‘Heal the wounds of history’: Dresden and twin city remember 75 years since bombing

The bombing of Dresden in 1945 was widely seen as retaliation for what happened in Coventry in the UK five years earlier. Since then, close links have been forged between the two.

'Heal the wounds of history': Dresden and twin city remember 75 years since bombing
A memorial laid out in Dresden's Old Town to remember victims of the bombing 75 years ago. Photo: DPA

Hundreds of German bombers rained fire on the central English city over 11 hours on the night of November 14, 1940, targeting aircraft and munitions factories vital to Britain's war effort.

READ ALSO: Germany remembers 75 years since Dresden's destruction

More than 550 people were killed, over 41,000 homes destroyed and about two-thirds of the city's buildings were damaged, in one of the Luftwaffe's most devastating targeted raids.

The cathedral church of St Michael's was one of many historic buildings razed by Nazi incendiary bombs.

Its ruined shell still stands today — a potent symbol of remembrance and the destructive power of war.

Next to it is the new cathedral, also called St Michael's, where a cross made from three nails from the roof of the old medieval church forms the centrepiece of the high altar.

Commemoration in Dresden

Dresden will be uppermost in Coventry's thoughts on Thursday when Germany marks 75 years since the destruction of the city, said the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, John Witcombe.

In Dresden, a human chain will form in the late afternoon on both sides of the Elbe to commemorate victims of the air raid. Participants will be joined by German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Duke of Kent, Prince Edward.

The Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, will also be in Dresden. Back home, candles will be lit and prayers said at evensong in solidarity.

The annual human chain in Dresden in 2018. Photo: DPA

Witcombe said it was vital to leave a legacy of peace and understanding about what happened, as World War II passes out of living memory.

“I see it as our job to keep that story alive but in a way that uses this as a springboard for the work of reconciliation together,” he told AFP.

'Heal the wounds of history'

Building bridges first began in the aftermath of the war, when delegations from Coventry began visiting cities in Germany and across Europe that had suffered a similar fate.

Coventry's links with Dresden became closer from the 1960s, first in terms of practical help, then as part of a wider international group promoting peace in conflict zones around the world.

The cathedral's Community of the Cross of Nails now has more than 200 international partners, including churches, charities and education centres, in 45 countries.

One of its main principles is to “heal the wounds of history”.

Outreach work continues and has even been stepped up before and after Britain left the European Union and after recent terror attacks.

Witcombe said replica crosses of nails have recently been delivered to Southwark Cathedral, in south London, after two attacks on nearby London Bridge last November and in 2017.

Others have gone to the main Anglican church in Belgium, the Holy Trinity in Brussels, and to Bergen, Norway. Three German churches are joining the community later this year.

Witcombe said there has “never been a time” when peace and reconciliation was not relevant but the divisive issue of Brexit and extremism had brought the concept into sharp relief.

“As relationships are moving forward in ways that might seem to suggest that a distance is growing or certainly relationships need to be reconfigured, I think maintaining close commitments to one another and partnerships is incredibly important,” he said.

“We're still finding that people are looking to us for inspiration around reconciliation.”

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German police arrest fugitive twin over Dresden museum heist

German police said Tuesday they have arrested one of two fugitive twin brothers from the so-called Remmo clan wanted over their suspected role in snatching priceless jewels from a museum in the city of Dresden.

German police arrest fugitive twin over Dresden museum heist
Archive photo from April 2019 shows the Jewellery Room of the Green Vault. Photo: DPA

The 21-year-old suspect was detained in Berlin on Monday evening over what local media have dubbed one of the biggest museum heists in modern history, a spokesman for the police in the eastern city of Dresden said.

The twins had eluded German authorities when they carried out raids last month and arrested three members of the Remmo clan, a family of Arab origin notorious for its ties to organised crime.

Police then named them as 21-year-old Abdul Majed Remmo and Mohammed Remmo.

All five suspects are accused of “serious gang robbery and two counts of arson,” Dresden prosecutors said.

Police did not immediately name the arrested twin. His brother remains on the run.

The robbers launched their brazen raid lasting eight minutes on the Green Vault museum in Dresden's Royal Palace on November 25th, 2019.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about the Dresden museum heist

Having caused a partial power cut and broken in through a window, they snatched priceless 18th-century jewellery and other valuables from the collection of the Saxon ruler August the Strong.

Items stolen included a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulderpiece which contains the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond, Dresden's Royal Palace said.

The Remmos were previously implicated in another stunning museum robbery in the heart of Berlin in which a 100-kilogramme gold coin was stolen.

Investigators last year targeted the family with the seizure of 77 properties worth a total of €9.3 million, charging that they were purchased with the proceeds of various crimes, including a 2014 bank robbery.

READ ALSO: €1 million gold coin stolen from iconic Berlin museum