A historical commission has concluded that the Allied bombing of Dresden killed up to 25,000 people -- significantly revising down previous estimates that said as many as 135,000 died in the 1945 attack.
The bombing of Dresden -- eastern Germany's cultural center -- has been a sore point in German relations with the countries of the Allied forces, coming with such vengeance so late in World War II.
The city was devastated, and there were enormous casualties among civilians and refugees. Historians have argued about just how many people were killed in the firebombing on the night of Feb. 13-14, 1945, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 135,000.
Now, a special commission of a dozen experts, including university professors, archivists and military historians have said that after four years of research, the lower figure is more accurate.
So far, they have confirmed 18,000 deaths and say they have found no reason to assume that the final tally will be significantly higher. Their research is to continue until 2009.
The team is drawing on archival and official documents, burial records and eye witness reports. They have ruled out one theory suggesting that the death toll was much higher due to an unknown number of casualties among war refugees. The authorities kept detailed records of all the victims -- both German and foreign, the researchers said.