Talk:Bombing of Dresden in World War II/Archive 5

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'and people were sucked into the fire.'

Any evidence for this? Unless windspeeds exceeded ~150mph, unlikely. Rather sensasionalist. Dan100 18:34, Dec 18, 2004 (UTC)

The firestorm sucks all the oxygen from the area. People are literally picked up and hurled down the street. Then the flesh melts from their bones. How anyone can even pretend this isn't a "war crime" is beyond me. Then again, the allies won the war, so they wrote the rules. The things the axis did were war crimes and they hung for it. But everything the allies did was hunky dory. Even the brutal rape of a million German women and girls by the Red Army. -- 19:37, 21 Dec 2004

your source? Philip Baird Shearer 13:31, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The book: The Downfall, Berlin 1945 details the rape of German women and girls by the Red Army. There are many other sources.

I meant a source for the fire storm. The rape issue with several references (which I supplied) is covered in the Battle of Berlin. Philip Baird Shearer

If you want a source for the war crimes thing, just check the Nuremberg trials page. Surely the allies committed war crimes too, but none of them hung from a noose for it. What does that tell you?

Have you a source that shows that any Axis person was tried for participating in the decisions on, or execution of, assault by aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory? Philip Baird Shearer 23:06, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I remember reading somewhere that the Rusians proposed including charges related to the German bombing of cities. It was we (I writing here as British) who were against.Dejvid 15:30, 9 Jan 2005 (UTC)
This is a silly argument. The allies killed massively more people by air than the Axis. The German Luftwaffe mainly operated to support ground operations. They fought their campaigns on the ground with their Panzers and stormtroopers, they didn't indiscriminately drop tonnes and tonnes of bombs on residental areas like the allies. If you want to talk about Pearl Harbour or Convetry or whatever, those were clearly military targets. Those don't constitute war crimes (death toll was comparitively low, and death toll of civillians almost non existant). Dresden, Hamburg etc. completely different scenario. -- Merrick 11:54, 23 Dec 2004
Coventry was a "military target", and Dresden wasn't? That's an interesting distinction to make. May we hear your reasoning on this point? (This comment should not be taken as conveying any opinion on whether cities were legitimate military targets; it merely questions classing one city as such, but not another.) Noel (talk) 16:58, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)
PS: Your claim that the Germans didn't drop "drop tonnes and tonnes of bombs on residential areas" is factually incorrect. Yes, the Allied tonnage was considerably greater, but if that's what you meant, you need to say that. Noel (talk) 16:58, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Back on topic, do we have any source material for the 'sucked into' claim, or is hyperbole (and thus out of place in an encyclopedia)? Dan100 15:26, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)

Isn't it in the firestorm page? It's a phenomenon caused by the saturation bombing. You wouldn't want to experience it, I can't think of many more painful ways to die. "A firestorm is caused when hundreds of smaller fires join in one vast conflagration. Huge masses of air are sucked in to feed the inferno, causing an artificial tornado. Those persons unlucky enough to be caught in the rush of wind are hurled down entire streets into the flames. Those who seek refuge underground often suffocate as oxygen is pulled from the air to feed the blaze, or they perish in a blast of white heat — heat intense enough to melt human flesh."

This quote does not come from the Wikipedia Firestorm page.
External links -- Quotes from accounts and sources regarding the bombing --- (4) Margaret Freyer was living in Dresden during the firestorm created on 13th February, 1945.
The firestorm is incredible, there are calls for help and screams from somewhere but all around is one single inferno. To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire. Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then - to my utter horror and amazement - I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground. (Today I know that these unfortunate people were the victims of lack of oxygen). They fainted and then burnt to cinders. Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: "I don't want to burn to death". I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn.
Which, from another web source, may come from "The Faber Book of Reportage", John Carey (ed), Faber London 1987. Not quite sucked into the fire but see Number 3, Major-General Kehrl, report on the firestorm in Hamburg in August, 1943:
Before half an hour had passed, the districts upon which the weight of the attack fell were transformed into a lake of fire covering an area of twenty-two square kilometres. The effect of this was to heat the air to a temperature which at times was estimated to approach 1,000 degrees centigrade. A vast suction was in this way created so that the air "stormed through the streets with immense force, bearing upon it sparks, timber and roof beams and thus spreading the fire still further and further till it became a typhoon such as had never before been witnessed, and against which all human resistance was powerless." Trees three feet thick were broken off or uprooted, human beings were thrown to the ground or flung alive into the flames by winds which exceeded 150 miles an hour. The panic-stricken citizens knew not where to turn. Flames drove them from the shelters, but high-explosive bombs sent them scurrying back again. Once inside, they were suffocated by carbon-monoxide poisoning and their bodies reduced to ashes as though they had been placed in a crematorium, which was indeed what each shelter proved to be.
I Could not find the source where this quote came from --Philip Baird Shearer 23:06, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Interesting that the second quote mentions windspeeds of 150mph (as I did), but that's probably just co-incidence. I'm not immensely fond of personal accounts as they often seem to be exaggerated in the details (for example, just how plausibe is the "baby flew into the fire" incident?). Furthermore, fires don't "suck the oxygen from the air" per se - they just pull in air, not oxygen selectively. They do, of course, release toxic smoke and gasses but that wouldn't be of immeadiate concern to people outside the fire, as the hot smoke rises away above the fire. People close to the fire front would quite possibly have passed out from the radiant heat though. However I guess in light of the fact its widely accepted to have occured, the "people sucked into the fire" line is fair enough. Dan100 23:36, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)

