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Germany

Neo-Nazis Cloud Dresden Commemorations

Dresdeners on Sunday paid their respects to tens of thousands of people killed in the Allied bombing 60 years ago, as far-right extremists rallied and marred the commemorations.

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Thousands gathererd in Dresden's center to honor the dead in silence

Church services, wreath-laying ceremonies and a peace run were held, as thousands of neo-Nazis gathered under the watchful gaze of police to draw attention to what they refer to as a "Holocaust of bombs" dropped by the Allies.

Teilnehmer der Kranzniederlegung in Dresden, Gedenkfeier

People bow in front of the commemoration wall at the Heidefriedhof cemetery in Dresden on Sunday

At the Heidefriedhof cemetery, where 20,000 of the estimated 35,000 victims of the napalm-like chemical weapons are buried, ambassadors representing the Allies and political leaders laid wreaths in their memory.

Earlier, 60 athletes, one for each year, held a peace run in memory of the way the virtually defenceless city, which was packed with refugees fleeing the Red Army's advance, was destroyed by as many as 1,200 Allied aircraft.

Countering neo-Nazis

City authorities expected 10,000 people at the grounds of the Semperoper opera building later holding candles to remember the night when Dresden burned.

Hunderte Anti-Nazi Demonstranten protestieren in Dresden

Several hundred anti-Nazi protestors demonstrate with banners reading "Against Nazis" in downtown Dresden

Not far from the building, by the state parliament, around 5,000 neo-Nazis were separated by riot police as counter-demonstrators, many shouting "Nazis out," gathered under the slogan "No Tears for Krauts."

Officers occasionally charged to keep the groups apart.

Far-right tries to exploit anniversary

The commemorations this year have taken on particular meaning because a neo-Nazi political party, the National Democratic Party (NPD), recently won seats in the Saxony state parliament, of which Dresden is capital.

Trauermarsch der NPD in Dresden

Neo-Nazis demonstrating in Dresden on Sunday

The NPD has been trying to exploit the anniversary, but this year it has been able to do so from the official platform of the regional assembly. Party demonstrators carried banners marked "We won't forget and we won't forgive," another said: "The media and television lie."

One flag showed the face of a soldier with the words "They were the world's best soldiers" written in gothic lettering. Nationalist songs and music by Wagner and Bach trumpeted from loudspeakers.

Schröder denouces revisionist attempts

Many people in Dresden, however, wore white roses as an anti-Nazi symbol.

Gedenken auf dem Heidefriedhof in Dresden, junge Leute mit weißen Rosen

Young Dresdeners carrying white roses as a sign of protest against the neo-Nazis

In a statement released in Berlin on Sunday, Schroeder denounced what he said were attempts by the far-right to "hijack and exploit human sufferance."

He pledged to "oppose these attempts to reinterpret history with all possible means. We will not tolerate having cause and effect inverted."

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