February 8, 2017 / 4:17 PM / a year ago

German right-wingers angry about Syria monument in Dresden

BERLIN (Reuters) - Right-wing activists in the eastern German city of Dresden have protested against a work by a Syrian artist designed to show solidarity with the people of Aleppo, saying it belittles the memory of the city’s own bombing in World War Two.

The installation, consisting of three buses standing on end, was placed in a square in front of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), destroyed by British and U.S. bombers in World War Two and rebuilt as a symbol of reconciliation.

The work evokes a scene from 2015 when rebels in the Syrian city stood three buses on end to shield a street from government snipers.

It is part of commemorations for the 72nd anniversary of the obliteration of much of Dresden with firebombs in February 1945, three months before the end of the war in Europe.

The raids killed 25,000 people and destroyed historic Baroque churches and palaces, and continue to evoke resentment in Dresden, cradle of the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement, which drew some 20,000 supporters to weekly marches in 2015.

People walk next to the art instalation "Monument" by Syrian artist Manaf Halbouni, made from three passenger busses in Dresden, Germany February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Matthias Schumann

Right-wing campaigners booed Dresden mayor Dirk Hilbert at the opening ceremony on Tuesday and shouted “Garbage!”, “Get out!”, “Shame on you!” and “Traitor!”. He has also received death threats, German media say.

Artist Manaf Halbouni, a German-Syrian, told Reuters TV he was shocked by the protest: “The aim of this installation was to foster dialogue between people so that we can all discuss things together and try to solve problems together.”

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On his website, he says his work links the suffering of people in Syria and Europe “but also the hope for reconstruction and peace”. After decades as a ruin, the Frauenkirche was reconsecrated in 2005.

The Dresden branch of the anti-immigrant AfD, which has enjoyed a surge in popularity since an influx of over a million refugees, many from Syria, in the last two years, called the installation “an insult to the citizens of Dresden”.

Last month, a senior member of the AfD caused an outcry in Dresden by saying that a memorial to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust in Berlin was a scandal, and that history books should be rewritten to focus on German victims.

Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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