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Department of Archaeology


Germany: Dresden out of the ruins

Demonstrations held in Dresden, 13th February 2011 on the anniversary of the bombing of the city in 1945.

The research team recorded the reconstruction of cultural heritage within the city since 1945 and analysed the emergence of tensions and conflicts within the city and the use of its civic spaces during memorial and anniversary events marking its initial destruction in World War II. The manner in which these anniversary events are used to make political claims on memories of the event have also been documented.

The research conducted by project partners based at TU Dresden followed three distinct dimensions identified within the case studies. These included the discourse, focusing on the ‘mythologization’ of the city and its destruction, creation and use of it as a historical symbol and the political ‘instrumentalization’ of the memory of the bombing, the ritual, focusing on the genesis of rituals which promote the continuity or enact change in the memorial culture, and the spatial which considers the process of the material construction or destruction of places of memory (Lieux de Mémoire).

These case studies include:

i) the study of the reconstructed Frauenkirche

ii) the cemetery and memorial complex of Heidefriedhof

iii) the memorial and commemorative events surrounding the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden in 1945

iv) the reconstruction of the city in relation to the ‘myth of Dresden’ and the symbolism present in the representation of the city.

In Germany the emotional and ritual remembrance of the destruction during the Second World War has not been recalled over and over again to such an extent as in Dresden. No other city encapsulated the symbolic dimension of the terror of war for which Nazi Germany was responsible to such a degree. A starting point for this culture of remembrance might have been intensive political instrumentalisations which took place as early as the last days of the Nazi regime and continued under the Soviet military administration in East Germany. The question that has to be asked is why Dresden seemed to be especially suitable as a symbol and a myth?

Film and Video

CRIC Dresden 13th February anniversary

CRIC researchers Prof. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg and Matthias Neutzner explain how the memory of the bombing of Dresden on the 13th of February 1945 has been affected by political instrumentalisation from the aftermath of war until the present day. The anniversary has been institutionalised by the national socialist propaganda, by the GDR government and by different social movements. The political use of history strenghtened the symbolic meaning of Dresden.

The memorial culture changed through time and influenced the reconstruction efforts before and after 1990 in Dresden, especially the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche.


Karl-Siegbert Rehberg

Technische Universität Dresden homepage

Barbara Lubich

Technische Universität Dresden

Matthias Neutzner

Dresden - 13 Februar