On his joint visit to Dresden with the Duke of Kent, British Ambassador Sir Simon McDonald issued the following statement:
It is a great honour for me to attend the commemoration service in the Frauenkirche this afternoon together with HRH The Duke of Kent and His Grace, The Archbishop of Canterbury. We are gathering at the invitation of Mayor Orosz to remember a sombre event in the history of Dresden: the bombing of the city on 13/14 February 1945.
The attacks that night unleashed a firestorm which completely destroyed the old city centre. Up to 25,000 people lost their lives – the exact number may never be known.
British cities also suffered aerial bombardment. Coventry was the first major city to be attacked from the air. On 14 November 1940, over 500 German aircraft bombed the city, devastating the cathedral and much of the historic centre. Coventry was bombed a further 40 times before August 1942.
It is hard for those of us who have grown up in a Europe of peace and prosperity to understand the individual suffering behind these statistics and the bitter emotions of the Second World War. But by remembering these events – and telling the younger generation what happened then – we can help to ensure that such terrible things are never repeated. It is also right that we should show our solidarity with those who survived such horrific nights in cities like Dresden and Coventry.
From the moment the war ended, the path to reconciliation and partnership between Britain and Germany was opened. A path of friendship instead of enmity, of shared values instead of conflicting hostile ideologies. This is exemplified by the twinning of Dresden and Coventry in 1959. The relationship between Britain and Germany – now close allies in NATO and the EU – has never been better. HM The Queen’s State Visit to Germany in June 2015 is a powerful symbol of the importance which Britain attaches to our relationship with Germany.
We will remember today all the victims who died in Dresden 70 years ago and all those who died in Coventry and many other cities as the awful cost of defeating Nazi tyranny. But we will also draw inspiration for the future from the spirit of reconciliation which emerged in the immediate post-war years. Let us build on those foundations to ensure that the partnership of shared values which now exists between Britain and Germany continues to flourish.