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Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 Hardcover – February 3, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The allied bombing of Dresden created a massive fire that swept the city center, killing thousands of people and destroying its medieval heart. Debate began almost immediately: Was the destruction of this seemingly civilian city necessary militarily, or was it, some asked, equivalent to a war crime? Not just another in an endless parade of books on Dresden, Taylor's account may go a long way toward putting such questions to rest. It opens with the start, by British bombers, of the nighttime attack, and immediately turns to the past, meandering through several centuries of Dresden history, from its founding in the Middle Ages to the 20th century and the rise of the Nazis. Taylor, translator of The Goebbels Diaries, also covers the history of aerial bombardment and its international laws; gives glimpses of life under the Nazi regime; details the Allied bombing campaign against Germany; and, most excitingly, puts forth new information concerning Dresden's part in the German war effort, which turns out to be much greater than postwar information generally portrays. Five chapters of 30 describe the actual bombing of the city by the British and American air forces, and they do so effectively, weaving first-person accounts of the aircrews with those of the terrified German soldiers and civilians. The aftermath of the raid is concisely dealt with, in the process correcting common perception about the numbers actually killed (approximately 25,000, not up to 250,000, as often cited), and he offers a review of the postwar debate on the morality of the bombing. An afterword describes the author's experience at a recent ceremony for the dead of Dresden, and further corrects some longstanding misinformation that includes the alleged strafing of civilians by American aircraft. Taylor has used a variety of German, as well as Allied, sources to write an account not previously accomplished to this extent in English.
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From Booklist

Of all the cities destroyed in World War II, Dresden rivals Hiroshima as a symbol of the war's cruelty. The rationale for the bombing of Dresden has been clouded by distortion of what happened there and has been interpreted as a perfidious British and American war crime by the last gasps of Nazi propaganda; that interpretation was continued by the East German communist regime until its collapse in 1989. Newly opened archives, therefore, presented Taylor with an opportunity to research anew the obliteration of the "Florence on the Elbe." Touching on assertions about the air attack that have made it controversial--that the city was of negligible military significance, or that its destruction was without purpose because the war was almost over--Taylor advances contrary evidence about the mounting of the attack and the cataclysmic firestorm it ignited. Cautious about drawing a particular moral conclusion, Taylor takes care to keep before readers details about the Nazi rule in Dresden, hinting at his own opinion in this professional, accessible review of the controversy over the city's fate. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060006765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060006761
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

When they took German prisoners, they did not systematically murder or abuse them.
R. H. Eggleston
This makes a strong emotional agrument, but the Taylor book does not address this point of view.
Gary Stahl
That much is obvious from the wealth of details provided by the author,Frederick Taylor.
Lucia Werner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Judge Knott on August 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Writing a perfect book on the massive bombing raids against Dresden on February 13-14, 1945, is an impossible task. First of all, the two people in my mind most responsible for it--Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Air Marshal Arthur Harris--are long dead and while alive were far from forthcoming about their motives for the attack. So that avenue is closed forever.

Next, there is the eternal question of 'Was this raid militarily justified?' Here, I give Frederick Taylor a passing grade, but not much more. In my judgment, he is not interested in looking panoramically and in detail at the arc of the war in early February 1945. Admittedly, this is an immensely complicated issue. But for this book, I think a closer assessment of the dynamics of the European war as of dawn on February 13, 1945, would have been desirable.

Then, there is the second eternal question of 'Was this raid morally defensible?' Here, I think Taylor does a journeyman's job, but doesn't go as deep as would be expected in a book that seeks to re-assess the import and legitimacy of the raid. I think the book would have benefited from greater scrutiny of this question.

Three areas of the study, however, are revelatory and worth a careful read. The first is a roughly 50-page-long, very rich description of the founding and development of the city of Dresden. While some other reviewers were less enthused about it, I think this part of the book is fascinating. Second, the actual nuts-and-bolts description of the aerial raid is as fascinating as it is chilling. Finally, the personal, eyewitness face that Taylor puts on the bombing is remarkable, as it gives a horrifying 'you are there' drama to the event.

I'm disappointed in a few things.
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60 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Joanneva12a on January 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
`Dresden' - the book - is Taylor's contribution to the revived controversy surrounding the 1945 firestorm bombing of the city of Dresden. While extremely interesting and recounted in great detail, I still had mixed feelings about some of his conclusions. Taylor who is out to dispel the "myths" surrounding the notorious saturation bombing totes a questionable fine line as to whether he is arguing a case for military target legitimacy... or for complete annihilation.

He spends much time building a case for why Dresden was a legitimate military target. Nearly every German city had by this time been conscripted to the war effort, and yes, Dresden may have had legitimate targets, but the destruction inflicted upon the civilians was so ferociously excessive contrasted with the relatively minor damage done to military infrastructure, that it makes the argument almost moot.

The first RAF bombing raid excluded the Marshalling yards, Hauptbanhof, Marienbrücke railway bridge and troop barracks... obvious military targets if you are bombing to disable troop movement. It was -only- during the 2nd bombing raid, seeing that the Altstadt was completely engulfed in flames, that the RAF bomber leader made a snap decision - on his own - to target the fringes, otherwise the second target drop would have been exactly as the first.. the Altstadt itself. This is as much of an admission as you are ever going to get that the 1st and 2nd RAF raids were sent not so much for its military targets but for sheer chaos or "dehousing" as it was called.

The author however, does an excellent job revealing the lack of preparedness for a possible all out air raid, and shows how Dresden was truly undefended that night.
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76 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Except for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think what happened to Dresden on February 13 and 14, 1945 comes as about as close as possible to a vision of hell on earth.
My opinion is that this book is a deeply moving piece of scholarship that clears away the myths surrounding the doom that came to the "Florence on the Elbe" at the end of World War II. Yet it does so without diminishing one bit the horror of it all.
The book's best parts are the chapters dealing with the firestorm that swept through the city. However, the sections that address the history of "area bombing" and the "science" of burning a city are also highly informative.
My only criticism is that on page 171, the author makes no less than three factual errors about the 1944-45 Ardennes Campaign:
1. Sepp Dietrich did not command the "SS Panzer Division." He commanded the "Sixth SS Panzer Army" (consisting of a mix of SS units and Volksgrenadier divisions).
2. Hasso Von Manteuffel did not command the "Fifth Panzer Division." He was the commander of the "Fifth Panzer Army."
3. General Patton did not rescue the "First Airborne Division at Bastogne." He relieved the "101st Airborne Division." This error is particularly surprising since the author makes a correct reference to that fact on the same page.
Now, I want to close with a few words about revisionist reviews like the one that I've seen here which gave the book one star.
The Germans and Japanese (with Italy in a supporting role) started a war of unprecedented viciousness which killed tens of millions of people. As the author points out, it is laughable for revisionists to condemn the Allies for fighting back with everything at their disposal.
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