England’s sole responsibility? West German historians and the Bombenkrieg

This is a revised version of a paper originally prepared for the conference organized by Mass Violence & Resistance, Civilians at Stake: Mass Violence in Asia and Europe from 1931 to the Present, Paris, 16-18 December 2015.

Introduction

Contrary to a popular notion that the German experiences of allied bombing became a taboo after the war, the Allied bombings were discussed much more widely in the early Federal Republic than is often assumed. 1 Not only in literature and popular debates, but also in military historiography the Bombenkrieg (bombing war) was researched and discussed. In this historiography comparisons between the Luftwaffe and the RAF play an important role. Making historical and moral comparisons between the Luftwaffe bombings and the Allied bombings was a central part of the argumentation in most German military historical works about the bombing war. In this article, I explore the importance and character of such comparisons by placing this historiography in the context of a broader memory discourse on the Second World War. 2

As Malte Thiessen, Jörg Arnold and others have argued, the bombing experience became a crucial element in local commemoration practices in German cities, both in the East and in the West. 3 The extent to which the issue of bombing became part of national German memory politics in Federal Republic during the 1950s and 1960s is illustrated by the official historical documentation project, initiated by the government to document the German war damage Dokumente deutscher Kriegsschäden. The series was published in five volumes between 1958 and 1964 and included a military historical introduction and a special volume completely devoted to eye witness accounts of German victims of the Allied air raid. 4  Another example is the immense popularity of David Irving’s book The Destruction of Dresden on the bombing of Dresden and Unsere Städte starben nicht, which received coverage in Neue Illustrierte and Der Spiegel, and inspired German historians as well as playwright Rolf Hochhuth to write his play Soldaten in 1967. 5

Apart from these examples, during the 1950s and 1960s a number of historical works on bombing were published in the Federal Republic, all of them written by non-academic historians: military specialists, international law professors and former officers in the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. These accounts, by authors as Hans Rumpf, Eberhard Spetzler, Maximilian Czesany, Erich Hampe and Georg Feuchter all are very similar in their structure and argumentation. Most works voiced moral and legal accusations directed at the British military and political leadership, pointing out that the British were guilty of starting ‘terror bombing’. Therefore it also were the British who had initiated ‘total warfare’ in which civilians became deliberate targets. 6

Early West German interpretations of the bombing war

The arguments and phrases used by these authors to a high degree resemble those of the Nazi propaganda–especially during the last phase of the war-, in which the Allied bombings were portrayed as a deliberate attempt to destroy the German people and German culture as a whole. By bombing beautiful cities of no military importance, such as Dresden, Churchill had supposedly aimed for the cultural heritage of the Abendland. Especially accounts of the bombing of Dresden referred to the idea of culturecide. Axel Rodenberger, for example, described Dresden as ‘one of the most beautiful cities in the world’ and claimed that ‘it was a trusteeship that Dresden exercised, a common property of the Abendland, treasured by this city’. 7 The idea that the bombing of Dresden was particularly dreadful because that city represented crucial and unique European cultural treasures was also present in most of the more general works on the Allied bombings. 8 By bombing Germany, according to Hans Rumpf, the Anglo-Americans had brought catastrophe to the ‘Ancient European family of states’, the European Kernraum or Kernbild (‘Core space’ or ‘core image’ of Europe). By attacking Dresden the Allies had destroyed many ‘singular creations of the European spirit’. 9

A second continuity between Nazi propaganda and early West German historiography was the trope of England’s Alleinschuld, the supposed sole responsibility of the British government for starting the terror bombing war. 10 Early West German historical books on bombing all pointed at a supposedly fundamental difference between the British terror bombing, and the so-called tactical bombings of the German Luftwaffe. While the RAF had been brutal and criminal, the Luftwaffe supposedly remained ‘humane’ and had not violated international law. Thus, a strong distinction was made between the ‘humane and chivalric’ (human und ritterlich) attacks by the Luftwaffe- and the ‘terror bombings’ of the British Air Force. 11 Some West-German authors acknowledged that indeed, there had been the so-called ‘Baedeker attacks’ on small British towns in 1942, which lacked any military significance and were directed at the civilian population. However, these attacks were seen not as ‘acts of terror’ but as ‘reprisals’, which in the light of customary military law were legitimate attempts to stop the Allies from continuing to bomb German cities. Discussing German attacks on undefended British towns in 1942, law specialist Eberhard Spetzler concluded that while principally ‘this kind of warfare conflicted with military law’, the attacks were nevertheless legitimate as reprisals for British terror. ‘Such reprisal air attacks were permitted by customary military law’, Spetzler concluded. 12

The moral distinction between RAF and Luftwaffe also became apparent in the way the effects of Luftwaffe-bombings and British and American bombings were described: in the more lengthy parts dealing with the allied bombings on Germany the suffering of German civilians and the loss of cultural treasures were described in vivid detail, and illustrated with eyewitness accounts and photos. When discussing the German attacks, for example on London, Warsaw, Coventry or Rotterdam this emotional identification with victims and description of suffering were absent. This dominant narrative of a ‘humane and chivalric’ Luftwaffe has to be seen in the context of a widespread idea that the German Wehrmacht had remained ‘clean’ and that war crimes, such as mass shootings and the concentration and extermination camps were the work of Hitler and a small group of Nazi criminals. 13 A fundamental distinction was made between ‘the Nazi’s’ and the ‘ordinary Germans’ seen as an undifferentiated collective, which included German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe soldiers, who ultimately appear as victims of their regime, not as its supporters or accomplices. From this perspectives, the Germans were double victims, caught between the terror of the Nazi regime on the one side and the Allied ‘terror bombings’ on the other.
The work of former General Inspector of Fire Prevention within the Ordnungspolizei, Hans Rumpf can be seen as the archetype of this early historiography. Rumpf, whose work was covered by Der Spiegel and translated into English, concluded in Das war der Bombenkrieg (1961):

