In February 1945 the Allies obliterated Dresden, the 'Florence of the Elbe'. Bombs weighing over 1,000 lbs fell every seven and a half seconds and an estimated 25,000 people were killed. Was Dresden a legitimate military target or was the bombing a last act of atavistic mass murder in a war already won?From the history of the city to the attack itself, conveyed in a minute-by-minute account from the first of the flares to the flames reaching almost a mile high - the wind so searingly hot that the lungs of those in its path were instantly scorched - through the eerie period of reconstruction, bestselling author Sinclair McKay creates a vast canvas and brings it alive with touching human detail.
Along the way we encounter, among many others across the city, an elderly air-raid warden and his wife vainly striving to keep order amid devouring flames, a doctor who carried on operating while his home was in ruins, novelist Kurt Vonnegut who never thought that his own side might want to unleash the roaring fire, and fifteen-year-old Winfried Bielss, who, having spent the evening ushering refugees, wanted to get home to his stamp collection. Impeccably researched and deeply moving, McKay uses never-before-seen sources to relate the untold stories of civilians and vividly conveys the texture of contemporary life. Dresden is invoked as a byword for the illimitable cruelties of war, but with the distance of time, it is now possible to approach this subject with a much clearer gaze, and with a keener interest in the sorts of lives that ordinary people lived and lost, or tried to rebuild.