Dresden marks anniversary of WWII bombings

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The eastern German city of Dresden Sunday marked the 66th anniversary of a deadly Allied bomb attack at the end of World War II and braced for clashes between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist demonstrators.

The day began with a wreath-laying ceremony at a cemetery where thousands of victims are buried attended by Stanislaw Tillich, who heads the regional government of Saxony and other political and religious representatives.

Later, a few thousand far-right extremists were expected to conduct a "funeral march" through the city, opposed by thousands of anti-fascist activists who planned to form a human chain as a sign against the neo-Nazis.

A massive bombing raid by Allied forces on Dresden beginning on February 13, 1945 sparked a firestorm that destroyed much of the historical centre of the city.

Critics said the raid was strategically unjustified as Hitler's Germany was already effectively defeated and the bombs appeared to target civilians rather than military targets.

Among those who perished in the flames were hundreds of refugees who had fled the horrors of the Eastern front.

In March, an official commission concluded that up to 25,000 people died in the raids, fewer than often estimated.

Far-right groups had claimed that up to 500,000 people were killed in the "criminal" air assault on the Baroque city known as "Florence on the Elbe."

© 2011 AFP

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