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Jörg Friedrich

Jörg Friedrich (born August 17, 1944 in Kitzbühel; often also spelt Joerg or just Jorg in English) is a Berlin-based author of books on history commonly described as an "independent German Historian". Friedrich is best known for his publication "Der Brand" (2002) in which he portraits the Allied bombing of civilian targets during World War II as systematic and in many ways pointless mass murder. An English translation, "The Fire", was published in 2006 by Columbia University Press, and met with widespread critical approval. For example, the New York Times said it "describes in stark, unrelenting and very literary detail what happened in city after city as the Allies dropped 80 million incendiary bombs on Germany.... There is … an edginess to Friedrich's writing and commentary, an emotional power."

Friedrich, formerly considered a left wing anti-war activist and described as a student Trotskyist" [http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,847665,00.html Germany's unmourned victims] " Ian Buruma, The Guardian, 26 November 2002 retrieved 13 January 2005 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,847665,00.html] , now considered by some critics as a revisionist historian, a label which he has acknowledged.Luke Harding " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1067232,00.html German historian provokes row over war photos] " in "The Guardian", October 21, 2003] His books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Germany and some have also been translated into English, Dutch, French and many other languages. He is well connected in German political and military circles, including friendships with the former German Chancellor. Before he published interviews with Bahro and Hilberg, when their books were published.

Life and career

Born in Kitzbühel, Austria in 1944, he spent his childhood in Essen, Germany. Jörg Friedrich became a Trotskyist and, during the Vietnam war an anti-war protester. Following from that, he began to write books on the history of the war in Germany and work as an independent historian, researching post war justice and the Nuremberg Trials. His books have always been controversial and have largely sold through this controversial analysis and the publicity surrounding them.

Analysis of Friedrich's position

As a historian who has written strongly on the horrors committed by the German state under the Nazis, Friedrich's position has, in the past and the present, always been assumed to be anti-Nazi with anti-war tendencies focused towards Germany taking responsibility for its actions during the war.

:"his previous work examining Wehrmacht crimes and Nazi justice enables him to approach the subject without risking automatic dismissal as a right-wing apologist." (from the Peifer review of Der Brand)" [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw159.htm Review: Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg, 1940/1945] " Douglas Peifer, Air Command and Staff College, "Air and Space Power Chronicles", Spring 2004, p121/124 retrieved from http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj04/spr04/spr04.pdf (PDF) and also http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw159.htm]

However, the discussion surrounding his books on the allied bombing campaign has led to a reappraisal of his position and a re-examination of his earlier books. His criticism of post-war Germany and denazification, which have previously been understood as being a criticism of power-politics and the selective prosecution of those not useful to the new administration can now be seen as a direct criticism of interference in German national sovereignty:

:"Jörg Friedrich describes the denazification program as a form of political purge with no basis in international law. The Hague rules of land warfare do not authorize an occupier to undertake any such interference in the enemy's domestic affairs." "Law and war: an American story", Peter Maguire, Columbia University Press, 2001 ISBN 0231120508, Chapter 4 page 146, (according to its prefix, Friedrich helped considerably with this book)]

Once taken in this light, alongside Friedrich's recent admission that he is a "revisionist historian"" [http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1068437,00.html Germany's forgotten victims] ", Luke Harding, "The Guardian", 22 October 2003, retrieved 13 January 2005 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1068437,00.html] , Friedrich's modern books and the choices and omissions he has made in them have been seen to take on a rather different meaning. Friedrich admits the well known fact that Germany initiated bombing of civilians in the UK by bombing London, although he claims the first raid was "accidental" thereby leaving Britain as the first nation in his book to "deliberately" bomb non-military targets. Less well known bombings, such as that of the Polish town of Wieluń within the first two hours of the war and prior to any attack on Germany, either by air or land, are left out. Friedrich, whose primary claim to fame is as a military historian, mentions the British use of explosive weapons followed by incendiary, a mixture designed to create large fires. He also mentions that the technik to create firestorms was a German development first seen int the bombing aginst British cities, such as the Coventry Blitz (14 November 1940) and the Second Great Fire of London (29/30 December 1940).

