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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
On the morning of the 13th February the city of Dresden remained the jewel of the German east, the Elbflorenz or Florence on the Elbe. It had weathered the privations of the second world war well, considered immune from bombing by the lack of heavy industry, the distance from the UK and even theories about Churchill's wish to protect a favoured aunt. The culture-loving,...
Published on 5 Dec 2005 by I. Curry

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36 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lawyerish apologism
This work is respectable piece of scholarship in its devotion to presend a comprehensive history of Dresden and a minutely detailed study of the tragedy itself. The writer is a respected British historian with an impressive curriculum of studies on the history of 20th century and the second world war. Nevertheless the book is a disappointment. The conclusions don't seem...
Published on 28 April 2006 by Gordon Cole


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review, 5 Dec 2005
By 
I. Curry "IDC" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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On the morning of the 13th February the city of Dresden remained the jewel of the German east, the Elbflorenz or Florence on the Elbe. It had weathered the privations of the second world war well, considered immune from bombing by the lack of heavy industry, the distance from the UK and even theories about Churchill's wish to protect a favoured aunt. The culture-loving, proud citizens did not fear the dawning of the 13th, but the number would be catastrophically unlucky for the city. By the 14th the city's impressive buildings, countless artistic treasures and a significant proportion of its populations would lie broken and charred under the ruined wreck of the town centre.
Frederick Taylor has taken the story of that dreadful night, and woven a complex and erudite history around the event. The story of the actual raid has to wait until the middle of the book, as the historian darts around various strands of history to build a thorough base for understanding the context of the raids. He considers the earlier history of the city, debates how it acquired its uniquely cultural and architectural heritage, looks at the history of fire in warfare, the previous destructions of the city, its role in war,the development of bombing as a weapon of civilian terror and the fate of the city's small Jewish population.
This ensures that the ensuing story retains as much balance as is possible for a British historian to deliver. The context is essentially the crimes of the German Reich, set against the undoubted brutality of the attack. Taylor considers whether the raid was necessary, or simply a barbaric example of revenge attacks. The contrast is set by the description of the annihilation of Coventry, and the pummelling of London and other British cities.
Despite the debate over the rights and wrongs of Bomber Harris's campaign, the tragedy of the night for the ordinary citizens of Dresden is clearly and compassionately illustrated. As with any conflict on such scale there are the ironies of the most impassioned opponents of Hitler being indiscriminately sucked into the fiery vortex.
Taylor has matched Beevor's performance in demonstrating the horrors of war on the localised level. Berlin and Stalingrad are now augmented by this detailed study of Dresden. It makes a welcome addition to understanding how the detached nature of modern warfare makes the resulting annihilation, the Gotterdammerung of this Wagnerian city, all the more difficult to comprehend.
The only criticism that reduced the overall score to 4.5/5 (although not allowed on the Amazon point scoring system) is that it takes a while to warm to the author's style. In dealing with such a horrific night it seems somewhat jarring that there is almost a jocular element to the early pages. It is perhaps an understanding of the repeating ironies of history, but still sits ill on first reading.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable history of the bombing of Dresden in 1945, 15 Feb 2004
This review is from: Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945 (Hardcover)
This book is a detailed account of the bombing of Dresden by the RAF and the USAAF on February 13-14th 1945. The attack, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, has been regarded by many people as the most shameful episode in the Allied prosecution of the war. Others argue that the bombing was justified by the city's critical position close to the eastern front and because of the many Dresden based arms manufacturers. Interviews with survivors of the bombing and the bomber crews themselves are used to create a vivid picture of the events before, during and after the bombing. This book has the same quality as Antony Bevor's brilliant histories "Stalingrad" and "Berlin" and is a valuable re-assessment of one of the most controversial events of World War 2.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sleep of reason brings fourth monsters, 11 April 2004
By 
Adam Bartleby "Bartleby2009" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945 (Hardcover)
This is a quote from the concluding chapter of Frederick Taylor's excellent, well researched and highly readable account of the events leading upto, the execution of, and the aftermath of the allied bombing raid on Dresden of 13 and 14 February 1945.
