BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Dresden strafing a myth claims historian
Dresden
The ruins of Dresden in 1945
Civilians fleeing the firestorm engulfing Dresden in February 1945 were not strafed by British and American aircraft, according to new research by a German historian.

War expert Helmut Schnatz has thrown into doubt one of the most bitterly contested legends of the Second World War.

He has received death threats as a result of the controversy.

The bombing of Dresden on the night of 13-14 February 1945 is regarded as one of the most notorious events of the war.

An allied force of 1,000 strategic bombers destroyed the city, killing at least 35,000, and according to some accounts, fighter aircraft escorting the bombers flew low and fired at civilians fleeing the devastation.

Some witnesses testified to pilots circling treetops and training their machine guns on refugees.

Power of suggestion

However, Mr Schnatz charted flight paths of all the aircraft sent from Britain on the bombing mission. and concluded that such accounts are probably untrue.


Mosquito
British Mosquito aircraft 'did not strafe' fleeing civilians
He found that none of the pilots were flying low enough and would not have had enough time to attack civilians because of fuel limitations.

The intensity of the firestorm would have also reduced visibility, making it impossible to make out people on the ground.

He believes that many Dresdeners testified to the strafing through panic and the power of suggestion.

In the midst of an air raid, he believes that some may have mistaken overhead gunfire and explosions as being directed at the fleeing civilians.


The Bombing of Dresden
85% of Dresden was completely obliterated in the raid
3,900 tonnes of bombs were dropped
The attack allegedly took place after a Russian request to bomb German communications
Mr Schnatz suggests that the myth has endured because of its propagation by East German historians eager to show the heartlessness of the "Anglo-American imperialist forces"

He also points to far-right historians such as David Irving using the story to show that Britain and the US also committed wartime atrocities.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
Europe Contents

Country profiles
See also:

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories