The End Of David Irving

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Larry D.
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Postby Larry D. » 25 Mar 2005 23:28

Walter Kaschner said:
This is the United States, after all, and surely we have not descended to the level where a discourse by someone like David Irving can be likened to one crying "Fire!" in a crowded theater!


Especially so when the all-powerful opposition was given every opportunity - even begged - to critique and counter every word he happened to utter.

--Larry

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Postby Dan » 26 Mar 2005 02:41

DERSHOWITZ: Well, we don't know, and that's why [we could use] a torture warrant, which puts a heavy burden on the government to demonstrate by factual evidence the necessity to administer this horrible, horrible technique of torture. I would talk about nonlethal torture, say, a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva Accords, but you know, countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords. They do it secretly and hypothetically, the way the French did it in Algeria. If we ever came close to doing it, and we don't know whether this is such a case, I think we would want to do it with accountability and openly and not adopt the way of the hypocrite.


http://edition.cnn.com/2003/LAW/03/03/cnna.Dershowitz/

Well, if Dershowitz and Goldhagen signed it, I'll have to change my opinion.

walterkaschner
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Postby walterkaschner » 28 Mar 2005 07:13

Fugazi wrote:

Mr Kaschner:
In my view they did not go nearly far enough, but one could hardly expect them to recognize the remaining frailties of the book as a work of history.

Mr Kaschner, would you mind elaborating on what you consider the remaining frailties to be? This is probably the butting in of the ignorant once again, but the only claims I've noticed against Irving's Dresden book are that he included reports of strafing, and that he used a forgery for the final death count. Are there other areas that are considered false? I dipped into his latest edition recently to get some quotes and maps re the Dresden target area, but it's probably a decade since I actually read the book.

My impression is that it was entirely fair for him to include the descriptions of strafing in his first edition, given the number of eye-witness accounts (Alexander McKee included them in his book "Dresden 1945: the Devil's Tinderbox" too, probably also on the basis that the witnesses seemed convincing). I did notice on looking in Irving's latest edition though that he still includes the strafing attacks, seemingly without addressing the recent evidence that they never actually occurred (although I was skimming through and might have missed him addressing it). That's a lot harder to justify.

I must admit I find the arguments about body counts and the documents confirming them hard to follow. Presumably Irving isn't still using the forged document for his body count estimate?


My basic quarrel with Irving as a historian ( I also have a huge quarrel with his politics and racist beliefs, but think - hope - I can put those aside) is in his lack of professional methodology. Professional historians can and often do make honest errors as to facts. They can and do disagree as to the conclusions to be legitimately drawn from established facts. They need not hold academic degrees in the study of history, nor professorships in acadaemia – many of the greatest historians have lacked that background. But in my opinion, to be “professional” – and thus one whose views are worthy of consideration – a high degree of discipline is essential.

Obviously no one reading a historical work (apart from a specialist in the identical field) can afford the time, effort and expense of engaging in the same research as did the author. Therefore a professional historian has an obligation, it seems to me, to provide the sources where the underlying facts crucial to his conclusions have been, or may be, found. This not only opens his work to review, consideration and criticism by his professional peers, but permits the lay reader to exercise some judgment of his own as to the weight to place on the evidence proffered. For there is an obvious difference in the reliability of sources, which reliability the historian has an obligation himself to take into account in the exercise of his professional judgment, and as to which even the casual reader has the capacity to recognize. Primary versus secondary evidence; documentary evidence versus eyewitness accounts; official documents versus private records; contemporary accounts versus memories of decades old events; sworn testimony versus casual recollections; self serving statements versus uninterested personal observations, etc, etc. - the nature and context of the source clearly has a distinct bearing on the credibility to be assigned it, and if in writing allows the author’s evaluation of it to be verified.

So with that off my chest, now as to the frailties - or better failings - of Irving as a historian reflected in his Dresden Book (and my specific reference unless otherwise indicated is to the 1965 Ballantine Books paperback edition of the original 1963 edition published by William Kimber & Co. in the UK).

1. Irving provides no bibliography of the sources he relied on. He simply states that he spoke to some 200 British and some 100 US airmen, a few members of the Luftwaffe, many Dresden civilians and a few senior British and American air force officers, and mentions perhaps a half-dozen official studies, perhaps a like number of published memoirs and a few printed secondary sources.

2. Irving’s footnoting, such as it is, is useless. Many of the critical facts alleged in the Book lack any attribution whatsoever. And there is no way for the lay reader or a peer historian to verify the reference or evaluate it in its given context.

3. Irving fails to recognize or deal with available sources which contradict alleged “facts” which he relies upon to support his major theses.

4. Irving accepts as conclusive gospel certain “evidence” which on its face or from its source is highly questionable.

5. Irving simply ignores complaints or contradictions from purported sources as to the accuracy of matters attributed to them.

6. Irving appears to fabricate out of thin air purported facts for which he has (or at least cites) no source or authoritative basis.

7. Although making mush of the thoroughness of his research, Irving fails to consult (or chooses to ignore) available sources which disprove or place into serious question significant elements of his story.

8. Irving expands with lurid details of an event as to which his purported source is source is totally silent.

I do not have the time or energy to exhaust the examples of the above frailties of methodology, but will give at least one example of each. Anyone interested in a more exhaustive compilation and thoroughly damning analysis of Irving’s treatment of the evidence in the various editions of his book on Dresden may consult without charge Section 5.2 of Richard Evans’ Report to the Court in Irving v. Penguin Books, to be found under “Evidence” on the following site:

http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.com/ieindex.html

or in Chapter 5 of Evans Book, which is thoroughly footnoted. Professor Evans had the benefit of access to Irving’s diaries, correspondence, memos and notes; he testified in court under oath as to the accuracy of his Report and was subjected to cross-examination as an expert witness.

But first, as a basis for viewing the gravity of certain of his failings, I believe it vital to recognize that the basic thrust of Irving’s book was in its shock value – the theris that the Dresden air raid was the very worst of the worst - , and that absolutely crucial to that thesis was his casualty estimate, because to make the point stick the Dresden death toll had to be vastly higher than any other bombing raid in Germany, but even higher yet than for Tokyo, Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

This is made painfully clear by the strident claims for the Book:

The subtitle of the Book was

The Most Appalling Air Attack of WWII”.


