The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945

The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945

by Sinclair McKay


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A gripping work of narrative nonfiction recounting the history of the Dresden Bombing, one of the most devastating attacks of World War II.

On February 13th, 1945 at 10:03 PM, British bombers began one of the most devastating attacks of WWII: the bombing of Dresden. The first contingent killed people and destroyed buildings, roads, and other structures. The second rained down fire, turning the streets into a blast furnace, the shelters into ovens, and whipping up a molten hurricane in which the citizens of Dresden were burned, baked, or suffocated to death.

Early the next day, American bombers finished off what was left. Sinclair McKay’s The Fire and the Darkness is a pulse-pounding work of history that looks at the life of the city in the days before the attack, tracks each moment of the bombing, and considers the long period of reconstruction and recovery. The Fire and the Darkness is powered by McKay’s reconstruction of this unthinkable terror from the points of view of the ordinary civilians: Margot Hille, an apprentice brewery worker; Gisela Reichelt, a ten-year-old schoolgirl; boys conscripted into the Hitler Youth; choristers of the Kreuzkirche choir; artists, shop assistants, and classical musicians, as well as the Nazi officials stationed there.

What happened that night in Dresden was calculated annihilation in a war that was almost over. Sinclair McKay’s brilliant work takes a complex, human, view of this terrible night and its aftermath in a gripping book that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250258014
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,163
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

SINCLAIR MCKAY is the bestselling author of The Secret Lives of Codebreakers (published in the UK as The Secret Life of Bletchley Park) and The Secret Listeners for Aurum, as well as several other books. Sinclair is a literary critic for the Telegraph and The Spectator and for three years was a judge of the Encore Prize, awarded annually for best second novel. He lives in the shadow of Canary Wharf in east London.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Approaching Fury

Chapter 1: The Days Before

Chapter 2: In the Forests of the Gauleiter

Chapter 3: The Dethroning of Reason

Chapter 4: Art and Degeneracy

Chapter 5: The Glass Man and the Physicists

Chapter 6: "A Sort of Little London"

Chapter 7: The Science of Doomsday

Chapter 8: The Correct Atmospheric Conditions

Chapter 9: Hosing Out

Chapter 10: The Devil Will Get No Rest

Part Two: Schreckensnacht

Chapter 11: The Day of Darkness

Chapter 12: Five Minutes Before the Sirens

Chapter 13: Into the abyss

Chapter 14: Shadows and Light

Chapter 15: 10:03 PM

Chapter 16: The Burning Eyes

Chapter 17: Midnight

Chapter 18: The Second Wave

Chapter 19: From Among the Dead

Chapter 20: The Third Wave

Part Three: Aftershock

Chapter 21: Dead Men and Dreamers

Chapter 22: The Radiant Tombs

Chapter 23: The Meanings of Terror

Chapter 24: The Music of the Dead

Chapter 25: Recoil

Chapter 26: "The Stalinist Style"

