The Dresden Trust was founded in 1993 in response to a call from Dresden for help rebuild the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), one of Europe’s most magnificent churches. It had collapsed as a result of the British and American bombing of February 1945, in which up to 25,000 people died.
The authorities of Communist East Germany rebuilt other historic buildings of the city, which had been called the “Florence of the Elbe” for its beauty and spirit of Enlightenment. But they declined to rebuild the Frauenkirche because it had been a place of worship.
After Germany was reunited, citizens of Dresden resolved to rebuild the church, and Alan Russell created The Dresden Trust in the UK to respond to their appeal. Over £1 million (€1.5 million) was donated by thousands of people, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The Trust had a new golden Orb and Cross crafted in England for the top of the cupola. One craftsman (Alan Smith) was the son of a pilot who took part in the bombing. 100,000 people attended the raising of the Orb and Cross to the top of the Frauenkirche in 2004, and a year later the church was re-consecrated.
The Trust today seeks to fulfil its mission of reconciliation through educational and cultural initiatives, memorials and visits. Under the Trust’s Dresden Scholars’ Scheme, boys and girls from Dresden/Saxony receive scholarships to attend independent schools in Britain: about 300 have done so since 2000.
In 2015, the Trust’s Royal Patron for more than 20 years, HRH The Duke of Kent, received a standing ovation at Dresden’s Semper Opera when he was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize, which recognises the prevention of conflict and violence.
“Dresden’s 21st century vocation is surely to become a crucible for reconciliation and peace within the European Union and beyond.” – Alan Russell, Honorary President and Founder