The reviews on the back cover are headed up by the legend in large red block type

THE MOST LETHAL AIR ATTACK IN HISTORY”.


The first page of the Book is captioned

THE STORY THAT COULD NEVER BE TOLD


and continues:

THE DESTRUCTION OF DRESDEN is the story of the greatest single massacre in human history – and the most controversial episode of World War II.
[paragraph omitted]

For seven days and eight nights the city burned, and in the holocaust 135,000 died. [My emphasis]”


In his Preface at 11, Irving states that the air attack

“is estimated authoritatively to have killed more than 135,000 of the population of a city swollen to twice its peacetime size by a massive influx of refugees from the East, Allied and Russian prisoners of war, and thousands of forced laborers.” [My emphasis.]


Ad. 1 -No Bibliography
There is none in the Book.

Ad. 2 – Inadequacy of Footnotes. Irving provides no source at this point for either the death toll figure or the “swollen to twice its peacetime size” assertion. Later on he states in the text at 227-229 that the 135,000 “authoritative estimate” (but without the “more than”qualifier ) is attributable to one Hanns Voigt, where he elsewhere identifies (at 203-4) as an assistant schoolmaster who was recruited to set up an office in the Vermissten-Nachweise-Zentrale (Central Missing Persons Bureau). He footnotes no source for his statement as to Voigt’s death estimate, but footnotes “Voigt’s diary”, without page number or date of entry, as his source for his description of Voigt’s appointment and the work of his office. It is not clear, however, that Irving ever had direct access to Voigt’s diaries, but rather appears that he obtained his information from conversations and correspondence with Voigt in the early 1960’s. See Evans Book at 151-2.

Overall, while relatively non-controversial statements of facts are footnoted to written source and page number, more controversial statements supporting Irving’s basic themes are either not footnoted at all or are sourced as “conversations with Herr So-and-so” or “statement of Frau What’s-her-name” or “interview with Mr. Whosis” so that the reader is unable to verify the source or its context.

Ad. 3 – Ignoring Contradictory Sources. Prior to the 1963 publication of the Book there had been other, much lower, estimates of the Dresden death toll published by what would appear to be authoritative sources. Max Seydewitz, the mayor of Dresden, had early on published a book which estimated the death toll at around 50,000, and cited some 29,000 as the numbers buried in Dresden’s principal cemetery. Georg Feydt, an engineer with the Dresden Air Raid Precautions Section, had already published his estimate of slightly under 40,000. Irving was aware of both publications and cites them for different points in his footnotes; indeed, he specifically noted in his text, at 214-5, the burial numbers that Seydewitz had published, and that Feydt, whom he cites as Dresden’s Chief Civil Defense engineer, had written that by May 6, 1945 – almost three months after the raid – the official number of dead was announced at slightly less than 50,000. He also states that by the same date Hanss Voigt’s office had been able to identify almost 40,000 dead.

But nowhere does Irving make a serious attempt to reconcile these figures with the over threefold greater estimate of 135,000 which he credits to Hanss Voigt as the “authoritative estimate”.

Ad. 4. Unquestioning Acceptance of Highly Questionable Facts . With no other support to prop it up, and in the face of other substantially lower estimates, Irving blithely accepts Voigt’s 135,000 figure as the “authoritative estimate” of the Dresden death toll. Irving recognized that by early May, three months after the raid, Voigt himself had been able to identify only some 40,000 dead. But Irving apparently did not bother (or did not dare) to ask himself (or Voigt) the obvious question “where were the missing 95,000 corpses? ” Surely after three months they could not have been still lying around unburied. But if still buried in the rubble or incinerated into unrecognizable ashes how could one even guess how many there were? But apparently no such questions came to Irving’s mind. He attempted to deal, at 227, with the huge discrepancy in numbers by explaining that when Voigt presented his 135,000 death estimate to the newly arrived Soviet occupation authorities they refused to accept it and summarily struck off the first digit. Which simply blinks at the question of the missing corpses. But for the raid to be “the most lethal air attack in history” or “the greatest single massacre in human history” the death toll obviously had to beat some 40,000 dead in Hamburg, 85,000 dead in Tokyo and 72,000 at Hiroshima.

Ad. 5 Ignoring contradictions from His Own Sources. In explaining how Voigt’s 135,000 death toll estimate was reduced to 35,000 Irving states at 227-8 that it was done arbitrarily by “the Soviet occupation authorities, [who] true to their insistence that the Allied air forces were not an effective weapon of war, refused to accept the estimate of 135,000 dead…and, according to Voigt ‘calmly struck off the first digit.’” Farfetched as this explanation may seem, Irving evidently thought it more plausible than the explanation which Voight had come up with in a letter he wrote to Irving in September 1962, before the Book was published, stating that it was the Dresden German officials who reduced the figure “out of fear of the ‘Big Four’ so as not to speak ill of them.” Evans Book at 151. Irving offers no corroborating evidence of any kind to support either explanation, and either way, to my perhaps oversensitive nostrils both explanations have a strong aroma of fish to them, which Irving makes no attempt to dispel.

Ad. 6. Thin air fabrications. Irving offers no support whatsoever for the statement in his Preface that Dresden had “swollen to twice its peacetime size” at the time of the air raid. As Dresden’s peacetime population was around 650,000 this would have made its population in February of 1945 about 1.3 million. And a significant portion of its peacetime citizenry was presumably absent, having been called to arms. What was the source of this astonishing increase of over 650,000? Irving states in his Appendix 2, at 262, that there were some 300,000 to 400,000 homeless refugees in the city before the raids, which would leave over 250,000 to 350,000 unaccounted for. But Irving offers no source for either his refugee figures or for the composition of the balance. For all the reader can tell, the numbers simply were off the top of his head. Or maybe not quite. Perhaps he felt an inflated estimate of population made his 135,000 casualty estimate more plausible. Against a 650,000 population a death toll of 135,000 would mean a casualty rate of about 21%, as compared to a death rate from the Hamburg firestorm of about 3% of its population. To make a death toll of 135,000 credible Dresden’s population at the time of the air raids would have to have been very substantially greater. But even at a population of 1.3 million, the resulting 10% death rate is over 3 times Hamburg’s. Irving apparently recognizes the discrepancy and tries, at 228-9, to justify his high percentage on the grounds of population density, but not only does his logic fail to hold, and is placed in question by his own Appendices II and III ( for which, again, no source is provided), but he further cites no source for any of the figures he quotes in his text.

