The tragic story of the Dresden bombing


The most vivid example of such proceeding was the bombing of Dresden, carried out on February 13 and 14, 1945, which was undertaken almost immediately after the close of the Yalta Conference (Crimea, February 11), in which met the leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition.

As a result of that air attack Dresden was ruined.

                    Sputnik / RIA Novosti

Dresden city in ruins

Located in eastern Germany and being the capital of Saxony and the third city of the country, after Berlin and Hamburg, Dresden in fact had no heavy industry or military companies, but thanks to the abundance of historical and cultural monuments it was often called “Florence of the Elbe” or “Athens of the North”.

In the prewar period the city had some 650,000 inhabitants, but by February 1945 there were numerous refugees, from a million and a half to two million, according to various evaluations.

Until February 1945, American-British aviation bombed Dresden twice, both times without perceiving it as a military target, the first time in October 1944. Some 30 aircraft, for failing to fulfill the mission entrusted to them, bombed the city, which was an additional objective in that air raid.

Another attack on Dresden, on January 16, 1945, was aimed at a railway station.

The city itself did not suffer in the wake of these two bombings.

Operation Thunder, after which Dresden was ruined, was initially planned to destroy Berlin or Leipzig definitively, but at the beginning of 1945 the allies gave up this purpose and decided to bomb Dresden.

The date of the attack was determined from the weather forecast that predicted clear sky over the city for the night of February 13.

                    Sputnik / Elizaveta Mikulina

Dresden city in ruins

On 13 and 14 February three airstrikes were launched against Dresden, in which almost 1,400 bombers, some 1,000 fighters participated and 3,749 tons of bombs were dropped.

According to other data, during the first attackOn the afternoon of February 13, 244 British heavy bombers dropped 507 tons of breaker bombs and 374 tons of incendiary bombs.

The second attack, which was launched at night and lasted half an hour, it was twice as strong as the first, 529 planes threw 965 tons of breakers and over 800 tons of incendiary bombs on the city.

On February 14, 311 American bombers escorted by 72 fighters threw another 500 tons of breaker bombs and 300 tons of incendiary bombs on Dresden. Then the fighters began to open fire on the exit roads of the city, full of refugees.

The bombings were carried out according to a method in use at that time: first the breaker bombs were thrown to destroy the roofs of the buildings and with that increase the effectiveness of the incendiary bombs, which were thrown in second turn, then returned to throw the breakers to hinder the work of fire services.

As a result of the bombings, a whirlwind of fire arose, in which the temperature reached 1,500 degrees Celsius and caused numerous fires lasting several days.

The bombings of Dresden carried out by the Americans and the British proved to be the cruelest in the entire war (1939-1945). The city was ruined, between 75 and 80% of the buildings were destroyed.

                    Sputnik / Zelik

The Rijo Army in Dresden, 1946

The industrial companies of the city ceased to exist or suffered serious damage and nearly half of their infrastructure and residential neighborhoods, a colossal damage to cultural monuments was inflicted, in particular 197 invaluable canvases of the Gallery of Paintings were burned of the Ancient Masters.

According to local police reports, 24 banks, 6,470 shops, 640 stores, 31 hotels, 63 administrative buildings and 50 historical-cultural buildings, three theaters, 18 cinemas, 11 churches, 19 hospitals, 39 schools, 19 offices were destroyed in Dresden of post offices and telegraphs, five consulates, a zoo, a water supply station, four tram depots.

Among large companies, the Zeiss optical equipment factory suffered serious damage.

At the same time the railway network suffered little damage, the train management stations and even the railway bridge over the Elbe River remained intact, thanks to which the train circulation could be resumed in counted days.

Nor was a large military airfield near the city damaged.

The total tonnage of the bombs dropped on Dresden was lower than that of the massive bombings of other large cities in Germany. But the good weather conditions, the buildings with wooden structures and the poor preparation of the city to face the air raids (their air defense failed to guarantee an effective fire barrier) contributed to the bombing being so destructive.

                    Sputnik / Georgiy Homzor

Dresden city in ruins

The exact number of the dead is ignored. Many people burned live or died under ruins of buildings, and those who sought refuge in basements, suffocated by inhaling toxic gases.

The American researcher Conrow estimated the losses of the civilian population at 135,000 people, but an investigation carried out on behalf of the Dresden administration in 2010 concluded that this figure was exaggerated and that the dead were around 25,000.

The British Air Force lost six planes in two bombings on February 13 and 14, US aviation lost eight bombers and four fighters.
The allies lost a total of 20 planes, among their troops died or a hundred people were taken prisoner.
After the war, the ruins of the churches, palaces and residential buildings were dismantled and taken from the city, instead they were solar in which the contours of the streets and the buildings that were there were marked.

The reconstruction of the city center took 40 years, the other parts were rebuilt before. In 2005 the Frauenkirche cathedral was rebuilt, completely destroyed during the bombings.

To date, the reconstruction of other historic buildings in Dresden continues, but it is often impossible to recover the original appearance of the monuments.

The destruction of this beautiful European city and the death of tens of thousands of its inhabitants was such a barbaric act that shortly after the end of World War II Washington and London began to look for how to get rid of responsibility for that vandalism.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the respective official statement.

The city of Dresden at the end of 1945

The US State Department in the early 1950s stated that Dresden was destroyed in response to the request that Soviet leader Iosif Stalin allegedly made at the Yalta Conference. But the documents that could confirm it have never been found.

According to the declassified protocols of the meetings held during the Yalta Conference and shown in the documentary “Dresden. Chronicles of a Tragedy”, by Alexéi Denísov (2006), the USSR never asked Anglo-American allies to bomb Dresden.

What the Soviet high command really asked for was attack the railway knots of Berlin and Leipzig, because until that moment the Germans had moved from the western front to the east about 20 divisions and planned to move another 30.

Precisely this written request was delivered to Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
The chief of the General Staff of the United Kingdom Air Force, who was also in Yalta, asked his vice to draw up the list of targets that should be discussed with high Soviet commanders.
The list included oil refineries, armored car construction companies and aerial devices, as well as the cities of Berlin and Dresden.

As the Americans explained, they bombed Dresden as an important transport hub in order to prevent the movement of vehicles by turning to Berlin and Leipzig.

In the opinion of several historians, the bombings of Dresden and other German cities, located in the area of ​​Soviet influence, were not undertaken to help the Red Army, but with the political objective: to show their military power to intimidate Soviet leaders .

This is confirmed by the memo that was made known to the British pilots on the night before the attack on February 13.

His text read: “The aim of the attack is to strike the most sensitive blow to the adversary (…) and at the same time to show the Russians when they arrive in the city what the Royal Air Force is capable of.”


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