Once more Dresden assembled its exhausted population for a final exertion of force. Now everybody understood that for the Western Powers too, the goal could only be the physical destruction of the German people. The blind raging of the last months of war could mean nothing but annihilation. Both the enemy and the Nazi leaders had the same fate in mind for the German people.  14

The moral distinction between RAF and the Luftwaffe and the image of the German people as a collective of victims, can be understood in the context of memory politics and a broader debate on the Nazi past and the ‘guilt question’. It is striking that, almost without exception, early West German accounts on bombing in some way refer to the discourse on German guilt as being one-sided. The point these works made was that British and American responsibility for the mass killing of German civilians deprived them of the right to pass judgment on the Germans. As Robert Moeller has pointed out, documenting German suffering was meant to ‘show the other side of the story’ and had to counter the notion that only the victims of German occupation and Nazi terror had suffered. 15 Though Nazi crimes and especially the role of Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht – were ignored in these works, the idea of ‘German guilt’ thus implicitly was omnipresent as a heavy burden on German identity. In Hans Rumpf’s words, it was vital that ‘Germany does not, in addition to the otherwise justified feeling of guilt – one that weighs heavily on us ‘ – have to carry the weight of unleashing the total air war’. 16

Also, these works reflect an interesting shift in argumentation. During the 1950s these works commonly referred to the International Military Trials (IMT) in Nuremberg and directed themselves to allegations coming from the Allies, stressing that the IMT had passed one-sided ‘victors judgment’ on the Germans. The recurring argument was that since the Allies also had committed crimes, they had no right to point the finger at the Germans. While Hans Rumpf, for example, accused the British and Americans of not wanting to recognize their responsibility for the bombing of civilians, he also suggested that such a ‘taboo’ prevailed in Germany, not only because of the traumatic character of this collective experience, but as the result of a deliberate politics of silencing. 17

Since the beginning of the 1960s, however, as German public interest in the Holocaust grew and for the first time German perpetratorship was discussed more openly, the direction of the arguments in accounts on the bombing changed. Now historians writing about bombing increasingly criticized German memory culture of guilt-acknowledgement. Consequently, it was in the light of the renewed attention on the Nazi genocide that the bombings were more explicitly compared to and equaled with the Nazi crimes. In an overview of the Second World War conservative German historian Karl Dietrich Erdmann stated in 1959 that ‘next to the names of Belzec, Treblinka and Auschwitz as horrific symbols of radical Evil [...] stands the name of Dresden’. 18  Also, parallel to the increased interest in the Holocaust such historians started ‘borrowing’ terminology that suggested a similarity between the Allied bombings and the Nazi genocide. In an article for the Deutsche National und Soldatenzeitung in 1965, Hans Rumpf labeled the bombing of Dresden as ‘vorgeplanter Völkermord’ and as a genocidal attempt  attempts to ‘eradicate’ the German people. 19

Horst Boog

During the 1980s the historiography on the Luftkrieg underwent a process of professionalization. The study of the air war and bombing during the Second World War was taken up by academic military historians, such as Klaus Maier and Horst Boog. It was primarily the latter, who became responsible for the emergence of an academic historiography on the Allied bombings in Germany. 20 Horst Boog worked for the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt  (MGFA) in Freiburg, the academic institute of the Bundeswehr.  Especially under the leadership of director Manfred Messerschmidt, since 1970, the MGFA revived the professional and critical study of military history in Germany, which for a long time had lost its moral and political credibility. Before 1945 military historians in Germany had closely identified with the military and nationalist aims of the Wehrmacht, and legitimized German expansionism to such an extent German historians almost completely abandoned the field after 1945. 21

Unlike Spetzler and Rumpf, Boog researched in British and American archives and participated in an international academic debate. His work on the air war was characterized by an academic style and methodology and he sought connection to an international academic discussion on military history. Boog refrained from simplistic lamentations against the British and integrated the bombing war into a broader -albeit primarily military- context of the Second World War. Contrary to earlier West German authors, he acknowledged the military significance of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany as an important factor in the Allied victory and offered a nuanced and differentiated analyses of the motives and dilemmas of the Allied military and political leadership.