Friedrich was convinced to publish his book of Dresden photographs by Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3211690.stm Horrific fire-bombing images published] ", Ray Furlong, BBC News, 22 October 2003, retrieved 2 February 2005 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3211690.stm] , however a pre-requisite was given, that equivalent photographs of Polish and British victims should be shown. He has made repeatedly mentioned Schroeder's endorsement, but actually admitted failing to fulfil the conditions, explaining that the archives of the UK Government would not allow him to publish such photographs. In fact, many of the photographs of the Blitz in London belong to private collections such as that of George Rodger of Magnum Photos'. By choosing as his standard of comparison for Dresden the bombing of London, Friedrich avoids covering the topics of Stalingrad, where 40,000 Soviet civilians are known to have been killed in one day of German bombing, Leningrad where approximately a million Soviet civilians were killed or with Warsaw where, 200,000 Polish civilians were killed in the Warsaw Uprising, often in ground based attacks which used a similar mixture of explosive and incendiary weapons to those used by the allies in Germany, but, by contrast to Dresden, where general areas were targeted, also involved deliberate and selective targeting of clearly marked hospitals with dive bombers and ground forces.Fact|date=August 2007

Friedrich has specifically attempted to claim the position of an objective historian" [http://tbrnews.org/Archives/a248.htm Germans Revisit War's Agony, Ending a Taboo] ", Richard Bernstein, "The New York Times", 15 March 2003 retrieved 31 January 2005 from http://tbrnews.org/Archives/a248.htm] , making "no judgement about the morality of Allied bombing"" [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0303070303mar07,1,20636.story?ctrack=1&cset=true Foes of war find ally in book on WWII air raids] ", Stevenson Swanson, " [http://www.chicagotribune.com Chicago Tribune] ", 7 March 2003, retrieved 16 January 2005 from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0303070303mar07,1,20636.story?ctrack=1&cset=true] . Many reviews of his books have pointed out that the language Friedrich uses in his books, with words such as "Einsatzgruppen" (taskforce in English) used to describe allied pilots and "crematoria" (as in the crematoria of Auschwitz) to describe the air raid shelters in which Dresden residents died. This has led to accusations that Friedrich "is downright reckless" and is attempting to make the reader consider a parallel to "the Nazi dehumanisation of the Jews.". " [http://www.quadrant.org.au/php/archive_details_list.php?article_id=592 Air War,Literature and Compassion] ", Iain Bamforth, " [http://www.quadrant.org.au Quadrant] ", Volume XLVIII Number 1 - January-February 2004, Retrieved 21 January 2005 from http://www.quadrant.org.au/php/archive_details_list.php?article_id=592]

Taken together, two explanations have been given for Friedrich's recent books and their choice of topics. The first is that Friedrich maintains strong anti-war feelings and with the looming War in Iraq and other global conflicts, Friedrich wanted to join in the general German anti-war feelings and implicitly criticise the policy of attacks on foreign non-military targets in Iraq. Friedrich has himself rejected this explanation stating that he 'is dismayed that "The Fire" has bolstered the pacifist argument against German participation in an Iraq war'" [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0303070303mar07,1,20636.story?ctrack=1&cset=true Foes of war find ally in book on WWII air raids] ", Stevenson Swanson, " [http://www.chicagotribune.com Chicago Tribune] ", 7 March 2003, retrieved 16 January 2005 from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0303070303mar07,1,20636.story?ctrack=1&cset=true (same as last reference)]

The second explanation which has been given is that Friedrich, whilst probably still anti-Nazi, has been acting as a German Nationalist and trying to relativise the crimes of the German Nation in World War II as just some among many committed by all nations involved in the war.Fact|date=August 2007

Other related historians

Comparisons between the bombing of Dresden and the extermination of the Jews in the second world war were first made popular through the work of the holocaust denier David Irving. Whilst Jörg Friedrich, who always operates within German law, where holocaust denial as carried out by Irving would be illegal, has not directly made that comparison. He has described the death of civilians killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in their cellars as "gassing", the attacks in general as a "massacre" and claimed that the attacks of 1945 had little or no military value.

Irving was the first person to claim a death toll of over 100,000 for the bombing of Dresden, which even he was later forced to withdraw. [http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/i/irving.david/ftp.py?people/i/irving.david//irving-dresden-casualties-01 The Dresden Raids letter to the Editor] from "The Times" 7 July 1966 a correction to " [http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Dresden The Destruction of Dresden] " by David Irving London: William Kimber, 1963. In this letter Irving, who had previously used figures as high as 250,000 admitted the confirmed casualty figures were actually 18,375, expected to rise to 25,000 including when those not registered in the city were taken into account. Despite the admission of his mistake contained in the letter, he has still used figures as high as 100,000 in articles and books on his own website fpp.org, some written as late as 2004.] Jörg Friedrich has never made such extreme claims. His claim of 40,000 is around the current best estimates of 25,000 to 35,000 (see Bombing of Dresden)."" by Götz Bergander.] [http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/evidence/evans005.asp#5.2d The Bombing of Dresden in 1945: Falsification of statistics] , by Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, a detailed critique of problems with David Irving's book.]

More close to the mainstream of historical research, other German historians have also covered the suffering of the German people during the war. The bombing of Dresden had been covered in detail by Götz Bergander prior to Friedrich's book. "Germans Revisit War's Agony, Ending a Taboo", Richard Bernstein, "The New York Times", 15 March 2003, the book referred to is "Dresden im Luftkrieg: Vorgeschichte, Zerstörung, Folgen", by Götz Bergander, 1994, ISBN 3412101931, in German; apparently no English translation is available.]

