This digital composite image shows the ruins of the Frauenkirche church and the empty pedestal for a statue of Martin Luther in 1946 still wrecked from the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 (William Vandevert, The LIFE Picture Collection) as well as the reconstructed church and statue on January 22, 2015 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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.


A photo taken from Dresden's townhall of the destroyed old town of the historic city after the allied bombings in February 1945. (AFP PHOTO / SLUB DRESDEN DEUTSCHE FOTOTHEK/ WALTER HAHN)

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."


People standing along the Elbe River across from the historic Dresden city center link hands to create a human chain in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Allied firebombing of Dresden on February 13, 2015 in Dresden, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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.


This digital composite image shows the ruins of the city center, including Prager Strasse, following the Allied firebombing in 1945 (The Evening Standard) as well as the same view on February 7, 2015 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Other buildings were totally rebuilt, based on old photos and the use of original stones found in the rubble.


This digital composite image shows the ruins at Theaterplatz square in 1946 still wrecked from the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 (Fred Ramage, Keystone) as well as the square today, including the Catholic Hofkirche church (C) and Residenzschloss Dresden palace (R), on February 7, 2015 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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.


A couple walk in the historic city center at night as landmarks, including the Frauenkirche church (L), which was obliterated by the Allied firebombing of February 13-14, 1945 and rebuilt in 2005, as well as the Albertinum (C), on February 10, 2015 in Dresden, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The restoration of the city has not been completed, yet. Visitors will still find construction sites throughout the city.


This digital composite image shows Moritzstrasse and the Juedenhof palace in 1946 still wrecked from the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 (Fred Ramage, Keystone) as well as the same area today on February 7, 2015 (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

This digital composite image shows a portion of the Zwinger art museum in 1946 still in ruins from the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 (William Vandevert, The LIFE Picture Collection) and on February 12, 2015 (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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.


Communist-era apartment buildings built years after the February 13-14, 1945 Allied bombing raids stand in the city center as the tower of City Hall stands behind on February 12, 2015 in Dresden, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)