A couple of years ago there was a fire at a large straw-bale storage yard near Winkler, Manitoba, Canada. A man was killed when his pickup truck was tossed by winds generated by the intense fire, described as a flame tornado (I can't find a reference, but it was in the news here). So it's definitely possible. Michael Z. 00:01, 2004 Dec 24 (UTC)

Reverted Neo-Nazi contribution

  • The range 30,000--50,000 is taken from a source [1] which is from "Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945". By Frederick Taylor; 135,000 is an Irving number mentioned below.
  • link changed from "Holocaust denier" to "historical revisionist" David Irving was found guilty in a English court of being a "Holocaust denier".
  • In the external links The David Irving letter to the times where he published a correction to the number he quoted was removed (correction)

as was the link to a British Holocaust denier

which includes an introductory quote from Harold Nicolson and sentences like The following account, taken from the Feb. 1985 issue of the NS Bulletin, tells us what a REAL holocaust is like. So I have reverted all the changes --Philip Baird Shearer 13:31, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm going to tweak two of your reversions. One, it's factually incorrect to describe Irving as an "amateur"; he's been writing books about WWII history as a profession for decades (even if the latest ones are loony). "Self-taught" was fine there. Second, your link to, which you labelled "a British Holocaust denier" is only semi-germane to the article (we discuss Irvine's problems at great length on his linked page). A far better link is to this page on that site, which is a lengthy and detailed critique of Irvine's Dresden book by Richard J. Evans, which is obviously totally on-point (not to mention completely devastating - I'd always had the impression that his earlier books were OK, but that is clearly not so). Noel (talk) 15:53, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Mine was just a revert I do not take credit for all that has been written here! I thought about keeping "self-taught" which is defiantly better than amateur, because amateur has more than one meaning. I took that in this context it meant not a "recognised (qualified) professional" rather than unpaid. But I thought it was less ambiguous just to revert all of it. I think that it mentioning that Irvine in a Holocaust denier is valid in this context because many revisionist like to minimise the Holocaust and other horrors whilst exaggerating the Axis suffering. As the numbers he put forward are suspect, that he is a Holocaust denier is one explanation for that and should be mentioned in this article because so many people still think there is validity in his original numbers. That you have put in links to better sources, is fine by me. Philip Baird Shearer 18:29, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have since changed the description of him to "historical writer" because I am sympathetic to Evans' claim that Irving doesn't deserve to be called a "historian". As to Irving's motivation, yes it's worth mentioning, and the reference to Irving in the text does do so - I felt that doing so in the list of references was what was un-needed.
The Evans report (he was comissioned by the trial in London as an expert witness, and produced a 700+ page report, which I've spent most of the day reading) is pretty eye-opening. Evans wrote this about Irvine:
Not one of his books, speeches or articles, not one paragraph, not one sentence in any of them, can be taken on trust as an accurate representation of its historical subject. All of them are completely worthless as history, because Irving cannot be trusted anywhere, in any of them, to give a reliable account of what he is talking or writing about.
and alas, after reading Evans' report, I have to agree.
When all is said and done though, the Irvine controversy is really a sideline on the Dresden debate, IMO. Whether it's 25,000 or some considerably large claim, it's still a very large number of civilians killed. Noel (talk) 20:27, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Neo Nazi?

Not everyone who questions "facts" about the war or is willing to hear all versions of events, rather than just one, is a "neo nazi" thank you very much! I find the constant revising down of numbers of dead in Dresden no different from revisionists/deniers doing the same to the holocaust victims.

At least you didn't revert that removal of "Disgraced pro-nazi" or whatever it was after the David Irving book link, that was a bit much. And a guy with several best selling and widely acclaimed books (before he was "disgraced", ahem) can't really be described as an "amateur". In fact, self taught historians who seek to learn history for themselves, rather than simply taking in someone else's version, I think those are the most valuable.

Apologies for removing the "correction" link, I stupidly thought you were correcting the URL, rather than it being a seperate article.

To be honest, in regards to WWII articles, I find NPOV to be severely stretched in wikipedia. Every Jewish/allied POV is given, and when German POV is given it's followed up with something like "but this is doubted". I have to say the way pages on revisinism blatantly adhere to the "all revisionism is really denial" point of view rather disappointing.

I find it amazing that if you can somehow link one person to another person and so on and you eventually reach an obvious Nazi sympathiser or whatever, that automatically invalidates everything they say. If you applied that to the "other side" as well, then frankly nobody's opinion would be worth anything. Everybody knows a bigot, or was friends with a bigot, or has even been influenced somehow by a bigot. Everyone! That doesn't make your own opinions or your own research invalid.

In the Third Reich, if you questioned the Nazi dogma, you were automatically labelled a communist. These days, if you question Jewish or allied versions of events (which let's face it, in certain areas is sketchy to say the least) you are automatically labelled an anti-semite or a holocaust denier or (God forbid) Neo-Nazi.

Freedom of opinion, freedom of belief. Ring any bells? -- User: 14:09, 22 Dec 2004

Alas for your views, but the latest figure of 25,000 is from Dresden historian Friedrich Reichert, a German. (See my coming note below on numbers and sources.) So I'm afraid your entire line of debate there is mistaken.
As to Irvine's qualities as a historian, you need to read the Evans report. I always felt that Irvine's later work was kind of bonkers, but thought I could rely on the earlier stuff, like Mare's Nest and Virus House. I was therefore pretty stunned to read what Evans found out about Irvine's earliest book, the Dresden one. I will now have to check anything I use from any of those books. Which is sad, because he did an immense amount of work, but I just don't think I can rely on any of his work anymore. Noel (talk) 20:39, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
One historian cannot disprove another, he can merely propose an alternate viewpoint. Saying you can't rely on any of his work is silly. Perhaps after learning several truths about the war he became sympathetic to the Third Reich, but that's not the same as starting with an agenda. And I'm sure many historians have their own agenda ("the Nazis were evil, and we'll prove it") - does hatred of Germans discredit historians and people the same way disbelief or criticism of Jewish versions does? It's just a very disappointing state of affairs.
It seems to me Evans had an agenda of his own, to discredit Irving. I'm sure he took every opposing viewpoint with any kind of plausibility and ran with it. So this as being the source for the fact the strafing of survivors didn't take place is completely dismissive, in my opinion.
Perhaps Evans did have such an agenda. I would be very interested to know if his report mis-represents anything (e.g. has mis-reported on any of the recent German historical studies by Bergander or Reichert). If you could check all the things Evans reports on (those German histories, plus the original German civil records he reports on), and let us know if he made any mistakes, I would welcome that. Noel (talk) 16:45, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The death toll

In redoing the death toll numbers, I have relied very heavily on the relevant section (The Bombing of Dresden in 1945) of the Expert Witness Report by Richard J. Evans, who is Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge. He describes himself in it as:

a recognized authority on modern German history and have been teaching and researching it for the last thirty years

and his bio (given here) bears that out. That, plus his institutional affiliation, lead me to believe that he is trustworthy, and that his reports on both the raw data, and the conclusions of other historians, can be trusted without viewing them myself.

The report section contains detailed discussion of the original German civil records, plus reports on the latest research of German historians - whom I think we can rely upon not to perpetrate a whitewash of the Allies. So I think all that gives us a fairly reliable picture. Here are some relevant excepts from Evans' writings:

The most authoritative book on the Dresden raids is by Götz Bergander, published in 1977 after almost two decades of research. Amongst his aims was to combat the many myths and legends which had come to surround the attacks. One such myth was the strafing of civilians and refugees by Allied fighters during the attack .. Bergander points out that although other authors have cited witnesses for such an attack, Irving's is the last account in which any credence is given to the story. He then proceeds to disprove Irving's assertion that such low-level strafing of civilians took place, either by night or by day.


In 1977 Bergander's book appeared, which after painstaking research and sound reasoning came to the conclusion that the number which "came nearest to the truth" was 35,000, even if he did not exclude the possibility of it being a few thousand more. .. Many historians accept the 35,000 figure. .. : In 1994 research by the Dresden historian Friedrich Reichert was published, using a previously unused source, which convincingly reduced Bergander's figure of 35,000 to 25,000. This figure can be regarded as close to definitive.

I was relying on these, plus Evans' reports of the German civil records (to be found in the same section) when I re-wrote the paragraph on the death toll. Alas, his report is structured for the purpose of commentary on Irvine's book, so it's not organized well for the purposes of producing this article, but the data is there nonetheless if one takes the time to read the entire section.

I have gone with the figures of 25,000-35,000 for the current historical "likely range" as a result of considering the research quoted above. Richeirt's number is what I was referring to in preferring "the lower part of this range". I consider that 25,000 may possibly be a bit low (which is why I used the "lower part" language, rather than baldly saying "lowest number"), when considering that the registered burials (21.3K) plus bodies found post-war (1.9K) reach almost this number, without considering those whose bodies were totally consumed in fires (whose numbers we can only guess), etc. Equally, the final tally of missing (25,000) will undoubtly not include some refugees who were not reported as missing, and who were also killed. However, it is also possible that the number of "totally destroyed" or "never found" bodies is small, and that Reichert is completely correct in his calculations. If I had to pick one or the other, I would go with Reichert, actually.

I close with the following excerpts from Evans (at the end of that section):

Few would now wish to defend the Allied bombing raids on Dresden on 13/14 February 1945. No-one would want to underestimate the terrible cost they wrought in terms of human life and suffering, or ignore the wanton destruction of some of Europe's most beautiful and significant buildings, whose reconstruction is still not complete more than half a century later. But the way to reach a reasoned judgement on these events is not to falsify the evidence, which is already horrifying enough: all that does is to obscure the issues. Irving's manipulations and exaggerations have merely got in the way of a proper discussion of these events, rather than assisting it.

with which I completely agree. The truth is troubling enough, there's no need to exaggerate it. Noel (talk) 21:16, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Source reliabality

I would be careful with that RAF page on Dresden. It claims that:

it is accepted that the number was greater than the 40,000 who died in the Hamburg firestorm and the Dresden figure may have exceeded 50,000

but this is almost certainly incorrect (see above). It may have been put together from consulting various secondary sources, rather than carefully researched. Noel (talk) 21:35, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Bomber Command casualties were 6 Lancasters lost, with 2 more crashed in France and 1 in England.

I think you can rely on RAF figures for tonnage of bombs dropped etc, but as you say they have to rely on secondary sources for victim numbers. I think the article (one of the sources in the References section) is interesting because it looks at the number killed as a %age against other German cities and the numbers come out similar to the ones your are suggesting. Philip Baird Shearer 23:47, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Strafing of US Mustang planes

Something that confuses me. No source is needed for "this is doubted" part of the Dresden survivors testimony that US planes flew overhead machine gunning survivors. Considering the rest of the carnage done, I find this believable - and to insinuate the survivors would make it up is very disrespectful. It is doubted for no other reason than it makes the American pilots look sadistic. But what do you call the bombing in general?

