The Fire

The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

Jörg Friedrich. Translated by Allison Brown

Columbia University Press

The Fire

Google Preview

Pub Date: April 2008

ISBN: 9780231133814

552 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $27.95£24.00

Pub Date: November 2006

ISBN: 9780231133807

552 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $85.00£71.00

The Fire

The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

Jörg Friedrich. Translated by Allison Brown

Columbia University Press

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.

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, New York Review of Books

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.

The Nation

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, Bookforum

Jörg Friedrich's achievement in The Fire has been to tell this tale of death and destruction with a rare plasticity and vividness.

German Historical Institute London Bulletin


TIME Europe

[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.

New York Times

Jörg Friedrich tells the story from the viewpoint of the bombed with... great skill and objectivity.

Paul Johnson, The American Spectator

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

Stanley Hoffman, Foreign Affairs

Mr. Friedrich deserves credit for both his diligence and his descriptive powers.


An indictment both of Hitler's appropriation of German history and of the Allies' destruction of a nation's culture... Thoughtful and detailed.

Library Journal

This is a book that demands to be read, no matter how uncomfortable the experience.

David Cesarani, The Independent

[A] haunting book… forceful, incendiary.

Atlantic Monthly

A well-documented piece of historical writing... [that] is also a poignant, lyrical and terrible account of human suffering.

Adam R. Seipp, Houston Chronicle

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

Roger Moorhouse, BBC History Magazine



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

Harold Dorn, Technology and Culture
1. Weapon
2. Strategy
3. Land
4. Protection
5. We
6. I
7. Stone
Editorial Remarks

About 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.