Like Taylor, much of my knowledge of the Dresden raid stemmed from Kurt Vonnegut's semi-autobiographical novel "Slaughter House 5", based on his experience of the Dresden raid as an American prisoner of war there. In the introduction to Vonnegut's novel he recounts how for many years he would tell people that he was working on a big book, perhaps multiple volumes, on what happened in Dresden in those twentyfour hours, but nothing ever came. For Vonnegut, he ultimately found that there was "nothing intelligent to say about a massacre" and that the only things left alive were the birds, and all they would say was "po-to-weet".
Vonnegut had experienced the horror of the raid first hand, and his account remains a powerful, intelligent, if subjective testimony to the horror of Dresden, but Vonnegut was not a historian, and it was left to historians to create a more whole picture of the raid from razor fragments such as Vonneguts, and the cutting and blunt papers of the archives, of course.
Considering the events cultural importance on the European consciousness, as the icon of airborne slaughter in the European war, it is surprising that so little has been published on it. David Irving's 'The Destruction of Dresden' was an important book but was undermined by the authors alleged neo-nazi connections and the subsequet absence of a mass market reprint.
Taylor's book fills this void admirably, bringing together a narrative of the European bomber war with archive and eye-wittness accounts of the Dresden raid itself, and the place that the raid assumed in post-war consciousness. If there is one dissapoitment I would say it is the sparcity of interviews with surviving bomber crews, though this is perhaps inevitable since the passage of time and a half century of implicit blame have hardened the attitudes of airmen who dropped their bombs from an inevitably impersonal altitude.
This book is not a polemic, that is it does not attempt to exonerate the allies, bomber command or key figures like Arthur Harris or Winston Churchill, but neither does it narrate Dresden as the senseless victim of excess in an otherwise just war. Instead Taylor allows a balanced re-telling of the facts to speak for themselves. Myths are debunked in this process, particularly regarding the astronomical casuality figures circulated as propoganda against the allies, but despite this a strong Clauswitzian message booms through the memoirs and data - that war, once unleashed, spirals out of control and will ultimately serve itself, it moves toward an all consuming totality. "Total war".
When Taylor refers to "the sleep of reason" he is referring to the failure of Europe, and by extension humanity, to remain rational, to think through the consequences of its emotions and ambitions, rather than applying such irrational prejudice into policy.
As another war spins into a vortex of self serving violence, it would appear that we have learned very little in the intervening sixty years.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dresden 1945: hell on Elbe, 10 Feb 2005
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The destruction of Dresden has come to symbolise the horror of war. A beautiful city laid to waste, with tens of thousands dead, in less than 24 hours. Frederick Taylor's book recreates life in Dresden in the months and years leading up to February 1945. His approach is admirably even-handed: most readers will finish the book mourning the loss of the city and its people rather than taking sides in a pointless debate about whether the raids could be justified. Many will want to visit Dresden to see how the city has risen from the ashes while reflecting on the horror of war.
Just one small criticism: the American spellings used in the book are very distracting. It comes as a surprise to read in a British book that the 'Labor' party won the 1945 British general election, and to learn of people 'immigrating' to the USA.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good study, 27 Sep 2006
I was very impressed by this book and the author's detailed study of a controversial event. I think he makes good case for bombing while pointing out just as clearly the horrific suffering of the people underneath the barrage. For those people who would have preferred a campaign of "precision bombing", the example of the American aircraft who lost their way on the day after the British raids and bombed Prague by mistake, shows just how difficult precision bombing was. I rate this book highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 18 April 2012
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Simon Harvey (Colchester, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945 (Hardcover)
First, an aside. I'm not interested in military history per se. Military matters leave me cold, to say the least. I bought Taylor's book for two reasons: first, to get a solidly-researched account of the bombing of Dresden, with as much insight as possible into the planning of the operation and the subsequent reactions to it on both sides of the conflict; and secondly, to see if I could tease out some information about how the civilian population of Germany regarded the Nazis at this (or any) stage in the war. So far as the latter is concerned, I also bagged a couple of accounts of the fall of Berlin; but that's another story.

