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Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

Table of Contents
(iii) False attribution ... >>

(i) Misstatement of circumstances: low-level strafing in Dresden.

1. The most authoritative book on the Dresden raids is by Götz Bergander, published in 1977 after almost two decades of research.7 Amongst his aims was to combat the many myths and legends which had come to surround the attacks. One such myth was the strafing of civilians and refugees by Allied fighters during the attack, an act most people today would condemn as a particularly despicable or even as a criminal act of war. Bergander points out that although other authors have cited witnesses for such an attack, Irving's is the last account in which any credence is given to the story. He then proceeds to disprove Irving's assertion that such low-   level strafing of civilians took place, either by night or by day.8 Irving's documentation betrays his knowledge of the charge levelled at him.9
2. In his book Irving described the 20th Fighter Group's role in the American bombing of 14 February:
For this mission ... the Group was subdivided into two groups, denoted 'A' and 'B'.... 'A' Group pilots were briefed that as soon as the bombers' attack on Dresden was over they were to dive to roof-top level and strafe what were euphemistically referred to as 'targets of opportunity'.... Most of the pilots appear from eye-witness accounts to have decided that the safest attacking runs could be made along the Elbe river banks. Others attacked transport on the roads leading out of the city, crowded with columns of people. One 'A' Group P-51 of the 55th Fighter Squadron flew so low that it crashed into a wagon and exploded. The other fighter-pilots were, however, disappointed by the lack of opportunities for combat, especially the crews of the 'B' Group aircraft.10
3. Elsewhere in the same edition of his book (the Corgi paperback, published in 1966) Irving states as a matter of proven historical fact that:
it was the Mustang fighters, which suddenly appeared low over the streets, firing on everything that moved, and machine gunning the columns of lorries heading for the city. One section of the Mustangs concentrated on the river banks, where masses of bombed out people had gathered. Another section took on the targets in the Grosser Garten area.

Civilian reaction to these fighter-strafing attacks, which were apparently designed to perfect the task outlined in the air commanders' directives as 'causing confusion in the civilian evacuation from the east', was immediate and universal; they realised that they were absolutely helpless.
American fighters strafed Tiergartenstrasse, the road bordering the Grosser- Garten on the southern side. Here the remnants of the famous Kreuzkirche children's choir had taken refuge. Casualties on record here include the Choir Inspector, seriously wounded, and one of the choir boys killed. British prisoners who had been released from their burning camps were among those to suffer the discomfort of machine-gunning attacks on the river banks and have confirmed the shattering effect on morale. Wherever columns of tramping people were marching in or out of the city they were pounced on by the fighters, and machine-gunned or raked with machine gun fire.

[It is certain that many casualties were caused by this low-level strafing of the city, which later became a permanent feature of the American attacks.11 ] not part of quote need to amend!
4. Bergander's criticism of this account was devastating in its detail. Irving dates the strafing to the day of the 14th and attributes them to the Americans, but many witnesses likewise claimed to have been seen strafing during the British attack the night before. Bergander first explained how it was impossible that the British could have undertaken such attacks on the night of the 13th and exactly why many people may have believed that dive-strafing was taking place. He pointed out that there never would have been enough surplus fuel on such an extended flight over Germany to descend slowly, circle and then regain height. He noted that it would have been unthinkable to risk such valuable machines in low level-flying, at night, over unknown territory. Lancasters were long range-range bombers and unsuitable for such attacks; the smaller mosquitoes were used to drop the initial markers, and were likewise unsuitable for such attacks. Dresdeners who had not yet reached the safety of their cellars may well have seen the Mosquitoes at 300 meters drop their red markers. Finally, the practicalities of the situation made low-level strafing impossible. By all accounts the fire-storm threw immense heat and   smoke into the air at great heights. To send planes into this cauldron to strafe civilians would have been pure folly.12


6. Discovery List (hereafter 'Doc.') 1981, list of all books written by Irving and editions in the British Library.
7. Götz Bergander, Dresden im Luftkrieg. Vorgeschichte - Zerstörung - Folgen. (Cologne/Vienna, 1977), 2nd. ed. 1985. Bergander was a Hitler Youth flak gunner at the time of the attack and Irving interviewed him for his book. See Focal Point, p. 281, fn. 10.
8. Bergander, pp. 228-246.
9. Doc. 1061, newspaper clipping from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 12 February 1985; doc. 1063, Irving to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 February 1985.
10. Corgi 1966, pp. 164-5.
11. Corgi 1966, pp. 194-5.
12. Bergander, p. 229. A Master-Bomber interviewed by Irving describes his aircraft being enveloped in smoke at 7,000 ft. See Corgi 1966, p. 152.
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