The long suppressed story of the worst
massacre in the history of the world.
If the British Commonwealth and the United States last a thousand years, men may
say that this was their darkest hour.
Were all the crimes against humanity committed during World War II the work of
Hitler's underlings? That was certainly the impression created by the fact that
only Germans were brought to trial at Nüremberg. Alas! It is a false
impression. We all now know that in the terrible struggle waged between the Red
Army and the German Wehrmacht, the Russians displayed their fair share of
insensate inhumanity. What is less widely recognized -- because the truth, until
only recently, has been deliberately suppressed -- is that the Western
democracies were responsible for the most senseless single act of mass murder
committed in the whole course of World War II.
The devastation of Dresden in February, 1945, was one of those crimes against
humanity whose authors would have been arraigned at Nüremberg if that Court had
not been perverted into the instrument of Allied justice. Whether measured in
terms of material destruction or by loss of human life, this
"conventional" air raid was far more devastating than either of the
two atomic raids against Japan that were to follow it a few months later. Out of
28,410 houses in the inner city of Dresden, 24,866 were destroyed; and the area
of total destruction extended over eleven square miles.
As for the death roll, the population, as we shall see, had been well nigh
doubled by a last-minute influx of refugees flying before the Red Army; and even
the German authorities -- usually so pedantic in their estimates -- gave up
trying to work out the precise total after some 35,000 bodies had been
recognized, labeled and buried. We do know, however, that the 1,250,000 people
in the city on the night of the raid had been reduced to 368,619 by the time it
was over; and it seems certain that the death roll must have greatly exceeded
the 71,879 at Hiroshima. Indeed, the German authorities were probably correct
who, a few days after the attack, put the total somewhere between 120,000 and
How was this horror permitted to happen? Was it a deliberate and considered act
of policy, or was it the result of one of those ghastly misunderstandings or
miscalculations that sometimes occur in the heat of battle? There are many who
will say that these are academic questions belonging to history. I do not agree.
Of course, what happened at Dresden belongs to the pre-nuclear epoch. But it has
a terrible relevance to the defense strategy which the Western democracies are
operating today. If the crime of Dresden is not to be repeated on a vaster
scale, we must find out why it was committed. That, at least, has been my
feeling, and there are two special reasons which have prompted me to go on
investigating the facts for so many years. In the first place, I was myself
involved in a quite minor capacity in the decisions which preceded it. When the
Germans overran France in 1940 and the Chamberlain Government in London was
replaced by the Churchill Government, there was a purge in Whitehall.
Unexpectedly I found myself recruited to a secret department attached to the
Foreign Office, with the title "Director of Psychological Warfare against
Germany." My main task was to plan the overt and subvert propaganda which
we hoped would rouse occupied Europe against Hitler. But I soon found myself
caught up in a bitter top-secret controversy about the role of bomber offensive
in the breaking of German morale.
The Prime Minister was haunted by fears that the bloodletting of the Somme and
Passchendaele in World War I would have to be repeated if we tried to defeat
Hitler by landing and liberating Europe. So the Air Marshals found it easy to
persuade him that if they were given a free hand they could make these
casualties unnecessary by smashing the German home front into submission. What
Hitler wreaked against London and Coventry, our bombers would repay a
thousandfold, until the inhabitants of Berlin, Hamburg and every other city in
Germany had been systematically "de-housed" and pulverized into
surrender. To achieve this, the Air Marshals demanded that top priority in war
production should be given not to preparations for the second front, but to the
construction of huge numbers of four-engined night bombers.
Eagerly Sir Winston Churchill accepted their advice, with the backing of his
whole Cabinet. The only warning voices raised were those of a number of very
influential scientists who, by means of careful calculations, threw serious
doubt on the physical possibility of wreaking the degree of destruction
required. Their mathematical arguments were reinforced by the studies we
psychological warriors had made of British morale in the blitz. Assuming, wisely
as it worked out, that the German people would behave under air attack at least
as bravely as the British people, we demonstrated that the scale of
frightfulness our bombers could employ against German cities would almost
certainly strengthen civilian morale, and go stimulate the war production that
it was intended to weaken.
