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American novelist Kurt Vonnegut, a prisoner of war in Dresden during World War II, has a scene in "Slaughterhouse Five" where time-traveling hero Billy Pilgrim sees the city's firebombing in reverse, with phosphorous bombs sucked back into warplanes.Visitors today to the German city that proudly, if a bit cheekily, calls itself "Florence on the Elbe," in a nod to its Italianate architecture, could almost think the scene was prescient of Dresden's resurrection since World War II. Imprisoned at a slaughterhouse that inspired the novel's title, Vonnegut lived through the infamous bombing raid in February 1945 that destroyed the old part of the city three months before the war in Europe ended. Emerging from the relative safety of the slaughterhouse, Vonnegut wrote that the destroyed city looked like a moonscape. The heart and soul of the old city collapsed into rubble two days after the bombing raid due to the intense heat generated by the firestorm."Half of Europe" was invited to the party, which lasted four weeks and cost a then-princely sum of 4 million thalers.
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