Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ludwig Güttler, now 62, then one of the DDR's best-known musicians, opened a campaign to rebuild Dresden's Frauenkirche, an 18th-century Lutheran church that had been destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945.  --  "At the time, it seemed quixotic," reported Mark Landler in Sunday's New York Times.[1]  --  But more than half of the $218 million the project has cost was raised through an "aggressive private fund-raising campaign," with the Dresdner Bank contributing $82 million which it raised from customers through the sale of "donation certificates."  --  Crowning the restored church, which was reconsecrated today in a religious service attended by international dignitaries, is a "gold orb and cross, given by Britain, which now sits atop the dome. Alan Smith, the London goldsmith who fashioned them, has a personal tie to the city: his father was a member of the British bomber squadron on the night of the Feb. 13, 1945, raids.  --  Eberhard Burger, the head of construction, still marvels at the historical symmetry. 'The country that was once our enemy made the cross,' he said, 'and we are proud it is crowning the cupola.'"  --  Reuters reported that the Duke of Kent, representing Great Britain, said at the consecration ceremony:  "It stands now for friendship and peace in the whole of Europe."[2] ...



By Mark Landler

New York Times
October 30, 2005
Section 1, Page 14

[PHOTO CAPTION: Last-minute touches around the Church of Our Lady, which was rebuilt and is being consecrated Sunday.]

DRESDEN -- As they gazed over their city from a perch atop the dome of the Church of Our Lady, Brigitte and Ulrich Lehmann could not quite believe where they were standing.

For their entire lives, this splendid Baroque church, known throughout Germany as the Frauenkirche, was a ruin -- a bleak testament to the Allied bombing raids of February 1945. At least 25,000 people died in the raids and ensuing firestorms, which incinerated Dresden's old city, including the church.

Now, however, the Frauenkirche has been meticulously rebuilt, and its bell-shaped dome once again crowns the skyline. On Sunday, it is to be consecrated in a religious service attended by dozens of German leaders, foreign dignitaries, and a crowd expected to number up to 100,000.

"This was always a memorial for us," said Mrs. Lehmann, who is 59 and grew up here in what was communist East Germany. "It was beyond our imagination that there would ever be enough money to bring it back to life."

For the Lehmanns and other Dresdeners, the reconstruction of this Protestant church has brought a sense of closure, if not quite completeness, to a city that Germans once called Florence on the Elbe.

"When you walk around the streets, there are still a lot of holes where you know there used to be buildings," Mrs. Lehmann said, surveying Dresden's cityscape, which hums with construction. "But there is so much building going on that the holes are all being filled."

The Frauenkirche was the biggest of those holes. Few buildings anywhere have more symbolism.

An architectural masterpiece that attested to Dresden's wealth and Lutheran faith when it was completed in 1743, the church later served as an international emblem of the destruction of war. For Dresden's Communist bosses, it was a politically useful illustration of barbarism by Britain and the United States.

In rising from the ashes, the Frauenkirche has come to symbolize the receding shadow of World War II, even in this scarred city, and the healing of wounds left by the division of Germany during the cold war.

"We've reached a point in our history when these wounds can heal," said Ludwig Güttler, a trumpeter who led the rebuilding effort. "Healing means living again."

Reconstructing the Frauenkirche was not meant to erase the past, Mr. Güttler said. He gestured to blackened stones, which were taken from the rubble and integrated into the church's sandstone facade, giving it a pockmarked appearance. "There are still scars visible," he said.

For Mr. Güttler, one of eastern Germany's best-known musicians, Sunday's consecration is the end of an arduous campaign that began soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when he and other residents began lobbying for the project.

At the time, it seemed quixotic. Neither the city government nor the Protestant church supported the plan. West Germans advised Dresden to leave it as a war monument, much like the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was partly rebuilt, with its tower left in ruins.

"People argued that it was more important to have new hospitals, schools, roads and houses," said the mayor of Dresden, Ingolf Rossberg, who, as deputy mayor in 1990, was an early supporter.

Even after the city came around, there was little hope of financing the project solely with public money. So Mr. Güttler and others began an aggressive private fund-raising campaign. Of the total cost of $218 million, about $121 million came in private donations.

Dresdner Bank, which was founded here in 1872, contributed $82 million, the bulk of which it raised from customers, to whom it sold donation certificates. A separate foundation for rebuilding the church, with Mr. Güttler as its most public face, raised some $38 million.