Early in 1941, these arguments were finally swept aside, and Britain was
completely committed to the bomber offensive. By the time it reached its first
climax in the raid on Hamburg, however, I had been transferred to Eisenhower's
staff. I was happy, first in North Africa and then in SHAEF, to work with an
Anglo-American staff who did not trouble to conceal how much they detested the
hysterical mania for destruction and the cold-blooded delight in pounding the
German home front to pieces displayed by the big-bomb boys. Indeed, one of my
pleasantest memories is the attitude General Walter Bedell Smith displayed a few
weeks after the Dresden raid. Sir Winston had accused "Ike" of being
soft to the German civilians and ordered him to use terror tactics in order to
panic them out of their homes and onto the roads, and so to block the German
retreat. No one contradicted Sir Winston, but as soon as his back was turned, we
were instructed to work out a directive that would prevent him getting his way.
On V.E. Day, when I flew back to Britain in order to stand as a Labour Candidate
in Coventry, I assumed with relief that my concern with bombing was over. But I
was wrong. Within years, Coventry -- the main victim of the Luftwaffe --
had "twinned" itself with Dresden, the main victim of the R.A.F. And
when Germany was divided and it became difficult for Westerners to go behind the
Iron Curtain, I had a standing invitation to visit Dresden as the guest of its
Lord Mayor. I have done so frequently, and on each occasion I have tried to
match the inside experience of bombing strategy I acquired during the war with
firsthand information from its victims "on the other side of the
hill." I have also checked the published accounts of the destruction of
Dresden available in Western and Eastern Germany, against the official History
of the Strategic Bombing Offensive published only two years ago in Britain.
These researches have left me in no doubt whatever how Dresden was destroyed,
why it was destroyed, and what lessons we must draw from its destruction.
The prelude to the bombing of Dresden was sounded by the Russian communique of
January 12, 1945, which announced that the Red Army had resumed its offensive
all along the front, and was advancing into Prussia and Silesia. This news could
hardly have been more embarrassing, either to General Dwight D. Eisenhower whose
armies were still recovering from the humiliating effects of General Karl von
Rundstedt's Christmas offensive in the Ardennes, or to President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill who were now preparing for the Yalta
Conference due to start on February 4. Since the post war settlement was bound
to be discussed with Josef Stalin in terms not of principle but of pure
politics, Sir Winston felt that the impression created by the Red Army's
occupation of Eastern Europe and advance deep into Germany must somehow be
countered. But how? The obvious answer was by a demonstration right up against
the Red Army of Western air power. What was required, he decided, was a
thunderclap of Anglo-American aerial annihilation so frightful in the
destruction it wreaked that even Stalin would be impressed.
January 25 was the day when the decision was taken that resulted in the blotting
out of Dresden. Until then, the capital of Saxony had been considered so famous
a cultural monument and so futile a military target that even the Commander in
Chief of Bombing Command, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, had given it hardly a
thought. All its flak batteries had been removed for use on the Eastern front;
and the Dresden authorities had taken none of the precautions, either in the
strengthening of air-raid shelters, or in the provision of concrete bunkers that
had so startlingly reduced casualties in other German cities subjected to Allied
attack. Instead, they had encouraged rumors that it would be spared either
because Churchill had a niece living there, or else because it was reserved by
the Allies as their main occupation quarters. These rumors were strengthened by
the knowledge that no less than some 26,000 Allied prisoners were quartered in
and around the city, and that its population had doubled to well over a million
in recent weeks by streams of refugees from the East.
All this Sir Winston knew on January 26. But early on that winter morning he had
learned that the Russian Army had crossed the Oder at Breslav and was now only
sixty miles from Dresden. Angrily he rang up Sir Archibald Sinclair, his
Secretary of State for Air, and asked him what plans he had for "basting
the Germans -- in their retreat from Breslav." Sir Archibald, whose main
function it had been to protect Bomber Command from public criticism by a series
of lying assurances that scrupulous care was taken to bomb only military
targets, remained true to type. He prevaricated over the phone and next day
replied that in the view of the Air Staff "intervention in winter weather
at very long range over Eastern Germany would be difficult." To this the
Premier replied with a memorandum so offensive in its controlled fury that the
Minister and the Air Staff, never noted for their moral courage, were stampeded
into action. At once, orders were given to concert with the American Eighth Air
Force a plan for wiping out Leipzig, Chemnitz and Dresden.
