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.

The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week