How to commemorate the victims of the bombing of Dresden 79 years ago? Not at all, critics demand, also because it is compatible with neo-Nazis.

Aerial photographs of the destroyed old town of Dresden after World War II.

Aerial view of the destroyed old town of Dresden after World War II Photo: ADN/ap

DRESDEN taz | A human chain that will symbolically surround the old town of Dresden, music in the famous Frauenkirche and a walking tour are planned. This Tuesday, the city of Dresden remembers the 25,000 people who died when the Allies bombed the city from February 13 to 15. As then, this year the date falls on Shrove Tuesday. Organizers expect at least 20,000 people.

This year's motto is: “Vigilant Together.” In addition to the destruction of the city in 1945, we must also remember the Nazi dictatorship. But it's not that easy, criticizes the “Dresden Wi(e)dersatz” initiative, to which Anne Herpertz (Pirates) also belongs. “For us, it's about starting the debate: why do we commemorate and who?” she says.

Herpertz believes the city's public commemoration focuses on German suffering and tells the story of the Dresden victims. But Dresden was “structurally a city of perpetrators,” he explains to the taz. It is not possible to sadly commemorate its destruction and at the same time the direct victims of National Socialism. Therefore, the commemoration should be abolished. The criticism is not new: other political groups, such as the Green Youth, also spoke out in favor.

But the mayor of Dresden, Dirk Hilbert (FDP), does not believe that this is the right path: according to historical research, around 25,000 people died in the bombing. “Family members are owed or must be given space,” Hilbert responds to the criticism. “That memory also keeps alive the suffering caused by those extremists.”

The call of the neo-Nazis

Until now, these same extremists have exploited the commemoration of the destruction of Dresden for their own benefit. For more than 25 years, neo-Nazis have been mobilizing in Dresden around February 13; Last Sunday it was that time again. At its peak, around 7,000 far-right people followed the call; This year it is estimated that there were up to 1,000. About 5,000 people opposed them.

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Even before the counterprotest at Dresden central station began, criticism of the official commemoration was already an issue. Shortly before 1:00 p.m., just over a thousand people were waiting there in the cold rain to parade alongside the neo-Nazis with colorful flags, signs, and umbrellas. Until then they listened to techno with a lot of bass and some speeches. One of them criticized the city's official commemoration. It is compatible with the extreme right and should therefore be abolished.

A man with a gray mustache and a dark blue umbrella, who was watching the protest from the sidelines, didn't like it at all. “That you can't remember only the dead,” he said out loud, but mostly to himself. When asked what he meant, he reacted angrily, first talking about Dresden in 1945, then about the current war in Gaza and the responsibility of Jews. About two hours later, with her dark blue umbrella open and resting on his left shoulder, he jogged in the so-called neo-Nazi memorial march.

The participants had already received prior instructions not to speak to the press. But banners strewn along the march repeatedly indicated a distorted death toll of 350,000. Another banner read: “Yesterday Dresden, today Gaza.”

Matthias Lüth, also a member of “Dresden Wi(e)derstellen” and president of the Jusos in Dresden, criticizes the latter: “The historically revisionist and deeply anti-Semitic flag of the neo-Nazis was allowed to circulate through the city unmolested,” he says. Meanwhile, the police again tried to confiscate the “Kill the Nazis” counterprotest banner.

Lüth shares the alliance's opinion that the current commemoration should be abolished. Instead, it would be better to extend the commemoration of the victims of National Socialism on January 27. Or take part in the memorial on the trail of Nazi perpetrators in Dresden on February 18.