Sir Winston and his staff left for Yalta, where it became only too clear that
the Premier's forebodings were justified. Strengthened by his victories, Stalin
pressed his political demands upon a President now weakened and very near his
death, and a Prime Minister isolated and ill at ease. When suggestions were made
that the Western bombing should be used to help the Red Army advance, the
Russian generals were chilly and unresponsive. Nevertheless, Sir Arthur Harris
had already selected Dresden, now only sixty miles from the front, for
destruction. And day by day, Sir Winston hoped that he would be able to impress
Stalin with the demonstration of what Allied air power could achieve so near the
Russian allies. But the weather was against him. The conference broke up on the
eleventh, and it was only three days later -- long after the conference when it
could no longer have any effect on the negotiations -- that the R.A.F.'s
spokesman in London proudly announced the destruction of Dresden.
We must now turn back and see what the airmen had been planning. Sir Arthur
Harris was quick to seize the opportunity presented by the Prime Minister's
insistence that Bomber Command must make its presence felt in Eastern Germany.
Since 1941, by a slow process of trial and error which had cost him many
thousands of air crews, he had perfected his new technique of "saturation
precision bombardment." First, daylight operations over Germany had been
discarded as too costly; then, with raiding confined to nighttime target
bombing, after a long period of quite imaginary successes, had been abandoned as
too wildly inaccurate. The decision was taken to set each city center on fire
and destroy the residential areas, sector by sector.
In this new kind of incendiary attack, highly trained special crews were sent
ahead to delineate a clearly defined target area with marker flares, nicknamed
by the Germans "Christmas trees." When this had been done, all that
remained for the rest of the bomber forces was to lay its bomb carpet so thickly
that the defense, the A.R.P., the police, and the fire services would all be
This fire-raising technique was first used with complete success in the great
raid on Hamburg. Thousands of individual fires conglomerated into a single
blaze, creating the famous "fire-storms" effect, first described by
the Police President of the city in a secret report to Hitler that soon fell
into Allied hands:
"As the result of the confluence of a number of fires, the air above is
heated to such an extent that in consequence of its reduced specific gravity, a
violent updraft occurs which causes great suction of the surrounding air
radiating from the center of the fire... The suction of the fire storm in the
larger of these area fire zones has the effect of attracting the already
overheated air in smaller area fire zones... One effect of this phenomenon was
that the fire in the smaller area fire zones was fanned as by a bellows as the
central suction of the biggest and fiercest fires caused increased and
accelerated attraction of the surrounding masses of fresh air. In this way all
the area fires became united in one vast fire."
The Hamburg fire storm probably killed some 40,000 people: three-quarters by
carbon-monoxide poisoning as a result of the oxygen being sucked out of the air;
the rest by asphyxiation.
As soon as he heard that permission had been given to destroy Dresden, Air
Marshal Harris decided to achieve this by a deliberately created fire storm, and
to increase the effect he persuaded the Americans to split the available bombers
into three groups. The task of the first wave was to create the fire storm.
Three hours later, a second and much heavier night force of British bombers was
timed to arrive when the German fighter and flak defenses would be off guard,
and the rescue squads on their way. Its task was to spread the fire storm.
Finally, the next morning, a daylight attack by the Eighth Air Force was to
concentrate on the outlying areas, the new city.
Two-pronged attacks had been successfully carried out during 1944 against a
number of German towns. The three-pronged attack employed at Dresden was unique
and uniquely successful. The first wave, consisting of some two hundred fifty
night bombers, arrived precisely on time and duly created a fire storm. The
second force -- more than twice as strong and carrying an enormous load of
incendiaries -- also reached the target punctually, and, undisturbed by flak or
night fighters, spent thirty-four minutes carefully spreading the fires outside
the first target area. Finally, to complete the devastation, some two hundred
eleven Flying Fortresses began the third attack at 11:30 a.m. on the following
morning. Without exaggeration, the commanders could claim that the Dresden raid
had "gone according to plan." Everything which happened in the
stricken city had been foreseen and planned with meticulous care.
So far, we have been looking at the Dresden raid from "our own side of the
hill" -- considering the point of view of Mr. Churchill, concerned to
create the best impression possible on Stalin at the Yalta Conference, and of
Air Marshal Harris, eager to demonstrate the technique for creating a fire
storm. But what was the impact on the Dresdeners? Inevitably the raid has
created its own folklore. Thousands of those who survived it now live in Western
Germany, each with his own memory to retail to the visitor. In Dresden itself,
the city fathers have now established an official Communist version, of which
the main purpose clearly is to put the main blame on the "American
imperialists" (we are solemnly told, for instance, that the R.A.F. was
directed to special targets in the city by an American capitalist whose villa on
the far side of the Elbe is now a luxury club for favored Communist artists).
Nevertheless, anyone who bothers to read the books published in both Germanies
and to compare the stories he hears from Communist and anti-Communist witnesses
soon discovers that not only the outline of events but the details of the main
episodes are agreed beyond dispute.
Dresden is one of those German cities which normally devotes Shrove Tuesday to
Carnival festivities. But on February 13, 1945, with the Red Army sixty miles
away, the mood was somber. The refugees, who were crowded into every house, each
had his horror story about Russian atrocities. In many parts of the city, and
particularly around the railway station, thousands of latecomers who could find
no corner in which to sleep were camping in the bitter cold of the open streets.
The only signs of Carnival spirit, when the sirens sounded at 9:55 p.m., were
the full house at the circus and a few gangs of little girls wandering about in
fancy dress. Though no one took the danger of a raid very seriously, orders must
be obeyed and the population just had time to get down to its shelters before
the first bombs fell at nine minutes past the hour.
Twenty-four minutes later, the last British bomber was on its way back to
England, and the inner city of Dresden was ablaze. Since there were no steel
structures in any of its apartment houses, the floors quickly capsized, and half
an hour after the raid was over the fire storm transformed thousands of
individual blazes into a sea of flames, ripping off the roofs, tossing trees,
cars and lorries into the air, and simultaneously sucking the oxygen out of the
Most of those who remained below ground were to die painlessly, their bodies
first brilliantly tinted bright orange and blue, and then, as the heat grew
intense, either totally incinerated or melted into a thick liquid sometimes
three or four feet deep. But there were others who, when the bombing stopped,
rushed upstairs. Some of them stopped to collect their belongings before
escaping, and they were caught by the second raid. But some 10,000 fled to the
great open space of the Grosse Garten, the magnificent royal park of Dresden,
nearly one and a half square miles in all.
Here they were caught by the second raid, which started without an air-raid
warning, at 1:22 a.m. Far heavier than the first -- there were twice as many
bombers with a far heavier load of incendiaries -- its target markers had been
deliberately placed in order to spread the fires into the black rectangle which
was all the airmen could see of the Grosse Garten. Within minutes the fire storm
was raging across the grass, ripping up some trees and littering the branches of
others with clothes, bicycles and dismembered limbs that remained hanging for
Equally terrible was the carnage in the great square outside the main railway
station. Here, the thousands camping out had been reinforced by other thousands
escaping from the inner city, while within the station a dozen trains, when the
first sirens blew, had been shunted to the marshaling yards and escaped all
damage. After the first raid stopped, these trains were shunted back to the
station platforms -- just in time to receive the full force of the bombardment.
For weeks, mangled bodies were littered inside and outside the station building.
Below ground, the scene was even more macabre. The restaurants, cellars and
tunnels could easily have been turned into effective bombproof shelters. The
authorities had not bothered to do so, and of the two thousand crowded in the
dark, one hundred were burned alive and five hundred asphyxiated before the
doors could be opened and the survivors pulled out.
