Symbol of Reconciliation and Far-Right Stronghold?

PEGIDA, AfD, and Memory Culture in Dresden

in German Politics and Society
Susanne Vees-Gulani German and Comparative Literature, Case Western Reserve University, USA

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In the eastern German city of Dresden, populist and nativist far-right groups, such as the homegrown pegida and the AfD, enjoy particularly robust support among the population, even though Dresden is presented as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Many residents base their personal and social identity on Dresden's long-established narrative as an iconic baroque city that suffered an unparalleled loss and victimization in the 1945 Allied bombings, prior to its post-reunification revival. However, this narrative includes a blind spot about the Nazi context of the destruction, opening it up to various political appropriations from the gdr era to today. I suggest that the strength of the far right in Dresden is caused by a seamless linking of Dresden's perception as a victim due to cultural losses and the far right's fear of losing a unique German identity and homeland. As examples, I analyze discourse patterns of remembrance during the bombing anniversaries in 2015 and 2020.

Contributor Notes

Susanne Vees-Gulani is an Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of Trauma and Guilt: Literature of Wartime Bombing in Germany (2003) and co-editor of Generational Shifts in Contemporary German Culture (2010). She co-edited the special issue of the journal Seminar, entitled Representations of War Experiences from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2014). She is currently finishing a book manuscript titled “Icon Dresden,” which explores the role of Dresden's history as a cultural icon in changing political environments before and after its destruction in February 1945.

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