Postcard from... Cologne


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Cologne’s Gothic cathedral will not have seen anything like it since the Second World War. Back then the mighty 13th-century Catholic house of worship was subject to regular blackouts in an attempt to stop it being hit by Allied bombs.

But at 6.30pm on Monday, the floodlights illuminating Germany’s most popular tourist venue – it attracts 20,000 visitors a day – will be switched off, plunging the Unesco world heritage site into darkness. This time it is not bombers that are worrying the caretakers, but Germany’s recently formed and growing anti-Islamic movement, Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the Occident”. 

The far-right group wants to hold demonstrations in Dresden and Cologne in the cathedral squares in protest over the number of immigrants coming to Germany. 

But Cologne’s Catholic bishops don’t think much of Pegida. They will switch off the floodlights in protest. Their gesture has already been welcomed by the vast majority of Germany’s political parties.

In her new year speech, Angela Merkel denounced Pegida in unusually strong terms. But the recently formed eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party insists that politicians should listen to Pegida’s concerns.