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Up to 25,000 died in Dresden's WWII bombing - report

View of Dresden from City Hall Tower after the 1945 bombing
Critics say there was no military reason to bomb Dresden

Up to 25,000 people died in the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War II - fewer than often estimated, an official German report has concluded.

The Dresden Historians' Commission published its report after five years of research into the 13-15 February 1945 air raid by Britain and the US.

The study was aimed at ending an ongoing debate on the number of casualties in the German city.

Germany's far-right groups claim that up to 500,000 people died.

They say the bombing - which unleashed a firestorm in the historic city when Nazi Germany was already close to defeat - constituted a war crime.

Critics say there was no military reason for it, but others argue that Dresden was an important logistical point close behind German lines, as the Soviet Army approached from the east.

'Crux of argument'

The Dresden commission said it had used records from city archives, cemeteries and other official registries and compared them with published reports and witness accounts to reach its conclusion.

It also noted that fewer refugees fleeing the Eastern front were killed in the air raid then was previously thought, rejecting reports that many victims' bodies were never recovered.

"Remembering the Allied bombings of Dresden... still carries importance for the social-political understanding of how history is seen, how society is shaped, and how identities are formed," the commission said.

"In this debate, the number of people killed in the raids on Dresden has long been a crux of the argument that is key to certain views."

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