Based on this quotation from a link (URL
) provided in this thread -
Figures suggested have ranged from 35,000 through 100,000, and even up to half a million at the wilder fringes of speculation. [...] Drawing on archival sources, many never previously consulted, on burial records and scientific findings -- including street-by-street archaeological investigations -- plus hundreds of eye-witness reports, the “Dresden Commission of Historians for the Ascertainment of the Number of Victims of the Air Raids on the City of Dresden on 13/14 February 1945” has provisionally estimated the likely death-toll at around 18,000 and definitely no more than 25,000.
- and having read the allusion to Evans in a previous posting, I decided to go into this a little bit and re-read what this historian says on one aspect of estimating the number of the Dresden
death toll. So I thought it might be interesting to some readers to see one example of the "evolution" of the total death toll number. The following is based on (and is basically an excerpt of) "The Bombing of Dresden
" (pp.157-192), ch. 5 in Richard Evans, Telling Lies About Hitler. The Holocaust, History and the David Irving Trial
, London and New York 2002. Basically, what Evans does is comparing the various editions of Irving’s writings and showing how the numbers Irving gives changed over time. Evans also investigates and evaluates sources Irving states:
Irving’s first source, Hans Voigt (local official in Dresden
in 1945), based his estimation on records on missing/presumed dead his office kept after the attacks. This number amounted to 35,000-40,000
. (A similar estimation in one of the first studies on Dresden
by Georg Feydt concluded that approx. 39,800
Irving interpreted Voigt’s number of approx. 35,000 dead as 135,000
(sic, 1966 edition). Why? Because he apparently lined with Voigt’s subjective estimation that the ‘real’ number of deaths must have been considerably higher than the one based on record of his own office. Irving’s argument for arbitrarily adding 100,000 victims (without any concrete evidence for this): “The Germans simply struck off the first digit to make the figure more acceptable to the Russians, who contended that Bomber Command was not a powerful weapon” (Irving qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 159). Irving repeated this argument in 1995. However, there was no evidence that ‘officials’ (esp. the Lord Mayor) had downplayed the number by 100,000.
Between the various editions (English) and translations (German) of Irving’s books from 1963 and 1967, Irving included a new source, namely the “Tagesbefehl Nr. 47, Luftangriff auf Dresden
” (dated 22 March 1945), which put the final death toll at approx. 202,000 and estimated the final number at approx. 250,000. Irving featured this source in his 1966 English and 1967 German edition and printed it in the appendices. This was the basis for his later frequently maintained claim of “250,000
deaths in Dresden
”. Irving had referred to a study of this source in one of his prior publications (in the 1963 edition), describing it as a forgery. By 1966, he had, however, changed his mind completely after having seen the document himself, now claiming that it was not a forgery, but authentic. What was the reason for Irving changing his mind so drastically?
The source in Irving’s hands was, in fact, “a carbon copy of a typed copy of a handwritten transcript of an extract from an unknown document, unauthenticated by any distinguishing marks such as a signature or an official stamp of any description” (Evans, op. cit., p. 162f., on the development of this argument, see the preceding page). And Irving presumably knew that this was not the brilliant source he claimed it was, but a rather weak one indeed. Nonetheless the source was prominently featured as authentic, and Irving asked his publishers (England, Germany, Italy) to emphasize it in the next editions. The authenticity was constructed in the following way: “The figures originate with the then deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Max Funfack.” (Irving’s publisher Dieter Struss qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 163). This man, Max Funfack, however, after several weeks of marketing of Irving’s new edition, stressed in a letter to Irving that “I have only ever heard the numbers third-hand: from city commandants with whom I was friends, from the civilian air-raid protection etc. But the numbers always differed greatly. […] Likewise I was never Dresden
’s Chief Medical Officer or even deputy Chief Medical Officer; rather I always worked as a specialist urologist in a hospital. […] Therefore I can give no firm information about the figure of the dead […]” (qtd. in Evans, op. cit., pp. 163f.). Still, even after this letter by Funfack, Irving and his publisher respectively sustained the claim that “Mr Irving found the doctor who had calculated the figures and reached the conclusion that the figure of 202,040
dead was not propaganda, but is authentic” (Struss qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 164). And: “The document’s pedigree is certainly impressive. […] Funfack, […] was in 1945 Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dresden
District; as such, he was responsible for supervising the disposal and cremation of all the city’s air-raid victims during the three months of the attacks” (Irving qtd. ibid and p. 165). Nota bene – this claim was made even after this “doctor” had made unmistakably clear to Irving in writing that he did not have any sound information on the death toll.
Anyway, the 200,000-number originated in Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry and was spread in newspapers after the attacks. Any researcher examining the source and finding out about its origin would have certainly a hard time accepting Goebbel’s propaganda figures at face value.
