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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by St. Martin's Press
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Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a WOW book. I will post a review in a few days.
Well, here it is.
I knew about the bombing of Dresden. And that was about it.
This book will go back to the days and years before the Bombing of Dresden, 1945.
What a great place that must have been. It seemed to have everything one could have asked for.
Then the bombing changed everything. Everything.
When the war ended the culture really never came back as it once was.
I enjoyed reading this book since it tells us what Dresden was like
Jill Hutchinson
Simply a fantastic book which I highly recommend. Full review to follow.
Maine Colonial
My favorite history subject is World War II, preferably told through the experiences of individuals. Naturally, that meant I would be interested in Sinclair McKays book about the bombing of Dresden, experienced through Dresdeners, POWs held in the city, refugees fleeing from the advancing Red Army, and members of the Allied air forces who participated in the bombing raids.

McKay introduces us to Dresden, a jewel box of a city of about 350,000 (in 1945) in southern Germany. It had largely escaped
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed books by Sinclair McKay before, I was delighted to receive a copy of his latest, for review. This is a detailed but certainly not dry account of the bombing of Dresden on the 13th February, 1945, shortly before the end of the war in Europe.

In 1945, Dresden had a veneer of normality, but, beneath the surface, there was a deep sense of unease. However, for most of the inhabitants, the disquiet was more about the approaching Russian army than fear of being bombed. With the war
Donna Hines
The most eye opening historical piece of nonfiction- The Bombing of Dresden- was very informative, descriptive, and accurate.
The world may not have known just how much was at stake during WWII and the end result of these strikes became what was known as questionable actions and behavior on the part of the US Army Air Forces which killed an estimated twenty five thousand people.
Was it a 'war crime' a 'terrorist act' or was it something far more sinister?
Ultimately, one must question whether or
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was released for the 75th anniversary of the Dresden Bombing Raids of 1945. Then it struck me - Valentines Day. Dresden was bombed on the evening of February 13th and into February 14th. The US bombing raid on Dresden took place on Valentines Day.

Sinclair McKay provides a nearly minute by minute account of the lead-up to the bombing, the actual attacks, and the aftermath. To do this, he has reviewed the personal accounts of those who survived the attack and those who took part in the
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have spent the entire past weekend submerged in reading this book about the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945. Luckily for my kids we have all been under the weather so no one complained about me spending the entire weekend with my face in a book).

I was born in Britain, and spent the first 10 years of my life there, living not too far from Coventry (one of the cities that was crushed by the Germans during the Blitz). I heard stories of German bombings and devastation from family
Barred Owl Books
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully-crafted, elegiac, compelling The Fire and the Darkness delivers with a dark intensity and incisive compassion rarely equalled. Authentic and authoritative, a masterpiece of its genre -- Damien Lewis, author of Zero Six Bravo

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
 Reading Reindeer
Reading about the Dresden Firebombing of February 1945 is a painful and horrific encounter, as is reading about Hiroshima or Nagasaki, September 11 2001, the Holocaust or the history of lynching. Yet we as readers and thinking humans need to be aware of the evils of history as well as the glories. On the other hand, Dresden 's history also testifies to the invincibility of the human spirit, above and beyond the biological drive to survive. For biology alone cannot account for the city 's ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from the publisher.

This book turned out to be a fantastic surprise. An avid reader but only casual historian, I had to look up Dresden on google maps before I started. The book is structured in three sections detailing the before, during and after of the bombing.

Part One examines Dresden's history up till February 1945, discussing the city's politics, art, science, education and military. The second part focuses on individual people on the day of the bombing. The final third of
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
[I got an ARC via a Goodreads giveaway]

McKay writes about what life was like in Dresden before, during and after the bombing from the perspective of the Allies, and Dresden residents. McKay writes in narrative form to give the reader an immersive experience and balanced accounting of why Dresden was bombed. Like properly written history books it can be a little tedious to read, but otherwise, this is a well-written book.

I only heard of the Dresden bombing because I watched a WWII documentary
Zohar -
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
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I have always heard about the fire-bombing of Dresden, but the even never got more than a chapter (at best) or so in all the books I read. After reading The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945 by Sinclair McKay I realized how devastating, and what a huge operation, it must have been.

