Postcard from... Dresden



Dresden is enjoying some credit for having seen off the far right. On 13 February of almost every year since German reunification, the city on the Elbe has been the scene of neo-Nazi "memorial marches" commemorating and protesting against the devastating Allied bombardment of the city in 1945.

The RAF-led raid, ordered by Air Chief Marshal "Bomber" Harris, claimed an estimated 25,000 lives. The shocking death toll was caused by incendiary bombs which ignited a massive firestorm. Thousands of civilians were burnt alive in an inferno which caused tramlines to glow bright red and tarmac to boil.

During the Cold War, Dresden's Communist authorities erected a memorial stone outside the Frauenkirche church, stressing that the raid was a product of "Anglo-American aggression". But since Communism's collapse, the horror of Dresden has been exploited by Germany's far right.

Just a few years ago, the anniversary was attracting up to 6,000 extremists who made up the biggest gathering of neo-Nazis in Germany since 1945. But a concerted citizens' awareness campaign has recently brought thousands of ordinary people out on to Dresden's streets to face down the far right.

This month, more than 10,000 turned out to form a human chain signalling opposition to the neo-Nazis. Helma Orosz, the mayor, acknowledged that while Dresden's destruction had been irrevocably "burnt" into the city's collective memory, it was Germany and the far right that started the Second World War.