Exactly 70 years ago, the eastern German city of Dresden was virtually destroyed within one night in an attack that killed 25,000. The morning after having been bombed by Allied forces, the city's historic city center lay in ruins.
Since then, the attack on Dresden has often been questioned and criticized. Even amid the horrors of WWII, the firebombing stands out as a particular example for the atrocities of war.
For decades, the communist regime of East Germany refused to rebuild the most historic and well-known landmark of Dresden -- the city's dominant Frauenkirche church. Its ruins remained untouched as a symbol against war and as a memorial for those who were killed.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the church was finally rebuilt. Together with other sights and monuments, it now dominates the skyline of Dresden once again.
Each year, Dresden is haunted by its past
Despite these efforts, the past continues to shape this historic city that is often considered to be one of Germany's most beautiful.
Each year on Feb. 13, neo-Nazis march in the city to commemorate its destruction. In recent years, they have been blocked from entering the center by a human chain of more than 10,000 protesters.
Their message to the neo-Nazis could be summarized as the following: "Your predecessors caused the destruction of this city and we will protect it against you. Don't dare to abuse this day of commemoration for your racist goals."
One particularly iconic picture which was taken briefly after the bombing shows the destroyed city from its city hall, which had not completely collapsed, in contrast to many other buildings. A comparison with a photo taken from the same angle today reveals that many destroyed houses were never rebuilt. Instead, parking lots or parks took their place.
There are few places where the destruction is still clearly visible at first sight
Dresden's historic city center has been rebuilt, largely after the fall of the Berlin Wall and mainly due to the financial support coming from western German states that were and still are obliged to transfer money to the east of the country.
A variety of buildings were constructed in a modern way.
Other buildings were totally rebuilt, based on old photos and the use of original stones found in the rubble.
The city center used to be occupied by residential buildings before the destructive war. Today, only few of them can still be found there. Most buildings are now used by shops, museums, hotels, restaurants, or they have been turned into office spaces.
The restoration of the city has not been completed, yet. Visitors will still find construction sites throughout the city.
In Dresden's suburbs, communism has shaped the skyline
Only a few hundreds of meters away from Dresden's city center, which attracts about 2 million tourists per year, remnants of a different era are dominant than historic structures.
Building made during the time of eastern Germany's communist government, manufactured from prefabricated slabs, dominate the suburbs. Their presence in Dresden's skyline is an omnipresent reminder to residents and visitors alike that the damages of war cannot be erased within 70 years. In fact, they might never fully disappear.