Some 10,000 citizens have formed a cordon inside Dresden to prevent neo-Nazis from misusing an anniversary of the Allied bombing of the German city during World War II. A march by neo-Nazis was stopped by police.
Dresden held commemorative events on Wednesday for past war-time bombing victims in Dresden, England's Coventry and Japan's Hiroshima as some 800 neo-Nazis tried to begin a march near Dresden's main railway station.
Police squads stopped them after a few hundred meters, close to where counter-demonstrators had set up one of three blockades in Dresden's historic inner city.
Since 2009, anti-racist activists have outnumbered neo-Nazis who previously had used Dresden's bombing anniversary to stage large "funeral" marches to recall the demise of Hitler's "Third Reich."
Wednesday's anti-fascist protest marking the 68th anniversary of Dresden's bombing by Allied warplanes was attended by its mayor Helma Orosz and the premier of the surrounding regional state of Saxony, Stanislav Tillich. They are both members of Germany's mainstream conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
Also present were US American, Jewish and church representatives.
Anarchronist 'arsonists,' says mayor
Speaking at the city's Heide cemetery where many of the 1945 bombing victims are buried, Mayor Orosz said Dresden belonged to its citizens, not to what she called the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the "arsonists" of the past.
The 200 participants gathered at the Heide cemetery laid white roses on the snow-covered ground for the victims of the war.
Historians estimate that bombs dropped by US and British warplanes over a 37-hour period starting on February 13, 1945, killed 25,000 people. The dead included people displaced inside the-then Nazi Germany near the close of World War II.
Earlier on Wednesday, 3,500 police were deployed in anticipation of violent clashes between the two groupings. In the end, police said events remained largely peaceful, in comparison with 2011, when clashes occurred between ultra-rightists and leftists.
Extremists under scrutiny
In November 2011, revelations of an underground terrorist group - the Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU) - renewed fears of right-wing extremism in Germany.
The case linked 10 immigrants deaths to three neo-Nazis, as well as a number of bombing attacks and bank robberies. Police had previously thought the murders were mob-related.
Since then, the investigation into the NSU has drawn attention to what appears to be widespread negligence by German authorities who failed to connect the crimes to the group.
ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, epd)