As many as 250,000 people were killed in the Dresden air raid
Holocaust Deniers Say:
As many as 250,000 people were killed in the Dresden air raid.
David Irving, whom the High Court in London declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist and antisemite, has given many different numbers of dead in his books and speeches:
- In the 1966 edition of The Destruction of Dresden Irving asserted that the figure was "between a minimum of 100,000 and a maximum of 250,000."1
- In 1992 Irving told the Institute of Historical Review that "a hundred thousand people were killed [in Dresden] in a period of twelve hours by the British and Americans."2
- In 1993, in a publicity video made for the Australian public, Irving stated that "over 130,000 people died in that particular air raid."3
- In the 1966 edition of The Destruction of Dresden Irving asserted that the figure was "between a minimum of 100,000 and a maximum of 250,000."4
- In 1992 Irving told the Institute of Historical Review that "a hundred thousand people were killed [in Dresden] in a period of twelve hours by the British and Americans."5
- In 1993, in a publicity video made for the Australian public, Irving stated that "over 130,000 people died in that particular air raid."6
Irving and other deniers emphsize Dresden as a means of drawing a parallel between Dresden and Auschwitz and ultimately contending that Dresden was a far worse war crime. In a television interview in November 1991 Irving compared Dresden with Auschwitz when he said that 25,000 people were killed at Auschwitz, but that ". . . we killed five times that number in Dresden in one night."7
The truth about the number of people killed in the raid
The real death toll, which is terrible enough, is between 25,000 and 35,000. This number is based on the records (still in existence) kept at the time about the number of bodies recovered and cremated or buried.
Irving persists in basing his arguments on a document -- TB-47 (Tagesbefehl 47, or Order of the Day No. 47) -- which has been shown to be forged. He bases his claims on a typed copy of a summary of a copy of the original. He came upon this in 1963. Irving ascribes the authorship of this document to a Dr. Funfack, whom Irving described as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Dresden. In fact, Dr. Funfack was an urologist and a survivor of the raid. He had no inside knowledge of the death toll. Without ever contacting Dr. Funfack to ascertain whether he actually authored TB-47, Irving published his claim around the world. Dr. Funfack tried repeatedly to get Irving to retract his statements about his involvement but to no avail. Irving ignored him.8
In 1965 Irving's TB 47 was shown to be a clumsy forgery when the real one was found in Dresden. Irving was informed about the existence of this document on April 5, 1966. The authentic document was published in 1977 definitively proving Irving's version to be a forgery.9 Irving has never repudiated the forged TB 47 and continues to print it in the appendix of his book Apocalypse 1945 to this day (2007).
The forged TB-47 says that 202,040 people were killed with a possible death toll of 250,000. It also states that 68,650 bodies were burned on the Altmarkt (city square). When the authentic report turned up in 1965, it showed 20,204 killed with perhaps as many as 25,000 in total. The number of bodies burned in the Altmarkt was listed as 6,865. Someone, probably in the Ministry of Propaganda, had clumsily added a zero to the figures, inflating them 10 times over (20,204 became 202,040; 25,000 became 250,000; 6,865 became 68,650).10
Irving immediately began to publicize the exaggerated numbers in the forged document. In a letter to the Provost of Coventry Irving suggested that an exhibition of photographs taken after the raid be staged. He wrote that TB 47 should be reproduced "in large type" to "drive home the impact of the exhibition" because "its nonchalance and the casualties it mentions have a shattering effect."11
In other correspondence, Irving describes TB 47 as a "sensation" and "impressive" and stated that there was no doubt as to the "authenticity of the document." In a letter to Stern (a German news magazine) he wrote that the death toll "constantly grows . . . Is that not very impressive?"12
Most responsible historians accept the figures as being somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000. Earl A. Beck said "the constant increase in estimates of the number killed in the raids does not comport with the facts. Official reports justify an estimate of between 25,000 and 35,000 killed. Figures that rose to 100,000 to 200,000 killed lost touch with reality."13
In 1994 the Dresden-based historian Friedrich Reichert, using a previously unused sources in the city archives, published an authoritative account which convincingly reduced the figure to 25,000. "This figure can be regarded as close to definitive."14
Irving exaggerates the death toll in Dresden for the purpose of tarring Allied leaders with atrocity and war crimes allegations. His goal is to rehabilitate Hitler and National Socialism as just another leader and government. Irving allows that Hitler and the Nazis -- like the Allies -- did some pretty terrible things -- just not genocide.
Irving also compares the death toll in Dresden to his own very minimal death tolls in Auschwitz, thereby diminishing the role of Auschwitz in the Holocaust and the number of murders overall.
1. David Irving, Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden (Corgi, 1966): vii.
2. David Irving, "Life Under Fire" (remarks delivered to the eleventh IHR conference, October 1992), Journal of Historical Review, vol. XIII, no. 1 (January/February 1993), 8-11: p. 10.
3. Videotape of speech, David Irving, "The Search for Truth in History -- Banned!" 1993.
4. David Irving, Apocalypse 1945: vii.
5. David Irving, "Life Under Fire" ): p. 10.
6. Videotape of speech, David Irving, "The Search for Truth in History -- Banned!" 1993.
7. This Week, 28 November 1991.
8. Richard Evans, David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial, expert witness report for the 2000 libel trial, Section 5.2(d)(iii)(A)(5-10). See www.hdot.org, "Evidence."
9. Ibid., Section 5.2(d)(iii)(H)(iv)
10. Ibid., Section 5.2(d)(v).
11. Ibid., Section 5.2(d)(v).
12. Ibid., Section 5.2 (d)(iii).
13. Earl A. Beck, Under the Bombs: The German Home Front 1942-1945 (University of Kentucky Press, 1986): p. 179.
14. Friedrich Reichert, "Verbrannt bis zur Unkenntlichkeit," in Dresden City Museum (ed). Verbrannt bis zur Unkenntlichkeit. Die Zerstörung Dresdens 1945 (Altenburg, 1994): 40-62, p. 58. As cited in Evans, David Irving, Hitler and the Holocaust, Section 5.2(d)(i).