UNESCO withdrew Dresden’s special status on Thursday for building a bridge over the Elbe River that cut off the city’s famed Baroque centre from the surrounding floodplains.
The 20-kilometre stretch of the Elbe Valley includes Dresden’s complex of palaces, churches and theatres. The city centre only received the world heritage status in 2004.
Amid much gnashing teeth among Germany’s cultural elite, a poll found most Dresdeners didn’t care very much about losing the UN title. But few of German newspapers on Friday had anything positive to say about the embarrassing episode for a country that likes to pride itself as a Kulturnation.
“UNESCO found the courage and strength to articulate that every country, no matter how rich or powerful they are, must abide by the rules,” wrote the Berliner Zeitung.
The Sächsische Zeitung called the decision a humiliation for Saxony and Germany. “The circumstances surrounding the revocation of its honour only illustrate the weaknesses of the governing coalitions in Berlin and Dresden, which never united and strengthened the Dresdeners, rather split them politically.”
But the paper remained confident Dresden would remain an important cultural centre.
The Nordwest Zeitung in Oldenburg said it wasn’t yet clear whether there would be negative consequences for the city but seemed to suggest that there should be.
“The UNESCO committee finally took decisive action,” the paper wrote. “If the loss of the world heritage title has no economic, tourism or political consequences, some other city officials might even feel secretly emboldened to build their own architectural blasphemies.”
Halle’s Mitteldeutsche Zeitung said there appeared to be an aura of arrogance hovering over the Saxon city at the moment. “Nobody can tell us what to do, was the message. And Dresden is pretty no matter what,” was the paper’s impression of the city’s attitude.