Thursday February 13, 2020
In February 1945, Allied bombers left large parts of the Saxon metropolis Dresden in ruins. Thousands lose their lives. Many people in Dresden use a human chain to commemorate the victims of war and violence. Federal President Steinmeier urged a decisive fight against extremism and anti-Semitism.
Remembrance and reminder in Dresden: Thousands of people remembered the destruction of the city 75 years ago in the evening. At around 6:00 p.m., according to the city, around 11,000 citizens formed a kilometer-long human chain around the old town to commemorate the inhumanity of the war and at the same time to set a sign for peace and openness to the world. In addition to Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Duke of Kent, Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer and Dresden’s Mayor Dirk Hilbert also took part.
“Today we commemorate all victims of genocide, war and violence, and we commemorate the war opponents of yore,” said Steinmeier, a white rose on her lapel, in front of the Frauenkirche. The dome cross of the Frauenkirche, created by the son of a British bomber pilot, is a sign of peace and understanding that extends far beyond Dresden. “The many candles in the city today are lights of hope.” Disruptors tried to hinder the commemoration in the human chain with fireworks and chants. According to eyewitnesses, they were disturbers from the left spectrum.
Up to 25,000 people were killed in the air raids by Allied bombers on Dresden on February 13 and 14, 1945. The old town was almost completely destroyed, famous buildings such as the Zwinger and Frauenkirche burned out. In the reconstructed Frauenkirche, which is now a symbol of reconciliation, many people lit candles on Thursday. The victims of the war were also commemorated in cemeteries and other memorial sites.
“Don’t forget German guilt”
At the central commemoration, Federal President Steinmeier appealed to all Democrats to decisively oppose new anti-Semitism and historical falsifiers. In his commemorative speech, he recalled that not only Dresden, but also many other cities in Germany and Europe experienced bombardments. “When we recall the history of the bombing war in our country today, we remember both: the suffering of the people in German cities and the suffering that Germans have inflicted on others,” he said. “We don’t forget German guilt.”
Steinmeier explicitly opposed the political instrumentalization of memory. Too often and for too long, the history of the air strikes on Dresden had been ideologically captured, first by the National Socialists, then by the GDR leadership. “And also in this commemoration year we have to experience how political forces manipulate, reinterpret and use history as a weapon,” warned Steinmeier. German injustice should not be downplayed, nor should the suffering of the bomb victims be minimized.
“None of this must go unopposed”
With clear words, the Federal President called for resistance to attacks on democracy. “We are seeing how anti-Semitism and xenophobia in our country are beginning to poison public life again, how the rule of law and democratic institutions are contemptuously and their representatives insulted and attacked.” It is not enough if Democrats turn away in disgust. “None of this should go unchallenged in our country,” said Steinmeier.
Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer also called for opposition to all those who wanted to reinterpret and distort history. At the start of the human chain, Mayor Hilbert called for no admission “if extremism and hate are spreading in our society today”. On Saturday, when neo-Nazis want to march again in Dresden, it is important to “send a peaceful signal against nationalism and racism”.
Right-wing extremists have long tried to use the anniversary of the destruction of Dresden for their own purposes. Due to the strong counter-protests, larger neo-Nazi marches around February 13th have been prevented in recent years. This year rights for Saturday again call for a so-called funeral march with several hundred participants. A broad alliance of counter-demonstrators, on the other hand, wants to take to the streets. The police will be on a large scale.