The timing of the second raid, just three hours after the first, not only
insured that the few night fighters in the area were off their guard, but it
also created the chaos intended and effectively interrupted all rescue work. For
many miles around, military detachments, rescue squads and fire brigades started
on their way to the stricken city, and most of them were making their way
through the suburbs when the bombs began to fall. Those who turned back were
soon swallowed up in the mad rush of panic evacuation. Most of those who
proceeded toward the center perished in the fire storm.
The most terrible scenes in the inner city took place in the magnificent old
market square, the Altmarkt. Soon after the first raid finished, this
great square was jam-packed with panting survivors. When the second raid struck,
they could scarcely move until someone remembered the huge concrete emergency
water tank that had been constructed to one side. This tank was a hundred by
fifty yards by six feet deep. There was a sudden stampede to escape the heat of
the fire storm by plunging into it. Those who did so forgot that its sloping
sides were slippery, with no handholds. The nonswimmers sank to the bottom,
dragging the swimmers with them. When the rescuers reached the Altmarkt five
days later, they found the tank filled with bloated corpses, while the rest of
the square was littered with recumbent or seated figures so shrunk by the
incineration that thirty of them could be taken away in a single bathtub.
But perhaps the most memorable horror of this second raid occurred in the
hospitals. In the last year of the war, Dresden had become a hospital city, with
many of its schools converted into temporary wards. Of its nineteen hospitals,
sixteen were badly damaged and three, including the main maternity clinic,
totally destroyed. Thousands of crippled survivors were dragged by their nurses
to the banks of the River Elbe, where they were laid in rows on the grass to
wait for the daylight. But when it came, there was another horror. Punctually at
11:30 a.m., the third wave of bombers, the two hundred eleven American Flying
Fortresses, began their attack. Once again, the area of destruction was extended
across the city. But what the survivors all remember were the scores of Mustang
fighters diving low over the bodies huddled on the banks of the Elbe, as well as
on the larger lawns of the Grosse Garten, in order to shoot them up. Other
Mustangs chose as their targets the serried crowds that blocked every road out
of Dresden. No one knows how many women and children were actually killed by
those dive-bombing attacks. But in the legend of Dresden destruction, they have
become the symbol of Yankee sadism and brutality, and the inquirer is never
permitted to forget that many choirboys of one of Dresden's most famous churches
were among the victims.
For five days and nights, the city burned and no attempt was made to enter it.
Then at last the authorities began to grapple with the crisis and to estimate
the damage. Of Dresden's five theatres, all had gone. Of her fifty-four
churches, nine were totally destroyed and thirty-eight seriously damaged. Of her
one hundred thirty-nine schools, sixty-nine ceased to exist and fifty were badly
hit. The great zoo which lay just beyond the Grosse Garten had been struck in
the second raid, and the panicked animals had mingled with the desperate
survivors. Now they were rounded up and shot. Those who escaped from the
prisons, when they too were blown up, had better fortune: they all managed to
get away, including a number of brave anti-Nazis.
But some things had survived destruction. The few factories Dresden possessed
were outside the city center, and soon were at work again. So too was the
railway system. Within three days, indeed, military trains were running once
again right through the city, and the marshaling yards -- untouched by a bomb --
were in full operation. It was as though an ironical fate had decided that the
first fire storm deliberately created by mortal man should destroy everything
worth preserving, and leave untouched anything of military value.
In their salvage work, the Nazis relied on some 25,000 Allied prisoners of war,
concentrated in and around the city. Dresden, as was known very well in London
and Washington, was not only a hospital city but a prisoner-of-war city -- still
another reason why the authorities assumed it would not be attacked. Faced with
the appalling scenes of suffering, the prisoners seemed to have worked with a
will, even after some of their fellow-prisoners had been shot under martial law
Bodies are burned in Funeral Pyres
Picture from David Irving collection
What Dresdeners chiefly remember, of these first days after the raid, is the
disposal of the bodies. Throughout the war, German local authorities had been
extremely careful to show great respect for death, enabling relatives wherever
possible to identify and to bury their own dead. At first, this procedure was
followed in Dresden. But weeks after the raid there were still thousands of
unopened cellars under the smoldering ruins, and the air was thick with the fog
and sweet stench of rotting flesh. An S.S. commander made the decision that the
daily procession of horse-drawn biers from the city to the cemeteries outside
must be stopped. If plague was to be prevented, the rest of the corpses must be
disposed of more speedily. Hurriedly, a monstrous funeral pyre was constructed
in the Altmarkt. Steel shutters from one of Dresden's biggest department stores
were laid across broken slabs of ironstone. On this macabre gridiron, the bodies
were piled with straw between each layer, soaked with gasoline and set ablaze.