However, in spite of his critical methodology and pioneering archival research, his work also echoed the argumentative patterns of the 1950’s discourse. In essence, Boog too regarded the allied ‘terror bombings’ to be illegitimate acts of war. In an occasional explicit moral judgment, Boog stated that indiscriminate bombing ‘was, next to the Stalinist and Nazi-Crimes one of the biggest crime – or most serious sins – of highly industrialized nations of this century’, thus placing the bombing on the same level as the genocide and mass murder committed in the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. 22

Also, throughout his work, Boog argued that the Luftwaffe had been a ‘tactical’ air power, and had to be distinguished from the Allied air forces: not only in its practical use of air power but also in its moral and legal ideas on the legitimacy and morality of bombing civilians. He made a point of depicting the Luftwaffe officers as traditional militaries, who were firmly rooted in the ‘classic continental-European military traditions’ and from their military convictions as well as to their commitment to the ‘international law of war’ and The Hague Conventions largely opposed the use of indiscriminate bombings against civilians. Boog claimed that the Luftwaffe ‘surely also because of humanitarian considerations’ and out of respect for international law had initially refrained from terror bombing. 23

According to Boog, the Luftwaffe only by 1942 significantly changed its tactics. Hitler ordered, in spite of his very limited possibilities to do so, a series of terror attacks on small British cities, which have become known as the Baedeker Attacks. These attacks were primarily intended as retaliation and futile attempts to stop the British from bombing civilian targets Germany. Therefore, according to Boog, they illustrated both the powerlessness of the Luftwaffe, but also marked a change in attitude by accepting ‘counter-terror’ as a central form of warfare. Boog therefore concluded that in the course of the war, both air powers were increasingly willing to use inhuman methods, and finally fought each other under the ‘common denominator of the terror bombing war’. 24

In spite of this seemingly nuanced conclusion and his more elaborate argumentations, Boog too underlined the central element of the west-German narrative of the 1950s and 1960s. Like Spetzler and Rumpf before him Boog’s recurring line of argument was to point out that the bombing of Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam and Coventry did not mean that the Luftwaffe was ‘guilty of starting the indiscriminate bombing war […] because according to the law at that time, these were permissible tactical and strategic operations’. 25 Responsible for the attempts to develop retaliatory weapons and in initiating the ‘Baedeker attacks’ in 1942 were Hitler and a few Nazi hardliners, whose role Boog clearly distinguished from that of the majority of the Luftwaffe Air Staff.

Just how dominant this perspective of the ‘clean Luftwaffe’ was for German military history, becomes clear when we look at the more recent Der Bombenkrieg (2004), the popular historical work by Rolf Dieter Müller that accompanied a documentary series for the Television Channel NDR. Müller, a well known military historian and head of research at the MGFA attempted to bring military historical research to a wider public and thus contribute to a more differentiated perspective on the air war in the German public debate. Interestingly, on the one hand, he emphasized the need for contextualization and stressed that ‘to remember the air war, irrevocably led to thinking about the catastrophe, which had been caused by the national-socialist war policies’.  26

On the other hand, in its argumentation  Müller represented a more nuanced version of the narrative of ‘English responsibility’ that was more polemically advocated by Boog, his former colleague. Müller too made a specific point that indiscriminate bombing of civilians had been initiated by the British and that the Luftwaffe had initially refrained from ‘terror bombings’. He also emphasized that the Allied ‘terror bombings’ were aimed at German civilians and that the Germans were punished for something that was not their responsibility:  ‘In other words: it was not Hitler who was sentenced to death but the population of Berlin’. 27 Just as was the case for authors such as Rumpf and Spetzler, the importance of the comparison between the Luftwaffe and the RAF in the academic work by Boog and Müller can at least partly be understood in the context of broader debates on memory of the Second World War. First, as I already argued above, as part of an internal West-German debate on German guilt, and secondly, in the context of an ideological competition between the Federal Republic and the GDR over the interpretation of the Nazi past.

In various articles, culminating in his contributions to the far right oriented newspaper Junge Freiheit, Boog’s work polemicized against the German culture of ‘political correctness’. 28 In Germany, Boog argued, the repression of traumatic experiences and a ‘hypersensitivity’ towards any possible challenge to the notion of German guilt, as well as a certain ‘sinners’ pride’ had led to a strong taboo on Allied bombings as well as on pointing out the legitimate character of Luftwaffe-bombings. Boog’s double point here was that when it came to the air war the ‘role of victim’ should be ‘reserved’ for Germany, while the traumatized and politically charged culture of Vergangenheitsbewältigung and a negative self-image falsely denied the Germans access to this position. 29

In this way, Boog used arguments that were quite similar to those of Ernst Nolte, Andreas Hillgruber and Gerhard Ritter in the ‘Historikerstreit’ of the mid-1980s. 30 Like them, Boog pleaded for a memory culture in which the primary focus on guilt and the Holocaust had to be ‘liberated’ by a detached and more inclusive memory of the Second World War, which included the suffering-experiences of Germans.  Only then Germany would be able to pursue a more stable national identity, one which was based on more than a negative self-image of guilt. Nolte, for example, reacted on the public criticism against Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan for appearing at a commemorating ceremony at the Bitburg military cemetery in May 1985, where not only Wehrmacht soldiers but also members of the Waffen-SS were buried. 31 According to Nolte, the fear of the ‘balancing’ had blocked the ‘simple question’, ‘what it would have meant if in 1953 the chancellor of the Federal Republic had refused to visit the Arlington national cemetery, arguing that men were buried there that had participated in terror attacks on the German civil population’. 32

Undoubtedly in a more elaborate way than Rumpf and Spetzler before him, Boog placed his academic research in the context of a public debate on German memory of the Holocaust. It was meant to correct the idea that ‘because Hitler ‘was a villain’, ‘everything done in his name and under his regime must have been evil’ too. 33

