The Duke of Kent is to receive the Dresden Prize on the 14th February 2015 for his work towards the reconciliation of Great Britain and Germany after the Second World War.
The prize, which will be awarded in Dresden’s Semper Opera, recognises the prevention of conflict and violence and The Duke has been active in fostering British-German reconciliation for over 20 years. In 1994, he became Patron of the Dresden Trust, a charitable body dedicated to furthering good relations between the people of Britain and Dresden and its surrounding area in Germany.
Nobel Prizewinner Dr. Günter Blobel, President of the ‘Friends of Dresden’ in New York, and Vice Chairman of the ‘Friends of Dresden Deutschland’ spoke of The Duke’s involvement saying:
“Before Dresden was bombed, the British suffered for years under the bombings carried out by the German Luftwaffe […] As well, German bombs fell on Buckingham Palace, thus underlining the increased importance of the Duke of Kent’s gestures, particularly in Dresden. Instead of reproach arising from the assignment of guilt, he chose the path toward a brighter future. His engagement in Dresden as representative of the British royal family is a demonstration of magnanimity, humanity, and political sensitivity. Today his work should be an example for those who would prevent conflict worldwide.”
The Duke responded to the invitation to receive the prize, saying:
“This award is really a tribute to all those associated with the Friends of Dresden Trust, of which I have been privileged to be the Patron for the past 20 years. It recognises their achievements and indeed the achievements of all people of good will in the United Kingdom and Germany, who have worked over the last sixty years to bring reconciliation between our two countries. Their success is an example to the rest of the world of what can be achieved through building trust and friendship.”
The award ceremony will take place at 11:00 on the 14th February 2015 in the Semper Opera House where the British band, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, will perform their song ‘Dresden’, inspired by the bombings.
The prize-giving date marks 70 years since the British Royal Air Force, in partnership with the United States Air Force, destroyed much of Dresden in a series of large bombing attacks.
The resulting firestorm, on the 13th and 14th February 1945, killed between 20,000 to 25,000 people and weakened the structure of The Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady). The church was considered one of Germany’s finest and the bomb blasts and heat caused it to collapse the following day.
In 2004, The Duke presented the gold cross steeple which sits atop the Frauenkirche cathedral today, as a gift from the British people to Dresden. The installation of the cross and orb steeple and the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche marked a significant moment in the 60 year reconciliation process between the two countries, following the war.
On that occasion, The Duke described the orb as “a potent symbol of suffering, reconciliation and rebirth.”
In 2005, The British German Friendship Garden was constructed at the National Memorial Arboretum in Arlewas, Staffordshire. Twelve original stones from the Frauenkirche with the names of seventeen British and German cities that suffered serious aerial damage in World War Two: Berlin, Coventry, Dresden, London, Belfast, Clydebank, Nürnberg, Würzburg, Pforzheim, Plymouth, Liverpool, Hamburg, Lübeck, Exeter, Köln, das Ruhrgebiet, Newcastle, Birmingham.
Alongside receiving the prize, The Duke of Kent will join Joachim Gauck, President of Germany at a service in the Frauenkirche on 13th February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.