Dresden's new golden cross is symbol of reconciliation

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A giant golden cross built by the son of a British pilot who bombed Dresden in 1945 was lifted on to the city's historic Frauenkirche yesterday in what the British ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, called "a symbol of reconciliation".

A giant golden cross built by the son of a British pilot who bombed Dresden in 1945 was lifted on to the city's historic Frauenkirche yesterday in what the British ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, called "a symbol of reconciliation".

The Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) had been left in rubble for 50 years, but after a decade of rebuilding, and the spending of €30m (£20m), the exterior was completed when a crane hauled the cross and cupola to the top of the baroque structure's 78m-high dome.

Sir Peter, writing in the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said: "Let this church, which for so long was a symbol of the city's destruction, now become a symbol of reconciliation between Britain and Germany."

The cross is an exact replica of the 18th-century original and was commissioned by the Dresden Trust, a British group. It was designed by the British blacksmith Alan Smith, whose father Frank flew a Lancaster in the first attacks on the city.

The Duke Of Kent, who heads the British foundation helping to rebuild the church, presented the replica to the city in 2000, on the 55th anniversary of the raid. At the ceremony yesterday the duke said: "This is a wonderful project that unites people who were once enemies in a strong and lasting friendship."

Gertraude Preusser, who, as a 26-year-old in 1945 stood on a hill watching her home city burn after the raid, said: "It is so moving that the cross was made by the British son of one of the bombers. I think that is great."

The attacks on Dresden continue to be the subject of controversy. Some Germans have questioned the legitimacy of the bombing.

Last year The Fire - Germany and the Bombardment 1940-1945, by the historian Jörg Friedrich, condemned the attacks, which left nearly 35,000 dead, as war crimes. Opposition lawmakers have also called for a national memorial day for the 635,000 civilians killed in raids across Germany amid a new debate over German victimhood in the Second World War, weeks after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder became the first German leader to attend ceremonies commemorating the D-Day landings.

But a book by a British historian, Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945, says that the city, Germany's seventh-largest, was a justifiable strategic target with an industrial centre contributing to the war effort. Taylor also says the number of dead, frequently cited as in excess of 100,000 in Germany, was greatly exaggerated by Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

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