The church was destroyed by British aerial bombing in World War II.
[The Frauenkirche] miraculously survived two days and nights of the bombing, before succumbing to the 1,000 degree Celsius heat generated by some 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city.
These types of attacks have become especially poignant in German memorials. Germans became interested in the suffering caused by the bombings after the publication of Der Brand, a book that explored the legality of the bombing of German cities. The book allowed Germans to feel that they were victims (as well as perpetrators) of the horrors of war.
British groups have donated heavily to the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche as an act of reconciliation. The cross was paid for by a British charity, Dresden Trust. Furthermore, the cross was made by a British carpenter whose father flew in the first bombing raid over the city in 1945. According to the trust's chairman:
We need to make a gesture back, to express our sorrow about the deaths and destruction and our determination to build things with our German friends for the future.
To the minister-president of Saxony, the raising of the cupola was an opportunity for healing:
Not only is a wound in this city closed today. A wound in Europe is closed as well.