche military airfield , albeit with almost no fuel reserves. Nevertheless, the flak was moved to the Eastern Front that same month.

Since Air Marshal Arthur Harris became Commander-in-Chief of the British "Bomber Command" in 1942, night raids by the RAF and day attacks by the USAAF have alternated. Harris gave the order to attack the following heavy bombing of Dresden with the code word "Chevin".

Night raid on February 13, 1945

British target marker Mosquito
Target marking and attack direction of the attacks

Six British bomber squadrons flew on February 13, 1945 at around 5:30 p.m. from their bases in eastern England via two routes into the Reich territory. Behind the western front , escort fighters flew other routes to mislead the German air defense.

On Shrove Tuesday , February 13, 1945, at 9.45 p.m., the 175th air raid alarm was triggered in Dresden . People went to the cellars of their houses or apartment blocks and the few existing air raid shelters.

The attacks began in a first wave under a clear, cloudless night sky. At 10:03 p.m. downtown Lancaster bombers of No. 83 Squadron, a “ boy scout ” unit, illuminated with magnesium light cascades (“Christmas trees”). Two minutes later, nine British mosquitos threw red target markers onto the clearly visible stadium at the Ostragehege northwest of the city center. The first bombs fell from 10:13 pm to 10:28 pm. 244 British Lancaster bombers No. 5 bomber groups destroyed the building with 529 air mines and 1,800 high-explosive and incendiary bombs weighing a total of 900 tons. They descended southwest of the target point in a 45-degree fan between the large Elbe loop in the west of the city, the industrially developed Ostragehege (today the exhibition center ) and the main train station , about 2.5 km away as the crow flies .

In these 15 minutes, three quarters of Dresden's old town were set on fire. Targeted hits on individual buildings were neither intended nor possible during these night raids by the RAF. Rather, a carpet of bombs should destroy the entire city center over a large area. The flames of the burning city center after the first wave of attack could be seen in the sky over a wide area. Some fires continued for four days.

Night raid on February 13-14, 1945

British Lancaster bomber with mine bomb and stick
incendiary bombs
American Boeing B-17 bombs

At 1:23 a.m., the second wave of attacks began with 529 British Lancaster bombers from Group No. 1, No. 3 and No. 8 of the Royal Air Force and Group No. 6 of the Canadian Air Force. By 1:54 a.m. they dropped a total of 458 mine bombs, 977 high-explosive explosive bombs and 443,000 (650,000) stick bombs , which corresponded to 965 tons of high-explosive bombs and 891 tons of incendiary bombs. The region from Löbtau to Blasewitz and from Neustadt to Zschertnitz was affected : again the area of ​​the first attack, plus western Johannstadt, Südvorstadt, the main train station, Friedrichstadt, Löbtau, Blasewitz, Striesen, Strehlen, Gruna, Plauen, Räcknitz, Zschertnitz, Reick, Loschwitz and the Antonstadt. The fires caused by the first wave of attacks served, according to eyewitness reports by British aircrews, for orientation for the following bombers. Their bombs also hit the Elbe meadows and the Great Garden , where many Dresden residents had fled after the first wave. The gynecological clinic Pfotenhauerstrasse of the Dresden-Johannstadt city hospital and the deaconess institution in the Neustadt were badly damaged. Both bombings affected an urban area of ​​around 15 square kilometers.

The second wave of attacks destroyed the technology of the deployed fire police and prevented further extinguishing operations, so that the numerous individual fires quickly combined to form a hurricane-like firestorm . This destroyed entire streets. In the extreme heat, glass and metal melted. The strong suction of air whirled larger objects and people around or pulled them into the fire. They burned, died from heat shock and air pressure, or suffocated from fire gases in the air raid shelters. Those who were able to escape outside were also exposed to the firestorm and detonating bombs.

Daytime attack on February 14, 1945

From 12:17 pm to 12:31 pm, 311 B-17 bombers and 200 escort fighters P-51 "Mustang" of the 8th Air Force attacked the still burning city. The population could not be warned because of a failed alarm system and other communications media. The B-17 dropped 1,800 high- explosive and mine bombs (474.5 t) and 136,800 stick bombs (296.5 t) in a cloudy and soot-covered sky over Dresden according to target radar . Their targets were some armaments factories and again the train station and the Dresden Reichsbahn repair shop in Friedrichstadt. The local hospital and surrounding districts were also hit. Because of a weather front, two groups of bombers deviated about 100 km southwest of the course and bombed a district of Prague after the approach radar failed, believing it was Dresden. In Neustadt in Saxony , about 35 km away , on February 14th, an ash rain caused by the night attacks fell. On February 15, the burned down Frauenkirche collapsed at around 10:15 a.m.

February 15, 1945

Another daytime attack by 211 American Boeing B-17 bombers and 141 P-51 "Mustang" escort fighters followed from 11:51 to 12:01 . Their primary destination was actually the Böhlen hydrogenation plant , where the sky was overcast. Dresden was the specified alternative target, which saw it experience the fourth bomb attack within 40 hours. When visibility was poor, 460 tons of bombs (3,700 high-explosive bombs) were dropped from 11:51 a.m. to 12 p.m. The main hits were Münchener Platz, Loschwitz, Plauen and Waldschlößchenviertel. The area between Meißen and Pirna was largely affected .

March 2, 1945

406 B-17 bombers and hundreds of "Mustang" escort fighters of the 8th Air Force first flew to the Schwarzheide hydrogenation plant , but then switched to the planned alternative destination Dresden because of the weather conditions. From 10:27 a.m. 853 tons of highly explosive explosive bombs and 127 tons of incendiary bombs, along with leaflets, fell unfocused on the cloud-shrouded urban area of ​​Dresden. The main hits were: Mickten / Übigau, old town / Neustadt area Marienbrücke, Waldschlößchen, Tolkewitz, / Laubegast, Hosterwitz, Loschwitz, hospital ship "Leipzig". The planned marshalling yards were not hit, the residential areas medium difficulty, bridges and industrial facilities easy. Part of the bomb load also fell in undeveloped areas, such as the Elbe. The "fragmentation" of the planned attack was caused in part by the German anti-fighter defense, especially by the fast Me 262 jet fighters . Eight B-17s were lost. This fourth attack on Dresden was the heaviest so far that the USAAF had flown on the city. "Documents about the personal losses are not available".

April 17, 1945

The 8th USAAF bomber fleet flew one last major attack on Dresden with 572 (590) "Flying Fortresses" B-17 and hundreds of P-51 "Mustang" fighters - this time as a primary target. From 1:48 p.m. to 3:12 p.m., they dropped 1,385 tons of high explosive bombs and 150 tons of incendiary bombs as "carpets". According to the US 8th Air Fleet's war diary, a total of 1,731 tons of bombs were dropped. Serious damage occurred, including in city districts and on buildings (main train station) that were mostly ruins from earlier attacks. Only with this attack was the militarily and civilly important rail traffic through Dresden effectively interrupted. The main hits were: the Friedrichstadt marshalling yard, the Pieschen Elbhafenbahnhof, the Altstadt freight yard, the main train station, the Neustädter Bahnhof, Löbtau, Plauen and Übigau. The city hospitals in Löbtau and Friedrichstadt were also hit in the residential areas. "This time too, the population suffers painful losses". At least 450 deaths are reported. Hundreds of them rest in the New Annenfriedhof alone, especially from the center of Löbtau. Flak and Me 262 managed to shoot down eight heavy bombers. The Luftwaffe's own losses were massive, especially on the ground - where the fighters were parked for lack of fuel.


For the population

According to witnesses, some people were able to flee through wall breakthroughs in the cellars of closed rows of houses into intact houses and parts of the city, others found the Elbe meadows through the vaults below the old town. About 1000 people survived the attack in the Church of St. Anne . However, many of them suffocated from fire gases while trying to escape. The frequent statement “suffocated” in death certificates at the time also indicated a lack of air raid shelters and a lack of ventilation. Families were torn apart in chaos. Survivors who had persisted in bunkers and cellars or found their way into the open were traumatized . Thousands of people fled to less affected parts of the city such as Mockritz , Leuben, Blasewitz, Pieschen , Löbtau or the surrounding area during the first wave of attacks .

Since the bombs also destroyed the central building of the Gestapo , the Gestapo could not carry out the deportation of the last 198 Jews from the Dresden administrative district , scheduled for February 14-16, as planned. Around 40 Jews died from bombs in the Dresden "Judenhaus", while others survived in air raid shelters despite the ban. However, they had to flee the city in the following days as the Gestapo continued to look for them. Around 70 Dresden Jews escaped the Holocaust in this way . Among them were Henny Brenner , the later famous puppeteer Josef Skupa and the literary scholar Victor Klemperer , who wrote in his diary at the time:

"But whoever of the 70 or so star-bearers spared that night, it meant salvation, because in the general chaos he was able to escape the Gestapo."

Mountain of corpses on the Dresden Altmarkt, February 1945

From February 15, Theodor Ellgering , head of the Interministerial Committee for Air War Damage , organized , according to his own report , reception centers for homeless refugees, their supply of food and the rescue of the dead. He had destroyed parts of the city cordoned off with roadblocks made of rubble stones. In the days that followed, the bodies were collected in the city by trucks or handcarts, taken to public places for identification, and stacked in their thousands. Most of them were women and children. For fear of epidemics , 6,865 bodies were burned in the Altmarkt on February 25, and more in the Tolkewitz crematorium . By April 30, around 10,430 dead and the ashes of the corpses burned on the Altmarkt were buried in the Heidefriedhof, and more dead in the Johannisfriedhof and the site cemetery at that time .