Do Dresden survivors have less credibility then concentration camp survivors for some reason? They had nothing to gain by lying or exaggerating, unlike the latter. Dresden survivors never claimed for reparations for one.

I just get a nasty taste in my mouth reading some of these articles. - User: 04:52, 23 Dec 2004

Alas, Bergander's book [Dresden im Luftkrieg:Vorgeschichte-Zerstörung-Folgen (Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, 1977)] doesn't seem to be available in English, so I can't tell you exactly all the detail of how he came to the conclusion that these stories are not viable, merely that he apparently did.
Perhaps you could obtain a copy and translate the relevant passages for us?
(Again, I hope I don't need to point out that this is a German historian who is making this point.) Noel (talk) 12:18, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Unless you were there, or the historian was there, you couldn't say it didn't happen. Dresden survivors say it did. Whether it's from a German historian or not is irrelevant, do you think it's in Germany's best interests to start accusing the Allies of war crimes? -- Merrick 11:58, 23 Dec 2004
Since you presumably weren't there, you can't say it did happen. All I know is that a German historian has apparently looked into this issue, including the accounts attributed to survivors, in great detail, and has concluded that the reports are not true. If you could obtain his book, and show us where he had made errors, that would be very desirable. Noel (talk) 16:42, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I find it strange that there would be a (probably unsubstantiated or simply speculation) quote saying that Dresden was a munitions centre, but nothing mentioning the real industry of Dresden, mainly art and china production (cups and saucers). The argument seems to be made to justify the bombing and little argument to say it wasn't. -- Merrick 12:09, 23 Dec 2004

Did you follow the link [1]? which points to the HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE 14-15 FEBRUARY 1945 BOMBINGS OF DRESDEN ( Prepared by USAF Historical Division Research Studies Institute Air University, II. Section ANALYSIS: Dresden as a Military Target, paragraph 9.

9. In addition to its geographical position and topography and its primary importance as a communications center, Dresden was, in February 1945, known to contain at least 110 factories and industrial enterprises that were legitimate military targets, and were reported to have employed 50,000 workers in arms plants alone.8 Among these were dispersed aircraft components factories; a poison gas factory (Chemische Fabric Goye and Company); an anti-aircraft and field gun factory (Lehman); the great Zeiss Ikon A.G., Germany’s most important optical goods manufactory; and, among others, factories engaged in the production of electrical and X-ray apparatus (Koch and Sterzel A.G.), gears and differentials (Saxoniswerke), and electric gauges (Gebruder Bassler).9
8 Dresden, Germany, City Area, Economic Reports, Vol. No. 2, Headquarters U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 10 July 1945; and OSS London, No. B-1799/4, 3 March 1945, in same item.
9 Interpretation Report No. K. 4171, Dresden, 22 March 19145, Supporting Document No. 3.

Unfortunatly the full "Strategic Bombing Survey" does not appear to be on line, but in the links at the bottom of the article, there is a link to the summary. Your comments reflect what Harris wrote in the memo of which the third sentence appears as a quote at the end of the article:

"The feeling, such as there is, over Dresden could be easily explained by a psychiatrist. It is connected with German bands and Dresden [china] shepherdesses. Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation centre. It is now none of those things."

--Philip Baird Shearer

Aerial bombardment

However as no Axis personnel were tried at the post-war Nuremberg Trials for participating in the decisions on, or execution of, assault by aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory, it is not possible to state categorically that that aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory during World War II was a war crime.

This argument is tenuous though, as the Allied air attacks were far more numerous and ferocious than those of the Axis; the Luftwaffe was typically used to aid ground campaigns. Moreso, whether the Allies were guilty of indiscriminate bombing of German residential areas is the true question, not whether air bombardemnt in general constituted a war crime. Merrick 16:17, 23 Dec 2004 -- Moved from article for discussion

How was the bombing of inland British cities anything to do with a ground campaign? What about the V1 and V2 attacks waged on London and later on Antwerp when there was no chance of a German land counter attack? The number and ferocity of the attack has nothing to do with the legal question of if aerial bombardment on defended enemy towns was a war crime. (see Hague IV; October 18, 1907[2] Art 25,26,27).

Germans who committed war crimes were tried and found guilty of them even if the Allies had performed similar acts. The most notorious example of this was the conviction of Karl Donitz, who was tried and found guilty of of waging unrestricted submarine warfare for which no one in the US Pacific submarine campaign was ever tried. However the fact that there were no prosecutions, for aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory, suggests that legal opinion of the time was that it was not a crime during World War II. Philip Baird Shearer 20:43, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Data for comparison

In reviewing the changes to the "Was the Dresden bombing justified?" section, which described the Allied bombings as "far more numerous and ferocious", I immediately wondered what the actual casualty numbers were for the results of German attacks. Alas, despite the size of my WWII and aviation reference library, I have little that I can find on British losses (have yet to search for Warsaw, Hague, etc numbers).

Hough and Richards Battle of Britain gives (pp. 304) "By the end of the month [of October 1940, I think - it's not certain from the text], over 13,000", but it's not clear from when they started counting - the start of the Battle, the start of the London attacks, or what. And I have nothing for November, up until the end of the Blitz with the withdrawal of the Luftwaffe for the Russian invasion. Barker, The Thousand Plan (pp. 22, paperback) mentions "over 40,000" for British civilian air raid casualties, but doesn't say over what period. Anyone know of any source with detailed and full numbers? I've checked all my general WWI histories, but no luck.

