THE letter from Dorothy Forsyth (July 6) criticising the bombing of Dresden in 1944 was both factually incorrect and illogical in its attempt to equate the horrors of war.
Dresden, famous for its china, had expanded into industry by the outbreak of war. In 1942 the German High Command Weapons Office listed 127 medium-to-large factories and workshops in Dresden: used for the production of poison gas, aircraft and anti-aircraft components, electrical apparatus, gears and differentials. It also housed a munitions store.
An American intelligence assessment also estimated 110 factories employing 50,000 industrial workers in Dresden. Hardly cups and saucers!
A prisoner of war eyewitness to the raid later reported ‘thousands of troops, tanks and artillery and miles of freight cars loaded with supplies supporting and transporting German logistics towards the east to meet the Russians’.
But, much more important for the Allies than Dresden’s military production was that it was a major transportation centre, the hub for the movement of German troops from north to south and east to west. Eastern Germany was the area where Hitler’s final stand was expected, hence the targeting of Berlin and other East German cities including Dresden. These attacks were intended to disrupt communications and the region’s infrastructure: the aim to create chaos.
The huge casualty figure quoted in D. Forsyth’s letter was Nazi propaganda, since embellished, or simply repeated by Nazi sympathisers such as the discredited writer David Irving.
More reliable evidence from several sources suggests a figure of up to 25,000 - the number accepted generally by impartial observers. It represents half of the loss of life in Hamburg in an earlier raid. Tragic loss of life but not unexpected.
The second part of the letter raises the impossible question of ‘moral equivalence’ or your war crimes are worse than ours.
It is absurd to quantify which act of war merits particular condemnation. Should we compare war damage to German cities and their citizens with the German naval blockade intended to starve British men, women and children to death? Or how about V2 rockets that, if produced a year earlier, would have destroyed London, its non-combatants and historic buildings. The list is endless and only creates a sterile dispute.
Finally, what about Bomber Command air crews? These were courageous men fighting for their country’s survival who would have been far happier not to risk their existence but live as normal civilians. Half of them were killed as a direct result of the German nation, including the citizens of Dresden, placing Hitler and the Nazi party in power. Germany chose that militaristic path.
Bomber Command undoubtedly deserves a memorial in London and in Eastbourne, next to the Peace Path. After all, it was their sacrifices that contributed to a victory that brought peace to Europe following a war that cost 40 million lives. The bombing of Dresden cannot be seen in isolation.