Demolition work

Public buildings, such as NSDAP offices, inns and schools, served as temporary emergency rooms for the homeless. In the five reception centers in the Dresden district of Plauen alone , 16,000 refugees were registered by mid-March. The authorities sent many of the bombed out to the surrounding area.

First commercial activities to supply the population

In the city center, District IV, 4,000 inhabitants were found in March. The northern part of Striesen had to take in thousands of refugees. Despite the opening of the food depots, food soon became scarce and even food cards could no longer be printed. In the middle of April, the National Socialist People's Welfare finally stopped feeding the bombed out . According to the district administration, on April 10, 1945, “ people without their own cooking facilities” were referred to the common use of existing “cooking facilities”. The Nazi authorities were unable to work, converted to reception centers or burned out. Many officials fled or perished. According to Mutschmann, the city was no longer able to “carry out its ongoing administrative work”. Because of a lack of personnel, officials from all over Saxony were hired.

For the urban area

Destroyed areas in Dresden and individual targets. Outlined in red: completely destroyed core areas of the bombing. Graduated in pink: built-up areas. Braun: strategic goals

The old town burned to a large extent. Apart from the ruins, only a few buildings remained badly damaged. The Seevorstadt , Johannstadt and the eastern Südvorstadt were largely burned down or smashed. The old town centers and historical buildings of Striesen and Gruna were also largely destroyed. There was also serious damage in Reick, Friedrichstadt, Plauen, Zschertnitz, the Inner Neustadt and fires in Prohlis . Between Schandauer Strasse and Bodenbacher Strasse, almost 800 houses with around 7,000 apartments, factories and workshops were completely destroyed. There was damage to individual rows of houses in the Hechtviertel , Pieschen, Niedersedlitz and Albertstadt. The densely populated Outer Neustadt was largely spared.

Ruins of the Semperoper
Ruins of the Frauenkirche (photo from 1970)
New beginning of cultural life among the ruins, Theodor Rosenhauer

The bombing raids destroyed many cultural monuments of the late baroque " Florence on the Elbe ", including the Semperoper , Frauenkirche , Residenzschloss , Sophienkirche and Zwinger . The building authorities of the GDR had many burned-out buildings demolished (including: Sophienkirche, Albert Theater , Palais der Secondogenitur ), other ruins or heaps of rubble were preserved as “memorials” (Frauenkirche, Kurländer Palais ) and thus reinforced the impression that the city center was almost completely destroyed .

Although the night raids by the RAF did not target the Dresden armaments industry directly , they destroyed 23 percent of Dresden's industrial plants and damaged many utilities such as gas, water and power plants. The subsequent daytime attacks by USAAF were also very imprecise due to poor visibility. By May 1945, 60,000 to 75,000 of a total of 222,000 apartments in the residential areas were completely destroyed, including household items and clothing, a further 18,000 apartments were seriously damaged and 81,000 slightly damaged. 30 percent of the retail operations were inoperable, including three department stores in the old town and the market halls at Weißeritzstrasse , Antonsplatz and the Neustädter Markthalle , where the fruit and vegetable trade was concentrated at the time.

Stairwell stopped in 1945

Road traffic was initially completely blocked after February 13th. The overhead lines of the tram were 75 percent destroyed, roads were buried or littered with bomb craters; the building authority counted 1,100 of them. All Elbe bridges in the city area were damaged. The center had become impassable as a traffic junction. Jobs and authorities usually had to be reached on foot through the rubble desert of the old town. However, rail traffic was temporarily put back into operation after two weeks. Troop transports even started again after a few days, as the long-distance routes through Dresden remained almost intact until the bombing on March 2, 1945.

Most of the companies had to stop their production. They were damaged or destroyed, their workers had perished, bombed out or could not reach the factories. According to a "final report" from the SS and Police Leader Elbe on March 15, 1945, only six companies were able to continue their production with an indefinite amount. The “ municipal cattle and slaughterhouse ” in the Ostragehege resumed operations on February 19, the bread factory and large butcher shop in Rosenstrasse at the end of March.

For the allies

The area bombing of the RAF in the final months of the war in 1945 was controversial among the Western Allies . Especially after the February attacks on Dresden, the US military leadership urged the British to abandon this tactic. But the RAF was mainly equipped and trained for area bombing.

On March 28, 1945, Winston Churchill considered ending the air war against German cities and distanced himself from directing it in a draft telegram to General Ismay and the British Chiefs of Staff and Chief of the Air Staff :

“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 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. "

“The moment seems to have come when the question of the bombing of German cities should be examined simply for the purpose of increasing terrorism, even if we use other pretexts. Otherwise we will take control of a totally devastated country. [...] The destruction of Dresden remains a serious question for the Allied bombing policy. [...] I think we need to focus more on military targets such as oil depots and communication centers behind the immediate combat zone, rather than pure acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive these are. "

On April 1, 1945, however, a version was broadcast which emphasized above all that further destruction of living quarters and the like would oppose allied interests after the war.

The following day, Arthur Harris wrote to the Air Ministry as follows:

“Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government center, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things. "

“Dresden was a collection of ammunition factories, an intact administrative center and a hub for transports to the east. Now it's none of that. "

- Arthur Harris : letter of March 29, 1945

The fact that Harris - unlike other leading military officers - received no state honor in Great Britain after the war and was only raised to the nobility at a late stage, is seen by some as an indication of Winston Churchill's distance from his "bomber", although Churchill himself originally made the decision to area had hit bombing .

Since August 1944, the Western Allies had dropped around 10 million war leaflets over Dresden, with which they called on the population to give up. On April 23, the RAF dropped another 40,000 leaflets over Dresden, which was bypassed by the front.

For the warfare of the National Socialists

Werner von Gilsa took over command of the Dresden fortress area as the successor to Friedrich-Wilhelm Liegmann after the February attacks . His staff was initially still in the Taschenbergpalais (old town), then in Albertstadt . He had the food stores opened and made the air force medical unit in Nickern available to the bomb refugees . He had other units of the troops and those passing through intercepted and assigned. Those on leave and even slightly injured people were formed into new troops.

The Nazi regime hoped that the anti-Hitler coalition could disintegrate at the last moment, and therefore issued the order for the Elbe line: Hold on to the last! On April 10, Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann also ordered schoolchildren to build positions. Guns were set up on the Brühl Terrace . USAAF aerial photographs confirm progress in building the defenses. On April 14th, Mutschmann officially declared Dresden a “fortress”, gave the motto “The city will be defended with all means and to the last” and launched an appeal to the population “The enemy threatens our homeland - fight to the last”.

Only after the capitulation of the Berlin Wehrmacht units on May 2, Gilsa dissolved the "Dresden Defense Area" and ordered its evacuation. Nonetheless, scattered groups “defended” the destroyed city until the unconditional total surrender came into effect on May 8, 1945. It was only on this last day of the war that the Red Army took the entire city area.

Burial places

The bomb victims were buried in many Dresden cemeteries, most of them in the Heidefriedhof and the Johannisfriedhof , but also in the New and Old Annenfriedhof, the Nordfriedhof (former cemetery) and other Dresden cemeteries. The following information comes mainly from the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge and from the Wikipedia articles of the cemeteries. In its brochure "Dresden War Caves" (2010), the Volksbund cites graves with bomb victims in 34 cemeteries.

