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Dresden before the raid
DRESDEN before its destruction in February 1945. So many innocents were killed 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, during the Lipstadt trial in the British High Court in 2000, Defence Counsel Richard Rampton QC 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] (Order this book)

The Independent

Published: London, Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Slaughter in Dresden

Deplorable attempts to play down the slaughter of Dresden

Sir: AS someone deeply involved in Coventry's civic and cathedral twinning and reconciliation links with Dresden during the 1960s, I deplore current attempts to downplay the mass slaughter wreaked upon that city by the Allied airforces' deliberately created inferno (Robert Hanks, 16 April; letters, 17, 20 April). The Nazis, doubtless for propaganda, put the number of dead at 250,000, but David Irving's research set the total at 135,000, a figure derived from Hanns Voigt, superintendent of the Dresden Lost Persons Centre in 1945.

Curiously, it was the post-1945 Communist mayor of Dresden, Walter Weidauer, who first advanced the much reduced figure of 35,000 -- for political reasons. He attacked Irving for helping "[Western] Imperialists' spread the notion that atomic bombing was no worse than a major conventional air-raid" (Walter Weidauer, Inferno Dresden, 1966). Since this down-playing of the casualty figures resulted from the (very understandable) wish to highlight the distinctive horrors of atomic bombing, GDR official documents on this subject must surely remain suspect.

None of the raid survivors, Protestant clergy and civic officials involved in the Dresden-Coventry partnership whom I met ever doubted the number of deaths was over 100,000, even if the Voigt-Irving figure could not be exactly verified. Certainly the very extensive area of the Heidefriedhof (official cemetery) indicated corpses on that scale.

Irving's later deplorable Holocaust denial and far-right notions do not invalidate the research for his Destruction of Dresden, whose publication in 1963 determined Provost H C N Williams of Coventry Cathedral to embark upon a reconciliation project.

Irving himself proposed a British appeal to build a memorial in Dresden, but after wide-ranging consultation, Coventry Cathedral's project with the GDR Christian "Action Reconciliation" organisation, to rebuild the maternity wing of the Protestant Deaconess Hospital, gutted by the RAF, became the celebrated practical expression of British-German reconciliation across the Cold War divide. And Provost Williams always accepted the 135,000 death toll.

The Rev. Brian Cooper
Edinburgh, UK

The Independent publishes, on Monday, April 30, 2007, this reply from a notably well-briefed woman with an evident vested interest in denying the Dresden Holocaust

Dresden 'research' was ruled invalid

the skunkTHE Rev Brian G Cooper's assertion (letter, 25 April) that David Irving's research on the bombing of Dresden was valid is incorrect. Mr Cooper has made a subjective assertion that does not accord with the facts as presented by Professor Richard Evans of Cambridge University (right).

Professor Evans made a detailed analysis of Irving's work in his role as a defence witness in the Irving libel trial in 2000. Mr Justice Gray, in his ruling, stated "the estimates of 100,000 and more deaths which Irving continued to put about in the 1990s lacked evidential basis and were as such as no responsible historian would have made".

Mr Justice Gray ruled that Irving's historical treatment of Dresden was part of a slanting of evidence to falsely claim perverse equivalence to the Holocaust, and an integral part of Irving's "deplorable Holocaust denial ".

These factual findings are at variance with Mr Cooper's claim that Irving's research into Dresden is not invalidated. Indeed, Mr Justice Gray said the Dresden figures from Irving's book are an example of "occasions where Irving's treatment of the historical evidence is so perverse and egregious it is difficult to believe it is inadvertence on his part".

The suffering and loss of life in the Dresden bombing was terrible, and the Coventry reconciliation is a noble effort to redress some of that wrong. Mr Cooper's claims do nothing to advance the Coventry reconciliation effort.

To use the "research" of a discredited author in support of a cause not only weakens the cause but besmirches its very nature.

Fiona Assersohn

The dead of Dresden

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sir: It is universally accepted that Nazis who committed atrocities against civilian populations, sometimes in response to resistance actions, killing dozens, perhaps hundreds at a time - men women and children - were guilty of war crimes. David Irving was probably wrong in his claim of 135,000 killed in the Dresden firebombing (letter, 27 April). The real figure was maybe 50,000, perhaps only 25,000 civilians - men women and children. So that's all right, then.

Mike Parker
Wymondham, Leicestershire, UK

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

THE Rev Brian Cooper's letter on the bombing of Dresden in 1945 (25 April) makes the serious error of presuming that David Irving's work on this topic was in some way still reputable, as it was carried out before his descent into Holocaust denial. Sadly this is not the case at all, and the death toll for the bombing was not as high as the claimed 135,000 people.

Mr Irving's figures on this subject were based[*] upon a document of dubious authenticity called Order of the Day 47 (TB47), which has since been claimed to be a forgery by many, if not most, authorities on the bombing - and even Mr Irving himself has cast doubt upon its authenticity.

[* Website comment: This is totally untrue: see letter below. The source was Hanns Voight.]

Based on the size of the location where many of the dead were brought to be burnt, the Altmarkt, along with the subsequent discovery of other bodies in the ruined city, it is now estimated that the true death toll was in the region of 35,000 people. And the lower figure has also been verified by those who were involved with the city at the time -- such as Theo Miller, a member of the Dresden Clearing Staff in 1945, who estimated a total dead toll of between 30,000 and 36,000.

This is, in itself, a terrible figure. But it is not the 100,000-plus that Mr Cooper presumes it to be.

Marc Jones
Chingford, Essex

HOWEVER eccentric David Irving may be as a historian, in the instance of his estimate of 135,000 as the death toll for the Dresden air assault he followed a reasonable and creditable path in relying on a contemporary informed witness, one Hanns Voigt, superintendent of the Dresden Lost Persons Centre [Leiter der Abteilung Tote der Vermissten-Nachweiszentrale]

In 1943 the city of Hamburg was subjected to heavy and systematic bombing which resulted in a "firestorm", that is a hurricane-like storm induced by the colossal scale and acute temperatures of the conflagration. Until the Dresden raid, Hamburg represented the pinnacle in horror the bombing campaign against German cities could reach. In Hamburg it is known that at least 40,000 lost their lives.

Yet regarding Dresden, where there was a more massive concentration of destructive force, where the firestorm lasted two days and nights, where air-raid shelters were lacking, where population density was bloated by an influx of refugees, where there was no air defence to speak of, where over swaths of the urban landscape temperatures were reached whereby victims sheltering in basements succumbed en masse, we are expected to believe that actually fewer perished than in Hamburg. The fashionable figure now being cited is between 25,000 and 35,000. I am not impressed.


The new updated edition of "Apocalypse 1945: the Destruction of Dresden" is now available. Click to order now.

Suggestion: Did The Independent act fairly in publishing this?
Remember: keep such letters short and temperate, and include your address and daytime phone number

Related item on this website:

Our index on the Dresden raids
Correspondence with Max Funfack, Senior Dreden doctor in 1945, on the death toll
More on Prof Richard "Skunky" Evans and Hanns Voigt
Robert Hanks of The Independent smears David Irving
David Irving writes a letter to The Times, July 1966, on new documents on the Dresden death roll
David Irving, a Radical's Diary: Writer in The Times attacks him and sets the record straight | The death of writer Kurt Vonnegut
skunky Evans How much was Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans (right) paid for his neutral opinion on Mr Irving?
Forward Forum: Deborah Lipstadt: 60 Years Later, Dresden Bombing Claims Another Victim: Memory

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