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Germany

Neo-Nazis allowed to march in commemoration of Dresden bombing

On Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the infamous allied firebombing of Dresden, thousands of Neo-Nazis will be allowed to march through the city - amid counter protests and official commemorations.

Neo-Nazis march through Dresden in February, 2009, in commemoration of the allied firebombing in 1945

Thousands are expected at this year's 'mourning march'

At least 6,500 right-wing Neo-Nazis and their supporters have been allowed to march through Dresden on Saturday to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the allied firebombing that killed over 25,000 civilians and left much of the city in ruins.

A Saxony state court ruled against Dresden's attempt to have the march banned, saying that would have breeched German constitutional laws allowing public assembly. The court said, however, that the Saturday march could take place only in certain parts of Dresden between 12:00 and 17:00 local time and that the route could be altered by police to avoid clashes with counter protesters.

Police hold back demonstrators in Dresden in 2009

Twice as many police forces will be in Dresden this year compared to last

The city of Dresden expects at least 30,000 people to be involved in counter demonstrations, most of which it said would be peaceful.

The interior ministry, however, expects at least 2,000 of those protesters to use violence in their protest of the march.

Up to 8,000 police forces from all German states will be in Dresden on Saturday to prevent an escalation of violence between both sides and also to provide security for the numerous commemorations taking place throughout the city.

State premiere calls for 'human chain'

Saxony's leading politician, State Premiere Stanislav Tillich, called on the people of Dresden to join him in the formation of a human chain through the city center on Saturday, which is to begin at the city hall and end at the main cathedral, the Frauenkirche.

Aerial picture of Dresden after the bombings

The allied bombings on February 12, 1945, left 25,000 dead and much of Dresden's city center in ruins

Tillich said the human chain would be a remembrance of the victims of the Dresden firebombing, but also a peaceful protest against the Neo-Nazi march taking place simultaneously.

"I will be part of a human chain composed of the people of Dresden on Saturday, and I am grateful for every citizen that comes out to show his or her remembrance and mourning for the victims," he said.

"The 13th of February is a day of mourning, and it is outrageous that some people want to use this day for their own purposes as a kind of political instrument. This is a sign that these people have learned nothing from history," Tillich added.

Germany: WWII victim?

The rightwing march is organized by a group known as the Junge Landsmannschaft Ostdeutschland (Young National Association of East Germany), or JLO, which is supported by Germany's rightwing party, the NPD.

The JLO refers to the Dresden bombing as "Germany's Hiroshima" and attempts to use the destruction and civilian deaths caused by the allied attacks to paint Germany as a victim of WWII.

"We are the next generation of the German victims of World War II," says a statement on the JLO website.

Counter protesters in Dresden in 2008

Counter protestors call on the JLO and Neo-Nazis to "THINK!"

"Who will remember these victims if not we? Dresden is for us the culmination of a politics of destruction, which is attempting to erase the eastern part of Germany, its people and its culture," the statement adds.

Germany's rightwing scene has been staging demonstrations - or "mourning marches" - in Dresden on February 13 for over a decade. This year, the city of Dresden expects an additional 2,000 far-right supporters - in addition to the 6,500 German marchers - from around Europe, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, France, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

Last year, a total of just over 6,000 far-right supporters showed up for the Dresden march, countered by around 10,000 protesters. According to police information, several people were injured when the two sides clashed.

Author: Gabriel Borrud
Editor: Rob Turner

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