Interestingly, Walter Boynes, Clash of Wings (pp. 88) records that the numbers of German bombers on the November, 1940 raids were quite sizeable (and considerably larger than I would have guessed): 469 on Coventry, and 700 on Birmingham; the May, 1941 raid on London used 550. It's true that these were all He-111 and their similarly-sized sisters, whereas the Dresden raid was 4-engine bombers, but in the first British "thousand-bomber raid" (Cologne; May, 1942), 2/3 of the force (about 910 total) were roughly similar 2-engine machines (principally Wellingtons (496), but a few Hampdens (71) and Whitleys (23)).

Also, I haven't considered the V-1/V-2 offensive (which killed quite a few people, particularly the V-1 offensive against the Dutch ports), as those follow the Allied raids. Noel (talk) 18:24, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Moral Justification

I think that the war crime aspect is a red herring. What is needed is a paragraph on the moral justifications and criticisms. By this stage in the war, thanks to Ultra the Allied air forces would have known the likely number of casualties that a raid like this would inflict. Should that have been taken into account when discussing targets at Yalta? If so why wasn't it? Philip Baird Shearer 22:18, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree that the war crime aspect is a red herring, so I'm not sure why there is resistance to admitting it is a war crime. The moral question is more important, because it helps us understand why it might happen again. The leaders knew exactly what they were doing and can be presumed think they were making the right decision at the time. The bombing of innocent civilians was easy and justified at that point in the war because the decision had already been made, earlier. The bright moral line was the decision to engage in total war, the primary component of which is conscription. Once the leaders are already responsible for having coerced millions of their own innocent civilians, resulting in more than a million casualties and hundreds of thousands of their deaths, frankly what do enemy civlian lives mean? Of course, our total war was justified by their total war, conscription justifying conscription. So, to not go too far back in revisionist history, such as the Treaty of Verseilles, the original moral failing may have been in the late 1920s when leaders failed to sign on to Gandhi and Einstein's attempt to eliminate conscription, or in the 1930s when there was a failure to pre-emptively strike at Hitler when he violated the treaty and started building the most destructive WMD in history, a large conscript army.--Silverback 22:46, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Was the bombing justified section

I saw this on peer review and have come over to look at the section. Here's my thoughts as a disinterested party:

Some have suggested that the bombing of Dresden may have been a war crime and that those allied commanders who ordered the action and the airmen who carried it out should be tried as war criminals. However as no Axis personnel were tried at the post-war Nuremberg Trials for participating in the decisions on, or execution of, assault by aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory, it is not possible to state categorically that that aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory during World War II was a war crime.

  • Get rid of the weasel words. "Some have suggested that the bombing of Dresden may have been a war crime" Who?
  • Don't argue the point. Get rid of the "However" bit. This slants the article in favour of those disagree that it was a war crime. Remember we don't take side and we are a neutral observer. That needs to be fixed. The reader should make up their own mind.
If the first sentence goes then the second sentence can go. BUT there would be strong resistance to removing it the first sentence. The second sentence is a balance for the first sentence hence a NPOV. Philip Baird Shearer

Dresden was widely considered by Germans to be a city of little war-related industrial or strategic importance. Dresden itself was mostly seen as a cultural centre, with noted architecture in the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden State Opera House and its historic cathedral (the Frauenkirche) and other churches. It was also called "Elbflorenz", i.e. Florence of the Elbe, due to its stunning beauty. By February, the city was crammed with refugees fleeing from the advancing Red Army. Dresden, having been spared from previous RAF night attacks, was considered to be relatively safe. Before the war it's main industries were china production, cups and saucers, as well as cigarettes. However the United States Strategic Bombing Survey listed at least 110 factories and industries in Dresden6. The city contained the Zeiss-Ikon optical factory and the Siemens glass factory (both of which were entirely devoted to manufacturing military gunsights). The immediate suburbs contained factories building components of radar and electronics, and fuses for anti-aircraft shells. Other factories produced gas masks, engines for Junkers aircraft and cockpit parts for Messerschmitt fighters. An official 1942 guide described the German city as "one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich".

  • Source for claim that Dresden wasn't considered militarily significant?
  • "stunning beauty" - seems to be a POV. Who's is it?
Many sources but I have put in Antony Beevor, "Berlin: the Downfall, 1945." Page 83 as a source. Philip Baird Shearer
  • That guide: what's the reference to it?
Frederick Taylor "Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945" I'll change the text to reference it. Philip Baird Shearer
  • More howevers. Get rid of it. The section that starts: "However the United States Strategic Bombing Survey listed at least 110 factories and industries in Dresden..." should go directly after the first sentence. That's just an organisation thing. Again, get rid of the "however" business.
Air Marshal Harris wrote to the Air Ministry on March 29 1945
Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things.
In reality, the city's production was more devoted to lighter equipment, e.g. precision engineering and controls. By contrast the rail traffic was continued just 3 days after the bombing.
  • Source for that "in reality" claim?
This was added recently but does not say anything which was not already said in the article so I am going to remove it. Philip Baird Shearer 11:15, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Churchill, who approved the targeting of Dresden and supported the bombing campaign prior to the event, in face of public disquiet at the results later distanced himself from the bombing of Dresden. On March 28 A few weeks before the end of World War II in Europe, Winston Churchill drafted a memorandum to the British Chiefs of 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 ... The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.

