Lampedusa 361, 2017, at Theater Square in Dresden. Photo: Arno Burgi

Demonstrations in Dresden Continue as Nationalist Group Protests Art Installation Dedicated to Refugees

The unveiling of Lampedusa 361, the second pro-immigration art installation in Dresden, has sparked another week of far-right protests, Monopol reports. The new piece, part of a commemoration of Dresden’s destruction in World War II, is a symbolic cemetery comprising ninety photographs of drowned refugees’ graves in Sicily that are mounted on Styrofoam tombstones at Theaterplatz in front of the Semper Opera. The art project is a joint effort between the city and the Friends of Dresden Germany organization.

“This ‘cemetery’ is difficult to bear, but we have to bear it,” mayor Dirk Hilbert said at the Lampedusa 361 opening. He added that the photographs are a remembrance of the suffering of those who died during their escape from violence and misery. “It is a memorial at the right time in the right place.”

Last week’s opening of Monument, a re-creation of three burnt Aleppo buses erected in front of the Frauenkirche cathedral, provoked a mass demonstration by PEGIDA (the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)—a German nationalist, anti-Islam, far-right political group. Mayor Hilbert was shouted down by the right-wing protestors at the Monument opening and has received several death threats. The demonstrators claim that these memorials symbolize the commemoration of the Dresden bombing victims.

In response to the violent protesters, the artistic directors of sixteen leading Dresden-based cultural institutions, including the Semperoper, Philharmonie, Kreuzchor, Theater Junge Generation, Staatsschauspiel, Staatsoperette, and Musikfestspiele, issued this statement: “Hate and contempt are backfiring on those who are spreading this seed, as they reveal themselves as a threat to our democratic society. In the threats against and the hounding of Mayor Hilbert a trend is revealed, which we must counter. In the history of our country there have always been times when the common good was endangered by narrow-minded hate speech and demagogues.”