  • Heidefriedhof (Dresden) in the Trachau district : The Heidefriedhof is the largest burial place of Dresden bomb victims. 30,000, more than 20,000, according to other sources 18,365, 17,295 or 11,500 of them were buried here in mass graves . The remains of the 6,865 dead who had been cremated in the old market were placed in an “ash grave” . These are to be added to the 11,500 dead buried in the mass graves (altogether 18,365). The grave areas had already been prepared for row graves with 10,000 dead in 1943/44 and were then occupied after the air raids of February 13-15, 1945. However, the extent of the disaster far exceeded the city's assumptions, so that the prepared areas had to be greatly expanded. An aerial photo from March 1945 shows around 15 mass graves, the areas of which extend well beyond the area of ​​today's memorial. The burials had to take place in these mass graves and without coffins; the dead were layered close together in the dug trenches. Narrow wooden strips indicated the dead person's registration number. In addition, an "ash grave" took up the remains of the corpses burned in the old market. A total of 4,000 dead were known by name, the remaining 14,000 were not identifiable. There was no longer any "honor for the dead" planned by the NSDAP . For years, the grave areas lay desolate, and many families created their own small memorials on the edge of the mass graves. At the beginning of the 1950s it was converted into an honor grove with high-quality garden architecture, but with the anonymization of the dead. From 1954 to 1963, a wooden high cross commemorated the victims buried in the Heidefriedhof. In its place was a concrete wall, then a vaulted sandstone wall as a memorial. This bears the inscription: “HOW MANY DIED? WHO KNOWS THE NUMBER? ON YOUR WOUNDS YOU CAN SEE THE PORTRAIT OF THE NAMELESS WHO BURNED HERE IN HELLFIRE FROM HUMAN HANDS. IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE AIR STRIKE ON DRESDEN ON 13-14. FEBRUARY 1945. ”Since 2010, the sculpture“ Mourning Girl in the Sea of ​​Tears ”by the Polish artist Malgorzata Chodakowska, who lives in Dresden, has been on the memorial site since 2010 . It stands next to the cemetery hall with a view of the honor grove and was created in memory of the victims of February 13 (to 15) 1945.
  • Johannisfriedhof (Dresden) in the Tolkewitz district : The Johannisfriedhof is the second largest burial site for Dresden bombing victims with over 3,750 people who fell victim to the air raids. They came especially from the districts of Striesen and Johannstadt . Due to the large number of victims, the corpses were placed close to each other and only covered by a thin layer of topsoil of 60 cm (usually 150 cm). A simple wooden cross six meters high stood on the edge of the site with individual gravestones. The burial place was redesigned in the 1970s with the dissolution of the collective and individual graves to the honor grove with a stone memorial in a stylized cross shape and renovated fountain system (1965). Symbol crosses were added later. Old gravestones laid down line the path to the grave and memorial site. The cemetery also serves as a post-bed cemetery for victims who are still being found during construction work.
  • New Annenfriedhof in the Löbtau district : In April 1945, over 631 victims of the bombing of Dresden were buried in a mass grave here. Only some of the dead were known by name and are named on individual boards. On the grave field, a large wooden cross and a plaque with an inscription remind of the victims: “MORE THAN SIX HUNDRED DEAD, YOUNG PEOPLE, FORCED TO DRESDEN IN THE WAR, AND RESIDENTS OF OUR CITY REST HERE. ONLY PART OF THEIR NAME IS KNOWN. THEY DIED IN AIR ATTACKS IN 1945. “On both sides of the middle panel with the inscription, two panels each show the names of the known dead. There are other tombs, including two prisoners of war and 56 forced laborers killed in the bombing. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge arrives at a total of 924 aerial warfare casualties from "different nations" in this cemetery, most of them lost their lives in the American daytime bombardment on April 17, 1945. Many of them were residents of the center of Löbtau.
  • Nordfriedhof (Dresden) in the Albertstadt district : The former site cemetery of the Dresden garrison accommodated 474 bomb victims in collective and individual graves, mainly firemen , soldiers and police officers who had died in action in the bombing raids. A tombstone in the shape of a sarcophagus above the burial ground bears the inscription: “WE REMEMBER THE DEAD WHO FALLED VICTIMS IN THE ANGLO-AMERICAN BOMB ATTACK IN FEBRUARY 1945. Inscriptions on both sides show the additions: TO REMEMBER FURTHER VICTIMS IN MARCH 1945 and TO REMEMBER FURTHER VICTIMS IN APRIL 1945. "
  • Inner Neustädter Friedhof : 22 civilian aerial warfare deaths from 1944/45 in individual and collective graves
  • Old Annenfriedhof in the Südvorstadt district : The historic cemetery itself was badly devastated in the air raids in February 1945. In 2006 the burial ground was redesigned with 741 victims of the bombing raids. A border made of stone slabs gives the names of the 149 known dead and the inscription "592 unknown dead". Another 20 aerial war dead were buried in the cemetery. A sandstone obelisk shows the inscription: “HOW IS THE DESERT CITY THAT WAS FULLY PEOPLE. ALL YOUR GATES ARE BARRELED / LIKE THE STONES OF THE SANCTUARY ARE DROPPED IN ALL THE STREETS. HE SENT A FIRE FROM ON HEIGHT INTO MY LEGS AND LET IT RUN. "(Lamentations of Jeremiah, in translation by Martin Luther)
  • New Catholic cemetery in Friedrichstadt : steles and bronze plaque to commemorate 395 victims of the bombing raids (128 graves no longer exist). Inscription: “HERE REST 267 VICTIMS OF THE BOMB ATTACKS ON DRESDEN. WE WILL CONTINUE TO REMEMBER: 128 BOMB VICTIMS, WHOSE GRAVES HAVE BEEN RECOVERED. THEY BELONGED TO 13 NATIONS. "
  • Old Catholic cemetery in Friedrichstadt: 22 aerial warfare deaths, including some priests.
  • Kaditz district on the right Elbe in the district of Pieschen : “3. Kaditz Cemetery ”. Collective grave for 13 aerial warriors, with stele and inscription: "DIED DURING THE BOMB ATTACK ON DRESDEN ON 13TH TO 14TH FEBRUARY 1945". A total of 59 civilian bomb deaths in the cemetery, most of them in family and individual graves.
  • St. Pauli cemetery in the northern suburbs of Leipzig : graves and grounds “In memory of the victims of war and tyranny”. In the middle a four-part cuboid, it bears the names of 200 bomb victims, part of the 428 war victims buried here.
  • Outer Matthäusfriedhof (dedicated, monument protection) in Friedrichstadt. According to research by the “Interest Group February 13”, 702 aerial warfare deaths lie in the cemetery. The air war victims were buried in 1944 (October), most of them in 1945 after air raids on Dresden. Obelisk with inscription: “13. FEBRUARY 1945 "
  • Inner Matthäusfriedhof : 18 civilian bomb deaths in individual and collective graves.
  • Outer Plauenscher Friedhof : 128 aerial warfare deaths, including Italians and Poles. They came from the attacks on 13/14 February and April 17, 1945
  • Stephanusfriedhof Zschachwitz : 37 civilian aerial warfare deaths, in individual and collective graves
  • Trinitatis cemetery in Johannstadt : 39 bomb deaths in collective and family graves, and two soldiers killed in an air raid
  • Inner Briesnitz cemetery: in Briesnitz (Dresden) : 46 civilian aerial warfare deaths in individual and collective graves, victims of the air raids of October 7, 1944 and January 16, 1945
  • Markus cemetery in Pieschen : 50 civilian aerial warfare deaths in individual and collective graves
  • Cottaer Friedhof: in Cotta (Dresden) : 98 aerial warfare deaths from various attacks in collective and individual graves. A high stone cross above the burial ground commemorates them and fallen soldiers.
  • Hosterwitzer Friedhof: in Hosterwitz : 34 aerial warfare deaths, mostly in collective graves
  • Klotzsche old cemetery: in Klotzsche : 7 victims of the air raids of 13/14 Buried in family graves in February 1945
  • New Klotzsche cemetery: in Klotzsche : more than 50 aerial warfare deaths in individual and collective graves. With the exception of those buried in family graves, these were overburdened during the GDR era
  • Leuben cemetery: in Leuben : 29 civilian aerial warfare deaths in individual and collective graves
  • Leubnitz-Neuostra cemetery : 37 air war dead, 36 of them in collective graves
  • Lockwitzer Friedhof: in Lockwitz: 18 civilian aerial warfare deaths and 5 Italian military internees killed in air raids
  • Loschwitz cemetery : in Loschwitz : 35 aerial warfare deaths, 34 of them in collective graves
  • Weißig cemetery : 9 aerial warfare deaths in individual and collective graves
  • Weixdorf cemetery : 26 victims of the air raids on February 13 and 14, 1945 in individual and collective graves
  • Weißer Hirsch forest cemetery : This forest cemetery is cited here as an example of other cemeteries that have preserved graves and memorials to commemorate the victims of the air raids. In the northern part of the cemetery there is a large cross with a plaque “13. FEBRUARY 1945 ”.

Adding these numbers together results in 26,425 bomb victims on the burial grounds mentioned.


Nazi propaganda

The Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels used the attacks for National Socialist propaganda : In domestic propaganda , the main aim was to absorb the negative effects of the destruction on the population. In foreign propaganda, the Allied bombing war should generally be portrayed as a long-prepared and planned extermination campaign, for which pre-defined and binding language regulations (e.g. bomber Harris ) should be used.

In the course of February 15, 1945, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry prepared a detailed commentary on the destruction of Dresden, which was distributed throughout the world via the German News Office (DNB) on the afternoon of the same day and broadcast in the broadcasts of foreign-language radio propaganda . The focus of the descriptions was "the destruction of the art city Dresden", "a place of pilgrimage for all art lovers", in which "hundreds of Englishmen of the educated class" had been trained or had found healing "in the excellent sanatoriums". Nevertheless, according to the Nazi propagandists, the city "which is not only counted among the jewels of Germany but of Europe" has just been destroyed by the British and Americans. The DNB commentary continued to claim that Dresden's industry was insignificant for the war, that the militarily important railway facilities were not in the center, and that the incendiary bombing - contrary to what was claimed in the British media (and also spread on February 14, 1945) - did not have railway facilities that could not be destroyed with it, but that monuments and residential areas should be affected. Such terrorist attacks have long been proven to be militarily pointless and the Red Army does not use them either. The text from the Nazi propaganda ministry concluded that the German people could not gain anything by surrendering and what they would lose if they ever fell into the hands of enemy opponents.

This is where the two points of contact of Nazi propaganda were found: For the Nazi domestic press, to portray the bombing as a long-planned mass murder and destruction of a Western cultural capital, i.e. as a crime by “ barbarians ” against civilization, and above all the perseverance and fear to stir up against the inhumanity of the enemy. For the foreign press it was enough to portray Dresden as an art city that was insignificant for the conduct of the war and the air raids as having no military meaning ( i.e. meaningless ) in order to influence opinion in the opposing and neutral countries, to relativize the German war guilt and to make the Germans a victim claim.

