- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2005

DRESDEN, Germany — Neo-Nazis staged one of their biggest rallies in six decades yesterday, marring the official commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the destruction of Dresden by British and U.S. bombers in World War II.

About 5,000 supporters of the National Democratic Party (NPD) and other extremist groups gathered behind the city’s famous Semper Opera carrying banners that read: “The Bombing Holocaust Can’t be Denied” and “To the Victims of the Allied Bombing Terror.”

The term “Bombing Holocaust,” last used by an NPD politician in a speech in January, has outraged Jewish groups and mainstream parties who say it belittles the killing of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany.

The controversy has led to mounting calls for a new attempt to outlaw the NPD, which has surged in recent regional elections in the economically depressed east, after a previous bid to ban it in 2002 failed.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government last week announced plans to curb Germany’s freedom of assembly laws and ban demonstrations near “sensitive” locations such as former concentration camps and Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

The government is worried that the NPD might ruin ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe on May 8 by marching through Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. It wants to amend the law to prevent the march.

Mr. Schroeder said in a newspaper interview yesterday that Germany must never forget the suffering it caused.

“I always remember how much suffering the war Germany started caused other people,” he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“At the same time, there’s no reason not to mourn our own dead. But the key point is that one mustn’t blur responsibilities.”

It was Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler who started bombing civilian targets with attacks on Warsaw in 1939 and on London and Coventry, England, in 1940.

The attack on Dresden came in four waves starting shortly after 10 p.m. on Feb. 13, 1945, and continuing the next day. It reduced one of Europe’s finest baroque cities to smoldering rubble and killed an estimated 35,000 people.

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