The ‘Guilt question’ and Cold War: challenging Olaf Groehler

A second context that helps to understand Boog’s preoccupation with the distinction between RAF and Luftwaffe can be found in the controversy with his East German colleague Olaf Groehler. Olaf Groehler had been responsible for professionalizing the East German historiography on Allied bombing since the late 1960s, and, in doing so had distanced himself from the East German propagandistic appropriation of the bombing of Dresden. 34 However, in spite of his more professional and critical approach, Groehler’s work still very much was determined by Marxist interpretations. At the core of his work was the presumption the war methods of the Western Allies were another example of ‘imperialist warfare’ that bore strong resemblance to the methods used by the Nazis. Like other East German authors, Groehler saw the last phase in the allied bombing campaign, and especially the bombing of Dresden, as attempts to intimidate the Soviet Union, and not as a serious effort to win the war against Germany. 35

Groehler argued that in February 1945 the British or American army leaders no longer believed that an intense bombing offensive would bring them an immediate victory. But the desire for a clear demonstrative act remained and was promoted by ‘reactionary circles’ who were convinced that by now the Soviet Union was the only real opponent of the Western Allies. Dresden and later other cities like Magdeburg and Pforzheim became the victims of, what Groehler saw as the first step in the Cold War. He concluded that ‘the enormous area-bombing attacks during the spring of 1945 (…) did not only aim at a final wearing down of the (…) fascist regime, but at the same time were supposed to be a demonstration of power as well as a warning and a threat. In the first place these were aimed at the Soviet Union but also at the people of Europe (…)’. 36

Also, Groehler persistently criticized the “air war imperialist researchers” (‘imperialistische Luftkriegsforscher’), as he called his West German colleagues, for wanting to rehabilitate the Luftwaffe and deny the ‘terrorist’ character of the bombings of cities like Rotterdam and Coventry. Groehler saw the West German perspective on the clean Luftwaffe as part of a ‘neo-fascist’ rhetoric. He argued polemically that works by authors as Spetzler, Hampe and others only served a nationalist apology for the crimes committed by the regular Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. 37

During the 1980’s and 1990s Boog’s interpretation of the ‘clean Luftwaffe’ collided with Groehler’s Marxist concept of the ‘imperialist air war’ and since the late 1970’s Boog and Groehler became involved in a controversy. In their sometimes very fierce debate, both focused not primarily on the interpretative differences, but connected these to the ideological dispute of the Cold War. Boog invited Groehler to a conference in Freiburg in 1988 and suggested that he would address the bombing by the Soviet air forces. Groehler accepted the invitation but insisted on taking part in Boog’s panel on “air war and humanity. 38 In his contribution, Groehler polemically criticized West German historians for downplaying German air terror and for attempting to ‘rehabilitate’ the Luftwaffe. Groehler concluded in his paper, that a ‘group of historians’ in the Federal Republic ‘tried to deny the historical responsibility of Nazism for starting the terror bombing war’. 39Similarly in Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland, without naming Boog directly, Groehler implied that his work was part of a ‘radical right’ movement in the Federal Republic.

A minority of historians, many of them rooted in outdated traditions, deny the    responsibility of Germany for initiating the terrorist air war against civilians with the argument, that the German Luftwaffe was a military unit that only had a tactical premise. Lately some even have attempted to see the undeniable acts of terror by Goring’s bombing squads as an unfortunate coincidence for which no-one really can be accounted for. 40

Boog, on the other hand, accused Groehler of ideological distortions and scorned his concept of an ‘imperialist air war’ as an attempt to demonize both Germany and the western Allies, while exculpating the war crimes committed by the Soviets. In his review of Groehler’s book, Boog argued that it  ‘contained many myths and untruths about the old German Luftwaffe’ and offered many views, which were ‘distorted by the ideological blinders of the author’. 41 To Boog, Groehler was a product of an oppressive dictatorship, and consciously instrumentalized the bombings for political purposes. The debate between Groehler and Boog remained a highly ideological ‘Cold War’ quarrel and never really evolved into an elaborate academic discussion. Even after 1990 the old tensions remained. In a review, Boog accused Groehler of being a ‘Reisekader Chef’ (a DDR privileged cadre, allowed to travel abroad), referring to Groehlers political influence within his institute, and Groehler kept associating Boog with neo-Nazism. 42

A shared narrative of German suffering

Boog’s moral pleas to correct the negative image of the Luftwaffe and his discussions with Groehler, illustrate that, in spite of his reputation of a distanced scholar, he was strongly concerned with questions of memory and identity. Therefore, we should be careful to see academic historians like Horst Boog, Rolf Dieter Müller or Olaf Groehler, as has often happened, solely as academics who only participate in a discourse over facts and explanations and who are not concerned with questions of identity and memory conflicts. 43 More so, they give us a revealing insight in the interdependence between public and academic narratives on the past in postwar Germany.

