Dresden, Germany History

Dresden, Germany History

Dresden goes back to the Slavic village Drezdzany (“Settlers at the Forest”) located at an old Elbe crossing. The Elbe valley area, which has been Slavically populated since the 7th century, appeared in 1004 as the Sorbian residential district Nisan (i); after 968 part of the later so-called Mark Meißen, it came in 1144 to the Wettin margraves of Meißen, who in the course of the German settlement in the east had a castle built around 1150 on the site of the later (from 1530) castle. To the south of it, in the third quarter of the 12th century, following an older merchant settlement, the city of Dresden was laid out with a regular floor plan (first mentioned in 1206, named Civitas in 1216); the city wall (attested in 1299) enclosed the castle, but not an older Sorbian market settlement (so-called old Dresden). Together with the earlier Sorbian settlement of Altendresden, known as Nisan until 1370, on the right bank of the Elbe (municipal law 1403; incorporated as New Dresden in 1550), Dresden already had 5,900 residents in 1489.

As the residence of the Albertine line of the Wettins (1485–1918) and the capital of the Electorate of Saxony (from 1547), Dresden developed into a world-famous cultural center. After 1539 the Reformation prevailed in Dresden, which remained a stronghold of the strictly Lutheran creed even when the Albertine princely house became Catholic again in 1697 (for the Polish royal crown). Developed into a Renaissance residence under Moritz von Sachsen (1541–53), the economy and culture of the city were developed in particular by Elector August (1553–86) promoted; he created the Kunstkammer (1560) and a book and map collection, the predecessor of the Saxon State Library (1556). As the second oldest musical institution in Dresden after the Dresden Kreuzchor, which was created in the first half of the 13th century, the Hofkapelle was founded in 1548, the forerunner of the Staatskapelle Dresden. The court also sponsored the musical theater, which was shaped by Italian opera (first opera house in 1666).

Under August II the Strong (1694–1733), and August III. (1733–63) Dresden was a place of brisk building activity and a place of splendid court life (so-called Augustan age); at that time the art collections were expanded (porcelain collection 1720, green vault 1721, picture gallery 1722, antique collection 1723, copper engraving cabinet 1728). Altendresden, which fell victim to a fire in 1685, was rebuilt as Neustadt (“New Royal City”, name since 1732). During the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), the Prussian troops that occupied Dresden from 1756–59 caused great damage through arson; In 1760, King Friedrich II of Prussia was looking for a place to recapture the lost fortress in vain under severe destruction.

In the Peace of Dresden (December 25, 1745), which ended the 2nd Silesian War, Prussia was confirmed the possession of Silesia, Saxony had to pay high war compensation and waived Silesian claims. – On the 26./27. 8. In 1813, a few weeks before the Battle of Leipzig, the French under Napoleon I defeated the main army of the allies near Dresden (last victory on German soil).

In the 17th century Bohemian religious refugees and in the 19th century Polish emigrants found refuge in Dresden. In the course of the revolutions of 1830 and 1848/49, there was also political unrest in Dresden; In 1849 the Dresden May Uprising formed the starting point of the imperial constitution campaign. In the second half of the 19th century (opening of the first German long-distance railway between Leipzig and Dresden in 1839), Dresden developed into a transport hub and industrial center; the industrial enterprises spread mostly in the suburbs. In the further course of the 19th century, Dresden, a royal residence since 1806, grew rapidly. The incorporation of suburbs and the construction of typical working-class quarters associated with industrialization caused the population to rise rapidly (1699: 21,000, 1727: 46,000 and 1755: 63,000) (1834: 74,000, 1852: 100,000 [big city], 1890: 277,000). After the incorporation of 65 villages (1892) Dresden (1900) had 396,000 residents; In 1933, after the incorporation of a further 23 towns (1921), it had the highest population of 649,300.