The National Socialist domestic press followed these guidelines immediately, with the national media initially concentrating strictly on the destruction of cultural values ​​and describing them, consistently in the past tense ("Dresden was ..."), sometimes in an entranced, lyrical style, the "Gesamtkunstwerk", the “famous panorama”, the “wonderful buildings” - only the Dresden Nazi daily newspaper Freiheitskampf responded to the “will to persevere”. The British and American foreign press, on the other hand, were dominated by headlines these days, which thematized the "strongest air strikes ... against Germany" and in which Dresden was an important topic: Since then, however, and even before news about the actual effects became known, the Name Dresden - wrongly - linked with superlatives of a huge bomber offensive.

On February 15, 1945 (and in the following days), however, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry succeeded in getting the last foreign correspondents of the neutral Swedish press remaining in Berlin interested in the subject, which was the only remaining opportunity to influence the public in other countries to take. On February 16, for example, a first report appeared in Stockholm's Dagens Nyheter as Inferno in Dresden - Unheard-of number of deaths , in which Dresden is described as “the only burning inferno ... in which tens of thousands of people died and ... all world-famous cultural and historical buildings entirely or were partially destroyed. ”This report is the first to mention the high number of refugees from the east in Dresden who would have been in the city. This information also came from the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, as all foreign correspondents were not allowed to leave Berlin. This information is then deepened by the Svenska Morgonbladet on February 17, 1945 and it names 100,000 dead, the reason being that a total of 2.5 million people were in the city on the night of February 13 to 14, 1945.

The reports were again followed by the Allied press, which followed in quotes from the neutral and credible Swedish press that Dresden was completely destroyed: “atomized” and “pulverized” ( New York Times from Stockholms Tidningen ), or “never before During the war, a city was so destroyed ”( Toronto Daily Star from Expressen ). On February 20 and 25, 1945 in Svenska Dagbladet there were further descriptions as the “Crescendo of bombing devastation” and now as the number “almost 200,000 dead”. These two reports, which were subtly controlled by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, thus show almost all the elements that made up the image of destruction received in the following years and in parts to this day: Dresden as an extremely valuable place of art and Culture, not a word (more) about the military importance of the city, no inclusion in the context of the course of the war, an allegedly high number of refugees who were used to justify the number of victims, almost complete destruction, the catastrophe as unique: The Foreign Office and the Nazi Propaganda Ministry made no attempt to correct it, although other information was already available, on the contrary. On February 19, the Foreign Office instructed its diplomats to emphasize the Anglo-Saxon bombing war and its German victims in the foreign press and later, at the beginning of March, to also refer to the sentence in Svenska Dagbladet of February 25, 1945: “Rather 200,000 than 100,000 deaths ".

In this situation, the Allied press also made the fatal mistake that, at a rather routine press conference in Paris on February 16, 1945 , the British press officer present replied to a question from Howard Cohen for the Associated Press about the reasons for the area bombing (“mainly traffic facilities "To prevent supplies and more casually to" destroy the remnants of German morality "), which on the one hand prompted the journalist to phrase:" ... decision made to carry out deliberate terror bombing of German population centers as a ruthless means of accelerating Hitler's downfall ", on the other the military censor let this message pass. While it was stopped at night in Great Britain, it appeared in the USA, and Radio Paris had already brought it, also with the term used by Nazi propaganda. With a correction, this statement was to be finally retrieved on February 17th, now it referred completely to Dresden: The aim was "to paralyze traffic and prevent the movement of troops ..." The fact that the city was overcrowded with refugees is pure coincidence. ”Even if the point“ overcrowded with refugees ”was not correct, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry was able to steer the Dresden debate to a new point and, in particular, rekindle the domestic propaganda which began on February 21, 1945 in the Dresden fight for freedom with the headline Cynical attempt to distract the aerial gangsters .

At the beginning of March it seemed necessary to further expand and consolidate the stand. Rudolf Sparing's article "The Death of Dresden: A Illuminated Sign of Resistance" in the Nazi magazine Das Reich of March 4, 1945 presented the attacks as "four acts of a coolly calculated murder and extermination plan" and initiated a further phase of the Nazi Propaganda campaign. An essay written by the editor that is extremely unusual in terms of length, content and diction, Neutzner describes as a masterpiece of its genre. Sparing avoided any description that could be assessed as exaggeration, avoided any harsh evaluation, the language reserved compared to daily newspapers, unusual the openness (which was, however, carefully measured). Sparing did not exaggerate even the number of deaths excessively, but it was dramaturgically increased by renouncing any identification, which was not true. The detailed description of the attacks themselves combined details that had never been publicly expressed until then with a subtle description of an innocent city , in which he described figures and processes that still influence the memory of what happened today. Low-level aircraft fire was introduced here for the first time in public:

"At midnight, a second British air fleet appeared in the glowing red sky of the Elbe Valley and, with explosive bombs and on-board weapons , caused a bloodbath among the crowds on the green areas, as it could have been imagined by Ilya Ehrenburg up until then ."

Resistance against the allegedly murderous allies is therefore the only “way out” for the survivors.

The content and distribution proved to be successful: in Germany, the Nazi press reprinted the text in whole or in large passages and it was positively received everywhere. The language and style made the messages trustworthy, the descriptions coincided with the circulating accounts of eyewitnesses. The news agencies abroad picked up the text and distributed large parts of it as quotations, which were reprinted by practically all the major newspapers in the USA, Great Britain and many other countries. The Irish Times headlined with a picture of the Elbe silhouette before the destruction: Dresden wiped out , the New York Times wrote: "Dresden, one of the oldest and most beloved German cities, has ceased to exist." The Washington Post carried Sparing's assessment: " The Dresden catastrophe is unprecedented. ”However, it also set out a framework for individual memories and also went unchecked into German post-war literature and historical revisionism .

This sparing text was practically the whole of March 1945, in Portugal until the beginning of April, the basis for press reports of various kinds, insofar as the respective embassies could influence them. The symbol Dresden (Neutzner also calls it Chiffre Dresden ) was positioned as the supposedly greatest crime of the war within weeks.

The last step of the Nazi propaganda - further ones were no longer possible - was to persuade the aged poet Gerhart Hauptmann , who was with his wife Margarete in Weidner's sanatorium in the Wachwitz district on February 13, 1945, to write a text about the inferno. Hauptmann's words, which he wrote when he returned to his Silesian residence, begin: “Anyone who has forgotten how to cry will learn it again when Dresden fell. … “It was read on German radio on March 29, 1945 and made available to German foreign propaganda, which was able to publish it on April 9, 1945 in Stockholm.

Soviet and GDR propaganda

During the Cold War , ideological guidelines again hindered historical research into the course of the war and the grief of those involved. The post-war propaganda in the Soviet occupation zone avoided asking questions of guilt, the following GDR praised the commitment to reconstruction and rebuilding in order to distance itself from the National Socialists and to integrate into the official anti-fascism . The Soviet military regime initially forbade public blame on the Western Allies. Dresden's first post-war mayor , Walter Weidauer , did not mention them on the commemoration day on February 13, 1946, but emphasized that the Red Army had not carried out any bombing raids on civilians and that the destruction of Dresden was "militarily completely pointless".

Shortly after the end of the war, according to the historian Matthias Neutzner, the destruction was remembered in prefixed forms, which differed in some central statements from the actual events and from objective evaluations. Building on this, Neutzner believes that the memorial event in February 1950 finally succeeded in shaping all the constants of the narrative of the destruction of Dresden (which largely went back to the Nazi propaganda or were adopted directly from there), which until the end of the GDR remained suitable as historical politics: That was the symbolic example of the horror of the bombing war on one of the most beautiful cities in Europe ( uniqueness in beauty, cultural value and destruction), the suppression or concealment of the Nazi era in Dresden and its integration into the course of the Second World War ( The innocent city and the senselessness of the destruction ) and as a new motif (ignoring the actual processes) the air raids on Dresden were attributed to the end of the war , which was due solely to the Red Army.


Eyewitness reports of alleged phosphorus rain and low-level attacks on refugees are an integral part of post-war literature on Dresden, handed down in stereotypical motifs . Historians have checked these reports several times since 1977 and found that they are legends that were partly created by Nazi propaganda and partly based on misinterpretations of sensory impressions.

Goetz Bergander , who witnessed the air raids on Dresden, proved in 1977 that the RAF never used liquid phosphorus during World War II, at times only used it as a lighter in incendiary bombs and did not use such incendiary bombs in the air raids on Dresden. After Operation Gomorrah in 1943, Joseph Goebbels correctly emphasized against the panic in the population that in Germany “phosphorus had never been rained off”, that this was an optical illusion when other types of bombs hit. Bergander assumed that Dresden eyewitnesses had confused white flare grenades and stick incendiary bombs with luminous phosphorus. Even Helmut Schnatz closed the "raining out" of white phosphorus in Dresden, since phosphorus rubber to was unsuitable and then at best as accelerant was used in bomb canisters.

