CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Roy Harris / Pulitzer's Gold

Natalie Berkowitz / Winealicious

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs


University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri


University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

March 26th, 2008 at 10:01 am

The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

Jorg Friedrich; The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945

First published in English in 2006, Jörg Friedrich’s The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 is now available in paperback.

Upon publication of the hardcover edition of the book, Peter Dimock, the editor of The Fire, wrote the following essay discussing the book’s importance, its relevance to contemporary events, and how we think about the conduct of modern warfare:

Sometimes an editor can feel in his bones when the prose on the page of a manuscript he is holding in his hands marks a possible turning point in the way the present decides to understand itself. I have been lucky enough to have had this feeling once or twice in the course of my twenty-two years in publishing. It happened again when, at the urging of another author, I and Columbia University Press took on the project of publishing the English-language edition of Jörg Friedrich’s The Fire. Here are the first words of the book from the chapter titled “Weapon”:

“The bomber will always get through.”—Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin

The bomb does not take a precise path when finding its target. So the target becomes
whatever the bomb can find—a city.

The sound of this voice, it seems to me, signals the arrival of a historical prose of a special order, the more so since the implied subject is the moral and historical significance of the Allied fire bombing of German cities during World War II. This sense is heightened when the reader is reminded that the author is a German writer celebrated for earlier historical work that is scathing in its portrayal of the leniency of the German prosecution of Nazi war criminals immediately following the war.

Why do so many historians and reviewers feel that so much is at stake in the way readers interpret Friedrich’s book and the critical reception it receives in the public media? The book has sparked controversy everywhere since its original appearance in Germany in 2002. The contemporary interpretive question The Fire is raising by historical indirection, I suspect, is the origins of the willingness of the contemporary modern liberal state to develop and use weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations. To see the fire bombing of German cities as an integral part of that history as well as the history of the virtuous Allied defeat of Germany and Japan is, for many, to experience interpretive vertigo.

Will contemporary understanding of this subject extend beyond the military necessity to defeat Hitler? Will our contemporary understanding include seeing the fire bombing of German cities as a pivotal early moment in the history of the development of weapons of mass destruction and the willingness of modern states to use the terror such weapons impose on daily life as part of their overwhelming arsenal of power?

Weapons of mass destruction obviously go directly to the heart of current issues of American power and the continuing projection of that power in Iraq and around the world. Perhaps the English-language translation of The Fire and the fascination it is beginning to exercise reflect a desire on the part of American and English readers, critics, and editors alike to confront these wider and timely issues.


For more on the book, you can also read more reviews of the book, read Friedrich’s afterword addressed to British and American readers, and listen to a podcast interview with Friedrich.

Post a comment