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Dresden gives Neo-Nazis the boot

10,000 anti-fascists blocked a Neo-nazi march in Dresden last week by forming a human chain in the city centre. Previous years have seem major clashes as neo-Nazis and anti-fascists have kicked off on the anniversary of the Dresden air raid.

Neo-Nazis have regularly attempted to use the occasion to march through the centre of the city. Wednesday 13th February marks the 68th anniversary of the fire-bombing of Dresden that resulted in more than 22,000 deaths in 1945 after 3,900 tonnes of explosives were dropped by Allied bombers.

One anti-fascist reminded people why attendance is crucial: “I think it’s important to support my city and show that there’s no place for extremists.” Another said: “I’m here in memory of war victims and to take a stand against racism.”

Let's have a quick dip into the history of anti-fascism in Germany to put this event into context. Neo-Nazis started to participate in the commemoration ceremony in front of the “Frauenkirche” (a church that was left in ruins for a long time to remember WWII) in 1998. The citizens participating in the commemoration that year did not oppose them. Then in 2000 for the first time Nazis held a “funeral march” in the inner city as their “remembrance” of the victims of the Dresden bombing. In the years that followed, their numbers grew steadily. Then by 2006 the numbers of the Nazis on their march had reached over six thousand and was the largest Nazi gathering in Europe this side of the century. By 2009 you were getting 6000-7000 Nazis. The Antifa tried to mobilise against them on a large scale and organised a big demo, but could not prevent them from marching that time.

Then the tide turned, the Antifa held an action conference in preparation for 2010 with the aim to include a wider range of groups and organisations to be able to organise mass direct actions against the Nazi marches. As a reaction to this, there was a wave of repression in the beginning of 2010. Police were of course being as helpful as they usually are and were on the side of the right. So they raided several offices of groups involved in the mobilisation and seized posters and such propaganda tools, for example the mobilising web page was forced to shut down (but then re-opened on a different site, internet for dummies). In the years that followed there was more harsh repression against antifascists and there was also an attempt to criminalise their actions on a political level.

So when February 2010 came around the stage was set for six thousand Nazis, seven thousand cops and 12,000 anti-fascists ready to combat the fascists with blockades and other militant actions Police tried to prevent this from happening and used water cannons in ice cold weather for that icy sadistic touch the boys in blue are renowned for. A human chain was formed but that didn't do anything to prevent the march of the Nazis that year.

The large mobilisation in 2010 caused a questioning of the commonly accepted wisdom that the city of Dresden was just an innocent victim of the conflict and hosted no infrastructure of the Nazis. This led to the mayor of Dresden Helma Orosz for the first time to point out in her annual speech at the “Heidefriedhof” that the Germans started the war and that the bombing of Dresden had to be seen in this context.

In 2011 the Nazis turned up on two days. Firstly on the 13th February they were able to march with numbers of 2000 for a bit until their way got blocked, however on their second attempt on the 19th Feb the 3000 Nazis could not march at all because of the blockades anti-fascists had created. So when 2012 rolled on the Nazis cancelled their official march. Some bigoted eager beavers turned up anyway but could not march because of the blockades. This was the first time antifascists had organised a walk through the city to spots where there had been Nazis active during WWII, to lead the remembrance away from solely commemorating the victims to acknowledging that Dresden was also guilty and hosted perpetrators at that time.

SchNEWS spoke to Leni, a german anti-fascist “So as things stand at the moment the march of the Nazis has been turned from their biggest annual European event into a symbol of their defeat through at the hands of antifascists. This has been achieved by a combination of mass direct action and militant actions, despite heavy-handed policing as cops tried to clear a path for the fash. The annual human chain has to be seen in this context. While it did absolutely nothing to prevent the Nazis from marching, it served to make a statement that Dresden is inhabited by “good democratic citizens who are against any extremism”. But these “good citizens from the middle of society” attracted the Nazis in the first place with their way of commemorating. For the Nazis it was very attractive to join in the mourning and depict the Germans in Dresden 1945 solely as victims. While fighting in the streets did it's part to stop the Nazis in Dresden, a turn in the official discourse about the Dresden bombing was crucial as well.”

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Twitter: @SchNEWS