The Nazi propaganda claimed systematic Allied low-flying attacks on civilians since May 1944 in order to justify lynching of allied pilots who had landed in an emergency (" air killings "). Rudolf Sparing's assertion on March 4, 1945 that a second British air fleet had deliberately bombed and shot at refugees on the Elbe meadows is considered the origin of the low-flying legend. This was then circulated more and more, for example from Axel Rodenberger ( The Death of Dresden , 1951), Max Seydewitz ( Destruction and Reconstruction of Dresden , 1955) and the later Holocaust denier David Irving ( Der Untergang Dresdens , 1963). By reinterpreting USAAF files, Irving alleged low-level attacks only in daytime attacks starting February 14th.

Eyewitnesses who were refugees in the Dresden area on February 14 and 15 later described attacks by individual low-flying aircraft. Details of their memories, such as the exterior markings on US planes, are proven to be incorrect. Therefore, none of these reports are considered historically reliable. Bergander found out that the few credible reports only related to the daytime attack of February 14, 1945 and did not mention either the police reports of that day or the Wehrmacht reports , which otherwise noted every low-flying attack. They only documented low-level flights by a bomber squadron on the way to Prague , far from Dresden, and an aerial battle between US escort fighters and German fighters near Dresden on noon on February 14th. Bergander concluded:

"During a chase close to the ground, bullets can also hit the ground, and it is quite natural and psychologically understandable that people in the open experience machine gun salvos as being fired at themselves."

Even Sven Felix Kellerhoff participated in 2007 that Dresdner witnesses have merged their memory with foreign reports of low-flying attacks.

Schnatz also ruled out low-level attacks at night on February 13, 1945, since low-flying fighter planes and higher-flying bombers had endangered each other during the bombing and the firestorm had made it impossible to fly low over the burning city center after the first night attack. In the following daytime attacks, as is typical for US operations, the escort fighters could have launched their own attacks after the bombers had left. Schnatz also believes that this is unlikely due to the dense clouds and limited fuel. He checked the chains of command of the RAF and USAAF at the time and determined that the Allied escort fighters should otherwise attack close ground targets if there was no air combat. But neither military orders nor statements by pilots nor information from the National Socialists in reports or death certificates mention low-flying attacks in Dresden. The 8th Air Force was explicitly forbidden to intervene in Dresden airspace. An RAF order to the American Mustangs to bombard the traffic in the area around Dresden in order to increase the chaos, related to targets of opportunity along the way back to England.

Many Dresden contemporary witnesses protested against these research results in 2000. So Schnatz was disturbed while presenting his book.

By 2005, the Dresden Historical Commission questioned 164 contemporary witnesses about low-flying aircraft on February 13 and 14, 1945, 103 of whom gave more precise time and location information. Six of the areas in question were accessible as open spaces. During a systematic search with metal detectors, the commissioned ordnance disposal service did not find any projectiles that could be traced back to low-flying attacks. According to this research result, direct fire on refugees in Dresden is largely excluded.

Narrative dramatization

To this day, the air raids on Dresden are processed in reports, documentaries, novels and films. Kurt Vonnegut , who witnessed the bombing of Dresden as a US prisoner of war, wrote the novel Schlachthof 5 or The Children's Crusade , which is named after the municipal cattle and slaughterhouse in the Ostragehege. Alexander McKee , British war correspondent, published an experience report with the German subtitle "Das deutsche Hiroshima ". Axel Rodenberger reissued his collection of eyewitness accounts from 1951, including his comments, in 1995.

According to Matthias Neutzner, such narratives often portrayed the attacks as the sudden, unexpected, senseless destruction of a unique and innocent city shortly before the foreseeable end of the war. This contributed to solidifying an emotional core in the collective memory of the events. The bombing of Dresden became a constant proverbial phrase in English: Like Dresden denotes a devastating fire or the destruction of cultural assets. The almost undamaged city, widely known as a splendid residence, was still an important military goal in February 1945, and not just “the innocent cultural beauty”.

Research on casualty numbers

Memorial plaque for the victims of February 13, 1945 on the Alten Annenfriedhof in Dresden's Südvorstadt

The Nazi authorities kept the reports about the recovered dead secret and at the same time launched exaggerated figures to the foreign press, which in turn quoted them. They brought six-digit numbers of victims into circulation, which right-wing extremists and history revisionists still refer to today.

The Swedish newspaper Svenska Morgonbladet suspected on February 17, 1945 "currently ... 100,000", on February 27, 1945 "closer to 200,000" deaths. In 1948 the International Committee of the Red Cross mentioned over 275,000 "reported" deaths in the Dresden area. The number was based on unchecked information from Nazi authorities; the Red Cross envoy had only visited prisoner-of-war camps outside the city and received no written documents about the fatalities. In 1951, Axel Rodenberger wrote of 350,000 to 400,000 deaths that an unnamed "head of the propaganda office" reported to Berlin. FJP Veale wrote in 1954 in Der Barbarei gegen 300,000 to 500,000 dead. David Irving estimated up to 250,000 dead in his book The Downfall of Dresden in 1963 and remained in later editions with an unproven estimate of 135,000 dead. This was reported to him in 1961 by Hanns Voigt, who in 1945 was the head of the Dresden Missing Records Center. It is unproven whether this witness was involved in the recovery of the victims at all. Hans Dollinger wrote in 1973 of 250,000, Rolf Hochhuth in 1974 with reference to Irving of 202,000, the Süddeutsche Zeitung in 1975 of 135,000, Die Welt of "250,000 or even 400,000" dead. The former Dresden General Staff officer Eberhard Matthes claimed in a report written from 1989 to 1992: In response to a “ Führer's order ” of April 30, 1945, after consultation with all Dresden offices , 35,000 (according to Bergander: 3,500), 50,000 identifiable, were identified by telephone in the Führerbunker in his presence and 168,000 unrecognizable bodies, for a total of 253,000 dead reported. However, representatives of the Wehrmacht in Dresden at the time who had direct contact with the Führerbunker stated that they had never heard such figures and denied that Adolf Hitler had requested such a report on the day of his suicide. In 2005, Wolfgang Schaarschmidt again followed Hanns Voigt's unproven estimate.

Internal Nazi documents challenged the speculative numbers. The newspaper Das Reich spoke on March 4, 1945, when the rescue results were already available, of "tens of thousands" of dead people found. Goebbels spoke at a conference in Görlitz on March 6, 1945, according to reports from participants of "40,000" fatalities for which Hitler wanted to murder as many Allied pilots. A “final report” from the “Commander of the Ordnungspolizei Berlin” stated on March 22, 1945: “18,375 dead, 2,212 seriously wounded, 13,718 slightly wounded.” Of the dead, 50% can be identified; the “total number of those killed in action including foreigners” was “estimated at around 25,000”. A daily order 47 issued on the same day reports 20,204 recovered dead and estimates that the number is likely to increase to 25,000. This document was discovered in the Federal Archives in Koblenz in 1966 and proved a previously known version of it to be a forgery, in which a zero was appended to all numbers. David Irving, who had relied on the fact, admitted his mistake in a letter to the Times one on 7 July 1966th Another situation report from April 3, 1945 wrote from 22,096 to March 31, 1945 killed dead. Up until 1966, a further 1,858 bodies were found during construction work in the city.

For a long time, historians could not narrow down the number of those killed in the air raids more precisely because other numbers were not known or not exactly known either:

  • how many inhabitants and what settlement density the Dresden city center had in February 1945,
  • How many Dresden residents were at that time as soldiers, concentration camp prisoners or refugees outside the city area, for example out of fear of air raids, lack of space or food shortages,
  • how many refugees from the east were in the city center in February 1945,
  • how many people were killed in the attacks but were not reported by any relatives due to the war situation,
  • how many dead were not found, buried or completely burned.

Research in the 1970s limited the population to around 700,000, and that of refugees in the greater Dresden area at that time to 200,000, of which a maximum of 85,000 could be accommodated in emergency shelters in the inner city. The deportation to Kinderland since 1944, a ban on immigration and the instruction not to stay overnight in the city center were also taken into account. On this basis, most historians estimated 35,000, at most 40,000, Dresden fatalities up to 1993.

In 1993, files from the burial and stables office were found in the Dresden City Archives, listing around 25,000 dead buried by April 17, 1945. This already included many victims of the daytime attacks on February 14th and 15th, 1945. Therefore, in 1994 city ​​archivist Friedrich Reichert contradicted the widespread assumption that most of the dead could no longer be identified, and estimated a maximum of 25,000 deaths as "close to final".

In November 2004, Lord Mayor Ingolf Roßberg appointed a Commission of Historians headed by Rolf-Dieter Müller . By the city's 800th anniversary in 2006, it was supposed to determine the most reliable possible total number of those killed in order to counter falsification of history . She worked open-ended and, in addition to the known documents, also consulted files from municipal offices that had not been taken into account, new archaeological findings and contemporary witness reports, to which she called on the population. After work was temporarily suspended due to funding cuts, the commission published its final report on March 17, 2010. The files from the city building authority, the royal stables and burial office, the food, welfare and war damage department and the construction management clearing the rubble were re-evaluated. The number of inhabitants of Dresden after the attacks could be determined more precisely for the first time using files from the issuing offices for food receipts after the end of the war. Excavations in the city center since 1993 have shown that almost all cellars destroyed in the war were accessible and cleared after the attacks. Only about a fifth of them had fire-reddened sandstones, which indicated fire temperatures on the surface, such as in a fire storm. The remains of 14 dead were found, probably killed by such fires. Unconfirmed deaths can only make up a fraction of the total of German civilians who were declared dead and missing up to 1945 by registry offices and tracing services . For the first time, all available evidence of salvage, documents from cemeteries and registry offices, files from local courts on declarations of death and others were recorded through electronic data collection. In this way, they could be compared and checked with one another and with the places where the air war dead lived and where they were salvaged.

