London, Mar.18 (ANI): A commission of German historians has confirmed that fewer people were killed in the Allied bombing of Dresden than many reports previously estimated.
It confirmed earlier findings that up to 25,000 people died in the firestorm unleashed by British and US bombers on February 13-15, 1945.
During the five years of research, the Dresden Historians' Commission reviewed records from city archives, cemeteries, official registries and courts and checked them against published reports and witness accounts.
The figure of 25,000 matches conclusions reached by local authorities immediately after the war, in 1945 and 1946.
The report also found that the number of refugees fleeing the Eastern Front who were killed in the bombing was lower than often presumed, and dismissed speculation that many victims' bodies were never recovered.
According to The Times, the study was meant to resolve a dispute that has raged in Germany for decades, with far-right groups claiming that up to 500,000 people were killed in the attack.
In recent years a consensus has emerged among most historians that between 25,000 and 40,000 were killed in the bombing of one of the most beautiful Baroque cities in Europe.
However, the reaction to yesterday's exhaustively researched figure suggested that many in Germany still believe that the death toll was significantly higher.
Within an hour of the report, 150 protesters marched on Dresden town hall, while Ralf Lunau, the city's cultural commissioner, announced that: "This has not ended the debate at all."
The inflated death toll was partly the work of the far-right historian David Irving, who in his 1963 book The Destruction of Dresden called the bombing a deliberate war crime.
He based his figures on a Nazi document that reported 202,400 dead.
The bombing, in which more than 3,900 tonnes of high explosives and incendiaries dropped by 1,300 bombers destroyed the city centre, has long been a significant factor in Anglo-German relations, as well as a stain on Bomber Command's reputation.
When the Queen visited Dresden in 1992, eggs were thrown at her and protesters demanded an apology.
In February this year, about 6,400 neo-Nazis rallied on the 65th anniversary of the raids. They aimed to stage a "funeral march", but 12,000 counter-protesters blocked this.
The commission said its conclusions could have far-reaching implications for history's understanding of the war's final chapter, and how Germans see their own role in the war. (ANI)