Dresden has been able to maintain its reputation as a cultural center since the 18th century. Excellent teachers were appointed to the art academy, which was founded in 1764. Visual artists (P. O. RungeC. D. Friedrich), poets and writers (H. von KleistE. T. A. HoffmannL. TieckA. H. Müller, the Schlegel brothers) came together here in the spirit of Romanticism, namely in the circle of the doctor and philosopher CG Carus. Experienced opera in the 19th century (C. M. von WeberR. Wagner), Concert and theater a cultivation that was continued in the first decades of the 20th century. Dresden’s reputation as a cultural center was also promoted by the circles around the »Kunstwart« (1887) and the »Dürerbund« (1902), the painter secession »Die Brücke« founded in 1905, the Hellerau reform efforts and the dance art of Mary Wigman and Gret Palucca.

On 13./14. 2. In 1945, Dresden, which was overcrowded with an additional 200,000 Silesian refugees (according to recent research; previous figures of up to 700,000 have now been considered too high) as well as many forced laborers and soldiers, was heavily destroyed by American and British bomber units (»Operation Donnerschlag «). 772 British bombers dropped 1,477.7 t of mines and high-explosive bombs and 1,181.8 t of incendiary bombs in two night raids. The American bomber associations (311 “Flying Fortresses”) dropped 3,767.1 t of mines and high-explosive bombs and 643.1 t of incendiary bombs in the following six day-to-day attacks. The area of ​​total destruction was 12 km 2, together with the area of ​​severe damage 15 km 2. Information on the number of victims varies greatly. The official estimates for 1945 initially assumed 25,000 fatalities (final report in mid-March) and later (at the end of March) Nazi propaganda indicated 250,000 deaths for ideological reasons. Due to a suspected number of unrecovered victims, it became customary to state the minimum number of 35,000 victims, which numerous publications took over by 2005. At the end of March 2005, a commission of historians set up by the city of Dresden confirmed the number of around 25,000 deaths as the most reliable number of victims. On May 8, 1945, Dresden was captured by Soviet troops.

Dresden was 1918–45, 1946–52 and has been the state capital of Saxony since 1990; 1952–90 it was the capital of the GDR district of the same name. In 1950 10 more places were incorporated, including Hellerau, Klotzsche, Niedersedlitz and Zschachwitz.

The peaceful candle demonstration by over 7,000 people on February 13, 1982 in front of the ruins of the Frauenkirche in Dresden was the first non-state mass rally in the GDR. In October 1989 Dresden was, after initially civil war-like conditions on 4th / 5th. 10., one of the great arenas of the peaceful revolution in the GDR (German history).

Dresden – the destruction in the air war in 1945

Dresden as a warning: the destruction in the air war in 1945

Gerhart Hauptmann’s complaint about the destruction of a large cultural site *

Anyone who has forgotten how to cry will learn it again when Dresden went down. This cheerful morning star of youth has shone the world so far. I know that there are enough good spirits in England and America who were no stranger to the divine light of the Sistine Madonna and who weep deeply struck by the extinction of this star.

And I personally experienced the fall of Dresden under the Sodom and Gomorrah hells of the English and American planes. When I insert the word “experienced” it is still a miracle to me. I do not take myself seriously enough to believe that fate has expressly reserved this horror for me at this point in what is almost the most dear part of my world.

I stand at the exit gate of life and envy all my dead comrades who were spared this experience.

I cry. Don’t bother with the word “weep”: the greatest heroes of antiquity, including Pericles and others, were not ashamed of it.

From Dresden, from his deliciously even artistry in music and words, wonderful rivers flowed through the world, and England and America also drunk thirstily from it.

Did you forget that?

I am almost eighty-three years old and stand before God with a legacy that is unfortunately powerless and only comes from the heart: it is the request that God love, purify and clarify people more for their salvation than before.

*) The text was written in March 1945 and was first published on April 6, 1946. – G. Hauptmann, first married to a woman from Dresden from 1885–1904, stayed in Dresden for the last time from February 5 to March 21, 1945; he experienced the bombing and destruction of the city in the basement of a sanatorium in Oberloschwitz, where his second wife was being treated.

Hauptmann: Dresden, in: the same: Complete works, edited by H.-E. Hass, Volume 11: Post-traced works, fragments (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1996), page 1205 f.

Dresden, Germany History