The End08 Dec 2004
The End: Hamburg 1943 by Hans Erich Nossack just published in English translation.
One didnt dare to inhale for fear of breathing it in. It was the sound
of eighteen hundred airplanes approaching Hamburg from the south at an
unimaginable height. We had already experienced two hundred or even
more air raids, among them some very heavy ones, but this was something
completely new. And yet there was an immediate recognition: this was
what everyone had been waiting for, what had hung for months like a
shadow over everything we did, making us weary. It was the end.
Novelist Hans Erich Nossack was forty-two when the Allied bombardments of German cities began, and he watched the destruction of Hamburg--the city where he was born and where he would later die--from across its Elbe River. He heard the whistle of the bombs and the singing of shrapnel; he watched his neighbors flee; he wondered if his home--and his manuscripts--would survive the devastation. The End is his terse, remarkable memoir of the annihilation of the city, written only three months after the bombing. A searing firsthand account of one of the most notorious events of World War II, The End is also a meditation on war and hope, history and its devastation. And it is the rare book, as W. G. Sebald noted, that describes the Allied bombing campaign from the German perspective.
The original is entitled Der Untergang published by Suhrkamp.