Art and history in dresden: debate about commemoration underway

Dresden commemorates the destruction of the city 72 years ago. On Monday, 10,000 people are expected to take part in a human chain for peace and tolerance.

The art installation "Lampedusa 361" in Dresden shows graves of drowned boat refugees Photo: dpa

The citizens of Dresden are intensively debating the commemoration of World War II, according to Mayor Dirk Hilbert (FDP). "I see a very strong discussion going on in the meantime," Hilbert said Monday on ZDF’s "Morgenmagazin."

Citizens were debating on social media, but also in direct exchanges, he said. "That’s a good thing," Hilbert added. Dresden will commemorate the victims of World War II and the destruction of the city 72 years ago with numerous memorial events on Monday.

A human chain in the city center is intended to set an example for peace and tolerance. More than 10,000 participants are expected to take part. Last year, around 13,000 people took part. Already in the morning Hilbert wants to lay white roses at the memorial plaque on the Dresden Altmarkt.

In recent days, among other things, the art installation "Monument" had been controversially discussed in the city. Hilbert faced death threats for this reason, among others. Something like that should not be part of his office, Hilbert said in the "Morgenmagazin". To him, it seems to be a "piece of the zeitgeist": Unfortunately, it is a trend that people express themselves in this way, especially in social networks. But he is up to the task and will initiate further projects to stimulate discussion.

The German-Syrian artist Manaf Halbouni had his "monument" erected on Neumarkt shortly before the commemoration of the destruction of Dresden in World War II. It shows three buses set up high, reminiscent of a photo from war-torn Aleppo. There, civilians are said to have set up a roadblock to protect against military attacks.

Destruction during World War II

Less than three months before the end of World War II, British and American bombers reduced Dresden, population 600,000, to rubble on February , 1945. The exact number of victims could never be determined. According to the latest findings of a commission of experts commissioned by the city, a maximum of 25,000 people lost their lives. An area of twelve square kilometers was completely destroyed.

Shortly before 10 p.m. on Shrove Tuesday 1945, the sirens wailed in Dresden. "773 British bombers initially dropped enormous quantities of high explosive bombs in two waves of attacks. The destruction of roofs and windows enabled the approximately 650,000 incendiary bombs subsequently dropped to have a greater effect. Their firestorm destroyed some 80,000 homes, and their heat effects deformed all the glass in the city center," according to documentation from the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

On February , the American Air Force continued area bombing. Dresden no longer had air defenses and was at the mercy of attacks. Between October 1944 and April 1945, the city was bombed a total of eight times.

The February attacks were among the heaviest on a German city in World War II. Experts, however, doubt the myth of the "innocent" city. It was not only a Nazi stronghold, but also an important transportation hub and site of armament factories.

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