Duke tells Dresden of UK's deep regret

Reconciliation was the order of the day in Dresden yesterday - the anniversary of the RAF's Second World War bombing raids that destroyed the city 50 years ago.

The Duke of Kent, as the Queen's envoy, announced the planned gift from Britain of a golden cross to stand on top of the dome of the Frauenkirche, Dresden's central church, which is to be rebuilt from the rubble.

``We want this cross to be a symbol of the reconciliation between Britain and Germany. We give it in remembrance of those who died in Dresden," he said, in German. In a carefully worded form of almost-apology, the Duke added: "We deeply regret the suffering on all sides in the war. Today, we remember especially that of the people of Dresden."

At least 35,000 - almost all civilians and refugees - died during a single night in the once-beautiful city, less than three months before the war's end.

The German President, Roman Herzog, also talked of reconciliation, and emphasised: "We are not trying to lighten our own burdens by comparing them with those of others...We must never forget Dresden was destroyed in a war unleashed by a German government. Precisely for this reason, however, Dresden reflects the utter senselessness of modern wars."

Mr Herzog argued: ``Only if one imagines all those different people who must have died in that night of destruction does the human tragedy of modern warfare become fully apparent." Among them, he pointed out, were dyed-in-the-wool Nazis, fellow-travellers, silent and active opponents of the regime, and the regime's own victims. ``Any balancing or offsetting would be entirely futile."

When the Queen came to Dresden in 1992, shortly after the erection in London of a statue of Bomber Harris - Arthur Harris, the wartime head of Bomber Command - there was much bitterness. Protesters threw eggs.

Now Dresden is determined to send a different signal. The main commemoration poster shows a single burning candle; the ``never-again" message is clear. A town hall exhibition,``The Dream of Another Germany", focuses on civilian resistance and Nazi crimes against civilians in Europe.

The Duke of Kent and senior representatives of the German, British and American armed forces - including the British chief of defence staff, Field- Marshal Sir Peter Inge - were among those who laid wreaths at a silent ceremony amid the pines of the Dresden cemetery where thousands of bodies from the inferno were buried. The ashes of thousands more, whose bodies had to be piled up and burnt in Dresden's old marketplace, also lie here.

City authorities had feared demonstrations from the extreme left and right. Left-wingers argue it is wrong to commemorate the raids, because of Hitler's crimes. Right-wingers argue it is wrong to seek reconciliation. The leader of the extreme-right NPD, Gnter Deckert, was in custody yesterday after being arrested at the weekend at a motorway services station while leading a convoy of supporters towards Dresden.

Not all Dresdeners have taken the city's message to heart. One leaflet on a fence near the Frauenkirche talked of "Allied mass murder". Eberhard Friderici, a retired locksmith, said: "Reconciliation is all very well. But it can't be that we are ready to be conciliatory, while others continue to blame us for what we have done."

Passers-by reacted critically. One woman said the leaflet was ``vile", and asked Mr Friderici, her voice breaking with emotion: "What about all the millions from other nations who died?"

Younger people especially are critical of any attempt to portray Germany in the role of victim. Yvonne Frnkel, 18, said: ``None of this would have happened if it wasn't for Hitler. He really screwed us, didn't he?"

Nick Nolan, the Lord Mayor of Coventry - one of Dresden's twin cities - argued: "In a marvellous and almost miraculous way, the fires that burned so fiercely in Coventry and in Dresden have ignited a flame of hope in cities and among people all over the world."

The Bishop of Coventry gave the sermon at yesterday's traditional anniversary service in the Church of the Holy Cross. Afterwards, candles were lit at the Frauenkirche - for peace.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions