DRESDEN, Germany, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The number of people killed in the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II was likely less than 25,000, an expert panel says.
The raids between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15, 1945, set off a firestorm that destroyed the center of the city. Historians previously had put the number of dead anywhere from 25,000 to 135,000.
A commission that includes historians and archivists says that in four years of work 18,000 deaths have been confirmed, Deutsche Welle reports. The researchers say they have no reason to assume the final tally will be significantly higher by the time they complete their work this year.
They have been using burial records and other official documents and eye witness accounts of the bombing. The commission said the deaths of refugees in Dresden were recorded along with those of residents, exploding one theory that thousands of people were killed without being counted.
The bombing of a historic city famous for its Baroque architecture was one of the most controversial Allied actions in Europe. The bombing was witnessed by Kurt Vonnegut, then a U.S. soldier who had been captured by the Germans. He wrote about it in several novels, notably "Slaughterhouse Five."