German authorities have removed a memorial to civilians killed by the 1945 US-UK bombing File photo: Flowers at the Altmarkt memorial commemorating the victims of the bombing of Dresden in the Second World War. © Robert Michael/Getty Images

Dresden’s removal of the Altmarkt memorial is an “act of historical vandalism,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said, accusing the German authorities of revisionism on behalf of London and Washington.

British and American bombers first struck Dresden on February 13, 1945, killing tens of thousands of Germans, many of them civilians. Several thousands were cremated at the Altmarkt and, for many years, a stone bench on the square bore an inscription commemorating that – until it was removed recently.

“The peaceful areas of Dresden were subjected to a completely disproportionate, terrifying bombing bordering on a war crime,” Zakharova said in a Telegram post on Tuesday evening, suggesting that the UK and the US deliberately destroyed the city because it was assigned to the future Soviet occupation zone.

“Tens of thousands of civilian casualties remained a reminder that even the fight against the absolute evil of Nazism cannot justify the senseless killing of children for political purposes,” Zakharova said, adding that the memorial became “an inconvenient irritant” to Germany’s membership in NATO after reunification.

The German government is now erasing history even as it supports “the glorification of fascist criminals by the government in Ukraine,” Zakharova wrote. “We should demand the speedy restoration of the historical inscription!”

The now-removed Altmarkt memorial called the site “a place of remembrance, memory and commemoration” of the 1945 bombing, “when the horrors of war that spread from Germany across the entire world returned to our city.”

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In a statement on Tuesday, Dresden authorities acknowledged that the inscription had been removed, but called it part of a planned “redesign” commissioned in 2019 and apologized that this was “not communicated in advance.”

“The location of the inscription on a bench has repeatedly been criticized for not being worthy because people were sitting in front of the text. There was also damage and repeated graffiti,” according to the city hall.

“The criticism in this matter is justified because we acted extremely poorly from a communications perspective,” said Mayor Dirk Hilbert. “However, we will not accept that this occasion is used for hate speech and conspiracy theories.”

Several years ago, Dresden began a project to “contextualize” some of the “problematic” monuments. In 2022, a stone stele with “more information” about Altmarkt was placed near the memorial bench, but was “damaged during construction work” last year, the city hall said, adding that the repaired stele would be put up “by next week at the latest.”

According to the city hall, the new stele will say that the February 1945 air raids have been “politically exploited and reinterpreted” and that Dresden accepts its “historical responsibility” for Nazi crimes against humanity and calls for “maintaining and promoting peace in Europe and worldwide.”