When Nuremberg was scouted in 1945 as a possible site for the Nazi war crime trials, an American damage survey of Germany described it as being "among the dead cities" of that country, for it was 90% destroyed, its population decimated, its facilities lost. As a place to put Nazis on trial, it symbolized the devastation Nazism brought upon Germany ...Read MoreWhen Nuremberg was scouted in 1945 as a possible site for the Nazi war crime trials, an American damage survey of Germany described it as being "among the dead cities" of that country, for it was 90% destroyed, its population decimated, its facilities lost. As a place to put Nazis on trial, it symbolized the devastation Nazism brought upon Germany, while providing evidence of the destruction the Allies wrought on the country in the course of the war. In "Among the Dead "Cities, the acclaimed philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question, how would the Allies have fared if judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials? Arguing persuasively that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a powerful, moral re-examination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in the light of principles enshrined in the post-war conventions on human rights and the laws of war. Intended to weaken those countries' ability and will to make war, the bombings nonetheless destroyed centuries of culture and killed some 800,000 non-combatants, injuring and traumatizing hundreds of thousands more in Hamburg, Dresden, and scores of other German cities, in Tokyo, and finally in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Was this bombing offensive justified by the necessities of war," Grayling writes, "or was it a crime against humanity? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War." Their resolution is especially relevant in this time of terrorist threat, as governments debate how far to go in the name of security. Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U. S. Army Air Force's dramatic and dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation among often-unprepared men, women, and children. He examines the mindset and thought-process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the voices that, though in the minority, loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal of denting the will to wage war. Based on the facts and evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equated to the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, he nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and more, that accepting responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative. Rarely is the victor's history re-examined, and A. C. Grayling does so with deep respect and with a sense of urgency "to get a proper understanding for how peoples and states can and should behave in times of conflict." Addressing one of today's key moral issues, "Among the Dead Cities" is both a dramatic retelling of the World War II saga, and vitally important reading for our time.Read Less
I first want to mention the author, A C Grayling. Perhaps due to having learned English as a second language, I noted with great astonishment and pleasure that Mr. Grayling's style of writing is about as refined as that of very few non-fiction English language writers I have been able to read.
Without any superfluous jargon, Mr. Grayling was able to convey to me in great detail the British RAF Bomber Command offensive against Germany from 1939 to 1945 and its moral implications. No prior reading of any other author of this subject has fulfilled this task as precisely and as thoroughly as Mr. Grayling.
Undoubtedly the subject may have only a limited number of interested readers, but due to my own childhood presence as a bombing victim in Frankfurt/M during all those years, I was not able to lay this book down until the very end of the story, a story filled with carefully researched details and judgments about the area bombing offensive on almost every German city.
The accuracy with which Mr. Grayling has researched this subject is nothing short of stunning, and it is particularly noteworthy that it comes from a British writer who leaves no ideas unexplored, in particular matters of morality that have been avoided in many other books about this subject, particularly by authors coming from nations that were victors in this war.
Anyone with an interest in important details of the air war against Germany and its moral implications will find this volume quite interesting, and perhaps even somewhat disturbing. This last fact alone makes the book a very important contribution to the WWII library.
Thank you, Mr. Grayling for your fine example of careful, well-developed contribution to modern history.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-10-31 The Allied bombing of Axis cities, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and made smoking ruins of Dresden, Tokyo and Hiroshima, remains one of the great controversies of WWII; this probing study does the issue full justice. Philosophy professor Grayling (The Meaning of Things) focuses on Britain's "area bombing" of entire German cities, a strategy adopted initially because bombers couldn't hit smaller sites and then, as attitudes hardened, continued as a deliberate attack on civilian morale. Grayling scrupulously considers the justifications for area bombing-that it would shorten the conflict by destroying Germany's economy and will to resist, that civilian workers were also combatants or that it was simply the rough justice of war-and finds them wanting. British bombing, he contends, did little damage to the German war effort at an unconscionable price in innocent lives, in contrast to American pinpoint bombing of industrial and military targets, which succeeded in paralyzing the German economy with few civilian casualties. (The Americans, he sadly notes, resorted to area bombing in their devastating air campaign against Japan.) Drawing on firsthand accounts by theorists, architects, victims and opponents of area bombing, Grayling situates a lucid analysis of the historical data within a rigorous philosophical framework. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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