The bombing began shortly after 10:00 P.M. on February 13, 1945. In the fifteen hours that followed, 1,100 American and British heavy bombers dropped more than 4,500 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices, leaving the ancient city of Dresden -- "the Florence of the Elbe" -- in flaming ruins and claiming the lives of thousands of its citizens. Twelve weeks later the German surrender was in hand, signaling the end of World War II.
Yet today the bombing of Dresden is embedded in our collective consciousness not as the toppling blow to Nazi Germany but as one of history's cruelest wartime atrocities, a vicious and militarily unjustifiable act of vengeful retribution against a peaceful, beautiful, defenseless city somehow removed from the war-making machinery that had otherwise consumed all of Germany.
What really happened at Dresden -- both the facts of the events themselves and the reasons behind the remarkable legacy of propaganda that has left us in the dark about those events for nearly sixty years -- is the subject of Frederick Taylor's ground breaking study. After careful research into British, American, and German archives (including recently discovered documents, now available after decades of communist censorship) and interviews with both bombers and survivors, Taylor -- a bilingual scholar, translator, and writer -- has created the most complete portrait ever assembled of the city, its people, and those involved in its fate. Many of his findings require a revelatory shift in how we understand these events. For instance, he demonstrates that
- the numbers of dead -- frequently cited in excess of 100,000 -- were greatly exaggerated, for propaganda purposes, by Josef Goebbels (Taylor estimates the actual death toll at between 25,000 and 40,000)
- charges that Allied pilots overhead shot down German civilians as they fled toward safety were patently false
- contrary to popular belief, Dresden was a city of considerable military importance, both as a transportation hub and a major producer of armaments and military provisions.
Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 is the first truly informed and fair-minded history of the bombing that lives in infamy. Frederick Taylor's book, a responsible and long-overdue corrective to a sixty-year-long legacy of misinformation masquerading as fact, will be remembered for generations both as a work of enduring scholarship and as a moving, compassionate narrative of a human tragedy of historic significance.