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Dresden Church Holds First Service Since World War II

August 22, 1996

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) _ A Protestant bishop has consecrated a restored crypt at the site of a landmark church in the first service there since the Frauenkirche _ Church of Our Lady _ was destroyed during World War II.

Bishop Volker Kress celebrated a mass for about 350 people Wednesday and opened the crypt for regular services.

The church, completed in 1743, defined the Dresden skyline with its 310-foot high dome until Allied bombing destroyed it on Feb. 15, 1945.

East Germany’s Communist rulers left the church in ruins, viewing it as a reminder of the horrors of war.

Work on clearing away the rubble began 1994, and the entire church is to be rebuilt by 2006, a $168-million job expected to be financed largely by private donors.

Two British air raids on Feb. 13, 1945, and one by the Americans the next day left Dresden in ruins. An estimated 35,000 people died in the bombings and resulting firestorm in the city that once was known as the ``Florence on the Elbe.″ Some 300 people hid in the church during the bombings.

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