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Archbishop: Dresden speech was 'not an apology'

Citizens form a human chain during the commemoration due to the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden. Credit: PA Wire

The Archbishop of Canterbury has had to deny that he apologised for the firebombing of Dresden during his speech at a 70th anniversary memorial in the German city.

The Most Rev Justin Welby told a church service attended by German president Joachim Gauck that he felt a "regret and deep sorrow" when reflecting on the events of 70 years ago.

Allied bombing raids on Dresden left 25,000 civilians dead in 1945 and razed much of the city to the ground.

He said:

Seventy years ago our nations and peoples were at war. Over three days in February Allied bombers brought death and destruction on a scale and with a ferocity it is impossible to imagine. In the rage of war our hearts inevitably harden and increasingly brutal and devastating force is unleashed.

Walking together as friends requires talking together in truth. As Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf challenges us, 'To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly'.

Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the Allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here 70 years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow.

– The Most Rev Justin Welby
Dresden in 1945 (L) and 2015 (R) Credit: PA Wire

When asked in a BBC interview if he thought the UK and the United States should apologise and he said it was "very complicated question", noting that British civilians had suffered during the Blitz and other German bombings.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury later moved to clarify the comments, saying:

Any suggestion that the Archbishop was apologising is manifestly false.

The Archbishop's comments were a reflection in a solemn ceremony on the tragedy of war. They very carefully avoided apologising, and those present, including the president of Germany, recognised the difference.

In his speech the president also recognised the fact that there is no equivalence with Nazi war crimes and that the war started with Nazi aggression.

In broadcast interviews immediately following his speech the Archbishop refused to say he was apologising, but repeated that war is always tragedy. He also referred to the terrible losses in Bomber Command.

Archbishop Welby said it was not a question of blame and spoke of the bombing of Coventry, Liverpool, London and other places."

– Spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury

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A thousand people flee as town of Dresden floods

Flood levels in the eastern German city of Dresden were expected to rise further today as the Elbe river flooded large parts of the old town.

Some 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes so far and the city issued a level four flood warning - the highest on the scale.

Dresden's historic Schlossplatz square is largely underwater Credit: Reuters
The Elbe river has almost reached the top of the arches on this old bridge Credit: Reuters
Sandbags protect a school from the rising water Credit: Reuters