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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Firebombing killed 25,000 in Dresden in 1945: German commission

A special commission in Germany says the Allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945 killed no more than 25,000 people — far fewer than scholars' previous estimates running as high as 135,000.

The team of a dozen experts, including university professors, archivists and military historians, reported Wednesday that four years of research so far has confirmed 18,000 deaths and showed that police and city administrators at the time believed there were about 25,000 victims.

Recently, neo-Nazis in Germany have offered a sharply inflated figure of 500,000 to one million victims, calling the raid a "bombing Holocaust" and comparing it to Adolf Hitler's murder of six million Jews.

But when a far-right party won seats in Saxony's parliament in 2004 and began promoting such claims, state officials decided a commission was needed to put the matter to rest.


British historian Frederick Taylor, author of "Dresden: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1945", argues that while the raid was cruel and ruthless, the city was a valid target because its industries contributed to the war effort.

Sir Arthur Harris,who was Air Marshall for the Allied forces in WW2 and ordered the attack against Dresden stated in his autobiography, "Bomber Offensive: "In February of 1945, with the Russian army threatening the heart of Saxony, I was called upon to attack Dresden; this was considered a target of the first importance for the offensive on the Eastern front. Dresden had by this time become the main centre of communications for the defence of Germany on the southern half of the Eastern front and it was considered that a heavy air attack would disorganise these communications and also make Dresden useless as a controlling centre for the defence. It was also by far the largest city in Germany - the pre-war population was 630,000 - which had been left intact; it had never before been bombed. As a large centre of war industry it was also of the highest importance. Harris concludes: "Here I will only say that the attack on Dresden was at the time considered a military necessity by much more important people than myself, and that if their judgment was right the same arguments must apply that I have set out in an earlier chapter in which I said what I think about the ethics of bombing as a whole."

Internet comments about the Dresden bombing by the BBC rationalize the bombing in this fashion:

" Churchill thought that the bombing of communication centres in eastern Germany might aid the Soviet advance on Berlin. Bomber Command was ordered to attack Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and other east German cities to 'cause confusion in the evacuation from the east' and 'hamper the movements of troops from the west'.

This directive led to the raid on Dresden and marked the erosion of one last moral restriction in the bombing war: the term 'evacuation from the east' did not refer to retreating troops but to the civilian refugees fleeing from the advancing Russians.

Although these refugees clearly did not contribute to the German war effort, they were considered legitimate targets simply because the chaos caused by attacks on them might obstruct German troop reinforcements to the Eastern Front.

It is significant that only a few weeks after the raid on Dresden, on 28 March 1945, Churchill tried to dissociate himself from the destruction, and drafted the previously cited memorandum in which he denounced the bombing of cities as 'mere acts of terror and wanton destruction".


Can the actions of any person or group of persons during a war or during peace be moral if they cause pain and suffering upon others?

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.