Posts Tagged ‘firestorm’

Destruction of Dresden

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The destruction of Dresden occurred toward the end of WWII. The city, with a population of 350,000, was a cultural landmark in Northern Germany with many world famous museums and historic buildings. Its town center was of little to no military significance. Sixty-nine years ago today, most of the people living in the city center perished.

What happened

During the night of February 13 to February 14,1945, British Lancaster bombers dropped a barrage of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the city center. They did so in two waves. The attacks occurred three hours apart. Then, during the middle of the second day, American B-17 Flying Fortresses bombed Dresden again. Together, the Allies dropped 3,300 tons of bombs on the city within a 24-hr period. The resulting firestorm reached temperatures of 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The incendiary bombs burned for two days. The heat caused the surface of the roads to melt, and peoples’ feet burned as they tried to run away.

The death toll is difficult to estimate. It ranges between 25,000 and 135,000. The reason for the variation is that 25,000 bodies were located. But Dresden also served as a temporary refuge for the people running from the advancing Russian Army, making it impossible to accurately estimate the number of people who perished. In addition, many could not be buried that quickly and were burned instead. Those numbers are also difficult to assess.

Why it happened

Opinions differ sharply on the reason for the destruction of Dresden. Although the city center was of little to no military significance, some scholars maintain that Dresden was located in Nazi Germany. The Allies were at war with Nazi Germany. That alone represents sufficient justification.

Others believe that Britain and the United States feared Russia might wish to turn its back on Allied postwar agreements regarding Germany. They believe that the western Allies hoped that a demonstration of power would act as a deterrent.

Still others maintain that Dresden was a legitimate target because of its rail base which could be used to transport troops to the front lines and fight against Russia.

Dresden post-WWII

When Germany was divided following WWII, Dresden ended up in the Russian sector. Their Communist occupiers rebuilt the city in the 1950s and spared no effort in restoring the cultural landmark to its pre-WWII charm. You may also wish to read about Dresden’s Zwinger Dresden’s Frauenkirche , Dresden’s Semper Opera House , and Green Vault .

A commemorative plaque reminds visitors today who it was that destroyed the city and who it was that restored the city to its old splendor.

A Commemorative plaque, installed during the Communist era, reminds the visitor that Anglo-American bombers destroyed Dresden in 1945

A Commemorative plaque, installed during the Communist era, reminds visitors that Anglo-American bombers destroyed Dresden in 1945


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.