Far right looms as Germany commemorates Dresden bombing

Far right looms as Germany commemorates Dresden bombing
The sun shines behind Dresden's Old Town skyline with the Frauenkirche cathedral (Church of Our Lady), reflected in a puddle, in Dresden, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 two days before the 75th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden during WWII. British and U.S. bombers on Feb. 13-14, 1945 destroyed Dresden's centuries-old baroque city center. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — Germany’s president is leading commemorations Thursday marking the 75th anniversary of Dresden’s bombing by allied forces at the end of the World War II, an event that has become a test for the way the country handles its Nazi past.

Historians say up to 25,000 people perished during the three-day bombardment by American and British planes — comparable to the death toll in other large German cities.

But the man-made firestorm, vividly captured by American author Kurt Vonnegut in his book “Slaughterhouse Five,” and the destruction of large parts of the baroque city have become a rallying point for those seeking to portray Germans as victims in the war.

The myth that as many as half a million civilians were killed in the bombing has been eagerly promoted by far-right activists. Most recently their case has been taken up by members of the Alternative for Germany party, which has become a significant political force on the right since its founding seven years ago.

The party’s co-chairman, Tino Chrupalla, recently stated that the bombing cost “about 100,000 lives.” While such claims are dismissed by experts and condemned as revisionism by mainstream parties, they reflect Alternative for Germany’s tactic of gaining attention by breaking taboos.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Duke of Kent, a cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, will join thousands of Dresdeners late Thursday to form a human chain commemorating the victims of the bombing and the Nazi atrocities.