In their discussion on the comparison between Luftwaffe and RAF bombings, Boog and Groehler quarreled about questions, who was guilty for initiating the bombing of civilians, what were the political lessons to be learned, and how should such historical conclusions affect or correct public memory of the Second World War in a broader sense. For Boog the bombing war proved that the Luftwaffe was a honorable military force and the Germans fell victim to the inhumanity of ‘total warfare’. Therefore, according to Boog, Germans should liberate themselves from a negative self image and acknowledge both the suffering of German civilians and the ‘decency’ and humanitarian character of the larger part of the Luftwaffe. For Groehler the bombing war showed that Western imperialism and Nazi imperialism were almost just as bad, and antifascism and socialism was the only alternative. Germany should accept its responsibility for unleashing the war in general, and more specifically the bombing war against civilians, but only on an abstract and political level. Like for Boog, for Groehler too, ‘the German people’ were among the primary victims of  the war. The struggle of the imperialist forces over Germany had made its population a passive victim: ‘Under the perspective of a strategy that was focused on the postwar period, the German Hinterland came to act as an experimental ground, in which the German population played the part of a laboratory animal’, Groehler metaphorically concluded in Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland. 44 Also, it is striking that while Groehler repeatedly argued that the Germans had started the bombing war, throughout his work, he saved emotional language and descriptions of suffering for describing the German bombing experience. 45

To a certain degree the argument, on whether or not the Luftwaffe and RAF were comparable in their use of terror on civilians was a phantom discussion. It concealed that ultimately Boog and Groehler had more in common than they were aware of. Besides the fact that both historians in a very similar way had delivered important pioneering work on the allied bombings, their work also revealed strong parallels between the East and West German narratives. Both portrayed the German people collectively as ‘double victims’, who stood under constant pressure of allied bombings on the one hand, and their terror-regime on the other. The extent to which Germans participated with their regime, or how they benefited from the looting of Jewish property that was redistributed among Germans who were damaged by the bombings are largely blanked out. Also, the bombing experiences of other Europeans, or the suffering of Japanese victims of Allied bombing were absent. Though they mentioned the Luftwaffe bombings, they generally overlooked its effects and consequences for the civilian population in other European countries. And when looking at the impact of bombing on German society , questions,  how, for example, bombing affected power-relations among the leaders of the Third Reich, and the parallels between English and German coping strategies also remained largely unanswered. 46

