Dresden bombing: Composite images show the Second World War ruin of German city compared to present

Dresden was destroyed in the war that ended in September 1945

A composite image: A portion of the Zwinger art museum in 1946 still in ruins from the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 and people walk in the courtyard of the Zwinger art museum on February 12, 2015 in Dresden, Germany ( William Vandevert/Getty )

Allied bombing during the Second World War killed around 25,000 people in the German city of Dresden and turned tens of thousands of buildings into rubble exactly 75 years ago today.

British forces dropped 1,400 loads of explosives all over the area – with the help of 800 RAF Lancaster Bombers – in the hope that they would hit the Nazis in attacks that happened from 13 to 15 February 1945.

Another 200 bombers from the US continued the indiscriminate ruin of the city with at least 950 bombs during the two days.

Stunning past and present composite images have been created of landmarks to show the scale of damage and how much work had to be done to rebuild the city.

A City Hall tower statue looking down at the ruins of the city center
Women in 1946 carrying bricks outside the Martin Luther church in a neighborhood that was still wrecked from the bombing
Ruins of buildings around Neumarkt square and a fountain with a statue
Propaganda director Heinz Grunewald, Dresden mayor Walter Weidauer and town architect Dr C Herbert outside City Hall
The ruins of the Frauenkirche church and the empty pedestal for a statue of Martin Luther in 1946
Theaterplatz square destroyed in 1946 after the bombings including the Catholic Hofkirche church (C) and Residenzschloss Dresden palace (R)
Moritzstrasse and the Juedenhof palace
The city center, including Prager Strasse – which connects the central station to Old Market Square

The famous opera house and opulent museum buildings in the old city were all destroyed, as well as the Church of Our Lady – which buckled under its own weight after it was blasted with intense heat from a firestorm.

Flames from fires made air rise quickly, which created a vacuum on the ground that produced winds strong enough to uproot trees and suck people into the flames.

Historians said that the destruction was all for nothing as many lives were lost with little effect on the war that finally ended less than seven months later.

Many died of collapsed lungs and the death toll is said to be higher than 25,000 due to the likelihood that bodies were charred before they had disintegrated.

The then-British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president Franklin Roosevelt bombed eastern Germany in preparation for Soviet forces, led by Joseph Stalin, to advance from the east.​

The atrocity of the war’s effects on Dresden are immortalised in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. He was present at the time of the bombing so his most known novel could be considered a semi-autobiographical work.

This article was first published 13 February 2015

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