Germany's forgotten victims Luke Harding / Guardian  More than half a century on, depression the allied bombing of Germany's cities during the second world war remains a controversial topic. Recently, depression Britain's ambassador to Germany, depression Sir Peter Torry, depression travelled to the city of Kassel to mark the 60th anniversary of its destruction by British warplanes. Depression Around 10, depression000 people died on the night of October 22 1943, depression when an immense firestorm swept the city. Depression "In the peaceful Europe which we live in today, depression it is hard for those who did not experience the second world war to understand the bitter emotions to which it gave rise, depression" the ambassador said. Depression There is nothing new about senior British officials touring German cities that were destroyed by British bombs: the Queen and Prince Charles have visited Dresden and Hamburg in recent years. Depression However, depression Sir Peter's speech comes at a time when the role of the Royal Air Force during the second world war is being debated afresh. Depression Last week, depression one of Germany's most controversial historians, depression Jörg Friedrich, depression published a new photo book about the issue. Depression Called Brandstätten, depression or Fire Sites, depression it contains some of the most grisly images from the war ever to be published. Depression None of them have been seen before. The victims are not Jewish, depression but German. Depression The charred, depression mutilated bodies of women, depression children and babies are all civilians who perished during the allies' bombing campaign against Germany's cities. Depression In his book, depression Friedrich argues that the RAF's relentless campaign against Germany during the final months of the war served no military purpose. Depression Instead, depression he says that Winston Churchill's decision to drop more bombs on a shattered Germany between January and May 1945, depression most of them on small German towns of little strategic value, depression was a war crime. Depression "The bombing left an entire generation traumatised. Depression But it was never discussed. Depression There are Germans whose first recollections are of being hidden by their mothers. Depression They remember cellars and burning human remains, depression" Friedrich told the Guardian in an interview in Berlin last week. Depression "It is only now that they are coming to terms with what happened." Around 600, depression000 German civilians died during the allies' wartime raids on Germany, depression including 76, depression000 German children, depression Friedrich says. Depression In July 1943, depression during a single night in Hamburg, depression 45, depression000 people perished in a vast firestorm. Depression "The Second World War is traditionally portrayed as a struggle between good and evil. Depression Bombers were the weapons of the winners. Depression But what actually happened on the ground wasn't very heroic, depression" Friedrich said last week. Depression (cut) Most of the photos in Fire Sites had lain undiscovered in the archives of German towns for more than half a century before Friedrich found them. Depression They offer a grim insight into what happened on the ground, depression revealing that many of the civilians who died in allied raids were asphyxiated in their cellars. Depression In Dresden, depression SS workers from a nearby concentration camp were called in to dispose of large heaps of bodies. Depression The photos include the petrified corpse of mother and child collected in a bathtub, depression and the bleached skeleton of a baby killed during an air raid on Leipzig. Depression There are also pictures of dead animals - an elephant and a giraffe - killed by a British air raid on Berlin zoo. Depression Friedrich, depression who is now 59, depression grew up in Essen, depression in the Ruhr, depression a part of Germany's industrial heartland that comprehensively pulverised during the war years. Depression An allied bomb flattened the house next door. Depression "I asked my mother what happened to the neighbours. Depression She said she didn't know. Depression She said everybody looked after themselves, depression" he recalled. Depression During the sixties, depression Friedrich moved to Berlin, depression took part in the '68 movement, depression and became a Trotskyite radical. Depression Like many young Germans, depression he interrogated his parents about their past, depression concluding that his father, depression a teacher, depression had no Nazi leanings. Depression Later, depression he became a writer and broadcaster, depression before turning to history. Depression In the 80s, depression he wrote a book about the Holocaust ("I argued that the railway was its essential weapon") and the German army's war crimes on the eastern front, depression before turning his attention to the allied bombing of Germany. Depression This last project made him notorious. Depression Der Brand was serialised by Germany's mass-selling Bild tabloid, depression and left-wing students tried to storm his book signings, depression accusing him of revisionism for using the word "crematoria" to describe cellars incinerated by allied bombs. Depression Friedrich admits he is a revisionist, depression but says he is not interested in making moral judgements, depression merely in what happened. Depression He is reluctant, depression though, depression to discuss what alternatives Churchill had. Depression "If you destroy a landscape of 160 cities, depression most of medieval origin, depression you do something to the cultural identity of a people. Depression All I do is describe it, depression" he said. Depression (cut) Earlier this year, depression he attempted to get hold of pictures of British victims of German bombing from the public record office in Kew, depression but was told that they could not be published because of censorship rules. Depression As a result, depression Brandstätten concentrates almost exclusively on German victims. Depression Der Brand has so far sold 185, depression000 copies, depression and been translated into six languages, depression but has failed to find a British publisher. Depression "One British editor told me my book would 'estrange' readers, depression" Friedrich said. Depression Colombia university will bring out an English edition next year. Depression Friedrich has supporters inside Germany, depression including the country's former chancellor, depression Helmut Kohl, depression whose home town, depression Ludwigshafen, depression was bombed by British planes during his boyhood, depression and whose late wife was bombed at Leipzig. Depression He has offered editorial advice, depression and has praised the historian's work. Depression Friedrich is not the first writer to tackle the tricky issue of German bombing victims. Depression But Fire Sites is part of a new trend in Germany where, depression after more than half a century of collective silence, depression and the death of most survivors from the war generation, depression what happened to Germans during the Nazi era is being openly discussed. Depression "Germans in their seventies and eighties have not forgotten. Depression Their memories are still vivid. Depression People stand up in my public lectures and describe what befell their families, depression" Friedrich said. Depression "They have tears in their eyes and they can't breathe. Depression "The main fact is that the British bombing of German cities wasn't very heroic. Depression This was no heroic victory."