I had never heard of

the bombing of Hamburg, not until I read this book.

I knew about Dresden. I had read Victor Klemperer’s diaries, decades ago but that kind of thing tends to stay with you.

But why hadn’t I heard about Hamburg? It seems so awful. The attacks were concentrated and relentless: four separate raids. I was amazed the city managed to rebuild.

To be fair, as Lowe points out, the British were only returning the favor. They learned from the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe “rained incendiaries down on London and other British cities, causing huge damage.” The British learned from the Germans that fires did more damage than explosions “and began experimenting accordingly.” For instance, they perfected delayed reaction incendiaries and two-step bombs, the kind that would start a fire and then, when someone tried to shovel it out a window, would explode, killing or maiming whoever was nearby.

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