THOUSANDS of people have marked the 75th anniversary of the World War II bombing of Dresden by forming a ‘chain of peace’ along the Elbe river.
The Allied attack in 1945 created a firestorm that killed 25,000 people and left the eastern German city in ruins.
Amid the destruction and flames, countless numbers suffocated as the oxygen was sucked from the air.
The country’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier yesterday commemorated the victims while stressing responsibility for the war lay with Germany.
In a speech at Dresden’s Palace of Culture, he urged Germans to ‘defend democracy’ and warned against political forces that sought to ‘manipulate and abuse’ history.
‘Let us work together for a commemoration that focuses on the suffering of the victims and the bereaved but also ask about the reasons for this suffering,’ he told an audience that included Prince Edward, representing the Queen.
Mr Steinmeier later joined thousands of people in the peace chain along the river in front of the city centre.
As in past years, neo-Nazis gathered in the city to hold ‘funeral marches’, while the far-right AfD party set up an information booth to tell the supposed ‘truth’ about the bombings. Extremists often inflate the number of people killed in the Allied air raids to try to play down the Nazis’ war crimes.
Hundreds of British and American planes pounded Dresden with explosives from February 13 to 15, 1945. The devastation of the baroque city, known as ‘Florence on the Elbe’, came to symbolise the horrors of war.
Survivor Ursula Elsner, who was 14 when her mother dragged her to safety past burning buildings, said she wanted the occasion to serve as a warning against war. ‘This day belongs to us,’ the 89-year-old said.