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Right-wing march mars Dresden event

Thousands of right-wing activists have rallied in Dresden to draw attention to what they called British-US crimes on the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of the eastern German city.

Last Modified: 13 Feb 2005 15:02 GMT
The city of Dresden was fire-bombed in the second world war

Thousands of right-wing activists have rallied in Dresden to draw attention to what they called British-US crimes on the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of the eastern German city.

Some 3000 to 4000 people, according to police, gathered on Sunday near the Semperoper opera house amid a flood of black, white and red flags, an AFP correspondent said.

Police were out in force, with several dozen vehicles parked nearby, in case of clashes with leftists, who were planning a counter-demonstration later in the day.

Many of the right-wingers, who came in support of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), were young and wore black. Some carried banners marked "We won't forget and we won't forgive", or "The media and television lie."

Other commemorations on Sunday also remembered the many killed in cities bombed by the Germans, such as Coventry, Leningrad and Warsaw - as well as cities hit by more recent conflicts, including New York, Grozny and Sarajevo, as a sign of solidarity. 

Schroeder's pledge

"We will use all means to counter all attempts to reinterpret history," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Welt am Sonntag newspaper of the neo-Nazi threat.

"This is our obligation to all the victims of the war and Nazi terror, especially and also the victims of Dresden," he said, rebutting the far-right argument that Germany was the real victim in the war and that the Nazis were defenders of the German people.
 

"We will use all means to counter all attempts to re-interpret history"

Gerhard Schroeder,
German Chancellor

Dresden, famed for its baroque architecture and untouched by bombing just three months before the end of World War II, was nearly destroyed by two waves of British bombers on the night of 13 February 1945.

US planes blasted the city the next day. The official toll is put at about 35,000 but many survivors think the actual number was higher because bodies were reduced to ashes in the ensuing firestorm.

The Allies were acting on a request from Moscow. The city was an important railway and communications centre for Nazi forces resisting the Soviet advance from the east.

Glowing red sky

Pilots reported feeling the heat of the blaze, and the glowing red sky above the city was visible 70km away.

Where once German civilian suffering was simply ignored, the country is now seeking to acknowledge those Germans who died while also condemning the crimes of the Nazis.

The anniversary has reopened a debate over how to mourn Germany's war dead while containing the resurgent far right.

Members of the National Democratic Party (NPD) that sits in the Dresden-based Saxony state parliament provoked outrage last month by walking out of a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp and calling the air raids a "bombing holocaust".

"We did not refuse to pay respect to the victims but saw no reason to one-sidedly think about the dead of Auschwitz," NPD leader Udo Voigt told Die Welt newspaper. The NPD helped to organise Sunday's march.

Counter-protest planned

Up to 4000 far-right activists
took part in Sunday's protests

Dresden's residents plan to turn out in their thousands wearing white roses in a counter-protest.

Politicians are concerned about clashes between the far right and anti-fascist groups that have also flocked to the city for the weekend.

Schroeder hinted that the government might make a fresh attempt to ban the NPD, which it has likened to the Nazis, after an earlier application was thrown out by the country's top court in 2003.

He told Welt am Sonntag he would try to stop the party demonstrating near Berlin's new Holocaust memorial on 8 May, the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Victims outraged

Dresden residents who survived the raid said on Saturday that they felt obliged to commemorate the bombing to prevent it being misused and misrepresented by the far right.

"Far-right supporters have no idea of history or of what National Socialism led to"

Christa Nagel,
victim of Dresden bombing

"I am outraged at what is going on here," said Christa Nagel, 76, who remembers searching in vain for her mother in the rubble of their Dresden home after the bombing.

"These young far-right supporters, who say they have no jobs, no prospects, they have no idea of history or of what National Socialism led to."

Britain's ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, told Sunday's Tagesspiegel newspaper that likening the bombing of Dresden to the Holocaust was "highly problematic" but played down the threat posed by the NPD.

"I would take the phenomenon seriously but not overrate it. The neo-Nazis got into Saxony's parliament but on a low turnout," he was quoted as saying.

Source:
Agencies
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