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13/02/2015 06:41 GMT | Updated 13/02/2015 11:59 GMT

Dresden Bombing Anniversary Photos Contrast 1945 Devastation With 70 Years On

Today marks 70 years since what was arguably Europe's most beautiful city was bombed into oblivion by the Allies during the Second World War.

In February 1945, Dresden had been spared the destruction suffered by other cities like Berlin and Hamburg, and with the war clearly ending, its citizens must have been confident they would escape a similar fate.

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But on February 13, the Allies attacked from the air, killing thousands of people and destroying huge swathes of the historic city. The resulting fire made superheated air rise rapidly, creating a vacuum at ground level that produced winds strong enough to uproot trees and suck people into the flames.

The destruction was immortalised in Kurt Vonnegut's novel 'Slaughterhouse Five'.

These extraordinary images show the aftermath of the devastation and the city today, showing how it has been rebuilt.

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A statue on the tower of City Hall, with an outstretched hand, looking down at the ruins of the city centre wrought by the Allied firebombing of February 13, 1945 (Richard Peter senior, Archive Photos) and the same statue February 12, 2015 (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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Women in 1946 carrying bricks outside the Martin Luther church in a neighbourhood still wrecked from the February 13, 1945 Allied firebombing. The steeple of the wrecked Roman Catholic cathedral can be seen in the background. (Fred Ramage, Keystone). The entire Neustadt area, as well as the vast majority of the city, were devastated. The modern image shows the same area on February 12, 2015 (Sean Gallup).

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The the ruins at Theaterplatz square in 1946 still wrecked from the firebombing (Fred Ramage, Keystone) and the square today, including the Catholic Hofkirche church (central) and Residenzschloss Dresden palace (right), on February 7, 2015 (Sean Gallup).

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(Left to right) Propaganda director Heinz Grunewald, Dresden mayor Walter Weidauer and town architect Dr. C. Herbert in March, 1946 outside City Hall (Fred Ramage/Hulton Archive) as well as the same scene on February 12, 2015 (Sean Gallup)

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A portion of the Zwinger art museum in 1946 still in ruins (William Vandevert, The LIFE Picture Collection) and people walking in its courtyard on February 12, 2015 (Sean Gallup)

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The ruins of buildings around Neumarkt square and a fountain with a statue in 1946 (William Vandevert, The LIFE Picture Collection) as well as the same scene on January 22, 2015 (Sean Gallup)

As part of the commemoration services, German President Joachim Gauck gave a speech saying: "Witnesses who witnessed the inferno, still carry memories to places and people they never met again."

He added: "We know who started the murderous war. And that's why we want and will never forget the victims of German warfare when we recall here and now the German victims."

dresden German President Joachim Gauck delivers a speech during a service in Dresden's Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)

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  • Visitors and members of an association of survivors of bombing lay white roses at the former train station where the Nazis shipped Dresden Jews to concentration camps

The bombing of Dresden

Dresden 1945