The post-war ruins of Dresden through rare photographs, 1945

At the end of World War II, the city of Dresden was in ruins, with all its buildings destroyed and thousands of civilians killed. Due to the scale of the death and destruction, coming so late in the war, as well as important questions about the legality of the targets destroyed, there has been debate for years as to whether the attack was justified, or whether it was a war crime. must be given. The bombing of Dresden has become one of the most controversial decisions made in European theatre.

Before World War II, Dresden was called the "Florence of the Elbe" and was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world for its architecture and museums, it had many beautiful Baroque and Rococo-style buildings, palaces and cathedrals. .

Although no German city remained isolated from Hitler's war machine, Dresden's contribution to the war effort was minimal compared to other German cities.

As Hitler had thrown most of his surviving army into the north defending Berlin, the city's defenses were minimal, and the Russians would have had little trouble capturing Dresden. It seemed an impossible target for a major Allied air raid.

An important aspect of Allied air warfare against Germany is known as "area" or "saturation" bombing. In field bombing, all enemy industry—not just war material—is targeted, and civilian parts of cities are wiped out along with military areas.

Before the advent of the atomic bomb, cities were most effectively destroyed by the use of incendiary bombs that caused unusually fierce fires on enemy cities. Such an attack, the Allied command argued, would devastate the German economy, demoralize the German people and force an early surrender.

On the night of February 13, 1945, hundreds of RAF bombers landed on Dresden in two waves, dropping their lethal cargo indiscriminately over the city.

The city's air defenses were so weak that only six Lancaster bombers were killed. By morning, about 800 British bombers had dropped more than 1,400 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 1,100 tons of incendiary bombs on Dresden, creating a great firestorm that destroyed most of the city and killed many civilians.

Later that day, as the survivors left the smoldering city, more than 300 American bombers began bombing Dresden's railways, bridges and transportation facilities, killing thousands.

On February 15, another 200 American bombers continued their assault on the city's infrastructure. All told, the U.S. Eighth Air Force bombers dropped more than 950 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 290 tons of incendiary ones on Dresden. Later, Eighth Air Force would drop another 2,800 tons of bombs on Dresden in three other attacks before the end of the war.

After the war, investigators from different countries and with differing political motives, calculated the number of civilian casualties from 8,000 to over 200,000. Today's estimates range from 35,000 to 135,000.

Looking at photographs of Dresden after the attack, in which some of the buildings still standing, were completely destroyed, it seems unlikely that only 35,000 people died in Dresden at the time.

At the end of the war, Dresden was so badly damaged that the city was basically leveled. A handful of historic buildings—the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden State Opera House, and many of the best churches—were meticulously rebuilt from the rubble, but the rest of the city was rebuilt with plain modern buildings.

American author Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007), who was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the Allied offensive and dealt with the controversial incident in his book "Slaughterhouse-Five", said of Dresden after the war: "It Dayton, Ohio, has more open spaces than Dayton. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground".

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