The debate over the reconstruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche, the city’s landmark Protestant cathedral destroyed by aerial bombing in 1945, exemplifies the conflicts inherent in the treatment of war-related cultural heritage. Although initially preserved only by virtue of some local citizens’ determination to rebuild the church, in time the Frauenkirche ruins emerged in their own right as an arresting antiwar symbol and one of the foremost sites of war memory and commemoration in the divided Germany. This development created a certain conundrum, for if the church ever were to be rebuilt such a project could only materialise by disturbing the ruins, which supporters claimed were deserving of preservation in their unaltered state. With the advent of reunification, the kind of heritage to be preserved at the site—and the way in which it was to be conserved—came under renewed and reintensified scrutiny and debate. By tracing the shifting dynamics during a half-century of debate over how the Frauenkirche site should be conserved, this chapter examines the impact that struggles over war memory and commemoration can have on cultural heritage. It surveys the arguments for and against rebuilding the Frauenkirche before, during, and after reunification, and considers what aspirations conflicting sides had for expressing personal, national, and international memories of war, loss, and the German national past. Finally, it explores how anastylosis rebuilding principles were used to find a compromise by incorporating, somewhat controversially, parts of the existing ruins into the new church after a local citizens’ initiative successfully appealed for worldwide support to reconstruct the Frauenkirche in the wake of Germany’s reunification.
Field of Research
210202 Heritage and Cultural Conservation 210307 European History (excl British, Classical Greek and Roman)
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