Dresden, home of anti-Islam demos, applies to be Europe’s city of culture

Dresden, home of anti-Islam demos, applies to be Europe’s city of culture


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2015

The city’s application for the title has gone in for 2025, by which time the Mayor, Helma Orosz, hopes Dresden will be seen as a bridge between east and west, rather than a barrier. Reacting to the latest Pegida rally, she said: ‘This is not our town, what’s happening here.’


dresden demo


  • Dennis Marks says:

    Dresden is a great city, with a history of cultural enlightenment and tolerance that dates back to Goethe and Schiller. It’s current problems with residual racism are largely the product of half a century of totalitarianism followed by a sudden lurch into the modern world after the fall of the Wall. Unemployment, inflation and social unease all followed, plus the influx of gastarbeiter from less fortunate parts of Germany. Becoming city of culture would be just the thing to counter the prejudices that still lurk under the surface of Eastern Germany.

    • Greg says:

      Dresden, with very few non-European immigrants, has observed closely what is unfolding in the rest of Germany where people from MENA have flocked.

      That they chose to say no to this I take as a sign of healthy intelligence.

    • sdReader says:

      The next Pegida march may be even bigger, given Charlie Hebdomadaire.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    It’s a weird place like a Potemkin village – “this mediaeval building was built three years ago” etc.
    We only visited the old part and two of our guides were very resentful that we were British – and no I don’t know why Churchill bombed them sixty years ago, before I was born. The Waffen SS murdered my uncle in cold blood but I don’t hold a grudge now.

    We went to three concerts at the Frauenkirche and the acoustic was appalling. Semperopera is good and the museum of modern art has a concert hall although we weren’t able to use it.

    • Matt Denerov says:

      Some say Dresden was bombed because it was critical to supplying the Eastern Front, others say it was bombed to rub their noses in it. Some say it was done to show the Soviets what Anglo-American airpower was capable of. There’s truth in all arguments. Regardless, it had been barely touched by bombers before the raids, and the war was lost for Germany. It should have been spared, not for the Dresdners or Germans, but for the world.

      Try going beyond the (new) old city next time and you will understand why they prefer opulent rebuilding: most of Dresden is quite grim. However, the outskirts are lovely in a way. Lots of old villas, village atmosphere with woods and fields, etc. Very Central European – charming, elegant, and melancholy. Though much is still dilapidated, redevelopment is coming along.

  • Mark Pemberton says:

    And talking of bridges, another irony is that Dresden lost its UNESCO World Heritage status by building an ‘eyesore’ bridge across the famous view.

    • Matt Denerov says:

      The bridge isn’t across the famous view. It’s a couple miles up the Elbe. Actually, a nice, green stretch of the Elbe, but it’s far removed from the enter. It’s your typically ugly modern bridge, but hardly an urban development travesty.

  • Anon says:

    Dresden is a town of small minded bigots. Their artistic wealth was built by art loving aristocrats a long time ago. Their new pride, the Frauenkirche, was rebuilt with money from mostly western and international donators. Only very little money was given by the Dresdeners themselves. When Frank Stella wanted to build a MOMA there with contemporary architecture, a shitstorm of the backward minded ensued and they dropped the plan. But when there was a plebiscite about building an ugly bridge right through the cultural heritage and famous panorama, the majority of the small minded bigots there voted for it.. When confronted with the consequence that the UNESCO would withdraw the ‘world cultural heritage’ from them, the majority voiced that they don’t need no stinking world cultural heritage title.
    Since we are on a classical music blog: In 1933 a Nazi mob shouted Fritz Bush out of his position as chief conductor of the Semperoper. The orchestra – world famous Staatskapelle Dresden – sat silent, doing nothing to prevent the barbarism.
    Don’t be deceived by the beautiful facade. That town stinks from the small mindedness of it’s inhabitants.

    • Anon says:

      Having said that I have also met many great people there, but these mental midgets have the majority there.

    • Matt Denerov says:

      The Waldschlösschen bridge is about two miles from the city center. It in no way interferes with any famous panorama, nor does it cut through any cultural heritage. Good for the Dresdners for thumbing their noses at UNESCO on this one. And of course the Dresdners gave very little to rebuild the Frauenkirch because when the project started Dresden had very little money. Now the GDP per capita of Dresden exceeds several Western European countries. Again, good for Dresden! The city will never be the way it was and Dresdners can thank their forbears for that, but the city has shown resilience and vitality.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    So that’s something that is specific to Dresden only? And what do you think the Staatskapelle should or could have done in 1933 when the Busch incident happened? The SA were very well organized and brutal, battle hardened from smashing up other parties’ meetings – do you think the orchestra should have gotten out of the pit and fought them with flutes, violin bows and timpani sticks?

    • Hilary says:

      Very well said Michael. By contrast, armchair commentary from anon.
      Barbirolli was apparently the choice of conductor for the EMI Mastersinger with the Dresden Statskapelle but he turned down on political grounds. His friend Karajan conducted instead.

