Thursday, March 18, 2010
Posted by dkuehn at 10:10 AM
The Dresden Historians' Commission just released a report suggesting that 25,000 Germans died as a result of the Allied bombing of Dresden over February 13-15, 1945. Der Spiegel reviewed the issue here two years ago, and especially highlights the question of whether the bombing was militarily justified. This estimate is lower than earlier estimates, which approached death tolls in the hundreds of thousands, but it is quite consistent with more recent estimates. As a matter of context, 90,000-166,000 died in the bombing of Hiroshima, and 60,000-80,000 died in the bombing of Nagasaki, both in August of 1945, six months after the bombing of Dresden and three months after the German surrender.
This news reminded me of an interesting debate between A.C. Grayling and Christopher Hitchens about the Allied bombing, with Grayling expressing reservations about the practice. The first of eleven videos covering the debate is here. You should be able to click through to find the rest.
Thinking critically about events like Dresden, as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is very important in an open society. Even if we conclude that such actions were justified, it is vital to entertain the possibility that they weren't. Emotions cloud judgement in war, and nostalgia and idealism cloud judgement in the task of writing history. We can't make the right decisions now or in the future if our judgement is clouded, or if we've granted ourselves the advantage of an imagined justification in historical precedent.