Ad. 7 Ignoring Available Contradictory Sources. Irving’s cited sources for his graphic and lurid account of the strafing of civilians, at 196-7, by US Mustang fighters On February 14th , are Seydewitz’ Zerstörung und Neu Aufbau von Dresden (Berlin 1955) but with no page citation, together with “further reports of strafing from Herr Nagel [whoever he may be], and from Prisoner of War John Heard [likewise].” However, readily accessible documents in the US National Archives in Washington, D.C. clearly refute this claim, and demonstrate that although strafing attacks did take place, they were carried out over Prague, not Dresden, and that a specific strafing incident described by Irving in a later edition of the Book actually occurred at Donauwörth, some 210 miles West of Dresden. See Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 (Harper Collins, 2004) Appendix A and endnotes and at 433 for the Donauwörth incident.

And on this point I can’t resist recounting another incident. In early 1965 one Theo Miller, who was a member of the Dresden Clearing Staff in 1945 with responsibility for keeping track of the number of bombing deaths, wrote Irving complaining of his allegation of a 135,000 death toll. Miller stated that by mid-March, 1945, his task was almost completed – the city was free of corpses – and he was accordingly ordered to return to his Division in Latvia. At that point of time his records according to his best recollection showed approximately 30,000 corpses. He went on in a postscript to deny that the death toll could have possibly exceeded 50,000 – pointing out that the corpses had either to be buried or burnt in the Altmarkt, and that as some 25,000 had been buried, it would have simply been impossible logistically to transport and incinerate the remaining 110,000 in the Altmarkt on a grate of about 70 x 10 meters. Evans Book at 165-6. Irving gave no heed whatsoever to Miller’s correspondence, and indeed raised his death estimate in the 1965 and 1966 editions of the Book to 250,000 on the basis of a copy of a copy which in his 1963 Book he had proclaimed fraudulent, and which was later definitively proved to be such.

Ad. 8 Embellishment of Source Materials with Lurid Details. Irving cites Seydewitz op cit supra as the primary source for his description of the strafing of civilians by US fighters. But the details were Irving’s own:

But it was not the bombs which finally demoralized the people....it was the Mustang fighters, which suddenly appeared low over the streets, firing on everything that moved, and machine gunning the columns of lorries heading for the city. One section of the Mustangs concentrated on the river banks, where masses of bombed out people had gathered. Another section took on the targets in the Grosser Garten area.
Civilian reaction to these fighter-strafing attacks, which were apparently designed to perfect the task outlined in the air commanders’ Directives as ‘causing confusion in the civilian evacuation from the East’, was immediate and universal; they realised that they were absolutely helpless.
American fighters strafed Tiergartenstrasse, the road bordering the Grosser- Garten on the southern side. Here the remnants of the famous Kreuzkirche children’s choir had taken refuge. Casualties on record here include the Choir Inspector, seriously wounded, and one of the choir boys killed. British prisoners who had been released from their burning camps were among those to suffer the discomfort of machine-gunning attacks on the river banks and have confirmed the shattering effect on morale. Wherever columns of tramping people were marching in or out of the city they were pounced on by the fighters, and machine-gunned or raked with machine gun fire.
It is certain that many casualties were caused by this low-level strafing of the city, which later became a permanent feature of the American attacks.



Well, this has become far too long, and on the other hand not long enough to sufficiently condemn David Irving for all his failures to meet what I consider to be the minimal criteria for a credible and competent historian. Evans Report and Evans Book are well worth reading if one truly has an intest in the subject. IMHO Irving is a charlatan – perhaps indeed a tragic figure, in that he may well have had the seeds of competency within him, and may well have plowed up primary sources which might have otherwise remained undiscovered, and may well have had a literary talent which could lend fascination to otherwise seemingly uninteresting events – but fatally crippled and discredited as a historian by his sloppy and ultimately dishonest methodology.

Regards, Kaschner

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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 28 Mar 2005 09:31

Off topic,but relevant to claims of 'manipulation' of sources was the recent Australian experience,with the publication of Keith Windschuttle's The Fabrication of Aboriginal History.

http://www.sydneyline.com/NSW%20HSC%20e ... 202004.htm

Windschuttle's savage critique of academia in the History departments of Australian universities unfortunately proves correct in most counts,especially with the contents of footnotes quoted that greatly vary from the findings of the source quoted.

Let me finish by emphasizing that all historians have a public responsibility to report their evidence fully and accurately and to cite their sources honestly. To pretend that facts do not matter and that acceptable interpretations can be drawn from false or non-existent evidence is to abandon the pursuit of historical truth altogether. Historians who do so betray their professional duty to preserve the integrity of the ancient discipline of history itself.

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Postby michael mills » 28 Mar 2005 13:38

On the question of German civilian refugees temporarily squatting in Dresden, are there any data in any other source?

Has it been demonstrated that there were no refugees squatting in Dresden at the time of the air-raids, or that their numbers were minimal?

I seem to recall that Kurt Vonnegut saw cartloads of refugees passing through Dresden when he was a POW there held in Schlachthof 5.

In any case, in early 1945 some millions of German civilians from the territories east of the Oder were fleeing to the West, and it is a reasonable assumption that numbers of them passed through Dresden.

I would say myself that Irving's failure to give a source for his statements about the presence of large numbers of unrecorded refugees in Dresden does not necessarily mean that he fabricated the claim out of thin air, as Mr Kaschner concludes. That claim would need to be checked against other sources, such as histories of the mass flight from the East.

As for the claim about low-level strafing of civilians by fighters, my understanding is that some survivors actually made that claim. It seems to me unlikely that the claim would have been totally fabricated, and it might be a case of a relatively small incident, say one strafing pass by a small number of aircraft, being exaggerated into something more major.