      • Anon says:

        The orchestra should have done the only thing that would have been ethically correct. Show solidarity with their chief conductor and walk out of the pit as well. The mob was raging in the hall and they would have had all excuses to walk out.
        Instead they showed solidarity with the SA.
        Later all the artist were asked to sign a petition against Busch, fortifying his demise. Again, most signed. But there were artists who didn’t, e.g. Erna Berger. It was possible to oppose this. It’s a dark chapter in that orchestra’s history, and Sinopoli (!) asked for forgiveness only about 50 years later.

  • william osborne says:

    Dresden remains the center of the anti-Islamic protests in Germany – a movement called “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West” (Pegida.) There were 18,000 Pegida protesters at a rally a few days ago in Dresden. In Cologne, by contrast, there were only 250 Pegida protesters who were met by 2000 anti-Pegida protesters – 8 times as many. It shows how Dresden remains the center of this xenophobic movement against the phantoms of Islamification and the ironies in its efforts to become Europe’s City of Culture in 2025.

    The map in this article show the rise of far-right parties in Europe:


    “The Nation” has published an article by Juan Cole explaining that a possible larger strategy behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks was to increase the divide between Europeans and Muslims living in their countries. A worthwhile read. See:


    • william osborne says:

      A survey by the large German magazine Stern found that 1 in 3 Germans support the Pegida rallies, and that 1 in 8 would join a rally if it were held in their home town. See:


      • Martin Locher says:

        Hello William,

        I would seriously doubt those numbers. As one could see on Monday, many other Pegida marches in Germany were attacked and neutralized by counterprotesters.

        Pegida is a little movement of a few attention seekers and people who finally belong to a group.

        However, the last position paper states some points worth considering. I.e. they want asylum seekers to be fairly allocated to all EU member states and a much better care for them by many more social workers and so on and so on. The paper can be found here in German: http://www.i-finger.de/pegida-positionspapier.pdf

        Having watched a speech or two on Monday, I haven’t heared any of those points, but a lot of rubbish which irritated me, but can not remember. A few months ago they claimed that Germany is no legal country for some weird reason I can’t recall eighter.

        Maybe I’m too stupid to understand what this movement really wants. but to me it seems to be a kindergarten for some angry adults from all lonely corners one can think of. I can’t imagine they will be taken seriously by the masses.

        This movement should not be a hindrance to give an award to Dresden. We shouldn’t give them the power to decide such a vote.

        • Anon says:

          I don’t doubt these numbers a bit. These small minded xenophobic people have always been a major yet silent share of the population. The really interesting questions is what mobilizes them at this point. Or WHO mobilizes them with what intent…

      • william osborne says:

        I also have some trouble with the numbers. The counter protests have also been sizable. Instead of 1 in 3 showing sympathy for the rallies, I think it means 1 in 3 question asylum policies. And the numbers would vary largely from region to region in Germany. Why are these protests happening in Saxony where less than 1% of the population is Muslim? The Economist has an interesting chart showing how many Muslims live in a country with the public’s perception of how many. People see a few Muslims and they think their country is being overrun. See:


        I think this pattern of perception carries over to other groups. People see a few women in an orchestra, for example, and they tend to overestimate the percentage. It seems to be nature of isomorphic groups to overestimate the view and influence of a “taint.”

        Whatever the views, the shootings in Paris will likely play right into the hands of Pegida

        • Martin Locher says:

          One could also argue, that a fight should be fought before the opposition becomes too large. I.e. if you don’t want an extremist religion taking over, you need to fight them before they become of considerable size. This is probably why the counter protests in many cities were so large. Show that we don’t want them. For the same reason Switzerland might soon vote on a ban of burkas (and maybe niqabs) despite very few women wear them.

          It is up to the muslim society to decide if the Paris shootings will have a long term effect. As long they quietly accept that TV debate programs invite extremists who claim to represent all muslims, they will have to live with the fact that some people can’t differentiate between a harmless, peaceful, moderate muslim and a crazy extremist.

          • william osborne says:

            It would be difficult for Germany to say it needs several million Muslim workers for their labor market, and then tell them they can’t practice their religion.

            In Switzerland, 1 in every 4 people is a foreigner. It is a two tier society where a large part of the labor force is comprised of disenfranchised residents who are literally defined as second-class humans. That is a far cry from merely banning burkas.

            Countries that important millions of guest works must accept that they are immigrant countries. This means creating avenues to integration, citizenship, and tolerance for a wider range of cultural values. But forgive me if I don’t debate this. I’m not interested in discussing these issues in this forum. I will just state my view for the record and let it go at that.

          • Martin Locher says:

            The Swiss example I mentioned not as something I’d vote yes on, but as a point of why issues get discussed despite they are not even really visible or might not actually even be an issue.

            This forum certainly is the place for political discussions, but one thing I can not leave unanswered… a foreigner in Switzerland is certainly no 2nd class citizen. I know many foreigners who are well integrated, able and welcome. However there are some who are less liked – just like everywhere.