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Dresden travel guide — Dresden tourism and travel information

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about Dresden

Dresden [ˈdreːsdn̩] (Sorbian/Lusatian Drježdźany), the capital city of the German federal state of Saxony, is situated in a valley on the river Elbe. The city’s population stood at 478,000 in 2004. (At the same time, the total population in its metropolitan area was about a million). The city today functions as an important cultural, political, and economic center in Germany. Dresden is, however, internationally also very known for the controversial Allied strategic bombings in World War II.

Dresden geography

Dresden is located in the southeastern corner of eastern Germany; about two hours south of Germany's capital, Berlin, and about two hours north of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. About an hour northwest of Dresden is Leipzig, another big city in Saxony.

Dresden history

Early and Pre-War History

An ancient Slavic settlement on the northern bank of the river was joined in 1206 by a German town on the southern bank, the heart of today’s Altstadt (“old town”). It was the seat from 1270 of the Wettin Landgrafs (Counts) of Meißen. From 1485 it was the seat of the dukes of Saxony, and from 1547 the electors as well. Between 1806 and 1918 it was the capital of the kingdom of Saxony (which was from 1871 a part of the German Empire). The city has suffered repeated destruction: by fire in 1491, from bombardment by the Prussians in 1760, and during the suppression of a constitutionalist uprising (The May Uprising) in 1849 and the destructive Allied bombing raid of February 1945. August the Strong (1694-1733), who planned to make Dresden the most important royal residence, set out to discover the Chinese secret of porcelain (‘white gold’). Under his rule, European porcelain was invented in Dresden and Meißen. He also gathered many of the best architects and painters from all over Europe to Dresden. His reign was the beginning of Dresden’s emergence as a leading European city for technology and art.

During the 19th century, the city became a major center of industry, including automobile production, food processing, and the production of medical equipment. The city also developed into an important center for the international sale of art works and antiques. The city’s population quadrupled from 95,000 in 1849 to 396,000 in 1900 as a result of industrialization.

Dresden was not the only German city devastated by World War II bombing, but the bombing of Dresden in 1945 has become one of the most controversial events of that war. It was bombed in February 1945, even though the end of World War II was clearly foreseeable. The city was not particularly well defended, because it had been too far for the Allied bombers to reach early in the war and although it had been bombed before, as well as cities even in southern Germany, the anti-aircraft defences had been removed.

Dresden's reputation for culture is better known than its highly developed optics industry (Carl Zeiss later Praktica), which according to unverified intelligence reports produced precision aiming devices during the war. In addition many peacetime factories, such as the cigarette factories, had been converted to ammunition factories as part of the policy of "Total War". However these targets were not the main reason for the city being bombed. The Russians were approaching from the East and Dresden was one of two key rail routes with Marshalling Yards. Although key industrial facilities were destroyed by the bombing (much of their capacity was later restored), the main goal of the "area bombing" was to create a fire storm (an objective inspired by the Luftwaffe's raids on Coventry, Bath and London but refined by Britain's Royal Air Force).

Civilian death estimates vary wildly largely as a result of propaganda figures which received widespread publicity at the time, however the most recently available evidence points to 35,000 deaths, which is less than the number that died in Hamburg, but Dresden was a smaller city. Numbers between 25,000 -140,000 have been used in official statistics; estimates in western Germany were often higher than the 35,000 used in the east. At that time, Dresden’s population was 600,000; but hundreds of thousands of refugees were living in and passing through Dresden as the Russians were now only fifty miles away. The entire inner city (15 square kilometres) was utterly devastated, and other quarters were damaged to some degree, the many villa quarters, however, on average much less than others.

While some think that the bombing of Dresden was a tragic occurrence that Nazi Germany brought upon itself, others feel it should be treated as a war crime. Fortunately, much of the city's beauty has been restored, thanks to the zeal of the populace in recreating the architecture of ‘old Dresden'. Today Dresden has a strong partnership with the English city Coventry, which was heavily damaged by German air attacks. The partnership is deeply supported by the populace in both cities.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dresden".

This city is also known as: Dresden.

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