Nearly 70 years after the bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Dr Astrid Swenson says the city has become a symbol of international peace.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Making History programme, Dr Swenson, a lecturer in politics and history at Brunel University London, analysed how the tragic event is now commemorated in modern Germany.
Even though other German cities such as Essen or Hamburg also suffered bombings and heavy losses, Dresden became a symbol of wartime destruction - just like Coventry in the UK - partly as a result of propaganda by the socialist regime in East Germany during the Cold War.
Dr Swenson said: “It has this image of total destruction, but then also the possibility of reconciliation through rebuilding and remaking heritage, not as a national endeavour but as a way of international peace and reconciliation.”
Dr Swenson highlighted the town twinning between Dresden and Coventry, and how this partnership promotes reconciliation through exchanges between churches and schoolchildren.
She said the commemorative cultures in the two cities differ: while the ruins of Coventry Cathedral were left as a reminder of the destruction, Dresden’s Frauenkirche has been completely rebuilt. Dr Swenson argued that the rebuilding of the church was “a form of resistance against political appropriations like the one that it had, to be left as a memorial against war but in an anti-fascist socialist way”.
The interview can be found here.