Germany remembers Allied firebombing of Dresden 70 years on

Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:16pm EST
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By Michelle Martin

DRESDEN, Germany (Reuters) - Seventy years after the Allies firebombed the east German city of Dresden, Germany remembered the tens of thousands who were burned alive with a somber church service and a silent human chain to symbolize peace and opposition to racism.

At the Baroque domed Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), bells rag out as a service started with delegates from other cities that suffered massive air attacks - Coventry, Breslau, Ostrava and St. Petersburg - lighting candles for peace. Some survivors of the bombing attended.

Around 10,000 people joined hands along the Elbe river and across bridges. While Dresden has been the scene of some of Europe's biggest neo-Nazi marches on Feb. 13 in recent years, right-wing activists were noticeably absent on Friday.

Antifascists gathered on the square outside the church carrying a green banner urging people to "Fight for a humane society. Take action against the Nazis".

Dresden has recently become the center of an anti-Islam movement that has seen as many as 25,000 protesting against what they see as the growing influence of Islam.

Speaking at the church that was left as a symbolic ruin for years before being rebuilt and topped with a golden 'cross of peace' made by the son of a British bomber, German President Joachim Gauck described how the bombers had arrived as children in colourful hats and red noses celebrated carnival.

"Bombs and fire indiscriminately annihilated both guilty and innocent, party members and small children, war criminals and nuns, guards and forced laborers, combat soldiers and refugees who had left their homes to save their lives and believed themselves to be in a safe place," he said.


People hold hands as they form a human chain on the embankment of Elbe river in Dresden, February 13, 2015.  REUTERS/David W Cerny