The Nazi propaganda ministry declared the bombing a “terror attack,” circulating reports that up to 200,000 people had perished. The figure persisted for decades, though researchers now put the casualties closer to 25,000.
Germany’s far right has long leveraged a sense of German victimhood to promote a revisionist view of the Nazi era. Every February, neo-Nazis march in Dresden to commemorate the bombing. Franco A., who says his own grandmother witnessed the Dresden bombing, weighs it against the Holocaust in voice memos he recorded.
May 7, 1945: Germany surrenders
After the bombing of Dresden, Allied troops marched toward Berlin, liberating concentration camps along the way. With defeat imminent, Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945. Soon after, on May 7, Gen. Alfred Jodl announced the unconditional surrender of German forces.
Leading figures in the Nazi regime were put on trial for crimes against humanity. The Nuremberg Trials, as this postwar judicial process was known, were a public reckoning for German war crimes followed around the world.
Sept. 21 and Oct. 7, 1949: West and East Germany are founded
After Germany was defeated, its territory was divided and occupied by American, British, French and Soviet forces. By 1949, the Western powers consolidated their three zones into the Federal Republic of Germany, known as West Germany, while the Soviets formed the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.
The Western powers advanced an agenda of democratization — but also allowed many former Nazis to keep their jobs in government and in business. A more complete reckoning with the horrors of the Holocaust wouldn’t come for over a decade.
In East Germany, the Soviets were far more aggressive in hunting down former Nazis, even as the new country came under increasingly isolated communist rule.