Friedrich has cooperated with historians from various countries including with Peter Maguire during the creation of his book "Land and War".Fact|date=August 2007

Influence on German and international debate on the war

Friedrich's books have not been well received by all in Germany. ARD, a public television channel, wrote "the Fire" ("Der Brand") off as a "provocation" " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3211690.stm Horrific fire-bombing images published] ", Ray Furlong, BBC News, 22 October 2003, retrieved 2 February 2005 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3211690.stm] and "Süddeutsche Zeitung" recommended throwing his latest book, "Places of Fire" directly into the garbage.Fact|date=August 2007

Even with these strong criticisms, Friedrich has had considerable public success, "Der Brand" was serialised in the German tabloid "Bild" and has had a serious influence on German national debate. Friedrich has claimed that this has meant that German civilians who had never previously talked about their wartime experiences have begun to tell about this phase in history which was previously documented primarily from the point of view of influence on the war. At other times, revision of the outlook on the war has taken place, with Klaus Naumann, a former NATO General and friend of Friedrich's, saying, during a joint promotional interview with Friedrich, that he now doubted the legality and military need for Churchill's decision to attack Dresden, thereby implying that the attacks may have been war crimes. [http://www.caymannetnews.com/Archive/Archive%20Articles/December%202002/Issue%20%20310%20Tue/Retired%20German.html Retired German NATO general stirs Churchill war strategy debate] , Cayman Net News Online, 2002/12, Retrieved 9 February 2005 from http://www.caymannetnews.com/Archive/Archive%20Articles/December%202002/Issue%20%20310%20Tue/Retired%20German.html] [http://archiv.tagesspiegel.de/archiv/23.12.2002/361552.asp Gibt es den gerechten Luftkrieg?] (German language), Interview of Friederich and Naumann Kai Müller and Christian Schröder, "Tagesspiegel", 2002/12/23, Retrieved 15 December 2005]

Both in Germany and abroad, neo-Nazi groups have seized on the book as proving that the air war was begun by the UK. Claims that the book shows that bombings of German towns in 1940 were the first attacks on civilians of the war, based on the omission of attacks in Poland, are common. The equation of bombing of Dresden with the Holocaust is made explicit and even inverted, the murder of unarmed and compliant civilians in the Holocaust described as a "decision" of Hitler for strategic reasons whilst the bombing of heavily defended civilian targets directly involved both in the production for war and the carrying out of the Holocaust becomes a "war crime" and a "massacre".Fact|date=August 2007

However in actuality it was not until, 15 May 1940, two days after the Rotterdam Blitz, that the British abandoned their policy of using aerial bombing only against military targets and against infrastructure such as ports, and railways west of the Rhine, which were of direct military importance. [Grayling, A.C. " Among the Dead Cities" (Bloomsbury 2006), ISBN 0-7475-7078-7. Page 24.] [Taylor, Frederick. "Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945" London: Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-7078-7. Chapter "Call Me Meier", Page 111]

Bibliography

"The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945." Jörg Friedrich. Columbia University Press, New York, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0231133807.

Brandstätten (2003) ("Places of Fire" / "Cities of Fire")

:Friedrich's latest book, covering similar material to Der Brand.

"Der Brand, Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945". Jörg Friedrich. Propyläen Verlag, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-549-07165-5.

:The book which brought Friedrich to fame, and has sold over 186,000 copies, " [http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/10-20-2003-46750.asp German Historian Provokes Row Over War Photos] ", Guardian Newspapers 20 October 2003, retrieved 15 February 2005 from http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/10-20-2003-46750.asp] covering the bombing of German cities. Starting with technology and mechanisms but then concentration on effect on the ground and the horror of bombing for the German civilians trapped in it. See reviews below.

"Das Gesetz des Krieges: Das deutsche Heer in Russland, 1941 bis 1945 : der Prozess gegen das Oberkommando der Wehrmacht", ("The rules of war: The German Army in Russia, 1941 to 1945, the trial of the Wehrmacht High Command") Jörg Friedrich, Piper, ISBN 3492031161 "The rules of war: The German Army in Russia, 1941 to 1945, the trial of the Wehrmacht High Command" is not a standard translation of the title, but one made for this article.]

:a book including strong criticism of the way that the Nuremberg trials have come to be perceived in Germany, placing blame at least partly on the American instigators of the trials.

"Freispruch für die Nazi-Justiz: Die Urteile gegen NS-Richter seit 1948 : eine Dokumentation (Rororo aktuell)" ("Acquittal for Nazi-Justice: The sentencing of NS-Judges since 1948", Jörg Friedrich, Rowohlt, 1983, ISBN 3499153483 "Acquittal for Nazi-Justice: The sentencing of NS-Judges since 1948" is not a standard translation of the title, but one made for this article. NS stands for National Socialist / Nazi.]