Chapter 27: Beauty and Remembrance

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The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
KristinaW 5 days ago
Wow this book is incredible! I knew very little about this piece of WWII, aside from knowing about the bombing of the city had occurred. The writing is immersive and richly detailed. The author clearly did his research and has also included many first person accounts from those present during the bombing. If you like history, I recommend checking this one out! Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this fantastic title for review.
nfam 15 days ago
Bombing Dresden Posed a Moral Dilemma for the Allies Dresden was a cosmopolitan city filled with glorious buildings, home to the arts and music, and with a rich history. At the end of WWII, Dresdeners thought they would be spared. The city wasn’t a high value target from a military perspective, and it was renowned for its cultural significance. However, on February 13, 1945 that changed. The British and Americans agreed on one of the most devastating bombings of the war. After the war this decision was hotly debated. Sinclair McKay builds the picture of Dresden prior to the bombing. The early chapters detail the art and architecture, the boys choir, and other cultural landmarks. He also discusses the plight of the citizens at the end of the war. Many were starving, had no good place to live, and were ill. The plight of the Jews was particularly dreadful. The had lost their homes, treasures, and relatives. Now they were hoping to not lose their lives. After the scenes depicting the beauty of Dresden, the descriptions following the bombing are devastating. The streets were aflame. People were burned alive or suffocated in their shelters. Finally, the book ends with the reconstruction of the city and the friendship between Coventry, England and Dresden. It was a pleasing ending to the tale of tragedy. Throughout the book, the author introduces us to the real people who were affected by the war from Jews to Hitler Youth to the Nazis who governed the city. Their stories made the tragedy real. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy history, particularly that of WWII. I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.
JeanK 16 days ago
Seventy-five years ago, the people of Dresden lived with the belief that their city would be safe from bombing because of its’ historical significance and its’ lack of importance as a target. That changed on February 13, 1945 with one of the most devastating attacks that Germany had seen. Sinclair McKay takes the reader through the rich history of artists and musicians who lived and worked there, but the tragedy truly comes to life when McKay introduces a number of the residents who lived through the darkest days. Victor Klemperer was a university professor who lost his position and his home because he was Jewish. Along with a small number of Jewish survivors, he is relegated to demeaning jobs to avoid deportation. Winfried Biels is a member of the Hitler Youth aiding refugees from the Soviet onslaught and Kurt Vonnegut, whose experiences as a POW at the time of the bombing became the basis of Slaughterhouse Five. As life goes on in Dresden, McKay visits the war offices and airfields in Britain. While bombings were concentrated on rail yards, oil depots and armaments manufacturing, there was also an argument to bomb the cities in an effort to shatter the enemy’s will to fight. It was to become a moral dilemma that later preyed on Churchill’s mind. The actual bombings are told in heartbreaking detail, followed by survivors’ descriptions of the carnage and the incredible will to survive as fires raged. The reconstruction and life under Soviet occupation complete McKay’s history of Dresden. One of my preferred genres is historical fiction and I have read numerous tales of WWII. While these can give you a sense of the events that occurred, a non-fiction account like The Fire and the Darkness puts you on the streets during the actual events and it will stay with you long after the book has ended. I would like to thank NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for providing this fascinating book in exchange for my review.
LilacDreams 17 days ago
February 13, 1945, saw the destruction of Dresden, Germany, in the final months of World War II. Dresden was Germany’s seventh largest city with a population of 350,000 and was filled with refugees from the east, fleeing the advancing Red Army. As many as twenty-five thousand people died in the firestorm that resulted. In the decades that followed, the debate arose whether the bombers were criminal. The book begins with a historical overview before the bombing. The cultural life of Dresden, noted for its architecture and museums, is examined. War background is covered even in the Great War, when the Luftwaffe dropped as many incendiaries on London as possible. During WWII, the Germans bombed as a deliberate sacrilege, destroying beautiful cities that had three stars in the German Baedeker guidebooks, such as Exeter, Bath, York, and Canterbury. By December, 1944, a German resurgence brought the Battle of the Bulge. After five years of vicious war, both sides were desperate to make the other side stop. That led to Allied city bombings to destroy the German war machine. The Soviets had asked for a Dresden mission to hamper German movement to the east. British intelligence informed Bomber Command that the German armored division the Soviets wanted cleared out Dresden was actually in Bohemia. Plans weren’t changed. American General Carl Spaatz was informed, and he concluded the mission should be called off. Air Marshall Arthur Harris remained adamant, and Spaatz was unwilling to stand aside if the Brits were insistent on going ahead. The American mission, which took place during the day of February 14, after two waves of British night attacks, was supposed to go first, but did not because of weather. The Americans aimed for transportation targets and factories supporting the war effort, but there was always collateral damage. Postwar, the communist authorities of East Germany left the ruins of the Frauenkirche as a reminder of the “wickedness of imperialist America and Britain. Only in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet-bloc was the church rebuilt. Reconciliation took root between England and Germany, Coventry and Dresden. Many Germans acknowledge their nation’s guilt in starting the war. As an eight-year-old Dresdener later said, “A fire went out from Germany and went around the world in a great arc and came back to Germany.” While much is made about the bombing of Dresden, Pforzheim suffered a more devastating bombing, but receives little notice.