Nowhere in his 1966 edition, Irving compared his own two figures of 135,000
(the Voigt source) and 250,000
(the Funfack source). He had two figures in two editions, he gave both figures in his writing, but failed to establish which one was the ‘correct’ one according to his view.
In 1965, Irving received a letter from the Red Cross, confirming that the Red Cross had one official in the Dresden
region at the time of the attack, responsible for writing about PoW camps, but the letter states that “there were no PoW camps in Dresden
itself, consequently [the official’s] reports did not even allude to the air raids on the town” (qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 171). In his 1966 edition, i.e., after having received this letter from the Red Cross, Irving stated that a Red Cross delegation gave the number of 140,000 deaths after the Dresden
bombing. Again, the claim Irving made is not backed by the organization he quotes, in this case the Red Cross.
Even in his 1995 edition, Irving writes that there was a Red Cross report from Dresden
, although he had known - since the Red Cross letter from 1965 - that no such report existed according to the Red Cross itself. In the 1995 edition Irving also repeated the ‘Funfack’-number of 250,000
, saying that Funfack “did not […] take the opportunity to repudiate the figures” (Irving qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 172). This clearly was against Funfack’s own letter, making clear that he had only heard the numbers third-hand, and that he could give “no firm information about the figure of the dead” (see above).
In 1965, Irving received two letters by a former Dresden
Clearing Staff official who had held a key position in keeping the records of the death tolls. He explained to Irving in detail why the claims Irving puts forward in his writing cannot be correct (mathematical, logistic, administrative, etc. arguments). Basically, this official concluded that any number exceeding 50,000
victims was extremely unlikely and not logically sustainable.
Also in 1965, the “Final Report” on the Dresden
deaths, given by the Dresden
police, was made available to Walter Weidauer, author of “Inferno Dresden
” (2nd ed. 1966). It is the very document the “Tagesbefehl” claimed to be an extract of. And unlike the “Tagesbefehl”, it bore dictation initials, a signature, a “secret” stamp and a NSDAP reference – which all made it ever so more like to be authentic. The key passage: “Until early 10.3.1945 established: 18,375
fallen, 2,212 badly wounded, 13,718 slightly wounded, 350,000 homeless and long-term re-quartered” (qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 175). Irving was notified of this new find by Dresden
City archivist, but replied to rely on his copy of a copy of a copy of the “Tagesbefehl” rather than on the original (cf. ibid.). Another archivist told Irving of another document proving the authenticity of the “Final Report” and also made it very probable that the “Tagesbefehl” used by Irving was a forgery. After that, Irving notified his editors of necessary alterations in further editions in the light of the new discoveries.
In both his 1967 German and 1971 English edition, however, Irving did not revise the 130,000 number despite the new material. The 1971 edition had the “Tagesbefehl” again printed as appendix and the number in the text given as 100,000
– clearly against the number he knew to be most probably correct at that time, i.e., the 18,300 dead from the “Final Report”.
In 1977, the “Tagesbefehl” was eventually proven as forgery by Götz Berganeder. The original “Tagesbefehl” gives 25,000
dead. The number Irving’s copy of a copy of a copy version gives was, as stated above, 250,000
– simply having added a “0” at the end of the original number, or, in other words, having multiplied the death toll by ten. So Irving’s version was clearly a forgery, deviating greatly from the original. It was not until 1995 that Irving took the effort to communicate this new figure unmistakably to his readers. He claimed, however, that he had “revised” and “independently” “researched” his numbers (Irving qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 179), thus negating that he was repeatedly told by numerous people that he was wrong but pretending that this change of mind was based on his “own research”.
Still, in 1985, Irving wrote in a newspaper that the number is the “Final Report” was likely to be a forgery itself, having been reduced due to political motivation. He failed, however, to provide prove for this claim.
In 1995, Irving claimed that the number of the “Final Report” must be considered “interim” and emphasized that there was a “massive influx of refugees from the East, Allied and russion prisoners of war, and thousands of forced labourers” (Irving qtd. in Evans, op. cit., p. 180). Irving gives the number of “hundreds of thousands of refugees” and “one or two million refugees” (Irving qtd. ibid.) in Dresden
. Again, no sources stated by Irving for these postulations. Directly contradiction Irving’s 1995 refugee claims is a statement by a former Dresden
city civil defence engineer dating back to 1953. His task was to help refugees find shelter in the city and he stated that virtually no refugees had to live on the streets. Based on source material, Götz Bergander calculated the number of refugees in Dresden
at the time of the bombing to approx. 100,000 and doubled this number to include anyone who might have found a place to stay without using the official service and thus not leaving a trace in the sources. Still, this number is very far from Irving’s “one or two million refugees” (see above).