At the end of World War II, Allied Forces bombed the poorly protected Dresden, Germany. The rationale for the attack was to destroy morale and hasten the end of the war. Until recently, Dresden residents marched to commemorate the lives of those lost so many years ago. Then, the Neo-Nazis began to show up in Dresden with an agenda of their own. For Neo-Nazis, the march represents an opportunity to build support for nationalism and increase their political clout.
Dresden residents and anti-fascist activists are fighting back against what they regard as a hostile takeover of a commemorative event. Yesterday, thousands of anti-fascists formed a human wall around the city in an effort to prevent Neo-Nazis from entering the area. Predictably, violence erupted in the streets.
This is not the first time the commemoration ended in a battle between Neo-Nazis and anti-fascists. In 2011, more than 100 police alone were injured in the battle among the far left and far right (www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/02/13/2878346/10000-activists-seek-to-block.html). Nor, is this likely to be the last time the two sides clash.
It does remind us that the meaning around commemorative events can be challenged and re-appropriated for a variety of meanings (I have written about this in terms of 9/11 – read doubletakesociology.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/911-as-contested-commemoration/ and https://doubletakesociology.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/framing-911-and-updated-perspective/). Emotion, of course, plays an important role in narratives, particularly when tragedy is involved. However, it remains to be seen whether a narrative promoting a particular brand of nationalism can upset a commemorative event that emphasizes loss and guilt.
If the declining numbers of Neo-Nazis in Dresden indicate anything, than the answer is “no.”