In this way, the commission established a minimum of 18,000 and a maximum of 25,000 people killed in the air strikes by November 2009. Higher death rates cannot be proven either from the historical course of the air raids or from documents, memories or statistics. After the discovery of documents showing 20,100 dead by name and 2,600 unknown dead as buried, the commission corrected the minimum but not the maximum number of deaths in April 2010.

Military, ethical and legal assessments

The air raids on Dresden are often considered a prime example of failed air warfare by the Allies, which was primarily aimed at the civilian population and had no decisive importance in the war. It is doubted that the attacks were primarily intended to hit Dresden's military infrastructure. On the other hand, the drop points of the target markers, the nightly dropping of stick bombs on the old town and the fact that the airport, factories and barracks in the north of the city were less severely damaged speak against it. In addition, it is claimed that Dresden was militarily defenseless and insignificant because of the withdrawal of the flak.

This is countered by the fact that precise bombing was still more difficult at that time due to a lack of target radar technology and weather dependency. In 1943, it was precisely the poor hit rate for point targets that led to the intensification of area bombing. On the other hand, the RAF is said to have achieved more precise hits on the western front with new radar equipment, which would have decisively favored the advance of the Allied ground forces. With the H2S radar , the RAF and the USAAF had had a target radar at their disposal since January 1943.

The Allied air war strategy was ethically and legally controversial in Great Britain from the start, but has rarely been publicly criticized since the Battle of Britain . The Anglican Bishop George Bell vehemently and repeatedly advocated in the House of Lords from February 1943 onwards that the British bombing of cities violated international law , threatened the ethical foundations of Western civilization and destroyed the chances of future reconciliation with the Germans . Besides him, only two Labor Party MPs opposed the area bombing in the House of Commons .

The Hague Land Warfare Regulations of 1907 had banned the signatory states, including Great Britain and Germany, from attacking civilian targets, including city centers. Article 25 stipulated: "It is forbidden to attack or shoot at undefended cities, villages, dwellings or buildings, by whatever means." In 1922/23, further explanations of the international law conceived for land warfare were discussed and explicit rules for designed the air war. The new Article 22 read: "Air bombing to terrorize civilians and destroy or damage private property of a non-military character is prohibited." This draft has not been ratified as an international treaty . The discussion about the “Hague Air War Rules” after 1923 had, however, brought about a certain customary law binding: the exclusion of terrorist attacks was internationally recognized. The USA and Great Britain were aware of this bond with regard to Dresden, since they always emphasized that they had neither intended nor carried out terrorist attacks. The USAAF and the RAF described Dresden in 1945 as a "legitimate military target" based on extensive material.

Today's historians ask, on the one hand, whether the moral bombing, together with the dropping of millions of leaflets , could create cracks between the people and the leadership and break the fighting morale of the Germans, or rather achieved the opposite; primarily for military purposes.

In 2001, Gerd R. Ueberschär described the bombing of Dresden as a breach of the international law of the time. They did not decide a battle for the city, nor did they accelerate the end of the war. In doing so, he distinguished himself from historical revisionist propaganda lies. Jörg Friedrich described the bombings of many German cities in 2002 from the point of view of those affected and as intentional mass extermination that was militarily senseless even before the last months of the war. His book met with approval from representatives of the New Right and criticism from other historians. In 2004 Frederick Taylor again demonstrated the importance of Dresden's industry in the war economy, the plans of the Germans on the Eastern Front and agreements between the Allies and the Soviets. He stated that the Germans had opened the air war and waged it ruthlessly, so that at that time the British only had bombers as an offensive weapon. He thus attributed a military rationality to the attacks, but did not rule out that they could also have been war crimes.

The ethicist Thomas A. Cavanaugh named the 2006 attacks with reference to the principle of double action as an example of an illegitimate "terror bombing" in which the killing of civilians was the immediate goal and not an unintended side effect. The British philosopher AC Grayling judged the area bombing of the Royal Air Force in 2006 to be strategically pointless in terms of military strategy and a war crime both legally and ethically. He ruled out historical revisionist misuse of this assessment: "Even if the Allied bomber offensive should have been partially or completely morally reprehensible, this injustice does not even come close to the moral enormity of the Holocaust."

It is doubted whether those responsible for the air war could have been prosecuted in 1945 because of the lack of a supranational legal authority at the time. According to the additional protocol to the Geneva Convention , which has also been ratified by Great Britain and Germany since 1977, area-wide city bombing is prohibited. However, this prohibition is not legally applicable retrospectively .

Celebrate the anniversaries

The rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche

1945 to 1949

Beginning in June 1945, the main focus was on the (correct) argument that the destruction of Dresden was a direct consequence of the war unleashed by the “German fascists”. In autumn and winter, there was evidence of activities that underpinned this line of argument, which from the KPD's point of view was logical. As a result, the city administration asked the Soviet military administration for permission to hold "large rallies" on the first anniversary of the destruction of Dresden. The propaganda department approved this on the condition that no “tendencies against the Allies” may be expressed and that everything that would make February 13th appear as a day of mourning will be avoided. Following an agreement in January 1946, the Sächsische Volkszeitung began advertising a total of 29 large assemblies on February 9, 1946 , each of which provided for two speakers and cultural events, and at the end of which a resolution was passed in which the harshest punishment of the "Nazi criminals" in Nuremberg was passed was requested. However, the focus was on the “rebuilding of Dresden”, and despite the conditions, there was also a commemoration as the “return of the day of death”.

On the first anniversary, the services of the Protestant churches commemorated the destruction of Dresden, while the Catholic services focused on the memory of the people who had perished the previous year, and they chose the form of the Missa pro defunctis . For the Dresden Catholic Christians, the 40-hour penitential prayer, which has been held since the 18th century and originally only in the house chapel of the Josephine Monastery, which traditionally ended on the afternoon of Shrove Tuesday, began on this day and extended until Shrove Tuesday 1946, the 5th. March.

At 9:45 p.m. on February 13, 1946, the bells of all Dresden churches and the surrounding area rang for a quarter of an hour for the first time. This is supposed to mark the point in time when the first bombs fell on Dresden last year, and as a lament, warning and hope, it is the fixed point in the anniversaries of the commemoration of the destruction to this day.

While remembrance in the churches remained relatively constant after 1946 (memorial services, requiem and penance prayer) and, in addition to mourning, included at least liturgical and theological guilt and atonement, the “official” commemoration changed as early as February 1947: no public events took place, the Saxon ones People's newspaper only brought one photo with a brief headline. Neutzner assesses this that as early as 1947 February 13th had been displaced in the ranking of commemorative days that could be used for propaganda purposes: the German polluters were no longer mentioned.

In 1948, the SED propaganda indicated a shift in emphasis for the first time: In an article from February 13, 1948 in the Saxon People's Newspaper , the metaphors of both the “innocent city” and the “approaching end of the war” are used for the first time , whereby the myth of “Innocent city” also originates from Nazi propaganda, such as the term “Anglo-American bombing”, which was first documented in a Dresden publication after 1945 and which was also invented by Nazi propaganda. This propaganda direction reached its first climax in 1949, not least against the background of the break between the Allies on the one hand and the currency reform of 1948 on the other, when major events were organized again, which now only reminded of the "destruction of the city by the Anglo-American Air Force".

1950 to 1970

As early as 1949, Kurt Liebermann, the then district chairman of the SED, named the German people themselves as the culprit in his main speech, but at the same time stated in his line of argument that if they committed to the politics of the SED, the Dresdeners themselves would be among those “who abhor war “, Whereby the western allies were only concerned with the destruction in the future Soviet occupation zone and with the prevention of the democratic reconstruction. The then Lord Mayor of Dresden, Walter Weidauer , identified “new warmongers” who wanted to start a new war as soon as possible. With this background and the pressure to provide the newly founded GDR with the widest possible legitimation and acceptance, the topic of “peace” came along. Against this background, it was decided in January 1950 to use the fifth anniversary of the destruction of Dresden nationwide for a propaganda campaign. To this end, “peace rallies” were held in cities, villages and companies. The central rally for Dresden, which took place on Karl-Marx-Platz and was attended by more than 100,000 people who marched to it from prepared stands, highlighted prepared slogans for the “American warmongers” and closes a central editorial in New Germany : "... and the brutal murder of a large part of its inhabitants, these are the calling cards of the profit-hungry, bloodthirsty Anglo-American imperialists." The private and ecclesiastical commemoration should thus be pushed into the background.