Seems OK.

I hope this helps a bit. - Ta bu shi da yu 03:37, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Where is the straw poll? Perhaps the issues should be separated.

Talk:Bombing of Dresden in World War II/Archive 4#Straw poll

On the Hiroshima site, we found it helpful to separate the war crime and justified issues. Technically all strategic bombing of cities is a war crime. However, this does not preclude it from being justified. A lot of the language in the current article seems to accept that strategic bombing of cities can be justified, since it points to weasel points such as the relative unimportance of manufacturing in Dresden or its beauty. I pity the poor city these people don't like.

I suggest that each side grant the other as many points as possible to make the article as informative as possible. What about the bombing makes it technically a war crime? What was used to justify it anyway at the time? What were the contemporaneous arguments against it? Perhaps there can even be a revisionist thought section (clearly noted as such), both pro and con, we don't want to be as dry as world book here, but without sacrificing accuracy or mixing fact and opinion in a way which obscures facts.

It is a shame that people who thought these actions were justified at the time, did not follow through and codify their justifications, correcting international law. Perhaps they were only justified if you were fighting on the right side? --Silverback 01:34, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Talk:Bombing of Dresden in World War II/Archive 4#Straw poll The straw poll was to do with the introductory section. Not the section "Was the Dresden bombing justified?" other than the vote implied that a section "Was the Dresden bombing justified?" ought to exist.
  1. You state "Technically all strategic bombing of cities is a war crime." What was the war crime committed during World War II within the laws and customs of the time?
  2. Looking at the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki#Debate over the decision to drop the bombs and placing the same questions in the Dresden context:
  1. "Willful killing of civilians", Property and infastucture was targeted. Not civilians.
  2. "wanton destruction of cities". Bombardment of defended towns is not a war crime.
  3. "and use of poisonous weapons". Explosive and fire (bombs) have been acceptable weapons of war for hundreds of years so this prohibition does not apply to the use of these weapons.
  • "What about the bombing makes it technically a war crime?" I look forward to your explanation. Here is a more detailed explanation of why it can on be stated not to be "technically a war crime": The legal defence for stratigic bombing during World War II can be found in Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907[3]
  • 25 The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.
  • 26 The officer in command of an attacking force must, before commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power to warn the authorities.
  • 27 In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.
It was a bombardment of defended towns because countries had air defences. It was an arial assault so no warning need be given and all necessary steps as far as possible were taken. There were a number of legal arguments against this view, but unlike Karl Donitz, who was tried and found guily of of waging unrestricted submarine warfare for which no one in the US Pacific submarine campaign was ever tried, (which is often cited as a case of Victors justice), as no Axis personnel were tried at the post-war Nuremberg Trials for participating in the decisions on, or execution of, "assault by aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory", it is not possible to state categorically that that aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory during World War II was or was not a war crime. However the fact that there were no prosecutions, suggests that legal opinion of the time was that it was not a crime during World War II.
(I am using three colons to try to get inside the bullets and keep things readable) The town was "not defended" in the sense of international law, because the attackers were not trying to take it, they were just trying to destroy it. The "not defended" applies to towns that decide to become a point of resistance to an advancing army. Your earlier mention that only property and infrastructure were targeted, is spin, it was a city that was known to have civilians and additionally to be swollen with refugees.--Silverback 22:04, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
On the victors Justice, there is prosecutorial discretion and these are also political decisions, so the fact that there were no prosecutions on these grounds does not mean they weren't illegal, whether done by the allies or Axis. Goering had plenty of other grounds to be prosecuted upon, and when there is a selection of charges, it is natural to prefer ones that don't make you look like hypocrits. Perhaps there was no other possible charges in the case of Donitz. In the Pacific war, there were possible defenses for U.S. actions, such as Japanese abuse of hospital ship markings, etc.--Silverback 22:32, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Your argument does not hold water (excuse the pun) Hague X ARTICLE 8
Hospital-ships and sick-wards of vessels arc no longer entitled to protection if they are employed for the purpose of injuring the enemy.'
Treaty of London 1930 Article 22
(2) In particular, except in the case of persistent refusal to stop on being duly summoned, or of active resistance to visit or search, a warship, whether surface vessel or submarine, may not sink or render incapable of navigation a merchant vessel without having first placed passengers, crew and ship's papers in a place of safety. For this purpose the ship's boats are not regarded as a place of safety unless the safety of the passengers and crew is assured, in the existing sea and weather conditions, by the proximity of land, or the presence of another vessel which is in a position to take them on board.
This is one of the clause used against Donitz at Nuremberg Philip Baird Shearer
This section addresses why Dresden was chosen as a target, not how the attack was justified, but understandably, that had to come earlier when strategic and night time bombing were "justified", because if the bombing of Dresden was a war crime then so were many earlier bombings, the difference was quantitative, not qualititive.--Silverback 22:04, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  • "What were the contemporaneous arguments against it? I will most interested to see them discussed on this talk page, particularly as many of them were Nazi propaganda.
  • "Since it points to weasel points such as the relative unimportance of manufacturing in Dresden or its beauty." Please read that paragraph again and see if you still think this is what it says, because it is an attempt at NPOV. (Before and after the "However").
Also pleasese see #Moral Justification above. Philip Baird Shearer 11:52, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