To my mind, the only situation in which it could be said with certainty that no strafing occurred would be if the position of all Allied fighter aircraft on the days of the Dresden raid or immediately thereafter was known, and none was anywhere near Dresden. If any fighter aircraft had been near Dresden at the relevant time, then some of them could have shot up a refugee convoy while passing over it, perhaps for a bit of sport, and simply not reported the incident officially.

I recall seeing colour footage taken by a forward-facing camera mounted in a Mustang that was strafing ground targets, and one of the targets engaged was a horse and cart. So it seems to me entirely possible that Allied fighters roaming in search of ground targets of opportunity could have shot up a group of refugees.

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Postby Boby » 28 Mar 2005 14:03

Yes, from David Irving Website:
Image

Regards

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Postby Fugazi » 28 Mar 2005 16:55

Thanks very much for such a comprehensive reply Mr Kaschner. I must say there have been occasions on reading books by David Irving where this not particularly observant reader has also noticed statements that demand to be sourced with a footnote, and aren't.

I have no argument with most of your points, but do have a few comments:

1. I don't think Irving made up the stories about strafing, because as I mentioned, Alexander McKee included in his book accounts from named witnesses who described being strafed by American fighters. Taylor's point about fighters flying low and shooting at each other being easily mistaken by people on the ground for strafing attacks would be one plausible explanation for these accounts.

2. I don't think the proportion of the city's population killed would be comparable between Hamburg and Dresden. If we were to assume for a moment that in both cases, a roughly similar number of bombers dropped a roughly similar tonnage of bombs and created a firestorm, we could expect a roughly similar area of housing to be destroyed, and maybe a similar number of people. But in Dresden, that area of housing and number of people would be a much greater proportion of the city than in Hamburg, because Dresden was a much smaller city. I haven't looked to see if the area destroyed was similar in each case, but I think the principle that proportionality couldn't be expected is sound enough.

3. This is one reason I'm suspicious of the 25,000 figure as final death toll for Dresden. If a similar raid could cause over 40,000 deaths in Hamburg, which was far better equipped with anti-aircraft defences and air raid shelters, and had highly-experienced emergency services personnel and no refugees , it seems odd that the Dresden toll should be so much lower. (Not that the Dresden raid would be any more or less morally reprehensible depending on the figure).

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Postby WalterS » 28 Mar 2005 18:31

Bravo to Mr Kaschner for a most excellent post.

Let's also not forget that most of the German Army's transport was horse drawn. It is entirely possible that Allied pilots attacked what they thought were military columns. Taylor largely debunks the Irving myth that Allied fighters indiscriminately strafed civilians in and around Dresden. That does not mean that isolated incidents did not occur. Our Polish friends have reminded us often of alleged Luftwaffe attacks against refugee columns in Poland in 1939.

Fugazi wrote:

3. This is one reason I'm suspicious of the 25,000 figure as final death toll for Dresden. If a similar raid could cause over 40,000 deaths in Hamburg, which was far better equipped with anti-aircraft defences and air raid shelters, and had highly-experienced emergency services personnel and no refugees , it seems odd that the Dresden toll should be so much lower. (Not that the Dresden raid would be any more or less morally reprehensible depending on the figure).


Hamburg's population in 1943 was over twice that of Dresden in 1945, though Dresden did have some refugees, the number of which is in dispute. Geographically, the area of devastation in Hamburg was considerably larger than that of Dresden. (Comparison of Middlebrook's map of Hamburg with Taylor's map of Dresden). Although Hamburg's flak defenses in 1943 were quite considerable they did not significantly hinder the RAF attacks on that city. German nightfighter activity was minimal due to the RAF's introduction of "window."

Taylor cites 35,000-40,000 killed at Dresden, while Middlebrook cites 46,000 total for the Hamburg raids, and Dr Hayward postulates upwards of 25,000 for the Stalingrad raids. All seem reasonable to me.


Finally, to add a thought or two to Mr Kaschner's post:

The reason that Prof Evans examined Irving's Dresden book was to use it as a "test case" for comparison with Irving's Holocaust writings. In other words, the defense in the libel suit brought by Irving asked Evans to pick a non-Holocaust topic that Irving had written about and examine it for its truth and reliability. Evans chose Irving's writings about Dresden, with the results described above by Mr Kaschner.

What Evans's review, and the trial itself, revealed was that for Irving everything was Holocaust related. Or, more accurately, Holocaust denial related. He attempted to exculpate Hitler and the Nazi regime from any complicity in genocide by claiming that no such thing happened, while, at the same time, attempting to elevate the actions of the Allies to equivalent criminal status: thus, the Dresden lies.

"A knotted web of distortions, suppressions and manipulations became evident in every single instance which we examined." This was how Richard Evans described, in the opening pages of his expert report, his foray through Irving's writings on the Holocaust. In the next paragraph, Evans admitted that he had been caught unaware: "I was not prepared for the sheer depths of duplicity which I encountered in Irving's treatment of historical sources, nor for the way in which this dishonesty permeated his entire written and spoken output. It is as all pervasive in his early work as it is in his later publications....... His numerous mistakes.... are calculated and deliberate." Evans and his researchers..... did not have to balance Irving's distortions against his use of legitimate methods of historical inquiry. They did not have to do so because they found distortions in "every single instance [they] examined."


Deborah Lipstadt, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving." p. 67

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Postby michael mills » 29 Mar 2005 04:41

As a general comment, I would agree with Mr Kaschner that a competent historian should eschew such things as "unquestioning acceptance of highly questionable facts (sic! - perhaps 'claims' would be better)", and "embellishment of source materials with lurid details".

To the extent that those faults occur in Irving's books (and they are not noticeable in his major books that I have read, such as "Hitler's War" and "Uprising"), he is to be criticised.

But if anyone wants to see examples of "unquestioning acceptance of highly questionable claims" and "embellishment with lurid details", check out this thread on the "comfort women".

viewtopic.php?t=37660&start=30.

It would appear that acceptance of claims is "questionable" and details "lurid" only when they occur in relation to allegations relating to actions by the Western Allies. When it comes to allegations relating to actions by, in this case, Japanese forces, any claim, and details, is to be accepted at face value, no matter how lurid.

The above thread also provides good examples of "ignoring contrary sources", as for example where UN reports totally ignore the documentary evidence for the regulation of the payment and working conditions of the "comfort women" in favour of accepting the most lurid and unsubstantiated accounts from a very small number of persons.

