The Destruction of Dresden

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The Destruction of Dresden
Author David Irving
Publisher William Kimber
Publication date
1963
ISBN 0705700305
Followed by The Mare's Nest

The Destruction of Dresden is a 1963 non-fiction book written by David Irving that describes the February 1945 Allied bombing of Dresden in World War II. The book became an international best-seller during the 1960s debate about the morality of the World War II area bombing of the Nazi Germany civilian population. The book is no longer considered to be an authoritative or reliable account of the Allied bombing and destruction of Dresden during February 1945.[a]

Origins[edit]

The book is based on a series of 37 articles Irving wrote on the strategic bombing during World War II called Wie Deutschlands Städte starben (How Germany's Cities Died) for the German journal Neue Illustrierte.

Deaths[edit]

Dead mother with her twins.

In the first edition, Irving estimated that the two RAF raids and the first USAAF raid combined were "estimated authoritatively to have killed more than 135,000 of the population [of Dresden]..."[1] and the "documentation suggests very strongly that the figure was certainly between a minimum of 100,000 and a maximum of 250,000".[2][3] In 1965, General Ira C. Eaker identified the number as 135,000.[4]

Irving's first edition figures became widely accepted and were used in many standard reference works. In later editions of the book over the next three decades, he gradually adjusted the figure to:

  • In the 1971 edition, the three raids "estimated authoritatively to have killed more than 100,000 of the population...".[5]
  • In the 1995 edition, the three raids "cost the lives of between fifty and one hundred thousand inhabitants....".[6] Richard J. Evans states that "Elsewhere he dropped the lower figure and said the attack cost 'up to a hundred thousand people their lives'.".[7]

According to Richard J. Evans, an expert witness for the defence at the 2000 libel trial of Deborah Lipstadt,[8] Irving based his estimates of the dead of Dresden on the word of one individual, Hans Voigt, who provided no supporting documentation,[9] used forged documents,[10] and described one witness Max Funfack as Dresden's Deputy Chief Medical Officer.[11] Funfack had made it clear by letter to Irving on 19 January 1965 that he had not been Chief, or the Deputy Chief, Medical Officer, he had no knowledge of any documentation on the numbers killed, and during the war he had only heard rumours, which varied greatly, over the number killed in the raids.[11][12]

Influence on literature[edit]

Kurt Vonnegut (who witnesses the bombing of Dresden from the basement of a slaughterhouse as a prisoner of war) used The Destruction of Dresden as a source for the 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five where he wrote that he emerged from the slaughterhouse to find "135,000 Hansels and Gretels had been baked like gingerbread men".[13][14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Not one of [Irving's] books, speeches or articles, not one paragraph, not one sentence in any of them, can be taken on trust as an accurate representation of its historical subject. All of them are completely worthless as history, because Irving cannot be trusted anywhere, in any of them, to give a reliable account of what he is talking or writing about (Evans 1996d, General Conclusion ¶ 6.21).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Evans 1996 cites Irving, Corgi, edn. 1966, vii.
  2. ^ Evans 1996 cites Irving, Corgi, edn. 1966, p. 225.
  3. ^ An authoritative independent investigation commissioned by the city council of Dresden in 2010 reported a maximum of 25,000 victims (Neutzner 2010, p. 68).
  4. ^ Irving 1965, p. 8.
  5. ^ Evans 1996 cites Irving, Corgi, edn. 1971, p. 7.
  6. ^ Evans 1996 cites Focal Point, ix.
  7. ^ Evans 1996 cites Focal Point, p. 167.
  8. ^ Evans 2001.
  9. ^ Evans 1996a.
  10. ^ Evans 1996c.
  11. ^ a b Evans 1996b.
  12. ^ Guttenplan 2001, p. 225.
  13. ^ Lipstadt 2007.
  14. ^ Kamm 2007.