While on tour, Mr. Güttler never missed a chance to plug the project. He gave benefit concerts and even kept a stash of 300 commemorative wristwatches in his car to sell.

"It's always easier to destroy than to rebuild," said Mr. Güttler, a garrulous 62-year-old with a full head of graying hair.

Of all the contributions, none seem as appropriate as a gold orb and cross, given by Britain, which now sits atop the dome. Alan Smith, the London goldsmith who fashioned them, has a personal tie to the city: his father was a member of the British bomber squadron on the night of the Feb. 13, 1945, raids.

Eberhard Burger, the head of construction, still marvels at the historical symmetry. "The country that was once our enemy made the cross," he said, "and we are proud it is crowning the cupola."

Feelings here toward Britain used to be raw. Queen Elizabeth II was booed when she visited Dresden in 1992. Even those who believe the raids were justified confess to misgivings; bombs were dropped on residential areas in the waning days of the war, when the German Army was in retreat.

But with the passage of time, passions have cooled. People here generally brushed aside questions about guilt as a matter for the history books. The Duke of Kent is scheduled to represent the British royal family at the consecration, and he is likely to get a cordial reception.

Among the most honored visitors, though, will be those Dresdeners who lived through the bombing. Bernhard Helm, who was 9 at the time, recalls emerging from the cellar of his house after the bombs stopped falling, and fleeing with his family toward the Elbe River. On the way, amid the smoke and flames, he saw the Frauenkirche, still standing (it collapsed two days later).

"At first, I thought it was lighted up inside," he said. "But those were the flames eating up the wooden interior."

Mr. Helm, a retired railway worker who was baptized in the church, said he was eager to see the inside again. "I can't tell you yet whether it looks more or less beautiful than during my childhood," he said.


By Lars Rischke

October 30, 2005

DRESDEN -- A church that dominated Dresden's skyline for two centuries but collapsed after the city was firebombed during World War Two was reconsecrated on Sunday following a 180-million euro ($218.5-million) reconstruction.

"It is a symbol of reconciliation and a sign that there should never be war again," German President Horst Koehler said as he left the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, rebuilt 60 years after Allied bombs destroyed it and the surrounding city.

German leaders, a British duke, and a crowd of around 60,000 attended the ceremony celebrating reconstruction of the church in its original baroque style, using two of the remaining outer walls and many of its original stone blocks.

The 90-metre (295-foot) church survived the initial waves of British and American bombings that engulfed Dresden in a firestorm, but caught fire and collapsed a day and a half after the first attack on Feb. 13, 1945.

"I'm absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of this building," said Britain's official representative, the Duke of Kent. "It stands now for friendship and peace in the whole of Europe."

Britain has been closely involved in the project under his patronage.

The British-based Dresden Trust raised 1.5 million euros and Queen Elizabeth and Britain provided a new orb and cross, crafted by the son of a British airman who took part in the bombing, for the top of the dome.

Dresden's eight chiming bells began the ceremony before church staff and schoolchildren walked in procession past the 1,700 invited guests, including Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel and outgoing leader Gerhard Schroeder.

One of those who offered prayers was a visibly moved woman who had been christened in the church in 1919, confirmed in 1934 and married there in 1944.

A number in the crowd outside had tears in their eyes.

"To see it actually complete is a great joy," said Alice Pahl, 77, who had given up hope of seeing it standing again.

After the war, the two remaining walls and rubble had came to symbolise different things. To the people of Dresden, they were a painful reminder of their city's lost glory as the baroque "Florence of the Elbe" and the bombing horror.

Some historians have argued bombing so near to the end of World War Two was strategically unnecessary and may have constituted a war crime.

Some 25,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the firestorm that destroyed 85 percent of the city.

To others, the ruins stood as a monument to the futility and destruction of war.

For the communist government of the former East Germany, the church ruins were an anti-fascist symbol and a propaganda tool in the Cold War.

The reconstruction team dug around 8,000 stone blocks out of the ruins and were able to use around 3,800 in the rebuilt structure. The original blocks, blackened with age, are clearly visible together with two outer walls that were left standing.

The project won support from across Germany and around the world -- some 60 percent of the funding came from private donations with government cash making up the difference.