The raid took place in 13 February 1945, I never realized the scale of it 244 bombers dripping 880 tons of bombs. The attack
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book to review.
This is an outstanding, serious study of the bombing of Dresden during World War II, and is probably the only military history book you will read that includes Kurt Vonnegut and H. G. Wells in the bibliography, while quoting Thomas Mann.
Part of the reason is that the bombing of Dresden was horrific, but also because it was mythologized due to an odd combination of reasons. During what remained of the war, Goebbels exaggerated the casualties caused by the
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A concise and very interesting book that raises some interesting moral questions about the Allies bombing strategy in WWII. Dresden was annihilated by both British and American bombing raids in February, 1945. Germany appeared to be headed towards defeat, with the Allies closing in from the west, and Russia from the east. Dresden, with several war-material factories and railroad distribution hubs, was chosen as a strategic target. But could these sites be accurately targeted to minimize civilian ...more
Jean Kolinofsky
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 wasnt 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
Terri Wangard
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sinclair McKay offers a lot I hadnt known before. 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 ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a subject that has the potential to upset many people for many different reasons; to tell the story well, and with all its nuances, requires a fine balance. This book is so finely balanced and so beautifully written.
The heart of the narrative is of course the story of the night of 13th February 1945; but before we get there, a full context has been eloquently provided. We have been through the social and cultural history of the city; the story of its Nazi life; the history of firestorms
Jeanne Nichols
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway
I knew nothing about the bombing of Dresden, except that it happened. This book presented the time leading up to the bombing, the period of the bombing and the aftermath.

Dresden was, prior to World War II, a cultural high point. It had beautiful architecture, art and music. The bombing destroyed most of that. It also affected morale, for both the Allies and the Nazis.

The book was well researched and very informative. The writing, however, I felt to be somewhat overblown. I also was suspicious
Received through FirstReads...
Wow, this was definitely the most engaging, unputdownable history book that I've read in quite some time. And yes, I know that unputdownable is not a real word. This book hits just the right balance of giving you a good, clear description of places, things, events, without drowning you in so much minute detail that you feel you're reading some kind of manual. I really liked the way the author wove together the stories of lots of different individuals, some well
Jennifer Danner
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is more than just a historical account of a battle during wartime. This book gives an account of all of the different viewpoints and actions that led up to the bombing of Dresden. The writer demonstrates how ordinary people can become so jaded/racist or nonchalant about what is happening to others, how military leaders can make decisions that are strategic and discount the individual lives that are lost, and how misplaced persons pull together and persevere. I had to read this book in ...more
Craig Pearson
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunty to read and review this book. After any war it is the winners who write the history of it and that always show the losers to be the bad guys in the conflict. 'Fire and Darkness' shows very clearly that had the same actions concerning Dresden been done by the losers then the British and American air commanders would have been quite likely convicted of crimes against humanity. The story is written in a detailed and flowing manner that envelops the reader ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a very thorough and detailed look at one of World War IIs most horrifying moments. The night of the raid is approached by a very thorough buildup, looking at Dresdens place among Europes finest cities. In the years leading up to the war it is corrupted by the Nazi rise as so much of the country was and finds itself, literally, in the crosshairs of the Allies in their final push to end the war. Through a trove of first hand experiences the reader is given a harrowing look at the raid and ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan by the United States, On February 13, 1945, Dresden Germany was devastated two days in a row by bombs. First by the British and second by the Americans. The first caused destruction and the second caused a firestorm which incinerated buildings and people. Many of Dresden's citizens were burned, baked, or suffocated to death by the intense heat from the fire. This tells not only the story of the devastation, But of the survivors and the ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, nook
An exceptionally well-researched book about the fire bombing of Dresden. McKay meticulously describes the city before the bombing, through the bombing and after the bombing. Diaries and other documents from survivors detail the awful night of destruction. McKay also presents the dilemma of the Dresden bombing: was it a war crime or was it the logical end of a long and destructive war? Did the citizens of Dresden - the vast majority of whom supported Nazism - deserve such punishment? Books have ...more
Thomas Dunne
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book that painted a stunning image of the human suffering involved in the bombing of Dresden and also raised moral questions about just what constitutes an acceptable target in a war. The one slight criticism I have is that, with so many individuals mentioned, it was a bit difficult to get an in depth feeling for any one individual. But, overall, a really good addition to literature geared to emphasize the human cost of war.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
First of all, thank you for the free advanced readers copy! I knew about Dresden, but did not fully understand it better until reading this book. I believe it to be a wonderful blend of culture, history, and politics. The intricate details and names with short stories throughout create a picture in my memory that is easy to explain lightly, but hard to put into real and touching words. Definitely making Dresden a city on my bucket list. ...more
Andrew Maul
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A compelling account of the events of 13/14 February 1945 as told from the perspective of those who witnessed it, on all sides. Of course living here gives us a unique perspective, as we walk through the places described every day, and imagine what happened 75 years ago. This book does not try to justify, blame, or point fingers, it simply recounts what happened in the lead-up to, during, and after the attack, and the consequences that are still being felt to this day. Must read.
Kristina | kristinaandthebooks
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.
Joe Bellew
Mar 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
What a disappointment. An interesting subject, but it seemed like the writer isnt a native English speaker. Terrible vocabulary, word choice and syntax. Overly long and complicated sentence structure. Constantly going off on tangents. Incredible that the author is a literary critic. I couldnt get past 50 pages. I keep wondering lately whether publishers still employ editors. ...more
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Sinclair McKay writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and The Secret Listeners and has written books about James Bond and Hammer horror for Aurum. His next book, about the wartime Y Service during World War II, is due to be published by Aurum in 2012. He lives in London.

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