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Groehler, Olaf.  Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1990).
Gregor, Neil. Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
Hampe, Erich. Der zivile Luftschutz im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Dokumentation und Erfahrungsberichte über Aufbau und Einsatz (Frankfurt am Main: Bernard & Graefe Verlag für Wehrwesen, 1963).
Hochhuth, Rolf. Soldaten. Nekrolog auf Genf (Reinbek: Rowohlt 1967).
Irving, David. The Destruction of Dresden (London: Ballantine Books, 1963).
Irving, David. Und Deutschlands Städte starben nicht. Ein Dokumentarbericht (Zürich: Schweizer Verlagshaus, 1963).
Irving, David. Der Untergang Dresdens (München: Rowohlt, 1964).
Kesselring, Albert. Soldat bis zum letzten Tag (Bonn: Athenäum-Verlag, 1953).
Kettenacker, Lothar, ed. Ein Volk von Opfern. Die neue Debatte um den Bombenkrieg 1940-1945 (Berlin: Rowohlt, 2003).
Klöss, Erhard. Der Luftkrieg über Deutschland, 1939-1945 Deutsche Berichte und Pressestimmen des neutralen Auslands, nach den ‘Dokumenten deutscher Kriegsschäder’, herausgegeben vom Bundesminister für Vertriebene, Flüchtige und Kriegsgeschädigte (München: DTV, 1963).
Kurowski, Franz. Der Luftkrieg über Deutschland (Düsseldorf: Kaiser, 1977).
Levkov, Ilya I. ed. Bitburg and beyond: encounters in American, German and Jewish history (New York: Carol, 1987).
Moeller, Robert G. War Stories. The search for a usable past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2001).
Müller, Rolf Dieter (with Florian Huber and Johannes Eglau) Der Bombenkrieg 1939-1945 (Berlin: Links, 2004).
Nahm, Peter Paul, Karlheinz Kugler and Edgar von Wietersheim, eds. Dokumente Deutscher Kriegsschäden. Evakuierte, Kriegssachgeschädigte, Währungsgeschädigte. Die geschichtliche und rechtliche Entwicklung 5 vols. (Bonn: Bundesminister für Vertriebene, Flüchtlinge und Kriegsgeschädigte, 1958-1964)
Rodenberger, Axel. Der Tod von Dresden (Dortmund: Franz Müller-Rodenberger, 1951).
Rumpf, Hans, Der hochrote Hahn (Darmstadt: Mittler, 1952).
Rumpf, Hans,  The Bombing of Germany (New York: Muller, 1962).
Rumpf, Hans, Das war der Bombenkrieg. Deutsche Städte im Feuersturm: ein Dokumentarbericht (Oldenburg: Stalling, 1961).
Rumpf, Hans. ‘Bomber-Harris. Eine biographische Studie. Was wir vom Luftkrieg nicht
wissen’ Ziviler Luftschutz 16, no. 1 (1953): 22-25.
Sebald, Winfried G. Luftkrieg und Literatur (München: Hanser, 1999).
Spetzler, Eberhard. Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit. Die völkerrechtliche Stellung der Zivilpersonen im Luftkrieg. Göttinger Beiträge zu Gegenwartsfragen 12 (Göttingen: Musterschmidt, 1956).
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 Deutschland und England (München: Siedler, 2011).
Thiessen, Malte. Eingebrannt ins Gedächtnis. Hamburgs Gedenken an Luftkrieg und Kriegsende 1943 bis 2005, Forum Zeitgeschichte (Hamburg: Dölling & Galitz, 2007).
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  • 1. E.g. Winfried G. Sebald, Luftkrieg und Literatur (München: 1999) 17-18, 76. For the initial discussion following Jörg Friedrich’s Der Brand see: Lothar Kettenacker, ed. Ein Volk von Opfern. Die neue Debatte um den Bombenkrieg 1940-1945 (Berlin: 2003) and the special issue of German magazine Der Spiegel later printed as a volume: Stephan Burgdorff and Wolfgang Bayer, eds., Als Feuer vom Himmel fiel. Der Bombenkrieg in Deutschland (München: 2003).
  • 2. Also see: Bas von Benda-Beckmann German Historians and the Bombing of German Cities. The Contested Air War (Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam 2015).
  • 3. Malte Thiessen, Eingebrannt ins Gedächtnis. Hamburgs Gedenken an Luftkrieg und Kriegsende 1943 bis 2005, Forum Zeitgeschichte (Hamburg 2007); The Allied Air War and Urban Memory. The Legacy of Strategic Bombing in Germany (Oxford 2011). Neil Gregor, Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past (New Haven 2008).
  • 4. Peter Paul Nahm, Karlheinz Kugler, and Edgar von Wietersheim, eds. Dokumente Deutscher Kriegsschäden. Evakuierte, Kriegssachgeschädigte, Währungsgeschädigte. Die geschichtliche und rechtliche Entwicklung 5 vols. (Bonn: Bundesminister für Vertriebene, Flüchtlinge und Kriegsgeschädigte, 1958-1964).
  • 5. David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden (London: 1963. Translated as Die Untergang Dresdens, in 1964). Before they were published as Und Deutschlands Städte starben nicht, different chapters appeared in the Neue Illustrierte in 1961. David Irving, Und Deutschlands Städte starben nicht. Ein Dokumentarbericht (Zürich: 1963). Rolf Hochhuth, Soldaten. Nekrolog auf Genf (Reinbek: 1967).
  • 6. E.g. Georg W. Feuchter, Geschichte des Luftkriegs. Entwicklung und Zukunft (Bonn 1954); Hans Rumpf, Der hochrote Hahn (Darmstadt 1952); Hans Rumpf, Das war der Bombenkrieg. Deutsche Städte im Feuersturm: ein Dokumentarbericht (Oldenburg 1961); Eberhard Spetzler, Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit. Die völkerrechtliche Stellung der Zivilpersonen im Luftkrieg (Göttingen 1956); Erich Hampe, Der zivile Luftschutz im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Dokumentation und Erfahrungsberichte über Aufbau und Einsatz (Frankfurt am Main 1963); Klöss, Erhard. Der Luftkrieg über Deutschland, 1939-1945 Deutsche Berichte und Pressestimmen des neutralen Auslands, nach den ‘Dokumenten deutscher Kriegsschäder’ (München: DTV, 1963).
  • 7. Axel Rodenberger, Der Tod von Dresden (Dortmund 1951) 185.