The air raids on Dresden were now blamed on the Western Allies as bombardments that were strategically ineffective and meaningless, barbaric and hostile to culture. GDR politicians now even assessed that “Anglo-American air gangsters” had deliberately destroyed Dresden in order not to let the city fall into Soviet hands. The chairman of the NDPD , Lothar Bolz , assessed the destruction of Dresden in 1953 as evidence “of the close relationship between the American armaments billionaires and National Socialism, their relationship in barbaric thinking and barbaric action. We owe the ruins of our cities and the bodies that are buried under them to America and England ... "

In addition, the former Saxon Prime Minister Max Seydewitz claimed in his Dresden book The Undefeated City since 1955 that the German-American owners of the Villa San Remo in Dresden, Charles and John H. Noble , had piloted the Allied air fleets to Dresden with a transmitter. The major rally on February 13, 1970 was to remain the last for over a decade.

1970 to 1982

At the same time as the SED strategy was being turned away, there was also an increasing disinterest in common memory.

1982 to 1990

Church peace groups in the GDR began an independent commemoration . On February 13, 1982, in view of the increasing militarization of everyday life in the GDR , Dresden's Christians called for the first time with illegal leaflets to quietly commemorate the war on the ruins of the Frauenkirche. 5000 young people gathered in Dresden's Kreuzkirche for a peace forum. This call led to silent gatherings of GDR civil rights activists on February 13th in the 1980s at the ruin . State attempts to prevent these meetings met with little success.

On the 40th anniversary of the air raids in 1985, there were central state celebrations in the city center for the first time. The ruins of the Frauenkirche, however, remained the site of socially critical protests. Both sides did not sufficiently consider the German war guilt, German terrorist attacks and the Holocaust as causes of the attack and their possible military necessity. It was only since the political change in the GDR in 1989 that city representatives began to grapple more intensively with the history of the air raids, especially during the anniversaries of the air raids.

Since 1991


Immediately after the end of the war, the Anglican congregation in the British city of Coventry , whose St Michael's Cathedral had completely destroyed German air raids in November 1940 , contacted parishes in Dresden. In 1956 the partnership between the two cities began. In 2002, guests from Coventry met with Dresden partners to take a stand against war and hatred under the motto “Build bridges - live reconciliation” .

The meeting took place at the construction site of the Dresden Frauenkirche , the reconstruction of which began in 1990 . It has meanwhile been completely rebuilt with the help of intensive fundraising, especially by British and German development associations, and has become the focus of reconciliation work. The "Cross of Nails" ( Coventry Cross of Nails ), consisting of three medieval carpenter nails of the destroyed on November 14, 1940 the old Coventry Cathedral , has since the famous symbol of the international community, the communities now involved in 160 world of bombings, including 52 in Germany, exists. The Frauenkirche Dresden has been part of it since February 13, 2005.

Right-wing extremists since 1991

Counter protests with national flags of the allied victorious powers and Israel
Blockade of the Antifa in Dresden 2010

On February 13, 1990, the British Holocaust denier David Irving presented the air strikes in front of about 500 consenting listeners in Dresden as genocide by the Allies and the Holocaust as their invention. He gave a boost to neo-Nazis in the GDR.

From 1998, more and more right-wing extremists used the annual commemoration for their propaganda. In 1998, 30 to 40 young neo-Nazis tried to get to the Frauenkirche, were surrounded by the police and sang protest songs. In the following year there were around 200 right-wing extremists who mingled with the grieving Dresden citizens and laid numerous wreaths adorned with German national colors and symbols on the construction fences of the Frauenkirche, which was being rebuilt.

In 2000, the Young Landsmannschaft Ostpreußen (JLO) organized its own nightly “funeral march” under the motto “Honor the Victims of Bomb Terrorism”, in which around 500 people took part, including well-known right-wing extremists such as Franz Schönhuber , Horst Mahler and Gert Sudholt . From 2001 to 2004, the number of participants at this event increased from 750 to around 2100. In 2005, the organization and registration of this memorial march were in the hands of the NPD , which displayed a “right-wing popular front”. After Prime Minister Georg Milbradt (CDU) had rejected the patronage proposed to him for 2005, Holger Apfel (NPD) took over . On February 13, 2005, around 6,500 right-wing extremists demonstrated in a march lasting several hours through downtown Dresden. That was the largest neo-Nazi parade in Europe to date.

Since then, these annual marches have been one of the largest regular nationwide events by right-wing extremists. They served to demonstrate power and to network members and supporters of all German right-wing extremist parties, neo-Nazi free comradeships , some expellee associations and foreign right-wing persons and organizations.

The propaganda slogan " bomb holocaust " used here removes the attacks from their historical context, equates them with the Holocaust, accuses the Western Allies as war criminals, asserts their particular cruelty and blames them for the actual war guilt. In doing so, right-wing extremists deny the causal crimes of National Socialist Germany and pursue a perpetrator-victim reversal.

On February 13, 2007, around 1,500 people took part in the “funeral march” called for by the JLO, NPD and regional right-wing extremist groups. A planned “week of action” should make German war crimes forgotten. In 2010, around 5000 neo-Nazis, 3000 fewer than expected, were unable to carry out their march and had to limit themselves to a stand rally in front of Dresden-Neustadt train station : blockades of thousands of counter-demonstrators, some tolerated and some forcibly cleared, prevented the police from marching on any possible Was able to secure the route and therefore prohibited and prevented it. In 2011 the planned march of neo-Nazis was prevented by various blockades in the city. The storage of cell phone data from thousands of counter-demonstrators met with strong criticism in politics and the media. In 2012 the JLO withdrew from organizing the march; the NPD hardly mobilized for it. Around 13,000 counter-demonstrators succeeded in preventing the approximately 1,000 right-wing extremists who had traveled to demonstrate only on a shortened route.

In his " Dresden speech " in Ballhaus Watzke on January 17, 2017, AfD politician Björn Höcke described the air strikes as "war crimes [...] comparable to the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ". With the bombing of German cities they wanted “nothing other than to rob us of our collective identity”. He further claimed that they wanted to "destroy us with stumps and stumps" and " clear our roots ". According to Höcke, "together with the systematic re-education that began after 1945 [...] it was almost done ". The literary scholar Heinrich Detering wrote that Höcke's speech replaced “the memory of the war of extermination of the Wehrmacht against Russians and Poles with the assertion of a war of extermination by the Allies and the commemoration of the Holocaust through the allegation of a planned genocide against the Germans” for its “political continuation [...] in the argumentation of the speech also the establishment of the Berlin memorial “for the murdered Jews of Europe belongs.

The AfD party leader Tino Chrupalla claimed in February 2020 that the number of 22,700 to 25,000 deaths from the bombing attacks determined by historians was too low; he goes "from about 100,000 victims". In doing so, he cited relatives and contemporary witnesses. The historian Sven Felix Kellerhoff criticized Chrupalla for orienting itself “on right-wing extremist history falsifiers like David Irving or the NPD”.

In February 2020, at a right-wing extremist rally in Dresden, which was registered by a Dresden NPD functionary, speakers from Hungary, Bulgaria and Great Britain questioned the German war guilt and questioned the number of victims of the bombings determined by the historians' commission. The former Pegida press spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel was among the participants . Both she and her male companion alternately wore a sign that read Allied Liberation = Holocaust against the German people . The police confirmed the initial suspicion of a crime. Thousands of counter-demonstrators mobilized against the march.

City reactions since 1991

The Dresden city council, associations, churches, parties, trade unions, associations and partner communities called for the last anniversaries to commemorate the attacks and all victims of war and tyranny. The German war guilt cannot be weighed against the war crimes of others, and cannot be questioned or relativized in any way. Reconciliation is the only option for a peaceful future. All Dresden residents are invited to take part. Since the 60th anniversary of the attacks on February 13, 2005, city posters have included Dresden in a list of other cities destroyed by bombing (including by Germans) such as Guernica , Warsaw, Coventry and Leningrad.

In some years, the city administration issued a ban on gatherings in the city center on February 13th to prevent clashes between right-wing extremists and counter-demonstrators. Antifa groups repeatedly accused her of enabling the annual neo-Nazi march to run smoothly and of preventing active counter-protest, unlike other cities, by means that are controversial under the rule of law. In 2010, an administrative court lifted a city ban on right-wing extremists traveling through the city center. In 2011, the Constitutional Court of the Free State of Saxony lifted a Saxon Assembly Act passed in 2010, which was supposed to facilitate bans on demonstrations at certain hot spots in Dresden, as unconstitutional.

In 2007 around 4,000 people took part in a counter-demonstration under the motto “Go Thinking”. In 2009 over 10,000 people protested against the annual neo-Nazi march. In 2010, around 10,000 Dresden residents formed a human chain around the old town to symbolically shield it from neo-Nazis. The Lord Mayor Helma Orosz (CDU) recalled “who had started this damned war” and called for Dresden to be made “a fortress against intolerance and stupidity” in order to oppose right-wing extremist abuse of memory. In 2010 the Dresden Prize was founded and is awarded annually on February 13th. In the same year the sculpture Mourning Girl by the Sea of Tears by Małgorzata Chodakowska in memory of the victims of February 13, 1945 was unveiled in the Heath Cemetery .

On February 13, 2011, around 17,000 citizens took part in the city's commemorative events, largely without disruption. On February 18 and 19, 2011, the police illegally saved a million cell phone connection data to record participants in the anti-Nazi demonstration and queried the data records from a total of 54,782 people.