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Postby David Thompson » 29 Mar 2005 06:42

Michael -- You said:
It would appear that acceptance of claims is "questionable" and details "lurid" only when they occur in relation to allegations relating to actions by the Western Allies. When it comes to allegations relating to actions by, in this case, Japanese forces, any claim, and details, is to be accepted at face value, no matter how lurid.

Your remarks above are merely a distraction in this thread. Please post your comments to the thread under discussion, or start a new thread about the unfairness of it all. As for this thread, let's stay with the subject of Mr. Irving and his writings.

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Postby michael mills » 29 Mar 2005 07:32

I do not need to start a new thead since I have referred readers to an existing thread that contains examples of "lurid embellishments" in accounts of wartime happenings.

I will let readers consult the material on that thread, so that they may compare those "lurid embellishments" with those attributed to David Irving. They can make up their own minds as to where, in either case, fact ends and "lurid embellishment" begins.

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Postby Georg_S » 29 Mar 2005 08:12

I am not trying to defend or judge Irving
as Max History wrote, he is an excellente Historian, but of
course must he tell his sources in a important book such
as the one about Dresden.
The figure 135 000 dead is in my eyes about what I believe
died those two horrible days of Dresdens history.

I will here write what other authors have written about the
number of how many who died that days. It´s not only he who have found that
high numbers.

1. Axel Rodenberger - "Der tod von Dresden" published 1955

page 16-17: - Im Febr. 1945 kannte man die Atombombe noch nicht. Die Erste
fiel erst ein halbes Jahr später. Dann folgte die zweite und beendeteden Krieg mit Japan
Über 100 000 Japaner verloren ihr Leben.
Die Atombombe für Deutschland waren die Angriffe vom 13-14 Febr. 1945 auf Dresden.
Diese Angriff übertrafen selbst die wirkung der Atombombe, und die Zahl der
Dresdner Opfer liegt weitaus höher.


2. Max Seydewitz - "Die Unbesiegtbare Stadt - Zerstörung und wiederaufbau von Dresden" published 1956

page 152: - Die Hartnäckigkeit der Gerüchte über die vielen Hunderttausend Todesopfer
zwang schiesslich die Nazibehörden zu einer Stellungnahme, die jedoch nicht in der Presse
veröffentlich wurde. Am 23. März - also fünf Wochen nach dem 13 Febr. - gab "Der Höhere
Polizei- und SS-Führer - Der Befehlshaber der Ordnungspolizei" eienen Tagesbefehl nr. 47 heraus,
in dem ein zusammenfassender Bericht über die Verluste beim Luftangriff gegeben wurde.
Diese Tagesbefehl begann mit folgenden Worten;
"Um den Wilden Gerüchten entgegentreten zu können, folgt nachstehender kurzer Auszug aus der
Schlussaufstellung des Polizipräsidenten von Dresden über die vier Angriffe am 13., 14. und 15.
Febr. 1945."
Nach einer Mitteilung, wieviel Bomben insgesamt bei den Luftangriffen auf Dresden abgeworfen
wurden und was für ein Schaden dadurch entstanden war, wurde dann über die Todesopfer folgendes
Bericht gegeben:
"Bis zum 20 März 1945 abends wurden 202 040 Tote, überwiegend Frauen und Kinder, Geborgen.
Es ist damit zu rechnen, dass die Zahl auf 250 000 Tote ansteigen wird."
Von den Toten kommten nur annähernd 30% identifiziert werden. Da der Abtransporte der Toten
nicht rectzeitig und rasch vonstatten gehen konnte, wurde 68 650 Gefallene eingeäschert, die Asche auf
einem Friedhof beogesetzt."

Die Zahl von 250 000, die in dem Tagesbefehl angegeben wurde, ist offensichtlich ebenso falsch wie die in
den Gerüchten verbreiteten noch wesentlich höheren Zahlen.
(a jump to page 156 - Georg)
- Erst die nach 8 Mai 1945 eingesetzten demokratischen Behörden versuchte, die wirkliche Zahl bei der Zerstörung
Umgekommenen zu ermitteln. ALle darüber noch vorhandenen Unterlagen wurden zusammengetragen, vor allem
Berichte über die Zahl der auf den Friedhöfen beerdigten und auf dem Altmarkt verbrannten Todesopfer.
Ergänzt wurde das durch spätere Zeugenaussagen derer, die auf Grund ihrer früheren Tätigkeit über die
damaligen Vorgänge und inbesondere über das Zusammentragen und Werbringen der Leichen unterricht waren.
So hat zum beispiel der Leiter des damaligen Bergungstrupp, Herr Scheidmann, angegeben, dass auf dem
Altmarkt 9000 Menschen verbrannt wurden. Obergärtner Zeppenfeld, der die Beerdigungsarbeitn auf dem Heidefriedhof
leitete, hat berichten dass auf diesem Friedhof insgesamt 28 746 Leichen beigesetzt wurden, einschliesslich
der Asche der auf dem Altmarkt verbrannten. Rechnet man dazu dieauf den anderen Friedhöfen Bergrabenen, so
ergab das eine Zahl von mindestens 35 000 Todensopfer.

3. Walter Weidauer - "Inferno Dresden" Published 1965
Page 83: Die ersten Schätzungen der Zahl der Opfer wurden von den Faschistichen Organen in Dresden selbst
vorgenommen. Sie beliefen sich auf 60 000 Tote. Im "Kriegstagenuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht
(Wehrmachtführungsstab)" findet sich folgende Eintragung "Den Höhepunkt der Aktion zur Einschüchterung bildete
der Angriff auf das von Flüchtinge vollgestpfte Dresden (13./14. Febr.1945) erst mit Brand-, dann mit Sprengbomben
(Schätzungsweise 60 000 Tote)."

4. Alexander McKee - "Dresden 1945 - Das Deutsche Hiroschima" Published 1983
Page 323: - Dieses Opfer bedeutete den Untergang einer der blühendstens Städte Europas, den Tod einer nicht
und niemals endgültig festzustellenden Zahl von Menschen. Die Schätzungen schwanken zwischen 30 000 und 300 000
Die Stadt war Knotenpunkt der Flüchtlingsströme, die vor dem immer näher herandrückenden sowjetischen Truppen nach
Westen gedrängt wurden. Militärisch war Dresden unintressant - ein Bauer eben auf dem Schachbrett.