  • 8. Czesany and Spetzler stress the ‘Europeanness’ of Dresden explicitly. Spetzler reminded the reader that Dresden until then had been ‘one of the most famous sights of the abendländische Kultur’. Spetzler, Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit 317; Maximilian Czesany, Nie wieder Krieg gegen die Zivilbevölkerung: eine völkerrechtliche Untersuchung des Luftkrieges 1939-1945 (Graz: 1961) 131-134; Franz Kurowski, Der Luftkrieg Über Deutschland (Düsseldorf: 1977) 349.
  • 9. Rumpf, Das war der Bombenkrieg 33; Hans Rumpf, ‘Das war vorgeplanter Völkermord. Churchill und der Bombenkrieg’, Deutsche National-Zeitung und Soldaten-Zeitung 15, no. 14 (1965) 10; Hans Rumpf, ‘Bomber-Harris. Eine biographische Studie. Was wir vom Luftkrieg nicht wissen’, Ziviler Luftschutz 16, no. 1-2 (1952) 23. A similar stressing of the Europeanness of the destroyed cultural treasures in Germany in: Hampe, Der zivile Luftschutz 199.
  • 10. Auswärtiges Amt, ed. Dokumente über die Alleinschuld Englands am Bombenkrieg gegen die Zivilbevölkerung, Auswärtiges Amt 1943 Nr. 8 (Berlin: 1943); Franz Eher, ed. Englands Alleinschuld am Bombenterror, Volksausgabe des 8. amtlichen Deutschen Weissbuches (Berlin: 1943).
  • 11. For the term ‘human und ritterlich’ see: Spetzler, Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit 238; Eher, ed. Englands Alleinschuld 5; Albert Kesselring, Soldat bis zum letzten Tag (Bonn: 1953) 61.
  • 12. Spetzler, Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit 265-266. Likewise: Maximillian Czesany, Nie wieder Krieg 93-97.
  • 13. Wolfram Wette, Die Wehrmacht. Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden (Frankfurt am Main: 2002) 195-245.
  • 14. Rumpf, Das war der Bombenkrieg, 141; "Updating the Mongols. The Bombing of Germany by Hans Rumpf ", Time Magazine, June 21 1963; "Bombenkrieg. Brand-Verächter," Der Spiegel (1961) 37-39.
  • 15. Robert Moeller, War Stories. The search for a usable past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley 2001) 181.
  • 16. Rumpf, Das war der Bombenkrieg 21; For the positive public reception of Rumpf’s work see: ‘Brand-Verächter’ 38. A similar argument is present in Spetzler, Luftkrieg und Menschlichkeit 373-375.
  • 17. Rumpf, Das war der Bombenkrieg 10-13.
  • 18. Karl Dietrich Erdmann, Die Zeit der Weltkriege, Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte 4. (Stuttgart: 1959) 311.
  • 19. Rumpf ‘Das war vorgeplanter Völkermord. Churchill und der Bombenkrieg’, Deutsche National-Zeitung und Soldaten-Zeitung 15, no. 14 (1965) 10.
  • 20. Horst Boog, Die deutsche Luftwaffenführung 1935-1945: Führungsprobleme; Spitzengliederung; Generalstabsausbildung (Stuttgart: 1982); Horst Boog et al., Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg (DRZW) 4 (Stuttgart: 1983); Horst Boog, ‘Der anglo-amerikanische strategische Luftkrieg über Europa und die deutsche Luftverteidigung’ in Der globale Krieg. Die Ausweitung zum Weltkrieg und der Wechsel der Initiative 1941-1943, ed. Horst Boog et al., DRZW 6 (Stuttgart: 1990) 429-565; Horst Boog, ‘Strategischer Luftkrieg in Europa und Reichsluftverteidigung 1943-1944’, in Das Deutsche Reich in der Defensive: strategischer Luftkrieg in Europa, Krieg im Westen und in Ostasien, 1943-1944/45 ed. Horst Boog, Gerhard Krebs, and Detlef Vogel, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg 7 (Stuttgart: 2001) 3-418; Horst Boog, ‘Die strategische Bomberoffensive der Alliierten gegen Deutschland und die Reichsluftverteidigung in der Schlußphase des Krieges’, in Der Zusammenbruch des Deutschen Reiches 1945. Die militärische Niederwerfung der Wehrmacht, ed. Rolf Dieter Müller, DRZW 10/1 (Stuttgart: 2008) 777-884.
  • 21. Wolfram Wette, Die Wehrmacht. Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden (Frankfurt am Main: 2002) and ‘Militärgeschichte zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik’, in Weltmacht durch die Hintertür. Deutsche Nationalgeschichte in der Diskussion, ed. Bernd F. Schulte (Hamburg: 2003) 31-51. On the MGFA see: Martin Rink, ed. 50 Jahre Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt: eine Chronik (Berlin: 2007); Wolfram Wette, ‘Militärgeschichte zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik’, in Was ist Militärgeschichte?, ed. Thomas Künhe and Benjamin Ziemann (Paderborn: 2000) 49-71; Rolf Dieter Müller, ‘Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Konzeption und Erfahrungen eines wissenschaftlichen Grossprojektes’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 56, no. 4 (2008) 301-326.
  • 22. Horst Boog, ‘Bombenkrieg, Völkerrecht und Menschlichkeit im Luftkrieg’, in Die Soldaten Der Wehrmacht, ed. Hans Poeppel, Wilhelm Karl Prinz von Preussen, and Karl-Günther von Hase (München: 1998)309 ; Also see (here without direct reference to Communist and Nazi crimes); Horst Boog. ‘Harris – A German View’. In Arthur Harris, Despatch on War Operations (London 1995) xiv and Horst Boog ‘Das Ende des Bombenkriegs. Ein Militärgeschichtlichter Rückblick’ Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 45, no. 18/19 (1995) 20.
  • 23. Horst Boog, ‘The Luftwaffe and Indiscriminate Bombing up to 1942’, in The conduct of the air war in the Second World War. An international comparison: proceedings of the International Conference of Historians in Freiburg im Breisgau, from 29 August to 2 September 1988 (New York: 1992) 380; Horst Boog, ‘Luftwaffe und unterschiedsloser Bombenkrieg bis 1942’, in Der Zweite Weltkrieg. Analysen, Grundzüge, Forschungsbilanz, ed. Wolfgang Michalka (München: 1989) 523-531. Boog, "Das Ende des Bombenkriegs" 525; Boog, "Strategischer Luftkrieg" 321-323; Boog, Horst. ‘Die Operationen der Luftwaffe gegen Die Niederlande, 10.-15. Mai 1940’. In Ideen und Strategien 1940. Ausgewählte Operationenund deren militärgeschichtlichen Aufarbeitung, edited by MFGA. (Bonn 1990) 151-152.
