14 February 1945 Dresden …

Piles of corpses in front of destroyed buildings in Dresden after air raids

The Saxon city’s population, similar to that of say Liverpool, was teeming with refugees fleeing the Red Army. It is reasonable to assume that Dresden was host to 1,500,000 doomed souls when the first of the RAF and USAAF carpet bombing raids commenced on St Valentine’s Night 1945. By the morning of February 14, some 800 RAF bombers had dropped over 2,500 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs.


Official reports from the Dresden police, states that circa 200,000 died, mostly women and children. Only 30% of these could be identified. Allied official figures put the dead at only 25,000 to 30,000/35,000.

While the British did not tout their targeting of civilian infrastructure, some acknowledged it. “For a long time, the government, for excellent reasons, has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call military targets,” the head of Britain’s bomber command said in November 1941. “I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.”

“As the incendiaries fell, the phosphorus clung to the bodies of those below, turning them into human torches. The screaming of those who were being burned alive was added to the cries of those not yet hit. There was no need for flares to lead the second wave of bombers to their target, as the whole city had become a gigantic torch,” Victor Gregg, a British paratrooper held in the city during the bombing, said 68 years later. “Dresden had no defenses, no anti-aircraft guns, no searchlights, nothing.”

“I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967. It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has,” Kurt Vonnegut, a prisoner of war in the city, wrote in his novel “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which depicted the bombing. “There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground.”

A front cover

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