The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 / Edition 1

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Overview

For five years during the Second World War, the Allies launched a trial and error bombing campaign against Germany's historical city landscape. Peaking in the war's final three months, it was the first air attack of its kind. Civilian dwellings were struck by-in today's terms-"weapons of mass destruction," with a total of 600,000 casualties, including 70,000 children.

In The Fire, historian Jörg Friedrich explores this crucial chapter in military and world history. Combining meticulous research with striking illustrations, Friedrich presents a vivid account of the saturation bombing, rendering in acute detail the annihilation of cities such as Dresden, the jewel of Germany's rich art and architectural heritage. He incorporates the personal stories and firsthand testimony of German civilians into his narrative, creating a macabre portrait of unimaginable suffering, horror, and grief, and he draws on official military documents to unravel the reasoning behind the strikes.

Evolving military technologies made the extermination of whole cities possible, but owing, perhaps, to the Allied victory and what W. G. Sebald noted as "a pre-conscious self-censorship, a way of obscuring a world that could no longer be presented in comprehensible terms," the wisdom of this strategy has never been questioned. The Fire is a rare account of the air raids as they were experienced by the civilians who were their targets.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
From 1940 onward, the Allies bombed Germany and the occupied countries as thoroughly as they could manage. Precision bombing, area bombing, terror bombing, revenge bombing, day and night bombing, strategic bombing-by the end of the war, the great cities of the Reich were in ruins. Berlin-based author Friedrich examines at length and with great intelligence the origins and conduct of the air war against Germany. He analyzes which methods were successful, why the Allies chose to prosecute the war primarily through the bombing campaign, what the relationship was between German culture and the Third Reich, and what effect this bombardment had on postwar morality in Germany. Friedrich has written not so much a lament-although grief is certainly powerfully present-as an indictment both of Hitler's appropriation of German history and of the Allies' destruction of a nation's culture. Thoughtful and detailed, his book also examines the very science of fire and the evolving methods of destruction that by 1944 were quite capable of wiping out a city overnight and overwhelming its welfare apparatus with refugees. De Bruhl (Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston), a former U.S. publishing executive and editor, also looks at Allied weapons but with much less insight, largely focusing on their flaws. He also discusses the conduct of the air war and makes no bones about attacking the main architects of strategic bombing, such as Hugh Trenchard of the Royal Air Force and American Gen. Carl Spaatz. However, his treatment of the aftermath of the war and the debates that arose among the participants is missing from Friedrich's work and provides valuable context. The two books are somewhat complementary, but Friedrich's, already a big seller in Europe, is a superior essay on the real issues of war-what is just, what is permissible, what is necessary. Subject collections will desire both books but are likely to prefer Friedrich's.-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
New York Review of Books
Exhaustive and harrowing … Friedrich's aim seems to be not only to wrest the history of German suffering from the clutch of the far right but to rescue the glories of German history from the twelve years of Hitler's thousand-year Reich.

— Ian Buruma

The Nation
The Fire represents the continuation of Friedrich's generation's indictment of National Socialism—except now the finger is pointed at the Allies, and sympathy is extended to the civilian Germans who were their victims.
Bookforum
What W. G. Sebald lamented about the lack of open discourse on the air war appears to have been blown apart with the publication of The Fire.

— Noah Isenberg

German Historical Institute London Bulletin
Jörg Friedrich's achievement in The Fire has been to tell this tale of death and destruction with a rare plasticity and vividness.
TIME Europe
Riveting.
New York Times
[Jörg Friedrich] 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.
The American Spectator
Jörg Friedrich tells the story from the viewpoint of the bombed with... great skill and objectivity.

— Paul Johnson

Foreign Affairs
Thorough and methodical... Friedrich's book underscores that precision bombing is anything but a scientific enterprise.

— Stanley Hoffman

Economist
Mr. Friedrich deserves credit for both his diligence and his descriptive powers.
The Independent
This is a book that demands to be read, no matter how uncomfortable the experience.

— David Cesarani

Atlantic Monthly
[A] haunting book… forceful, incendiary.
Houston Chronicle
A well-documented piece of historical writing... [that] is also a poignant, lyrical and terrible account of human suffering.

— Adam R. Seipp

BBC History Magazine
A vivid and powerful critique of war... [ The Fire is] fascinating, ground-breaking, and thought-provoking.

— Roger Moorhouse

Choice

Recommended.

Technology and Culture
A contribution to the German literature of remembrance; it is also a passionate denunciation of the excesses of the air war.

— Harold Dorn

New York Review of Books - Ian Buruma
Exhaustive and harrowing … Friedrich's aim seems to be not only to wrest the history of German suffering from the clutch of the far right but to rescue the glories of German history from the twelve years of Hitler's thousand-year Reich.
Bookforum - Noah Isenberg
What W. G. Sebald lamented about the lack of open discourse on the air war appears to have been blown apart with the publication of The Fire.
The American Spectator - Paul Johnson
Jörg Friedrich tells the story from the viewpoint of the bombed with... great skill and objectivity.
Foreign Affairs - Stanley Hoffman
Thorough and methodical... Friedrich's book underscores that precision bombing is anything but a scientific enterprise.
The Independent - David Cesarani
This is a book that demands to be read, no matter how uncomfortable the experience.
Houston Chronicle - Adam R. Seipp
A well-documented piece of historical writing... [that] is also a poignant, lyrical and terrible account of human suffering.
BBC History Magazine - Roger Moorhouse
A vivid and powerful critique of war... [ The Fire is] fascinating, ground-breaking, and thought-provoking.
Technology and Culture - Harold Dorn
A contribution to the German literature of remembrance; it is also a passionate denunciation of the excesses of the air war.
Choice
Recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231133807
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jörg Friedrich was born in Essen, Germany, in 1944 and spent most of his career writing about Nazi atrocities before orienting his research toward an analysis of Allied military tactics. He lives in Berlin.

Columbia University Press

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Read an Excerpt

Jörg Friedrich unravels the history behind: The Flying Fortress The Master Bomber The creep-back effect The German-British radar war The Kammhuber Line The art of jamming The "Wild Boar" and the "Tame Boar" Winston Churchill and the never-fought campaign of 1919 Operation Millennium: the Thousand-Bomber Raid on Cologne The ruins of Remscheid The conscience of the physicists The Dambusters Raid and the modern-day Flood The Arnhem operation and the demise of Emmerich and Kleve The massacre of Swinemünde Lübeck and Thomas Mann's message Anklam's columns of smoke Wismar; the red-hot bricks Danzig and the war against the roots Hamburg, or the interruption of the world The cathedral in Minden where Henry the Lion wed Bielefeld and the Bethel asylum Duisburg; the earthquake bomb The luck of Koblenz The "flaming brands" of Worms Augsburg and the fire in the frost Heilbronn and the inverse terror Identification squads The largest book-burning of all time.

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Table of Contents

1. Weapon2. Strategy3. Land4. Protection5. We6. I7. StoneEditorial RemarksNotesBibliography

Columbia University Press

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