See above for my comments on unrestricted submarine warfare. "I killed him in self defence" may be spin, but it is also a legal defence. Aerial bombardment by aeroplanes of an air force, my not even be covered by these land treaties for example there is a separate hague naval bombardment treaty. But lets assume that it was covered by Hague IV. There is nothing in the treaties that say that the object of an assault is to take a town. However the demand for unconditional surrender by the Allies shows that they did intend to take the Dresden along with the rest of Germany. If it was not defended, what shot down the British planes taking part in the raid? Bomber command on Dresden

  • You have repeatedly said that it was a "war crime". Please state what the specific war crime was that you think was committed by the RAF and USAAF? Philip Baird Shearer 11:59, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The Geneva conventions do not make it a warcrime to undertake an action that might cause civilians to die but that any such action must be dictated by military necesity. Hence, if there are military reasons to attack an armed force in a city then it is not a war crime to attack them even if some civilians are killed in the crossfire. But the Germans only had AA guns in Dresden because they feared it would be bombed. It was not the case that the attack was undertaken to destroy those AA guns. The aim of the attack was to kill civilians because Harris believed that was the way to break German morale.

Even if the aim had been to destroy those guns it would still hav been illegal because the loss of life was far too great to justify the military gain. It violated the principle of proportionality.

I agree tho that there needs to be a proper section examining the laws of the war as they stood at the time rather than a "some consider it a warcrime". Dejvid 22:08, 9 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Had the Allied commanders been charged ...

the following conventions would have come into play. Laws of War : Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907

"Laws and Customs of War on Land" (Hague IV); October 18, 1907 may not apply as it was an aerial attack. There is for example a different treaty Hague treaty "Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War" (Hague IX). What is your evidence that Hague IV does apply to aerial bombardment? Philip Baird Shearer
Where is your evidence that it didn't. How is lobbing a shell at city different from a legal point of view from flying a plane over a city and dropping the same quantity of explosives
The "lobbing a shell at a city" from a ship is different from lobbing one from land from a legal point of view (Hague IV, Hague IX). So do you have a source which states that dropping a bomb from a aeroplane is the same from a legal point of view as a shell from a land based artillery piece? Philip Baird Shearer 12:10, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

From Art 23 To destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;

At Yalta it was agreed by all of the big 3 Allied powers that the destruction of Dresden was a necessities of war. Where is your source and who said that it was not a necessity? Philip Baird Shearer
What kind of evidence is that? Two of them are the accused. The wording is not merely necesity but imperative. What kind of imperativ necessity existed for destruction on this scale?

The main aim was to destroy homes and property of no military value and thus this clause applies.

Source and evidence that "The main aim was to destroy homes and property of no military value"? Since September 25 1944 RAF primary mission was "attacks on enemy oil production and other approved target systems within the current directive". There is nothing in the section "Reasons for the attack" to support this statement, so what are you basing it on? Philip Baird Shearer

Art. 25. The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.

A technical defense could be made on the grounds that some German AA guns had deployed even tho these guns were no military threat to ally forces except as defense against bombardment. Hence it was a defended city. Tho the attack was against the spirit of this clause it is uncertain how judges might have viewed such a defense. Later conventions have plugged this loop hole

Germany had an integrated air defence system (see for example the The Kammhuber Line). It was far more complicated than a couple of triple-A guns at a target. It relied on lines of aerial defence, many near the coast, ground based radars, searchlights, lines of triple-A guns and night fighters in designated hunter boxes. Germany was not undefended, of the 126,000 RAF Bomber Command aircrew who took part in the battle over Europe 44% did not return. So it is more than a technical defence to say that Germany was defended. Later conventions are not applicable. Philip Baird Shearer
This would be only relevant if, say, that Dresden was attacked because it formed a key point in the air defense system and that the reason that they wanted make such a breech was that they, say, wished to send air support to the Russians.

Essentially the air defense system diverted AA guns which could otherwise have been in war zones instead.

Your statement is not true. It is relevant, Dresden along with the rest of Germany was defended (Hague IV, Art 25 -- if Hague IV is binding on aerial bombardment or an indication of custom). The reasons that the Allies wanted to assault Dresden are laid out in the article section "Reasons for the attack". Philip Baird Shearer

These judges might well have given weight to this from the introduction : Until a more complete code of the laws of war has been issued, the High Contracting Parties deem it expedient to declare that, in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of the public conscience.

The usage by the USAAF and the RAF were withing the laws of war at the time. You have not mentioned one specific article in any treary which was broken. Philip Baird Shearer

The prosecuters would also have drawn attention to Declaration of St. Petersburg; November 29 1868

That the only legitimate object which States should endeavor to accomplish during war is to weaken the military forces of the enemy;

The clause you have qouted is an odd one because it is part of a sentence which ends "The Contracting Parties engage mutually to renounce, in case of war among themselves, the employment by their military or naval troops of any projectile of a weight below 400 grammes, which is either explosive or charged with fulminating or inflammable substances." [4] It was superseeded by Article 23 (e) of the Hague Regulations on land warfare of 1899 an 1907 [5]. Do you have a list of countries who signed it and was it a treaty? I am not sure how this declaration is relevent to the legal position over the aerial bombardment of Dresden. Philip Baird Shearer
It is a statement of the principles on which the laws of war are based. The Haugue convention specifically says that the principles and usage would continue to apply and that the Hague convention was merely a clarfication of specific points. The wording explicitly rejects any notion that all is legal unless specifically forbidden.

