Memorial complex and mass grave for air raid victims at the Heidefriedhof cemetery in Dresden

Pictures and text by Mark R. Hatlie

These pictures were taken on 24 October, 2008 and 13 February, 2009. The snowy pictures and the ones showing the ceremony are from the February date. Click here skip ahead and see the ceremony pictures.

This memorial complex is part of a long "axis" that begins approximately in the middle of the cemetery. To the right of the central walkway, the axis begins with the International Federation of Resistants and continues until it reaches the round ceremonial area where these pictures begin.

This complex was built up in its current form during the communist period. While it lacks outward and obvious communist symbols, the representation is consistent with East German memory politics which sought to put NATO in a bad light by associating the British and American bombings from World War Two with the crimes of Nazi Germany.


The round, ceremonial area is surrounded by 14 pillars. The seven on the right bear the names of Nazi concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz.
The pillars on the left side show the names of seven European cities destroyed in the war: Coventry, Dresden, Leningrad, Lidice, Oradour, Rotterdam and Warsaw.
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On the other side of the round area, the axis continues. At the distant end of the axis, a white wall is visible.
As we leave the round area toward the white wall, we look back at the 14 pillars.
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Along the axis, there are benches with words. This one, the first on the right, reads, "We honor the dead in the fight for peace." ("Wir ehren die Toten im Kampf für den Frieden").
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The first on the left reads, "The dead live on through the warning they give us" ("Dei Toten leben indem sie uns mahnen").
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The next one on the right reads, "Your demand of us is to live for peace" (Eure Forderung an uns - für den Frieden leben").
Again on the left: "Remember the dead, that life may be victorious" ("Gedenke der Toten damit das Leben siege").
The next one on the left: "Work crowns people, not war" ("Die Arbeit krönt die Menschen, nicht der Krieg").
This one on the right reads: "Peace defeats death and war." ("Der Frieden besiegt den Tod und den Krieg").
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This one on the left reads, "You live on in our building up" ("Ihr lebt in unserem Aufbau fort").
On the right: "Our oath is that what happened here will never happen again" ("Nie wieder geschehe was hier geschah sei unswer Schwur").
Near the end of the path, the area widens and there are wooden benches on both sides and space for large ceremonies.
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This view is looking back along the axis. The dead are buried in mass graves on both sides of the pathway.
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The memorial wall reads, "How many died? Who knows their number? In your wounds we can see the torture of the nameless who burned here in a manmade hell / In memory of the victims of the air attack on Dresden 13-14 February, 1945" ("Wieviele starben? Wer kennt die Zahl? An deinen Wunden sieht man die Qual der Namenlosen, die hier verbrannt im Höllenfeuer aus Menschenhand. / dem Gedenken der Opfer des Luftangriffs auf Dresden am 13.-14. Februar 1945).
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This view is from behind the memorial wall looking back.
There are paths that lead off the main ceremonial square into the trees.
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The site is still used for ceremonies on the anniversary of the bombing raid. The photos here show the ceremony on 13 February, 2009. You can read some more details about what was going on here at the ceremony and in other parts of the city "Dresden - a contested site of memory" at the sites-of-memory blog.

Several hundred people came by bus and in private cars out to the cemetery and gathered near the memorial.
I was filming when the dignitaries came, so I didn't get any photos. But some of the people who came before and after them are in this shot.
A ceremonial unit of the Bundeswehr prepares to lay the official wreaths.
The area immediately in front of the memorial is blocked off to keep the crowd back.
Dignitaries lay their wreaths at the memorial.
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The mayor of Dresden, Helma Orosz (Christian Democratic Party), gives the memorial speech.
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After the official part of the ceremony, the barrier tape is reeled in and the crowd lines up to place wreaths, mementos and flowers at the memorial.
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I talked to this woman on the way into the cemetery. She was seven years old when she lost her mother and siblings in the air attack.
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The young men in the red hats are members of a student fraternity.
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This photo shows the wreath laid by the local National Party of Germany placed on top of the wreath of the Central Committee of Jews in Germany. This led to a minor scandal you can read about in the blog above


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