Reviews

Due to the level of controversy it has raised, a number of reviews of the German edition of "Der Brand" have been written in English and published in English language journals and/or made available on the Internet. These reviews, made shortly after the publication of the book, and prior to Friedrich's public statements have tended to treat the inaccuracies and omissions in Friedrich's books as carelessness, although criticism of the language used has been almost universal.

Comparison of reviews made in Germany with those in the U.S. and the UK is also interesting. Some of the differences which exist may be seen as being due to different points of view, however specific aspects of the book (for example, the most commonly mentioned failure to provide context) are reliably mentioned in English language reviews whilst being included strongly in some German reviews and missing entirely in others.

* "Review: Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg, 1940-1945", Douglas Peifer, "Air and Space Power Chronicles", Spring 2004 " [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw159.htm Review: Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg, 1940/1945] " Douglas Peifer, Air Command and Staff College, "Air and Space Power Chronicles", Spring 2004, p121/124 . [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw159.htm] retrieved from http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj04/spr04/spr04.pdf (PDF) and also [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw159.htm A review] on H-Net] :Peifer provides a detailed review of the book, which finds that it is "Highly effective as a literary dirge and lamentation, it comes up short when judged by the standards of the history discipline". Perhaps more importantly he states that the language is "deliberately provocative", that the book's unclear chronology can be misleading and that the lack of clear references included makes it unverifiable. Even given these flaws, Fifer finds that "for those willing to make the effort, reading the piece is worthwhile".

* "Review of Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945; A Narrative of Loss", Joerg Arnold, Department of History, University of Southampton, " [http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=280291070845163 Review of Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940/1945; A Narrative of Loss] ", Joerg Arnold, Department of History, University of Southampton, retrieved 5 February 2005 from http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=280291070845163] :Perhaps best summarised by its final line, "As a narrative of loss, Der Brand succeeds like few other texts, but as a historical treatment of the allied air war, it is seriously deficient." this review analyses in particular the use of sources within Friedrich's work and also his refusal to apply analysis to the reasons for the bombing. A particularly strong criticism is in Arnold's contrast between Friedrich's overt claim that the bombing had nothing to do with the holocaust his implicit linkage of the two subjects through his use of the language of the holocaust to describe the effects of the bombings.

* "Jörg Friedrich: Der Brand", Franz Kaessl, Öbib online (German Language)." [http://www.lfs.bsb-muenchen.de/Informationen/bestandsaufbau/buchtipp-archiv/friedrich.htm Jörg Friedrich: Der Brand] ", Franz Kaessl, Öbib online (German Language)] :From its opening sentence "The fate of German civilians in the Second World War was treated as a taboo topic for many decades", this review contrasts strongly with most English language reviews. It points to the example of Günter Grass as an author recently discovered the suffering of the war, whilst reviews elsewhere have claimed that Grass's work of the 1960s is actually a far more powerful portrait of the effects of wars on civilians. " [http://www.powells.com/review/2003_08_07.html The Tin Book] ", Ruth Franklin, "The New Republic Online", 7 August 2003, retrieved 5 February 2005 from http://www.powells.com/review/2003_08_07.html] In the end the review concludes that the book should give a new view on history, not a new assignment of blame.

* "The Destruction of Germany", Ian Buruma, in "The New York Review of Books" " [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=17473 The Destruction of Germany] ", Ian Buruma, "The New York Review of Books", Volume 51, Number 16, 21 October 2004.]

* In a footnote to his article "Targeting the city: Debates and silences about the aerial of World War II",Maier, Charles " [http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/review-859-p429/$File/irrc_859_Maier.pdf Targeting the city: Debates and silences about the aerial of World War II] "(PDF), International Review of the Red Cross Volume 87 Number 859 September 2005 Page 10 footnote 13] published in the International Review of the Red Cross, Charles Maier (Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University) collates several reviews of "Der Brand":
*:See the excellent reviews submitted to the H-German network by Joerg Arnold, 3 November 2003, and Douglas Pfeifer, 4 November 2003, which appropriately address, I believe, the strengths and weaknesses of this work — Pfeiffer's with more emphasis on the military and political issues, Arnold's with greater emphasis on the moral and conceptual problems. Others have also indicated the deficiencies of the book as a scholarly source. See for instance Horst Boogs’ summary list of errors in his contribution to "Ein Volk von Opfern? Die neue Debatte um den Bombenkrieg 1940-45, Rowohlt, Berlin, 2003." Obviously many issues are contentious in this debate. The most parochial issues are those that concern historians as such. To what extent can the historian merely report or dissect the differing positions without engaging his own sense of moral judgment. Second, what sort of rhetoric is legitimate in an historical account?

Footnotes

Источник: Jörg Friedrich

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