70 years ago this past weekend, the Royal Air Force destroyed the city of Dresden and killed about 25,000 of its inhabitants. The exact number was impossible to determine, and Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s skilled minister of propaganda, immediately claimed that an atrocity had occurred, with at least a hundred thousand victims. Ever since, the Left has liked to maintain that whatever the Nazis did, the bombing of Dresden shows that the Allies were just as bad, or worse.
In the course of extensive unfavorable coverage of the anniversary, the BBC naturally condemned the bombing as a war crime. In a ceremony in Dresden, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury no less, said that the bombing “diminished all our humanity” and left him with “a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.” While he was apologizing for victory in the war against Nazism, Islamic State killers were beheading 21 Christians in Libya, in a current war about which he has nothing to say, so he may well find himself having to make a genuine apology in the future.
Also naturally on this occasion, no mention was made of Frederick W. Taylor’s definitive 2004 book Dresden, which explains that Stalin had requested the bombing of Dresden’s strategic railhead as it brought reinforcements to the Wehrmacht, and which furthermore exposes Goebbels’s manipulations.
Robert Kee, in his time a well-known broadcaster and author, used to tell a different story. Shot down, he was held with other airmen in a prison camp near Dresden. When the distant bombing lit up the night sky, the prisoners gathered to watch, and sang the national anthem. On the death march from Auschwitz, my friend Roman Halter, still in his teens, reached the center of Dresden as the bombing began. After a busy day of murdering, the S.S. guards now ran away, and in order to survive the firestorm the Jews stood in the river up to their necks. “It was February,” Roman used to say, “we were cold, but we cheered the RAF as loud as we could for saving us.”