World War II in Germany and Europe
The second world war lasted 6 years (1939-1945) and represented the largest military conflict in history, involving all of the great powers of the 20th century and killing millions of people from many different countries across the world. It was the first time in recorded history that the civilian population was effected more severely than that of the military. For the first time entire urban areas were destroyed using air attacks. Cities like Warsaw (Poland), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Coventry (United Kingdom) and Dresden (Germany) became symbols of this destruction. In addition to Dresden, many big and small cities in Germany and Europe were also destroyed. Cities like Düren, Wesel or Paderborn lost almost 100% of their housing.
13 February in Dresden 1945
Dresden was a city of cultural and artistic significance in Europe at that time. In contrast, Dresden was also host to the nazi war council and was centrally functional during the war. At the end of WW II five consecutive air attacks were carried out within 48 hours, from 13 to 15 February 1945, by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Armed Air Forces. The attacks began with two major raids on the night of 13 February, starting at 10.15 p.m. The entire city center was set alight and vast areas of Dresden were destroyed. 25 000 people died and tens of thousands suffered from homelessness and misery. The grief of the people’s suffering is blended with feelings of shame and guilt about the unspeakable suffering and heinous crimes committed by Nazi Germany. A memorial commemorating the attacks over these days is mounted in the cobblestone at Altmarkt Dresden.
Yearly protests in Dresden
Right-wing extremists rally in Dresden and try to present Germans as being victims of the World War. They try to relativize Nazi German crimes, such as the Holocaust, by singling out the events of 13 February 1945. Many counter-demonstrations are organized in addition to other events and activities to commemorate all victims of war and to remind us of the atrocious crimes committed by Nazi Germany during WW II.
13 February 2019 – Join us to celebrate a peaceful reconciliation and a democratic community!
Program Highlights in the week of 13 February 2019
10 a.m. – Commemoration in ten memorial sites: Alter Annenfriedhof, Neuer Katholischer Friedhof, Sporergasse 10, Gedenkstätte ehemaliger Äußerer Matthäusfriedhof, Urnenhain Tolkewitz, Heidefriedhof, Friedhof Cotta, in front of Frauenkirche – feel free to join in any event!
12 noon – Prayer for peace from Coventry: the Frauenkirche church bell will ring at 12 noon to invite everybody for a peace prayer including a prayer of Dresden’s partner city Coventry.
3 to 10 p.m. – Commemoration in front of the Frauenkirche
Remembrance on the Neumarkt offers space for conversations and encounters, but also for silent remembrance. Candles can be brought to the Frauenkirche and to the “Big Candle”. For a donation candles and white roses are kept ready. More information (in German) here. Everyone is welcome.
6 p.m. – Human Chain instigated by the rector of TU Dresden, Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen: it will be initiated from 5 p.m. and will stretch across the city, holding together for a couple of minutes at 6 p.m. (more information: http://13februar.dresden.de/en/menschenkette.php)
11 – 16 February at Centrum Galerie, Prager Straße (initiative of MEMORARE PACEM – Society for a Culture of Peace)
Which past do we take with us into our future?
From 11 to 16 February 2019 we invite you to one week of information, discussions and actions on Dresden remembrance in the (very unusual location) Centrum Galerie, Prager Strasse 15 to 17 (daily during opening hours).
Every year on 13 February we Dresdeners are particularly intensively occupied with the past of our city. Again and again it becomes clear: Remembering together is important. After all, we want to know what our city and its people are all about. We want to become aware of where we come from. And we have to agree where we want to go. But it’s not that simple with remembering together: what should remain in our memories? What can we confidently forget? What must not be forgotten? And why? Which past do we take with us into the future? We want to talk to you about this for a week.
11 – 16 February in Dresden #WOD on Tour – Remembering and Forgetting
A bus converted into a place of encounter and exchange with a small mobile library and various event formats becomes a workshop for remembering and forgetting. More information here (Flyer in English)
For your preparation
We look forward to seeing you at any or all of the events that evening. Here are few event hints and tips for your safety:
- Be sure to check important details of protest marches so as not happen to be caught up in them.
- It would be better to go in groups or together with your friends and colleagues who would most likely be in town that night.
- Do what policemen and authorities tell you – the atmosphere can be a bit tense as there will be thousands of people on the streets.
- And last but not least: don’t react to provocations. Walk away or seek out a friend or the police if you feel uncomfortable or threatened.
For the majority of Dresden people it is very important to be in town on 13 February, to demonstrate peaceableness and contribute to peaceful events. Yes, there might be a few troublemakers around, but don’t worry too much and enjoy the feeling of being part of a huge crowd that is symbolizing “Never again” to the world.
The text was mainly written together with Matthias Neutzner (historian and chairman of MEMORARE PACEM – Association for a culture of peace)