At least 10,000 Germans formed a human chain in Dresden on Saturday and stopped neo-Nazis staging a funeral march to remember victims of the Allied air raid that flattened the city 65 years ago.
The anti-neo-Nazi protesters, who turned out despite freezing temperatures, stopped the far-right sympathizers from getting into the town centre.
"Stopping the Nazi march was a great success for the Nazi Free Alliance Dresden," said Alliance spokeswoman Lena Roth.
"It wasn't easy – there were people injured in Nazi attacks and it was horribly cold, but it was worth it," she said.
Police reported isolated clashes between the two sides and at one point the 5,000-strong police force, with reinforcements drafted in from across Germany, used water cannons.
A spokesman said officers had made seven arrests but the violence police had feared appeared to have been avoided after organizers declared the far-right gathering over in the late afternoon and supporters gradually dispersed.
About 5,000 neo-Nazis gathered in the eastern city of Dresden on Saturday to stage a provocative funeral march remembering German victims of the Allied air raid that flattened the baroque city 65 years ago.
In the past few years, the Feb. 13 anniversary of the destruction of Dresden, in which 25,000 people were killed, has become a focus for neo-Nazis who describe the blanket bombardment as a "bombing Holocaust".
At Dresden's Neustadt station, where trains packed with Jews departed for the Auschwitz concentration camp, several hundred neo-Nazis, clad all in black, gathered.
Some held pre-war German flags and a voice shouting "Strength and Honor" blasted out of loudspeakers.
"We are gathered here to remember one of the biggest war crimes of World War Two," Kai Pfuerstinger, deputy head of the JLO Youth Corps East Germany far-right group, told the crowd.
A debate about whether breaking public morale through the wave of raids was justifiable has rumbled since the bombing, which started on the night of Feb. 13, 1945, and flattened the city. The defeat of Hitler's Nazis was imminent.
The attacks, by British and US bombers, used incendiary bombs which created an inferno that ripped through streets, burning and melting people and buildings alike.
Although a mainstream debate has taken place in the past few years about the extent to which Germans can view themselves as victims of a war they were responsible for, there is little sympathy for the views of militaristic neo-Nazis groups.
"Feb. 13, the day of the bombardment of Dresden, is abused by the right as a myth of sacrifice," said Wolfhart Goll of the Nazi Free Alliance in Dresden.
"It is important that we stand up against the Nazis. We want to stop the march and take the fun out of if for them so they don't come back."
Dresden has only in the last decade been restored to its former glory, complete with its trove of cultural treasures.
Senior politicians from Dresden and the state of Saxony and a representative of the Central Council of Jews laid wreaths at a cemetery where the victims of the bombardment are remembered.