***********

I am sorry that all are in German, but I hope you understand. I have some more books concerning Dresden but those is
what I have collected to use, and I most make a remark that what I meant above about that I believe that atleast 135 000
died one those days in 1945 is just a personal opinion that I have.

//Georg

walterkaschner
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Postby walterkaschner » 29 Mar 2005 09:40

michael mills wrote:On the question of German civilian refugees temporarily squatting in Dresden, are there any data in any other source?

Has it been demonstrated that there were no refugees squatting in Dresden at the time of the air-raids, or that their numbers were minimal?

I seem to recall that Kurt Vonnegut saw cartloads of refugees passing through Dresden when he was a POW there held in Schlachthof 5.

In any case, in early 1945 some millions of German civilians from the territories east of the Oder were fleeing to the West, and it is a reasonable assumption that numbers of them passed through Dresden.

I would say myself that Irving's failure to give a source for his statements about the presence of large numbers of unrecorded refugees in Dresden does not necessarily mean that he fabricated the claim out of thin air, as Mr Kaschner concludes. That claim would need to be checked against other sources, such as histories of the mass flight from the East.

As for the claim about low-level strafing of civilians by fighters, my understanding is that some survivors actually made that claim. It seems to me unlikely that the claim would have been totally fabricated, and it might be a case of a relatively small incident, say one strafing pass by a small number of aircraft, being exaggerated into something more major.

To my mind, the only situation in which it could be said with certainty that no strafing occurred would be if the position of all Allied fighter aircraft on the days of the Dresden raid or immediately thereafter was known, and none was anywhere near Dresden. If any fighter aircraft had been near Dresden at the relevant time, then some of them could have shot up a refugee convoy while passing over it, perhaps for a bit of sport, and simply not reported the incident officially.

I recall seeing colour footage taken by a forward-facing camera mounted in a Mustang that was strafing ground targets, and one of the targets engaged was a horse and cart. So it seems to me entirely possible that Allied fighters roaming in search of ground targets of opportunity could have shot up a group of refugees.


OK, first as to the refugees.

There were certainly many hundreds of thousands - even into the millions - of refugees who fled in advance of the Soviet armies in late 1944 into the Spring of 1945. My wife's Grandmother and Great-Aunt, plus several other more distant relatives, all from in or around Breslau in Silesia, were among them. But the refugees did not all flee at once nor did they all pass through Dresden. For example, Irving himself states, at 91, that from Breslau alone over 60,000 civilians had already been evacuated since the autumn of 1944.

But there indeed must have been many thousands of refugees in Dresden on February 13, 1945. The problem with Irving is not that he is fabricating the fact of refugees, but that he is fabricating the number - in that he has, or at least he offers us, no source for his numbers which, moreover, seem internally highly inconsistent. In his Preface Irving tells us, in justification to the otherwise astonishing 135,000 asserted death toll, (over three times that of Hamburg, with a population of 1.6 million) that Dresden had swollen to twice its normal size of 650,000, which, he claims, was due to "a massive influx of refugees from the East, Allied and Russian prisoners of war, and thousands of forced laborers." He fails to tell us there or elsewhere the source for his calculation of the over 650,000 population increase.

Nor is he of much help in informing us of the breakdown of its various components, although in Section 2 of his Appendix II (which, although replete with various figures, gives no source for the derivation of any of them) he states that there were "some 300,000 to 400,000 'homeless' refugees in the city before the raids" - by which I assume he meant at the time of the raids. Which would leave 250,000 to 350,000 as the number of POWs and forced laborers. But although there were indeed POW camps in the vicinity of Dresden, there were none in the city itself. As Irving was later informed by the Swiss Red Cross "There were no PoW camps in Dresden itself, and consequently Mr. Kleinert's reports [a Red Cross representative who was inspecting the PoW camps at the time of the air raids] did not even allude to the air raids on the town." Evans Book at 163. So without the PoWs, the balance of the population increase would have to consist of forced laborers, but Irving gives no hint as to what in the world so many were doing there.

One would suppose that a sudden influx of 650,000 people into a city already of that size would have led to generally chaotic conditions, and that is the picture that Irving portrays. Yet Georg Feydt, at the time of the raid the Dresden Civil Defense Engineer, wrote in 1953 that "I cannot imagine a more peaceful and calm picture than Dresden on the afternoon of 13 February 1945." Götz Bergander, who at 18 had been assigned to help accommodate the incoming refugees, writing in 1977 remembered that most of them had somehow been quartered in emergency accomodations. He went on to estimate that on the 13-14 of February 9,000 had been temporarily lodged in the railway stations; 6,000 had been trecking with carts spread out over the whole of the city and 85,000 had been staying in emergency accommodations. There was no forced billeting in private homes or huge temporary camps erected. Bergander then doubled his estimate to include those who may have found their own lodging for the night, resulting in an estimate of 200,000 refugees.

The historian Friedrich Reichert, writing in 1994, quoted witnesses who attested to the fact that there was no billeting of refugees in either private houses or in public parks or squares, pointed out that due to numbers of men who were away on active service Dresden's resident population had dropped to 567,000, and to this added 100,000 temporary refugees to arrive at the city's total population at the time of the raids. Rudolf Förster's Article "Dresden", in Hiller, Jäckel and Rohwer (eds.) Städte in 2. Weltkrieg: Ein Internationaler Vergleich (Essen, 1991) ( Cities in the Second World War: An International Comparison) had come up with the same number of refugees.

And Irving himself wrote, at 106, that military police had been stationed Dresden's outskirts to direct refugees with horses and carts round the city, allowing entrance only to those on foot and those only for three days.

Yet in his 1995 edition Irving's alleged number of refugees in Dresden had increased from the 300,000 to 400,000 stated in one place in his original 1963 Book to "one or two million refugees".

