Seventy years ago, the German city of Dresden was the scene of one of the fiercest and most controversial Allied bombing raids of the Second World War.

Untouched by bombing just months before the end of the war, the city was attacked by two waves of British bombers, three hours apart, on the night of 13 February, 1945.

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A statue on the tower of City Hall looking down at the ruins wrought by the Allied firebombing of 13 February, 1945, and the same statue looking down on a large car park on 12 February, 2015 (Photos by Richard Peter senior, Archive Photos and Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Almost 800 RAF Lancaster bombers let loose 1,182 tons of incendiaries and 1,478 tons of high explosives, creating a firestorm that destroyed the city.

The next day, the Americans sent 311 B-17 Flying Fortress long-range bombers, adding to the damage.

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People getting on trams in the midst of the ruins on Johannstrasse after the Second World War, and the same area, leading towards the former Juedenhof palace, which today is a museum, on 7 February, 2015 (Fred Ramage/Keystone Features/Getty Images and Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The official death toll is put at around 25,000. But many survivors believe the number was higher as bodies were reduced to ashes in the firestorm.

Once dubbed the Florence of northern Europe for architectural jewels such as the Zwinger palace and the Semper Opera, the city was reduced to smouldering ruins.

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The ruins at Theaterplatz in 1946, and Theaterplatz on 7 February, 2015, including the Catholic Hofkirche church and Residenzschloss Dresden palace (Photos by Fred Ramage, Keystone and Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: "The destruction of the city remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing."

Dresden has only in the last decade been restored to its former glory, complete with its trove of cultural treasures.

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Propaganda director Heinz Grunewald, Dresden mayor Walter Weidauer and town architect Dr C Herbert outside City Hall in March, 1946

By the time the raid was over, the city was littered with corpses and tens of thousands of Dresden's buildings had been turned to rubble, including its famous opera house and museums in the historic old city.

The baroque Church of Our Lady appeared initially to have survived, but, weakened by the intense heat, it collapsed two days after the bombing under its own weight.

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The ruins of the Frauenkirche church and the empty pedestal for a statue of Martin Luther in 1946, and the reconstructed church and statue on 22 January, 2015 (Photos by AFP and Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

It was not just the bombs dropped by the waves of British and US planes that wreaked devastation.

The fire made superheated air rise rapidly, creating a vacuum at ground level that produced winds strong enough to uproot trees and suck people into the flames. Many Dresden residents died of collapsed lungs.

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Women form a human chain to carry bricks used in the reconstruction of Dresden in March 1946, and the same scene on 12 February, 2015 (Photo by Fred Ramage/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images and Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Many historians now believe the destruction was a tragic waste of human life and cultural history – with little to no effect on the outcome of the war.

Today, Dresden is a conservative bastion and the venue for Germany's biggest annual neo-Nazi march, which takes place on the anniversary of the controversial bombing of the city by Allied forces near the end of World War Two.