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SO MANY innocents were killed in the 1945 British air raid on Dresden that the German authorities had to cremate the bodies on mass funeral pyres on the Altmarkt. Mr Irving was the first to publish these photographs in the west. When he produced one of them, enlarged to poster size, in Court, Defence Counsel Richard Rampton sneered, "So what!"
MR RAMPTON: Can we forget Dresden for the moment, Mr Irving?
MR. IRVING: I can never forget Dresden.

[Transcript, DJC Irving vs Penguin Books Ltd & Lipstadt, Day 7, January 20, 2000, page 170; copyright photo, taken on Feb 25, 1945, from Apocalypse 1945: the Destruction of Dresden]

City Journal
New York, January 2005


EIGHTEEN years after the end of the war, in 1963, the pro-Nazi historian David Irving published his first book, The Destruction of Dresden. In those days, he was either less pro-Nazi than he later became or more circumspect -- the memory of the war still being fresh -- but it was probably not entirely a coincidence that he devoted his first attention to an event that [Winston] Churchill suspected might be a blot on the British escutcheon.

However, Irving -- later a leading Holocaust denier, who lost a famous libel suit against a historian [Deborah Lipstadt] who exposed him as such -- clearly accepted in 1963 that there had been a Nazi genocide against the Jews, and he ended his book with an admission that the bombing (which he called "the biggest single massacre in European history") was "carried out in the cause of bringing to their knees a people who, corrupted by Nazism, had committed the greatest crimes against humanity in recorded time."

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David Irving comments:

City Journal is the respected magazine of the Manhattan Institute. About halfway through this article, the author, pen name "Theodore Dalrymple" (and you can't sound more English, or rather Scottish, than that) gets to Dresden and devotes a couple of paragraphs to me and my first book, The Destruction of Dresden.
   "Dalrymple" writes in The Spectator and elsewhere. I am told that his real name is Anthony Daniels, a physician/psychiatrist, who has worked among (and written about) England's lower classes and prison inmates for many years.
   A kind reader informs me that in an earlier issue of City Journal (Autumn 2004) the obsessive Mr "Dalrymple" wrote a passage which rather gives the game away: "My mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany, and though she spoke very little of her life before she came to Britain, the mere fact that there was much of which she did not speak gave evil a ghostly presence in our household."
   Then another reader confirms it: Dalrymple told an interviewer in Australia one or two years ago that he is Jewish. Why does he hide it behind that name, so ultra-British, right down to the "y" (just like David Pryce-Jones)?
   My advice to Mr Daniels: Get over it. move on. Stop reliving your mother's life and times. And stop smearing the native English.

IF Daniels is Jewish, it would explain the venom he has distilled into this article: How they hate Dresden and all the rival horrors that that raid created. If he is not Jewish, then I cannot account for his atttude. He should perhaps seek help urgently.
   As for his grateful, if puzzled, comment that I ended my book with an admission that the bombing ("which [Irving] called 'the biggest single massacre in European history'") was "carried out in the cause of bringing to their knees a people who, corrupted by Nazism, had committed the greatest crimes against humanity in recorded time," may I deflate his glee by pointing out that (a) as I have explained in the 1995 edition's Preface, that sentence was inserted without my knowledge by William Kimber, the book's publisher and (b) it is accordingly not in the latest editions.

Related item on this website:

Our index on the Dresden raids

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APOCALYPSE 1945: THE DESTRUCTION OF DRESDEN. A new edition (above) is in print in Jan 2005 (£27.90), fully illustrated in colour for the first time, and fully corrected and updated. The text will also be available as a free download at

There were faint signs of Irving's later acceptance of the Nazi worldview in this book, though they probably went unnoticed at the time. Describing the state of medical services in Dresden after the bombing, he mentioned that "a vast euthanasia-hospital for mentally incurables" was transformed into a hospital for the wounded, without any remark upon the very concept of a "euthanasia-hospital for mentally incurables": an institution that by itself would be sufficient to negate one meaning of his ambiguous description of Dresden in a chapter heading as "The Virgin Target." (Did he mean that it had never yet been attacked, or that the city was an innocent virgin?)

Of course, it would be absurd to pretend that the bombing of Dresden was conducted in order to put an end to the evil of its "euthanasia-hospital," however vast, or to rescue Victor Klemperer from certain death. Among other motives for bombing, no doubt, was the need to demonstrate to the advancing Russians the tremendous firepower of the West, despite its relative weakness in land armies.

Irving's book was influential, however, precisely because he hid, or had not yet fully developed, his Nazi sympathies. It achieved its greatest influence through Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut's famous countercultural antiwar novel, published six years later, which makes grateful acknowledgment of Irving's book, whose inflated estimate of the death toll of the bombing it unquestioningly accepts. Vonnegut, an American soldier who was a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time of the bombing, having been captured during the land offensive in the west, writes of the war and the bombing itself as if it took place in no context, as if it were just an arbitrary and absurd quarrel between rivals, between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, with no internal content or moral meaning¯ a quarrel that nevertheless resulted in one of the rivals cruelly and thoughtlessly destroying a beautiful city of the other.


© Focal Point 2005 e-mail:  write to David Irving