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European Press: Dresden's Marred Anniversary

A day after the 60th anniversary of the fierce Allied bombing of Dresden, European newspapers reflected on a massive demonstration by neo-Nazis at the ceremony.

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Neo-Nazi marches placed a stain on Sunday's events

German newspapers on Monday largely played down the significance of the far-right demonstration on Sunday in Dresden, thought to have been the largest in post-war Germany.

Berlin-based Die Welt wrote that despite the brash slogans of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and their potential for violence, "this Feb. 13 was a total flop for them." But, it added, at the same time, "countless people" in Dresden and beyond remembered the 35,000 victims of "the cruel bombing" of the city. "Such remembrance cannot be 'overshadowed' by NPD marches," the paper wrote. "It was supposed to become their great day, but they have merely demonstrated that they are nothing but a fringe group."

Freiburg's Badische Zeitung focused on the role of Dresden's residents. "The Dresdeners used more than just a sea of candles to respond to the perverse distortion of history by the neo-Nazis," the daily wrote. "In addition, the Dresdeners made clear that they very well know that the reason for the destruction of Dresden lay in the criminally offensive war waged by Hitler Germany," the paper said. "Thus the remembrance ceremony on Sunday turned into an intensive coming to terms with history. That was more than expected," it concluded.

Another German paper, Der Tagesspiegel, agreed that the far right "did not win". The paper observed that the demonstration failed to receive backing from the wider public. "No Dresdeners joined it: the city's citizens realized that the 'march of mourning' was a propaganda show staged by people who misrepresent history."

"Silent remembrance shown by 50,000 Dresdeners yesterday in memory of their parents, siblings and friends, was the only fitting answer to demonstrations by far-right groups," wrote Regensburg-based Mittelbayerische Zeitung. At the same time the paper stressed that democratic parties in Germany must in future pay more attention to political content and the worries of the younger generation.

Newspapers elsewhere in Europe were harsher in condemning Germany's far-right party and its attempt to distort the historical significance of the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombings of Dresden to their own purpose.

In France, Le Monde said many Germans -- and not only those on the far right -- believe the time has come to lament their own misfortunes, after a period of "guilty conscience". The paper wrote that the German authorities have been ineffectual in dealing with the neo-Nazi NPD, attempting first to ban it and now to limit its right to demonstrate. "But bans are not enough to resolve the problem," it insisted.

Spain's El Pais newspaper said the neo-Nazi demonstration on Dresden amounted to mocking the victims of the World War II. "It's a torture for Europe to have to watch 5,000 right-wing extremists marching through the city and wanting to manipulate history," it wrote and added that both Germany and Europe should resolutely counter the imperviousness of the neo-Nazis and make clear who was to blame for the tragic events 60 years ago. "The rise of Neo-Nazism means that democracy has failed. Now it's the responsibility of the Democrats to take on the phantom and ensure that such ghostly marches such as the one in Dresden don't repeat themselves," the paper warned.

Britain's conservative newspaper The Times said Sunday's march was the biggest "show of strength" put on by Neo-Nazis since the World War II, even though the 6,000 demonstrators behaved in a disciplined manner. "It ridiculed the message of forgiveness and reconciliation that was heard in front of the pulpits of the Dresden church," the paper wrote. "But, as it became dark, the inhabitants of Dresden began to realize that the neo-Nazis had stolen their day of tragedy."

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