With this prospect in view Churchill wrote to Lord Beaverbrook that there was only one single way to force Hitler back into the confrontation and 'that is an absolutely devastating extermination attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon Nazi homeland.'
... and its consequences
In summer 1943 during a long hot spell the Royal Air Force, supported by the 8th US air fleet flew a series of attacks on the city of Hamburg. The aim of this 'Operation Gomorrha' was the complete destruction of the city and its reduction to ashes. During the attack in the night of 28th July, which started at one a.m., ten thousand tons of explosive bombs and fire bombs were dropped on the densely populated areas east of the Elbe, a region which included the areas of Hammerbrook, Hamm-North and -South, Billwerder Ausschlag as well as parts of St Georg, Eilbeck, Barmbeck and Wandsbek. According to an already well-tested method all windows and doors were first of all smashed and torn out of their frameworks by the four thousand pound explosive bombs, and next the attics were ignited by the lighter fire bombs, while fire bombs weighing up to 15 kilos reached the lower storeys. Within a few minutes huge fires were burning all over the 20 square kilometres of the area attacked, merging so quickly that a quarter of an hour after the first bombs had struck the whole area was one vast sea of flames. And five minutes later, at one twenty, there was a fire storm of an intensity nobody would have thought possible until that day. The two thousand metre fire then sucked in air with such violence that winds reached hurricane speeds and droned like huge organs as if all their stops were being pulled out simultaneously. For three hours the fire burned. At its peak the storm lifted off roofs and whirled beams and advertisement pillars through the air, uprooted trees and blew humans around like living torches. The flames shot up as high as houses behind falling walls, they rolled through the streets like a flood at 90 miles per hour, the walls of fire circled the open squares in strange rhythms. In some canals fire was burning on top of the water. The glass windows were melting in streetcars, the sugar supply was boiling in the basements of bakeries. People who had fled from their shelters sank into the molten, bubbling asphalt, grotesquely distorted. Nobody really knows how many died that night, how many lost their mind before they were overcome by death. In the morning, the summer light was unable to penetrate the leaden darkness. The smoke had risen up to a height of 8000 meters and spread like a huge cumulo-nimbus cloud. The flickering heat that could be felt through the aircraft by the bomber pilots, according to their own reports, continued to emanate from the hot smoking piles of rubble for a long time. Residential areas totalling 200 km of streets were completely destroyed. Horribly mangled corpses were lying around everywhere. Bluish phosphorous flames were still burning on some of them, others were fried brown or purple and shrunk to a third of their natural size. They were lying crooked in puddles of their own fat, partly cooled already. In the inner death zone, which was declared a prohibited military security zone in the following days, penal brigades and camp prisoners who had to clean up as soon as everything had cooled down, in August, found people who had been overcome by carbon monoxide, still sitting at tables or leaned against a wall. Elsewhere they found lumps of flesh and bone or piles of corpses that had been cooked by jets of boiling water that had come out of bursting hot water boilers. Others had been burnt to ashes in the fire of more than 1000 centigrade, so that the remnants of entire families could be carried off in a single laundry basket. The exodus of the survivors had already begun during the night of the attack. There began, according to Nossack, 'an incessant traffic on all the roads of the area..., but nobody knew where to go.'
Sebald, Luftkrieg und Literatur, p. 24f and pp. 33-36