Nine thousand corpses were disposed of in this way, and eight cubic meters of
ash were then loaded into gasoline containers and buried in a graveyard outside
the city, twenty-five feet wide and fifteen feet deep.
If it was expected in either London or Washington that the destruction of
Dresden, despite its negligible military significance, would at least shatter
German morale, this hope was soon to be disappointed -- thanks to Paul Joseph
Goebbels' skillful exploitation of the disaster. For days, the Propaganda
Ministry in Berlin poured out, both in its foreign and in its home services, a
stream of eyewitness accounts of the stricken city, backed up by moralistic
attacks on the cold-blooded sadism of the men who created the fire storm. In his
secret propaganda, Dr. Goebbels did even better by leaking to the neutral press
a fictitious top-secret estimate that the casualties had probably reached
260,000. As a result of this Nazi propaganda campaign, the German people were
convinced that the Anglo-American forces were indeed bent on their destruction.
And their morale was once again stiffened by terror of defeat.
Disturbed by the success of Dr. Goebbels' propaganda, the airmen decided to call
a press conference on February 16 at SHAEF. As a result of the briefing, given
by a British Air Commodore, Associated Press cabled a special dispatch all over
the world, announcing "the long-awaited decision to adopt deliberate terror
bombings of German population centers as a ruthless expedient of hastening
Hitler's doom." The correspondents added that the Dresden attack was
"for the avowed purpose of heaping more confusion on Nazi road and rail
traffic, and to sap German morale."
When this dispatch reached London, it was immediately censored on the ground
that officially the R.A.F. only bombed military targets, and the attribution to
it of terror raids was a vicious piece of Nazi propaganda. In the United States,
where the dispatch was widely publicized, the embarrassment caused to the
Administration was acute, since the Air Force spokesmen had seldom failed to
point out the difference between the indiscriminate R.A.F. night attacks and the
selective and precise nature of the daylight bombing carried out by the Eighth
In order to stop awkward questions, General George C. Marshall then gave a
public assurance that the bombing on Dresden had taken place at Russian request.
Although no evidence was produced either then or since for the truth of this
statement, it was accepted uncritically and has since found its way into a
number of official American histories.
But suppression was not sufficient to stem the rising wave of public protest.
Coming as it did when the war was virtually over, the wanton destruction of the
Florence of the North and the mass murder of so many of its inhabitants was too
much, even for a world public opinion fed for years on strident war propaganda.
The publication of a lengthy report by a Swedish correspondent caused a
revulsion of feeling.
Within a few weeks, this revulsion against indiscriminate bombing had affected
even Sir Winston Churchill. Up till now, the critics in the British Parliament
of area bombing had been a small derided minority. Suddenly, their influence
began to grow, and on March 28, Sir Winston in response to this new mood, wrote
to the Chief of the Air Staff, beginning with the remarkable words:
"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."
Since the Premier had taken the lead in demanding the switch from target to area
bombing and had actively encouraged each new advance proposed by Air Marshal
Harris in the technique of air obliteration, this memorandum could hardly have
been less felicitously phrased. It provided damning evidence that so long as
terror bombing was popular, the politicians would take credit for it; but now
that public opinion was revolting against its senseless brutality, they were
only too obviously running for cover and leaving the air force to take the
So outraged was the Chief of the Air Staff that on this occasion he stood up to
Sir Winston, forcing him to withdraw the memorandum, and to substitute for it
what the official historians -- who narrate this incident in full -- have
described as "a somewhat more discreetly and fairly worded document."