The aim of the attack on Dresden was not to weaken the military forces

Dejvid 01:13, 10 Jan 2005 (UTC)

The reasons for attacking Dresden is layed out in the section "Reasons for the attack" what is your source that it was anything diffrent? Philip Baird Shearer 18:00, 10 Jan 2005 (UTC)
The only military forces that were there were the AA guns. This isn' a case like how Husein intentionally put artillery in the middle of Basra. They were only in the city to protect it and allies would have been more not less likely to have attacked if the Germans had withdrawn them.
If an enemy interferes with the lines of communications, and production or supply of war material, of military forces they are weakening those military forces. For example the attacks on the German's primary oil supply and distribution network was a major factor in weakening German military forces. "When the Germans launched their counter-offensive on December 16, 1944, their reserves of fuel were insufficient to support the operation. They counted on capturing Allied stocks. Failing in this, many panzer units were lost when they ran out of gasoline"[6]. So weakening military forces does not necessarily mean a direct attack on those forces. Philip Baird Shearer

A question: If you could take off your defense lawyer#s hat for a moment, can tell me if you think an action like Dresden should be permited by the laws of war? Dejvid 00:03, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I have not seen one source which can credibly claim that the bombing of Dresden or any other similar action by any side in World War II was a war crime. If Dresden was then so were all such assaults. Why is Dresden a raid around which controversy still surrounds it 60 years after the fact? It may be partly because of residual Nazi propaganda, or because it is the most famous controversial European raid during WWII thanks to the Associated Press syndicated news story. But that is not the full story. Why is it that Dresden tends to be the raid which some people who perhaps have not looked into the subject in any detail say "it was a war crime"? By the Dresden raid the RAF had had a new directive, September 25, 1944. Earlier 1000 bomber raids had been just as destructive bombing of Hamburg in World War II and targeted not only to destroy infrastructure (the motive for Dresden) but with the added intention to sap enemy moral. I suspect what they mean is that unlike earlier raids, when victory was still in the balance, Dresden was not morally justified because it was an unnecessary "butchers bill". That is a completely different question and I think a much more interesting one, but please discuss that in the #Moral Justification section of this talk page. Moral criticisms does not make the aerial assault on Dresden a war crime and it does not help the credibility of Wikipedia to propagate such statements using weasel phrases with no credible sources naming the laws of war which were allegedly broken. Philip Baird Shearer 11:16, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

All such assaults were war crimes. By "such" I mean, bombing of cities, usually at night where selective targeting of military targets is not possible, at least with their technology at the time. Of course, with the atomic bomb, even hitting a military commander on the head is not very selective, if he is in a city. What is residual Nazi propaganda about it? Frankly, though, given the current and past abomination that is international law, it is far more relevant whether it is moral or consistent with just war theory, rather than whether it is a war crime.--Silverback 11:50, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Reply to Philip: First of the legal point. Lets imagime the legal situation had the Germans not attempted to protect Dresden from airial bombardment. The wording of the relevant convention is "The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited". There is nothing in there about saying "except when the said town contains military significant communications infrastructure". So the legal justification rests solely on what the Hague convention meant by defended. That clause was clearly intended to cover cases where a city was being used as a strong point in a defense line. It was accepted that an advancing army had the right to bombard the forces defending the town. Atacking those troops would be the aim of the bombardment and damage (even destruction) of the city an unfortunate side effect. Do you claim that the reason for the attack was to destroy its air defenses?
I claim that the reason for the attack is in the section reason for the attack. If any significant sourced reasons have been left out then please add them Philip Baird Shearer
My question was whether the reason for the attack was to attack the AA guns. I see no mention of that in the reasons page. Hence I take that as a No.
Can I ask is your real objection "originality" To us it is obvious but if you are really saying "hit those books" then this argument is by the by. Are you saying that you will have no objection to a claim that it was a warcrime so long as it is backed up by a good reference but not otherwise?
Yes. But idealy the reference should also explain what the war crime was with the legal reasoning behind claiming it was one. Philip Baird Shearer
OK but how strong is that "ideally". Would you not accept a legally authorative source which was light on explanation? Ideally it would hav a full explanation - I'll see what I can find.Dejvid 15:17, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Finally I agree that Dresden is in some sense a symbol and many of the issues apply to the entire campaign. The "unecessary" butchery argument is not simply a moral one tho. The laws of war accept that civilian casualties may be the consequences of military action but must be justified by military necessity. Less military necessity less legal justification.

Dejvid 20:16, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

IMHO it is a moral one not a legal one. As there were no trials of anyone for "assault by aerial bombardment on defended enemy territory" after World War II the debate of "was it a war crime" can not be resolved. I think statments that it was hinders rather than helps the debate on the moral position. Philip Baird Shearer 12:01, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC) Just keep an eye out. Proportionality is used in war crimes trials as a legal not just a morale concept.Dejvid 15:17, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC)

As far as I know, there were not any post WW II war crimes trials where allied soldiers were the accused, in so far it is a bit of a propaganda exercise to specify for exactly which potential war crimes allied soldiers weren't tried (also referring to the main text). And the defintion of war crimes has more or less stayed the same since the Nuremberg Trials, anything the respective victors did ( who usually make up the rules after the fact), cannot be a war crime, bombing Hiroshima wasn't one, but the Nanking massacres was. As the defintion of what constitutes a war crime in which context is pretty arbitrary, having a debate on whether or not the Dresden bombing was on, is completely subjective, and therefore pointless. T Jacob (from the aformentiend city ;) 26 Jan 2005