The linear dichroism is calculated for DNA fragments in their thermal bending equilibrium. These calculations are given for relatively short fragments, where bent molecules can be described by an arc model. Using the measured value of 350 A for the persistence length, the limit dichroism (corresponding to complete alignment) decreases due to thermal bending, e.g., for a fragment with 100 base pairs to 80% of the value expected for straight molecules. Thermal bending should lead to a strong continuous decrease of the dichroism with increasing chain length, which is not observed, however, in electric dichroism experiments due to electric stretching. The influence of the electric field on the bending equilibrium is described by a contribution to the bending energy, which is calculated from the movement of charge equivalents against the potential gradient upon bending. The charge equivalents, which are assigned to the helix ends, are derived from the dipole moments causing the stationary degree of orientation. By this procedure the energy term inducing DNA stretching is given for induced, permanent, and saturating induced dipole models without introduction of any additional parameter. The stationary dichroism at a given electric field strength is then calculated according to an arc model by integration over all angles of orientation of helix axes or chords with respect to the field vector, and at each of these angles the contribution to the dichroism is calculated by integration over all helices with different degrees of bending. Orientation functions obtained by this procedure are fitted to dichroism data measured for various restriction fragments. Optimal fits are found for an induced dipole model with saturation of the polarizability. The difference between orientation functions with and without electric stretching is used to evaluate dichroism bending amplitudes. Both chain length and field strength dependence of bending amplitudes are consistent with experimental amplitudes derived from the dichroism decay in low salt buffers containing multivalent ions like Mg2+, spermine, or [CoNH3)6]3+. Bending amplitudes can be used to evaluate the persistence length from electrooptical data obtained for a single DNA restriction fragment. Bending and stretching effects are considerable already at relatively low chain length, and thus should not be neglected in any quantitative evaluation of experimental data.