As far as I know, the only attempt Irving ever made was to substantiate his "swollen to its double size" assertion for Dresden's population was in his 1966 Corgi paperback edition where he claimed that the Dresden City authorities had issued 1,250,000 ration cards by the time of the raids, citing statistics "provided by Mr. Howard Gee [further unidentified], who was given them [by whom? unanswered!] during a visit in June, 1963." This fact disappeared from the 1995 edition because as Irving himself admitted he had subsequently become aware that the Allies had dropped millions of fake ration cards to confuse the population and hamper the German administration.

The above is based primarily upon Evans Report and Evans Book at 172-5. Evans concludes at 172 that "It seemed obvious to me in the light of the increase which they underwent between the 1966 and 1995 editions of his book that these figures [as to the number of refugees in Dresden at the time of the raids] were entirely arbitrary. At no point did Irving give a source for any of them. They were figments of his own imagination."

I personally think Evans' judgemnt, harsh as it is, is overly kind. I may be a crabbed old cynic, but I've been told a pretty hefty passel of lies in my day, even many by my own clients, and have heard told at least a hundred times more. I've come to look for a hidden motive when I smell a whopper, and in Irving's case I can't help but ask myself: How can you tout a book as an exposé of "The Most Lethal Air Attack in History" and "the single greatest massacre in human history" (see my immediately previous post) without coming up with a death toll far and above that of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Hamburg or any other city bombed to smithereens in WWII?

Answer: You can't!

Next question: how can you produce a death toll in a city of 650,000 population which toll exceeds by over 3 times that produced by the fire storm in Hamburg, which latter city had about 1 million more residents? [ yes, Hamburg may have been better defended, but despite that as Irving himself states, Appendix II, it endured more than twice the tonnage of bombs dropped and had almost twice the number of people rendered homeless as did Dresden.]

And, as a follow up: how can you possibly explain the totally disproportionate death toll of over 20 times that which you yourself quote, at 52, as resulting from the firestorm at Kassel, when Dresden's permanent population was less than 3 times Kassel's, its total homes destroyed less than 3 times Kassel's and the total tonnage of bombs dropped less than 2 times that on Kassel????

Answer to both: Easy! You just pack Dresden to the very hilt with however many refugees you think it takes to give your figure at least a semblance of credibility!

Note: Alexander McGee, who in his The Devil's Tinderbox: Dresden, 1945 (London 1982) ends up taking Seydewitz' original 35,000 figure, and then on the basis of poor air raid protection and the number of refugees in the city (as to neither of which can I understand the relevance to the number of corpses actually counted) suggests it might be doubled to 70,000 "without fear of exaggeration". See Taylor, cited in my immediately preceding post, at 446, and hereafter simply "Taylor". But as Taylor suggests, what is one to do if one entitles the German edition of one's book Das Deutsche Hiroshima (The German Hiroshima)?

Now as to strafing.

In my immediately previous post I quoted Irving's vivid account and his certainty that "many casualties were caused by this low level strafing of the city", although the only specific casualties he cites were in fact caused by the British bombing the day before, as indicated by the very source he cited. He also reports, at 198, that one Mustang fighter had machine gunned three hospital blocks. As sources for this he gives Max Seydewitz, one Herr Nagel and one PoW John Heard, neither of the latter two are further identified. In his note, he also refers to a report by a "Breslau woman" and names her, but it is unclear whether this reference has anything to do with the strafing.

Ir researching for his own book, Götz Bergander managed to locate and interview Irving's witness to the alleged Tiergartenstrasse strafing - presumably Herr Nagel - who told him that in fact he himself had been unconscious at the time suffering from a shrapnel wound (not a machine-gun wound) from the bombing, but had been told of the strafing by others. Moreover, he said that the purported incident occured on the night of the 13th, when no American, but only British aircraft were involved, and none likely capable of strafing. Probably what had been observed were Mosquito tactical bombers flying low to mark the target. Irving conveniently changed the date to the much more plausible next day, when the American daylight raid was made and the bombers were indeed accompanied by Mustang fighters.

At 164-5 of the Book, Irving describes at some length and in detail his version of a briefing that the pilots of the "A" and "B" Groups of P-51 Mustang pilots received prior to take off. As Irving would have it, the "B" Group pilots were to remain with the bombers, but:

"A"Group pilots were briefed that as soon as the bombers attack on Dresden was over, they were to dive to roof-top level and strafe what were euphemistically referred to as "targets of opportunity". Columns of soldiers being marched into or out of the wrecked city were to be machine-gunned, lorries lorries attacked by cannon fire, and locomotives and other transportation targets destroyed by rockets.


In his 1996 Corgi paperback edition, he added the following to the above:

Most of the pilots appear from eye-witness accounts to have decided that the safest attacking runs could be made along the Elbe river banks. Others attacked transport on the roads leading out of the city, crowded with columns of people. One ‘A’ Group P-51 of the 55th Fighter Squadron flew so low that it crashed into a wagon and exploded. The other fighter-pilots were, however, disappointed by the lack of opportunities for combat, especially the crews of the ‘B’ Group aircraft.


As a source for the above briefing and its results Irving gives "the account contained in the 20th Fighter Intelligence Bulletin for 14th February 1945". That sounds quite authoritative But Bergander pointed out that this ‘source’ is ‘a partly quite free interpretation’ from ‘Kings Cliffe. The 20th Fighter Group’, in which appeared the sentence: ‘Shortly after leaving the target ‘A’ Group hit the deck to strafe enemy transportation but found few targets.’ It also describes an incident where one fighter crashed and exploded. There was no mention of a briefing to "dive over roof tops". Moreover, Bergander discovered that although there had been an attack by Fighter Group "A" that day, it had been made against Prague and not Dresden!! And as early as 1961 Irving had been provided a detailed report by one of the pilots explaining in detail that they had hit Prague and not Dresden!

The written orders for fighter escort on the US Dresden bombing mission on February 14 are available in the National Archives in Washington DC. They contradict everything in Irving's description. The pilots are instructed to make every attempt to conserve gasoline; any stafing will be done on withdrawal; only "A"Groups are to strafe and only at Group Leader's discretion if no enemy aircraft have been encountered or are expected. In US air force terminology "On withdrawal" did not mean "as soon as the bombing attack was over" as Irving would have it, but rather "once the fighters had been withdrawn from their escort duties" which would be long after the bombing run when the risk of encountering enemy fighters was considered minimal.