But in Britain at least the damage had already been done. From that moment,
Bomber Command, which for years had been the object of adulation, became
increasingly discredited, and the nickname of its Commander in Chief changed
from "Bomber" Harris to "Butcher" Harris. Although the
bomber crews, suffered far the heaviest casualties of any of the British armed
services, no campaign medal was struck to distinguish their part in winning the
war. In his victory broadcast of May 13, 1945, Sir Winston omitted any tribute
to them, and after the Labour Government came to power, Earl Attlee was just as
vindictive. In January, 1946, he omitted their Commander in Chief from his
victory honors list. Sir Arthur Harris accepted the insult loyally, and on
February 13 sailed to exile in South Africa.
The Eighth Air Force was treated more gently, both by the politicians in
Washington and by the American public. Its airmen received their share of
campaign medals, and to this day it has never been officially admitted that by
the end of the war they were bombing city centers and residential areas as
wantonly by day as the R.A.F. was by night. There was, however, an important
difference between the public image of the two Air Forces. The British Cabinet,
having secretly decided to sanction indiscriminate terror bombing, concealed
this decision from the British public and therefore compelled Bomber Command to
operate under cover of a sustained and deliberate lie. In the case of the Eighth
Air Force, self-deception took place of lying. Instead of doing one thing and
saying another, the myth was maintained that on every mission the Flying
Fortresses aimed exclusively at military targets, and this is still part of the
official American legend of World War II. It was because it was impossible to
square this legend with what had happened at Dresden that General Marshall had
to excuse American protestation in that holocaust on the fictitious ground that
the Russians had requested the attack.
I leave it to the reader to decide which form was more nauseating -- British
lying or American self-deception. For what concerns me in this inquiry is not
the public image of Anglo-American idealism that was shattered by the Dresden
raid, but the crime against humanity which was perpetrated. That it was decided
to bomb a city of no military value simply in order to impress Stalin. That a
fire storm was deliberately created in order to kill as many people as possible,
and that the survivors were machine-gunned as they lay helpless in the open --
all this has been established without a shadow of a doubt. What remains is to
ask how decent, civilized politicians enthusiastically approved such mass murder
and decent, civilized servicemen conscientiously carried it out.
The usual explanation -- or excuse -- is that strategic bombing was only adopted
by the Western powers as a method of retaliation in a total war started by
totalitarians. This is at best a half-truth. The Nazis and the Communists
dabbled in terror raids on civilian targets. But they were old-fashioned and
imperialist enough to hold that the aim of war is not to destroy the enemy, but
to defeat his armies in the field, to occupy his country, and exploit its
resources. That is why both Stalin and Hitler preferred to use their air power,
not as a separate weapon of unlimited war, but as a tactical adjunct to
conventional land and sea operations. In fact, the only nations which applied
the theory of unlimited war really systematically were the two great Western
democracies. Both created a gigantic strategic air force and carried out quite
separate but eventually unsuccessful attempts to defeat Germany by aerial
Yet, at first sight, terror bombing seems to me, as an Englishman, a form of
warfare repugnant to our national temperament, and utterly unsuited to an island
people, itself hopelessly vulnerable to indiscriminate air attack. And I suspect
that most Americans also feel that it does not conform with the traditions of
the American way of life.
Why then did both nations adopt it?
I believe that the motive which prompted us was a very characteristic
Anglo-Saxon desire to defend ourselves without preparing for war to win the
fruits of victory; without actual fighting, and (if this proved impossible) at
least to keep casualties down to a minimum among our own soldiers. Not only do
British and American fighting men demand a far higher standard of living than
most of their enemies. Even more important, they insist that they should not be
required to risk death in close combat if remote-control methods of destroying
the enemy are available. That, I am sure, is the main reason why our politicians
and generals felt morally justified in conducting a bomber offensive against
Germany which culminated in the destruction of Dresden.