I have to say that this is a remarkable piece of work. Taylor kicks off by presenting a potted history of aerial warfare, and he does so with such verve that I not only stayed awake but found myself quite interested. This in itself is an achievement. When he starts to get his teeth into the central theme of the book, it's clear that he's enjoying himself. One is carried along with the energy of the writing, but the facts are there too, in great abundance. It is obvious that a vast amount of research went into this project, and the situations being described are often complex, but Taylor's writing is never less than vivid, with occasional flashes of black humour. The final triumph of the book is that the author does not tell us what to think. He has, after all, told us enough for us to make up our own minds, and with great intellectual honesty.

A tremendous achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the maze, 5 Mar 2011
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D. Cheshire (Liskeard UK) - See all my reviews
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Taylor does a fantastic job in this book. He not only lays out a crystal-clear narrative, but also skillfully navigates a path through the historical, moral and polemical maze that surrounds the events he describes. While acknowledging the horror of these events he does emminent justice to the historical context and complexities, What emerges for me is how Dresden became a symbol, whose image is refracted through the distorting glass of both Goebbels and Soviet cold war propaganda (Taylor shows how sometimes even the terminology is identical). Harris and the RAF aircrews became scapegoats for the "moral ambiguity" that always lay at the heart of Allied bombing strategy. Yet Churchill, one the key architects of this ambiguity, was only too anxious to distance himself from it by the end of the war. This book is a corrective to that "moral hindsight" which, from the calm and security of the moral philosopher's study, too easily condemns decisions made and actions taken in the midst of crisis and existential danger. Harris may have been wrong, but the aircrews deserved better treatment than they have often received. Taylor is an honest and scholarly guide through this minefield. Thoroughly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving book, 9 Jun 2008
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tallpete33 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945 (Hardcover)
Towards the end of the war, the might of Bomber Command "unleashed hell" in the form of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the beautiful city of Dresden. Climatic conditions, the tactics employed and the sheer weight of explosives dropped caused a firestorm from which there was no escape and thousands of civilians (many refugees from other cities) perished over the two terrible days.

In a war of untold atrocities, the bombing of Dresden stands out and is only talked about in the hushed tones normally reserved for Auschwitz or Hiroshima. Rumours and counter rumours abounded after the devastation - the number of deaths and the reason behind it all. Dresden was not just a beautiful and cultural city but close to the Eastern front and the location of many hidden arms factories.

The author delivers the facts in an authoratative and balanced way, recounting the reasons behind the operation and the personalities involved. Bomber Command's experience over the years had led up to this devastating knockout blow. Arthur Harris was later vilified in some quarters, it appears for doing his job too well. Had it been a typical hit and miss affair, the ramifications for him, Dresden, and the war itself would have been a lot smaller.

This is a very well written book and gives the history of the city, and recounts the events themselves and the aftermath in great depth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finally an accurate account of this significant event often used to judge the whole British bombing campaign in WW2, 2 Jan 2014
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Pooledog (Poole, England) - See all my reviews
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A very well researched book, using information from eyewitnesses and participants as we'll as German (East and Nazi), American, Russian and British sources, some only more recently available. It provides an accurate view of the rationale for the bombing of Dresden by the British and Americans and puts it in a historical context. It dispels the myths promulgated both from the propaganda by the Nazi and Communist Government and the many writers who, since the war, have sought to sensationalise the event for their own purposes.
It is nonetheless a harrowing story of a cataclysmic event in which at least 25-35,000 people died. The death toll was made worse by the neglect of the Nazi government to provide adequate bomb shelters to all but a select group of the population. The book is well written and easy to read. It also provides an overview of the British bombing campaign as a whole, the policy and why they used certain techniques
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dresden book fantastik, 23 Dec 2013
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Hans Bonnesen "OZ5RB" (Copenhagen Denamrk) - See all my reviews
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When you have visited that City it is highly interesting to learn about the misere it went througH during ww2
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Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945
Dresden: Tuesday, 13 February 1945 by Fred Taylor (Hardcover - 16 Feb 2004)
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