Mil: I guess Europe is going to its old ways. Thy God I don't live there anymore.
Neo-Nazis upstage Dresden memorial
5,000 people take part in a funeral march to the music of Wagner to mourn civilians killed by the allied bombing raids
Luke Harding in Dresden
Monday February 14, 2005
Waving black flags and banners, thousands of neo-Nazis marched through the heart of Dresden yesterday on the 60th anniversary of the city's destruction by British and American bombers.
In the largest neo-Nazi demonstration in Germany's postwar history, about 5,000 people took part in a "funeral march" to mourn the civilians killed by the allied attack.
The protest upstaged the official commemoration of the anniversary, during which the British ambassador laid a wreath at a cemetery where victims were buried. Meanwhile, thousands of local citizens gathered in the old square for a candlelight vigil.
Large numbers of riot police were drafted into Dresden as several hundred anti-fascists hurled abuse at the far-right marchers and shouted: "Nazis out!"
The neo-Nazis marched to the music of Wagner and Bach, blaring from loudspeakers. As they crossed the Elbe towards the old city, they encountered several hundred anti-fascists. The organisers merely turned up the volume and played the Ride of the Valkyries.
Several anti-fascists waved British, US and Israeli flags. Others chanted: "You lost the war" and "Stalingrad was wonderful". Confetti and pink paper aeroplanes with RAF markings were thrown.
"This is a terrible day for Dresden - I'm furious," said Ursula Hamann, 77, who lives in the city and survived the 1945 attack. "It's sad to see something like this happening in Germany again."
Edeltraud Krause said: "Look at them. You just have to look at their stupid faces. They do not represent us."
The political establishment appears to have been taken completely unawares by the far-right's recent renaissance and the rise of the neo-Nazi National Party of Germany (NPD), which won 9.2% of the vote in last September's elections in Saxony.
In an interview yesterday Mr SchrÃ¶der hinted that he would try to ban the NPD, which, he said, portrayed Germany as a war victim by ignoring Nazi atrocities.
"We will use all means to counter these attempts to re-interpret history. We will not allow cause to be confused with effect," he told Welt am Sonntag.
He added: "This is our obligation to all the victims of the war and Nazi terror, especially, and also to the victims of Dresden." However, Mr SchrÃ¶der now faces a tricky period in trying to reconcile Germany's traditional right of peaceful assembly with a neo-Nazi ascendancy.
Support for the NPD appears to be rising, especially in depressed areas of the former communist East Germany, where unemployment averages 20%.
"My husband and I are NPD voters," said Anni Lutzner, who attended yesterday's NPD-organised rally in Dresden. "We believe that the German state favours foreigners and the Jews."
She added: "There's no point in banning us - we'll simply find a new name."
Hundreds of young skinheads attended the neo-Nazi rally. But the marchers also included pensioners who were driven out, like vast numbers of German refugees, from East Prussia - now divided between Russia and Poland.
They carried black balloons with the slogan: "Allied bombing terror - never forgive, never forget." Addressing the rally, the NPD's leader in the Saxon parliament, Holger Apfel, launched an attack on what he called the "gangster politics of the British and Americans".
He said: "They have left a trail of blood from the past to the present, via Dresden, Korea, Vietnam, Baghdad and - tomorrow possibly - Tehran. Terror and war have a name. And that name is the United States of America."
Other speakers accused Winston Churchill of wanting "to roast" Germans.
They also accused the German authorities of deliberately under-estimating the number of civilians killed in Dresden during the raids on February 13 and 14 1945.
Most historians put the figure at 35,000.
"I have no sympathy with the neo-Nazis. We don't want to go through those terrible times again," said Gena Mothes, 85, who survived the raid. "The problem is that people don't learn anything from the past. There are always new wars going on."
Mrs Mothes, who watched the allied bombs fall, was one of many Dresdeners who laid flowers yesterday at the cemetery where civilian victims were buried.
Britain's ambassador, Sir Peter Torry, played down the threat posed by the NPD, which is contesting elections in Schleswig-Holstein this week and hopes to enter the federal parliament in next year's elections.
"I would take the phenomenon seriously, but not over-rate it. The neo-Nazis got into Saxony's parliament, but on a low turnout," he told one newspaper.