Once we see this, we are no longer surprised that, as soon as an atomic bomb had
been perfected, President Truman decided, with the full approval of the British
Prime Minister, to use it. In this way, he could finish off the Japanese without
a landing that would have cost thousands of American lives!
The moral I draw from the terrible story of Dresden is that the atom bombs
employed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not inaugurate a new epoch in the history
of war. They merely provided a new method of achieving victory without the
casualties involved in land fighting far more deadly and far more economical
than the thousand-bomber raid of World War II. Here, our politicians and
generals felt, was the ultimate weapon which would enable the democracies to
disarm and to relax -- yet deter aggression.
Alas! Nearly twenty years of bitter experience have taught us that the world was
not made safe for democracy either by the "conventional" fire storm
created by the bombers in Dresden, or by the atomic fire storm of Hiroshima.
Even in modern war, crime does not always pay!
Irving responded with this behind-the-scenes story
of the outrageous behaviour
of Esquire and their author Crossman
A website reader found the above article posted in
February 2002 on
the Free Republic website. Mr Irving responded with this behind-the-scenes
story of the outrageous behaviour of Esquire and their author Crossman:
April 30, 1963 William Kimber Ltd. published my first book, The
Destruction of Dresden. It was a very difficult time for me. The first of my
five daughters, Josephine, had just been born thirty days earlier, and the
meager finances of my little family were exhausted after a three year period
writing and researching the article with no income whatever, let alone the kind
of research funds
that Holocaust "scholars" can tap; the entire thing had come out of my
own pocket -- and my own heart.
I anticipated little income from the book, and there
was not even an advance payment in the publishing agreement -- nobody had told
me that authors got advances, and my publisher William Kimber did not feel it
necessary to volunteer that little fact to me. My book was however serialized by
The Sunday Telegraph, which paid him £2,000, a small fortune in those
days; the publisher took his half, and froze payment of the other for half a
year as Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett, the Pathfinder Force Commander, issued
a writ for libel, angered because I had written in the book that a captured
airman of his force revealed the secret of the H2S airborne radar system to the
Germans in February 1943 (Bennett withdrew the writ, as I produced German
records showing this was true).
summer of 1963 my book had yet to become the success that it later did -- even
Kurt Vonnegut would refer to it in Slaughterhouse Five. So when Esquire
magazine approached Kimber for the rights to publish a one-shot digest of the
book in the USA we were very pleased; but the deal never materialized, it just
evaporated without explanation.
Imagine my displeasure when this article by Richard
Crossman, effectively a digest of my book, based entirely -- and I mean 100
percent -- on the research in my book, appeared in Esquire six months
later. It was not plagiarism, he was too clever for that: but it was blatant
theft of intellectual property all the same. Crossman was a member of the
British Psychological Warfare directorate during the war, a Member of
Parliament, and a leading Socialist Cabinet minister afterwards; he was
independently wealthy -- and more so after the Esquire article -- and later
published his own diaries.
1. An A.P. story to the effect that the Allied Air
Command has taken a decision to carry out "Terror" bombing of German
cities so as to create a refugee problem and further congestion of communication
centers was passed tonight in error.
2. Censors are advised that this story is wholly
erroneous and should not have been passed. Allied policy is to bomb military
objectives and those only until the war is won; if a refugee problem is caused
thereby, this is an incidental difficulty with which the enemy has to deal.
Censors will be guided accordingly.
The US Eighth Air Force
target maps for Dresden have just been released and show that the Americans
too had been instructed to attack the city center, not the marshalling yards
as USAAF historians claimed for over fifty years.
Daniel Lerner (Psychological Warfare) papers in the Manuscript Division, Hoover
Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University, California: Box
35: "SHAEF, Other Branches"
David Irving's famous bestseller: Apocalypse 1945, The Destruction of
Dresden - The Real Holocaust
Obama And Holocostianity
Baseless, Ignorant And Hateful By Michael Hoffman
...Let's be real. Ending Israeli hegemony and being
genuinely fair to the Arab nation of peoples which
the Orthodox rabbis denominate as "Amalek,"
would require a revolutionary break with Holocaustianity,
the universal, de facto state religion of the Western world...