And it is true that that the records show that a fighter from the 55th Fighter squadron belonging to the 20th Fighter Group was lost in the way that Irving describes. The problem is that the attack was not on a wagon but upon a truck carrying a Wehrmacht colonel, who was killed in the process, and occured near Donauwörth in Western Bavaria, on the fighter's way home from Prague, not Dresden, and over 200 miles West of Dresden.

Dr. Helmuth Schnatz, the author of several articles on the WW II air war in Germany, was inspired by Bergander's book to undertake his own investigation of the Dresden "strafing" allegation. To this he devoted some 10 years, and finally published the results in his Tiefflieger Über Dresden? Legenden und Wirklichkeit (Low Flying Aircraft Over Dresden? Legends or Reality?) (Cologne, 2000), in which his conclusions demonstrated that Irving's "facts" were in truth nothing more than fantasies.

Certainly, as Mr. Mills suggests, it is possible that one of the Mustang fighter pilots accompanying the US bombers on February 14th took off on a strafing foray as a frolic and adventure of his own. But Irving does not treat that as a possibility, but would have us accept it as a certainty! And there is no documentary evidence to support it, and much documentary evidence as well as tactical and logistical considerations to argue against it - to none of which does Irving pay the slightest heed.

The above comments on the strafing issue are based primarily on Evans Report Section 5.2 (c) (i)-(iii) and on Taylor, Appendix A, at 429-42. The former can be viewed at no charge under "Evidence" at:

http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.com/ieindex.html

The latter, unfortunately, is not for free, but can be ordered at a discount through this very site.

As a final - and I really hope final comment - along with Michael Mills, I remember seeing news-reels of US fighter pilots in WW II strafing what were probably civilian refugees and other targets. I don't doubt for a moment that such incidents happened, and regretably and shamefully they were probably all too frequent. I think I even recounted on a post in this Forum that my late wife was strafed by US aircraft on more than one occasion toward the end of the war when she lived in Linz.

But that is far from my point or the topic of this thread. I am not trying here to justify the raid on Dresden, nor the decision making that lead to it, nor the manner in which it was conducted. I don't for a moment dispute the terrible horrors that that the inhabitants of Dresden suffered on those two days 60 years ago - I'm sure they were utterly agonizing and unspeakable.

My point simply is that David Irving can not be trusted as a historian, and frankly I don't see how that can be rationally disputed. Even had he not been held guilty of libel against Captain John Broome in his Convoy PQ 17 book, even had he not gone down in flames in his own libel case against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, in the case of his Dresden book the evidence is overwhelmingly compelling and conclusive. And it simply will not do to argue that the instances I've cited on this and previous posts are "incidental", "relatively minor" or "trivial details" in terms of the overall contents of his book. They form the essential basis for his thesis. Without his exaggerated death toll figure, his sales pitch can't stand; without his refugee numbers his death toll can't stand; and without his lurid strafing legend the tale loses a significant portion of its horror and weakends his grounds for indictment of the cold and calculated inhumanity of the Allied air force leadership.

Again, with apologies for the length of this diatribe, and with regards, a weary Kaschner

Regards, Kaschner

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Postby walterkaschner » 29 Mar 2005 10:13

Well, I had hoped to be rid of this thread with my last post, but see that during my dinner and nightcap break a couple of posts have arrived to which I can't resist responding.

To Michael Mills: I don't for the life of me see how the existence of other lurid and unsuported claims - and of those there are indeed an over abundance - in any way cleanses or validates those of David Irving.

To Georg: I am well aware of the sources you cite, and also of the new book byWolfgang Schaarschmidt Dresden 1945: Daten - Fakten - Opfer (Herbig-Verlag, München 2005) which appeared last month and which you might wish to add to your collection of exaggerated estimates. Of course you are entitled to your own opinion- even if it holds that the moon is made of green cheese. I can only suggest that if you are seriously interested in determining the truth of the matter you take a look at or invest in (or obtain through your library) the links and sources I have cited previously - Bergander, Reichert, Schnatz, Evans, Taylor - a fair reading of which will, I believe, convince you that a death toll of 135,000 from the Dresden air raid can not be supported, either by documentation, by logic or by comparable experience.

Regards and good night, Kaschner

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Postby Georg_S » 29 Mar 2005 12:48

walterkaschner wrote:
To Georg: I am well aware of the sources you cite, and also of the new book byWolfgang Schaarschmidt Dresden 1945: Daten - Fakten - Opfer (Herbig-Verlag, München 2005) which appeared last month and which you might wish to add to your collection of exaggerated estimates. Of course you are entitled to your own opinion- even if it holds that the moon is made of green cheese. I can only suggest that if you are seriously interested in determining the truth of the matter you take a look at or invest in (or obtain through your library) the links and sources I have cited previously - Bergander, Reichert, Schnatz, Evans, Taylor - a fair reading of which will, I believe, convince you that a death toll of 135,000 from the Dresden air raid can not be supported, either by documentation, by logic or by comparable experience.

Regards and good night, Kaschner


Hello

I tried to be polite and humble to write several citats from both sides. When I get that kind of remark because
I have a personal opinion which I also stated, take I as an insult on my intelligence or knowledge of the Second World War.
Which I of course is not an top expert, but I have some knowledge and I also have a free mind which can take its own decisions
etc. That´s why I repeated myself about the figure of 135 000 that it was an personal opinion, which I have gathered after
reading several books about the bombwar against Germany (I have about 200 books on this subject).
I have meet several people who survived such bombings, and I have talked a lot to eldearly German people who have told me how the
situation was for the German people at the end of the war with all the refugees and civilians trying to avoid the advancing Soviet army.
I think regardless off any official numbers, the number of the exact number of dead in Dresden is up to higher authorities to judge.
But during the firestorm in Dresden I believe (Personal) that numbers of thousands vanished totallly and doesn´t leave any trace at all.
my opinion also comes on the number of destroyd flats (homes) in Dresden, which was about 202 000 in totally, of those about 150 000 became totally destroyd. was those homes empty at the night of 13-14 febr. or was almost every one lucky to get away from the houses
and into shelters (who was completely empty of air, because the fire took the all oxygene). On those information I have made the decision
that 135 000 doesn´t sound to high or low.

/Georg


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