The Dresden Legend - The Firestorm’s Long Shadow | DocFilm | DW | 13.02.2020
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The Dresden Legend - The Firestorm’s Long Shadow

More than half-a-million people were killed in Allied air raids during the Second World War. The missions targeted more than 100 German cities - but none of them have achieved such tragic fame as Dresden.

Watch video 42:35

Only a few days after the devastating attack on Dresden's old town in February 1945, Germany’s Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels started to exploit the disaster. He ordered the number of killed and wounded to be increased. The British and Americans responded by trying to legitimize the attack on the baroque city as a military necessity. The leader of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, believed Dresden was a dense cluster of armaments factories, a functioning administrative center and an important transportation hub. He set out to destroy it. The two sides laid the foundations of a debate about Dresden that continues to this day. On the one hand, the city was stylized as the "German Hiroshima” and the innocent victim of a "terrorist attack;” on the other, its destruction was dismissed as more or less regrettable "collateral damage" or legitimate "retaliation.” This did not change much even when, after more than five years of research, a commission of historians presented its final report in 2010 and fixed the number of victims at between 18,000 and 25,000 instead of the previous 35,000 and a million. But the question as to why the city became the target of such a devastating Allied air strike just a few months before the end of the war has still never been fully answered.