  • 24. Boog, Die deutsche Luftwaffenführung 133-136. Also see: Horst Boog, ‘“Baedeker-Angriffe” und Fernstflugzeugproduktion 1942. Die strategische Ohnmachte der Luftwaffe’, Militärgeschichtliche Beiträge 4, no. 1 (1990) 91-110; Boog, ‘Luftwaffe und unterschiedsloser Bombenkrieg’ 523-531; Boog, ‘Der anglo-amerikanische strategische Luftkrieg’ 560-565; Boog, ‘Bombenkrieg’ 295. Boog, ‘Strategische Bomberoffensive’ 873.
  • 25. Especially see: Horst Boog, ‘Der strategische Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland 1939-1945, ein Überblick’, in Alliierter Bombenkrieg: das Beispiel Dresden, ed. Lothar Fritze and Thomas Widera (Göttingen: 2005) 22-23.
  • 26. Rolf Dieter Müller (with Florian Huber and Johannes Eglau) Der Bombenkrieg 1939-1945 (Berlin:2004) 231.
  • 27. Ibidem 185.
  • 28. Boog also wrote for the extreme conservative/far-right newspaper Junge Freiheit in which his theses became more polemic pleadings against the German culture of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. See e.g. Horst Boog, ‘Auf der Schleimspur der Political Correctness’, Junge Freiheit, 24 March 2006; Moritz Schwarz, ‘Die Unmenschlichkeit schrankenlosen Luftkriegführung’. Im Gespräch: Der Historiker Horst Boog, Junge Freiheit, 25 July 2003; Horst Boog, ‘Geschichtenerzähler aus der zweiten Reihe’, Junge Freiheit, 24 September 2004; Horst Boog, ‘Geschichtsstunde auf tiefstem Niveau’ Junge Freiheit, 21 May 2004. Also see: Jost Wippermann, ‘Die “Junge Freiheit”: Blockadebrecher der “Neuen Rechten”’, in Rechtsextremismus. Ideologie und Gewalt ed. Richard Faber, Hajo Funke, and Gerhard Schoenberger (Berlin: 1995) 163-177.
  • 29. Boog, ‘Bombenkrieg’ and Boog, ‘Das Ende des Bombenkriegs’ 19-20; Schwarz, ‘Interview Boog’.
  • 30. See for an overview of the ‘historians’ controversy’ Rudolf Augstein ed,‘Historikerstreit’. Die Dokumentation der Kontroverse um die Einzigartigkeit der nationalsozialistischen Judenvernichtung (München: 1987) and also: Jane Caplan et al., ‘The Historikerstreit Twenty Years On’, German History 24, no. 4 (2006) 587-607.
  • 31. On the Bitburg-controversy see: Ilya I. Levkov, ed. Bitburg and beyond: encounters in American, German and Jewish history (New York: 1987).
  • 32. Nolte, "Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will". English translation: Forever in the shadow of Hitler?: the dispute about Germans' understanding of history, original documents of the Historikerstreit, the controversy concerning the singularity of the Holocaust/ translated by James Knowlton and Truett Cates, (New Jersey: 1993) citation on p. 20.
  • 33. Boog, ‘Das Ende des Bombenkriegs’ 19-20.
  • 34. Olaf Groehler, "Rezensionen. Walter Weidauer: Inferno Dresden. Über Lügen und Legenden um die Aktion "Donnerschlag"," Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 13, no. 8 (1965) 1446-1447. Groehler’s key publications were: Groehler, Olaf. Geschichte des Luftkriegs 1910 bis 1970 (Berlin 1975) and Groehler, Olaf. Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland (Berlin 1990).
  • 35. Also see: Bas von Benda-Beckmann, ‘Imperialist Air War. East German academic Research and Memory Politics reflected in the Work of Olaf Groehler’ in Helmut Schmitz and Annette Seidel-Arpaci ed., Narratives of Trauma. Discourses of German Wartime Suffering in National and International Perspective. German Monitor (Amsterdam 2011) 32-57. For earlier examples of East German accounts on the Allied bombings: Max Seydewitz, Die unbesiegbare Stadt. Zerstörung und Wiederaufbau von Dresden (Berlin: 1956); Walter Weidauer, Inferno Dresden: über Lügen und Legenden um die Aktion ‘Donnerschlag’ (Berlin: 1965).
  • 36. Groehler, Bombenkrieg 391.
  • 37. Olaf Groehler ‘Der “strategische” Luftkrieg gegen Hitlerdeutschland (Februar 1942-März 1944)’ Zeitschrift für Militärgeschichte 7, no. 4 (1968) 443 and Olaf Groehler, "Neuere bürgerliche Publikationen zur Luftkriegsgeschichte," Militärgeschichte 17, no. 4 (1978) 491.
  • 38. Correspondence Boog and Groehler (1988) in ABBAW-ZIG 703/4.
  • 39. Groehler, Olaf. ‘The Strategic Air War and its Impact on the German Civilian Population’ in The conduct of the air war in the Second World War. An international comparison: proceedings of the International Conference of Historians in Freiburg im Breisgau, from 29 August to 2 September 1988. Studies in Military History 2 (New York 1992) 281.
  • 40. Groehler, Bombenkrieg 8.
  • 41. Horst Boog, "Rezension von Olaf Groehler: Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland," Das Historisch-Politische Buch 40, no. 1 (1992) 44-45, also see: Boog, "Bombenkrieg" 287, footnote 139.
  • 42. Ibidem.
  • 43. Especially see various contributions to Kettenacker, ed. Ein Volk von Opfern, op.cit.
  • 44. Groehler, Bombenkrieg gegen Deutschland 391.
  • 45. E.g. Groehler, Geschichte des Luftkriegs; Bombenkrieg gegen Detuschland.
  • 46. Most notably: Dietmar Süß, Tod aus der Luft. Kriegsgesellschaft und Luftkrieg in Deutschland und England (München: 2011) 226-237; 319-372 but also in Jörg Echternkamp, ed. Die deutsche Kriegsgesellschaft 1939 bis 1945. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg 9/1 (München: 2004).

Cite this item

Bas von Benda-Beckmann , England’s sole responsibility? West German historians and the Bombenkrieg, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: , accessed 24/05/2017, http://www.sciencespo.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/england-s-sole-responsibility-west-german-historians-and-bombenkrieg, ISSN 1961-9898