Since 2016, the city of Dresden has waived a memorial event at the Heidefriedhof or any other burial site for the Dresden bomb victims.


Overall representations

Non-fiction books, monographs and individual contributions

  • Rolf-Dieter Müller , Nicole Schönherr, Thomas Widera (eds.): The destruction of Dresden on 13./15. February 1945: Expert opinion and results of the Dresden Historical Commission to determine the number of victims. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht / Unipress, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-89971-773-0 ( book excerpt online ; review ).
  • Martin Jehne , Winfried Müller, Peter E. Fäßler (eds.): Inequalities. 47th German Historians' Day in Dresden 2008. Report. Published on behalf of the Association of Historians in Germany. With the collaboration of Uwe Balder, Christiane Vejmelka and Nick Wagner. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-36387-4 .
  • Christoph Kucklick . Firestorm. The bombing war against Germany . Ellert & Richter, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8319-0134-1 .
  • Fritz Löffler : Dresden (city district) . In: Fate of German Monuments in World War II. A documentation of the damage and total losses in the area of ​​the GDR . Edited by Götz Eckardt. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1978. Volume 2. pp. 372-443.
  • Alexander von Plato: memories of a symbol. The bombing of Dresden in the memory of Dresden residents. In: BIOS. Journal for Biography Research, Oral History and Life Course Analysis. Leske + Budrich Verlag, Issue 1 (20th year), Leverkusen 2007, ISSN  0933-5315
  • Gunnar Schubert: The collective innocence. How the Dresden hoax became a national victim myth. Konkret texts 42nd KVV Konkret, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-930786-47-8 .
  • Walter Schmitz: The Destruction of Dresden: Answers of the Arts. Thelem, Dresden 2005, ISBN 3-937672-37-0 .
  • Oliver Reinhard, Matthias Neutzner, Wolfgang Hesse (eds.): The red glow: Dresden and the bombing war. Edition Sächsische Zeitung, Dresden 2005, ISBN 3-938325-05-4 .
  • Wigbert Benz: Firestorm Dresden. Facts and legends about the bombing of the city of Dresden in 1945. In: Zeitschrift Praxis Geschichte. April issue 04/2004, topic home front and everyday war life ( excerpt online ( memento from 19 July 2011 in the Internet Archive )).
  • Gerd R. Ueberschär : Dresden 1945. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): Places of horror. Crimes in World War II. Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-89678-232-0 , pp. 37-48.
  • Elizabeth Ten Dyke: Dresden: Paradoxes of Memory in History. Routledge Chapman & Hall, London 2001, ISBN 0-415-27036-7 .
  • Dresdner Geschichtsverein : Dresdner Hefte - Contributions to cultural history. No. 41: Dresden - The year 1945. Dresden 1995, ISBN 3-910055-27-3 ; from this in particular: Matthias Neutzner: “Why are we still living now? To wait until the Russians come? ”The population of Dresden from February 13th to April 17th, 1945.
  • Matthias Neutzner (Ed.): Signs of life - Dresden in the air war 1944/45. 2nd revised edition, Sandstein, Dresden 1994, ISBN 3-930382-01-6 .
  • Roger A. Freeman: Mighty Eighth War Diary . JANE's. London, New York, Sydney. 1981. ISBN 0 7106 00 38 0 .

Novels, reports on experiences, autobiographical stories

  • Henny Brenner: The song is over. A Jewish fate in Dresden. ddp Goldenbogen, Dresden 2005, ISBN 3-932434-25-0 .
  • Henri Coulonges: Dresden died with you, Johanna. (French first edition 1979) Ullstein, Frankfurt / Berlin / Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-550-06329-6 .
  • Renatus Deckert (Ed.): The desert city. Seven poets about Dresden. Insel, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-458-34849-2 . ( Review )
  • Karl Josef Friedrich : The Dresden Carnival. An experience report from February 13, 1945 . Drawings by Thilo Hänsel, Radebeul: Notschriften-Verlag 2004, ISBN 3-933753-49-X .
  • Durs Grünbein : porcelain. Poem of the fall of my city. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-518-41722-3 .
  • Daniel Hoffmann: The boy in the fire: An experience report of Dresden's downfall. Evangelical Publishing House, Berlin 1956.
  • Walter Kempowski : The red rooster. Dresden in February 1945. btb, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-641-01309-7 .
  • Sebastian Kranich , Eva-Maria Zehrer (Saxon State Center for Political Education: Ed.): February 13, 1945. Contemporary witnesses about the destruction of Dresden. A reader. Dresden 2009.
  • Alexander McKee: Dresden 1945. The German Hiroshima. Zsolnay, Vienna / Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-552-03529-X .
  • Ladislav Mňačko : The Night of Dresden. Novel. (Original title: Nočný rozhovor translated by Erich Bertleff), Molden 1969.
  • Harry Mulisch : Het stenen bruidsbed. De Bezige Bij 1959, ISBN 90-234-0001-1 .
    • German: The stone bridal bed. Novel. 3rd edition, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-518-22192-2 .
  • Eberhard Panitz : The fires are falling. German military publisher, Berlin 1961.
  • Axel Rodenberger: The death of Dresden. Report of the death of a city in eyewitness accounts. New edition, Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-550-07074-8 .
  • Michael Ulrich: Dresden, after the synagogue, the city was on fire: documents, reports and personal testimonies. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002, ISBN 3-374-01943-9 .
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Schlachthof 5 or The Children's Crusade. (English first edition 1969) Rowohlt, Reinbek 1972, ISBN 3-499-11524-7 .
  • Walter Weidauer: Inferno Dresden. About lies and legends about the “Thunderbolt” campaign. 8th edition, Dietz, 1990, ISBN 3-320-00818-8 .


  • Dresden. Short documentary, Defa Sachsen 1946, directed by Richard Groschopp
  • Dziś w nocy umrze miasto (“Tonight the city dies”), movie, Poland 1961, director: Jan Rybkowski , length: 84 minutes
  • The Dresden firestorm. History Films (Allersberg), director: Karlheinz J. Geiger, 1990/2004, length: 90 minutes
  • Dresden 1945 - fall and rise of a city. Ufa-Video, 1995, directors: Carl-Ludwig Paeschke, Dieter Zimmer. Length: 64 minutes
  • Robert Garofalo: Contemporary history - air raid on Dresden. German cities in flames. Classic Pictures Film, 1997/2003, length: 53 minutes
  • The drama of Dresden. ZDF documentary, 2005, author / director: Sebastian Dehnhardt , length: 90 minutes
  • " Dresden ": Two-part television film for ZDF , director: Roland Suso Richter , script / author: Stefan Kolditz . Sent on March 5th and 6th, 2006 at 8:15 pm, total length: 177 minutes
  • The truth about Dresden. Documentary, Germany 2015, production: ZDF , series: ZDF-History , length: 45 minutes
  • The myth of Dresden - the long shadow of a bombing night. Documentary film, Germany 2015, author / director: André Meier, production: Doc.station Medienproduktion on behalf of MDR , length: 45 minutes

See also

List of fatalities in the air raids on Dresden in February 1945

Web links

Commons : Bombing raids on Dresden  - collection of pictures

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Götz Bergander: Dresden in the air war. Würzburg 1998, ISBN 3-88189-239-7 , pp. 294-301.
  2. Irina Schwab: "New home, new life?" Refugees and displaced persons in Leipzig from 1945 to the beginning of the 1950s. Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-933240-93-X , p. 6
  3. a b c Statistical Handbook of Germany: 1928–1944. Munich 1949.
  4. ^ A b c d e f Matthias Neutzner: The story of February 13th. In: Oliver Reinhard, Matthias Neutzner, Wolfgang Hesse (eds.): The red glow: Dresden and the bombing war. Edition Sächsische Zeitung, Dresden 2005, ISBN 3-938325-05-4 .
  5. a b c USAF: The Bombing of Dresden ( Memento from September 24, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ Main State Archive Dresden 9th Economy ( Memento from March 12, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Main State Archives Dresden 9.2. Metallurgical industry ( Memento from January 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Main State Archives Dresden 9.7. Electrical engineering, electronics, device construction ( Memento from July 15, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  9. Main State Archive Dresden 9.11 Precision Mechanics and Optical Industry ( Memento from July 15, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Walter Wießner, Reinhardt Balzk: Forced Laborers in Dresden. ( Memento of January 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), Dresden 2004 (PDF)
  11. ^ Main State Archives Dresden 9.8 Mechanical Engineering. Archived from the original on July 23, 2010 ; accessed on September 25, 2018 .
  12. a b Nora gold bow: Nazi persecution of Jews in Dresden since 1938. In: Between Integration and destruction - Jewish life in Dresden in the 19th and 20th centuries. (= Dresdner Hefte , Volume 45) Dresden 1996, ISBN 3-910055-34-6 .
  13. a b Dresdner Geschichtsverein e. V. (Ed.): Dresden as a garrison city. (= Dresdner Hefte , Volume 53) Dresden 1998, ISBN 3-910055-43-5 .
  14. ^ Franz Spur: Dresdner Fliegerschmiede 1935–1945. History of the Air War School 1 Dresden in Klotzsche. Military historical writings of the working group Saxon military history e. V., Dresden 2004, ISBN 3-9809520-1-0
  15. ^ Dresden - Air War School 1
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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 27, 2005 in this version .