Propaganda and Dresden’s Holocaust: The Secret British File

On 13th-14th February 1945 more than 2,000 planes from the RAF and USAAF raided the historic city of Dresden, capital of the German state of Saxony. Recent commemorations of this terror-bombing’s 75th anniversary have led to renewed controversy over the total number killed, though it is acknowledged that almost all the victims were civilians including many refugees, women and children.

On 16th February the Sunday Times published an article by its foreign editor Peter Conradi accusing German patriots of exaggerating the Dresden death toll for political gain. Conradi singled out Tino Chrupalla, leader of the fast growing anti-immigration party AfD in Saxony, who had suggested a death toll of close to 100,000, which according to Conradi echoed the claims of “Holocaust-denying historians”.

Just who is engaged in Holocaust-denial here?

For clues to the answer we might turn to a secret document from the covert British propaganda agency IRD (Information Research Department), released to the National Archives just before Christmas 2019 and recently obtained by H&D‘s assistant editor Peter Rushton.

We publish this secret file’s contents today for the first time, and will soon tell the full story of how the British secret state conspired to silence challenges to Second World War history.

A rare photo of British propaganda chief Norman Reddaway (1918-1999) seen here with his wife Jean.

This particular file begins with a broadcast on the ITV television network in 1970, coinciding with the Dresden bombing holocaust’s 25th anniversary. Norman Reddaway, who had been co-founder of IRD at the start of the Cold War, but by 1970 was a senior Foreign Office diplomat in overall charge of Britain’s propaganda efforts, wrote to IRD’s director Kenneth Crook about the programme.

Reddaway complained that by giving a death toll of 135,000 this ITV documentary “had quoted Dr Goebbels’ version of the number of casualties. He had not quoted any other estimate, which would of course have been much lower. The viewers were therefore left with an uncorrected impression that RAF bombing had resulted in three or four times the true number of casualties.”

In response Reddaway suggested that IRD should deploy its trusted arsenal of propaganda tactics: a planted question by a helpful MP in the House of Commons, or a letter to The Times in the name of some respectable stooge. However senior IRD official Colin MacLaren, whose experience of secret propaganda went back to the war years where he had been part of the Special Operations Executive and Political Warfare Executive, insisted that this 135,000 figure was probably not a German exaggeration.

MacLaren wrote: “I am somewhat surprised that Mr Reddaway should assume that Dr Goebbels’s estimate of the Dresden casualties was higher than others (presumably allied) estimates. Surely the converse is true? I do not recall that the German propaganda machine was even concerned at the time to exaggerate the effects of Allied attacks.”

It was later confirmed by another IRD officer, ‘Tommy’ Tucker, that the programme’s figure of 135,000 Dresden deaths came not from any German propagandist, nor even from the best-known historian of the raid David Irving, but from Andrew Wilson, defence correspondent of the left-liberal newspaper The Observer.

British propagandists in 1970 unsuccessfully sought to dispute historians’ estimates of the Dresden death toll during the 25th anniversary of the terror-bombing. Another 50 years later, deluded German leftists unsuccessfully tried to block a commemorative march remembering the victims on the 75th anniversary, but were swiftly dealt with by police (above).

Moreover it turns out that the historical adviser to ITV’s Dresden programme was Professor Asa Briggs, a very respectable and not at all ‘right-wing’ historian who had himself been on the wartime staff of Britain’s famous codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park. (This latter fact was so secret back in 1970 that it was not committed to paper even in IRD files, but in his old age Prof. Briggs gave details of his secret past.)

Nevertheless Tucker confirmed that if necessary IRD still had a “letters to the Press drill” that could be deployed, and that if a Labour MP’s signature was required they could easily recruit one (willing to put his name to any text IRD supplied) via Maurice Foley, a former IRD propagandist himself who had become an MP and served as a minister responsible for promoting immigration (!)

Eventually Reddaway agreed to drop his objections to this particular TV programme, but efforts to undermine challenges to orthodox Second World War history continued at the highest level of Britain’s secret state.

Keep reading Heritage & Destiny for further exclusive investigations of this remarkable topic, coming soon!

Efforts to minimise the holocaust of German civilians at Dresden continue: the only official mention of the human inferno is carved on this inconspicuous stone bench in the city centre, part of the entrance to public lavatories. At least German patriots ensured that flowers were laid here to mark this 75th anniversary (at the spot where thousands of the victims were cremated).

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