Dresden: Then and now
Ranked as one of the top six cities to see in Germany, Dresden’s rich history will change your perspective of the second world war. Known for being the site of one of the most devastating attacks during WWII, Dresden is a striking example of a city that has overcome tragedy.
On February 13, 1945, British and American troops swarmed Dresden, ready to attack. Although the purpose of the attack was a shock to the citizens, Allied forces believed it was the only way to control Nazi Germany. The decision to bomb Dresden was concocted by President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during the 1945 Yalta Conference of the Allied Powers. During the conference, Roosevelt, Churchill and Joseph Stalin discussed the future of Germany post war. Roosevelt and Churchill compiled three essential reasons for attacking Dresden.
First, the city was part of Nazi Germany, which the Allied forces wanted to destroy. Attacking Dresden would weaken the Nazis, enabling America and England to become the power holders. Secondly, Dresden was exporting war machines to Germany. Bombing Dresden would cause Germany’s main artillery supplier to fall, which would reduce Germany’s power. Finally, attacking Dresden would allow the U.S. and England to send a message to Russia. U.S. and British forces knew Russia would become problematic following the war — attacking Dresden would allow Roosevelt and Churchill to alert Russia of their capabilities.
On the morning of the attack, British and American forces took turns causing chaos in Dresden. Throughout the morning, Dresden experienced three hours of non-stop airstrikes and destruction to several rescue trucks. As 700,000 bombs fell, fires started, resulting in the city’s collapse and about 25,000 deaths. The airstrike resulted in both the fall of Dresden and a huge loss in funding. This loss of financial resources forced Dresden to wait until Germany’s reunification before truly starting reconstruction. Although the community had to wait, Dresden’s restoration process went smoothly and allowed the city to incorporate “old Dresden” with “new Dresden.”
Originally built in 1841, the Semperoper Dresden opera house was ignited by numerous firestorms during the bombing. Despite damage, restoration was completed in 1985 and has provided the community with various performances since the building reopened. Hit in various places, Zwinger Palace’s outer and inner banks were restored beginning in 1985. Originally constructed between 1710 and 1728 in August the Strong’s vision, Zwinger has continued to house several art collections and host summer concerts since it re-opened in 1951. Situated in the Zwinger Palace, the Green Vault’s eight rooms were ruined by the fire, including three that were burned to the ground. Since its 2006 re-opening, the vault continues to hold courtly jewels from the 18th century.
Dresden is home to several churches, all of which were destroyed during the bombing and have since been reconstructed. The Frauenkirche, which is ranked as the most powerful symbol of Dresden’s restoration, started being rebuilt in 1994. Wanting to keep some of their heritage alive, the community used rubble collected after the attack. The church opened back up in late 2005.
Originally constructed in the 1700s by architect Gaetano Chiaveri, the Hofkirche remodel focused on cleaning up its exterior and some aspects of its interior. During the 1979 restoration, the church’s organ was repaired, as well as paintings and the exterior.
To replace Sophienkirche, one of Dresden’s famous churches, the Busmannkappelle was constructed. This new church was created with the desire to keep Dresden’s past alive, while also allowing the city to start fresh.
Things to do in Dresden today
Despite Dresden’s past, the city was transformed to its original state. Whether you have traveled to Dresden before or not, the city’s numerous museums, churches, performance halls, gardens and parks are sure to please you.
Become one with nature as you stroll through Palais Großer Garten. Located southwest of the city center, the garden grants visitors access to the palace, and allows them to view sculptures and flower variations. From April to October, you can ride on the garden’s personal train. Train tickets are 1 euro per stop; group and family rates are also available.
Situated in a building constructed between 1770 and 1775, the Dresden City Museum offers spectators various art pieces depicting Dresden’s history. The museum preserves more than 1,000 pieces of art and provides historical information through media outlets.
If art is your forte, then the Municipal Gallery and Art Collection is a must see! Home to more than 1,700 paintings, 8,000 sculptures and at least 20,000 graphicworks, this museum has something for everyone.
Experience some of Dresden’s finest performances in the Semperoper (Semper Opera House). Shows take place throughout the calendar year, and the house hosts the annual Semper Opera Ball in early January. Tickets and show times can be found at www.semperoper.de/en/spielplan.html.
Do you like gadgets? If so, the Dresden Technical Collections museum is the place for you. Home to more than 30,000 devices, including radios, musical instruments, TV sets and more, this collection will allow you to take a peek at how these devices were utilized 150 years ago.
Travel back to the 18th and 19th century at the Kügelgenhaus museum, specializing in Dresden’s romanticism. Various art pieces that display Lord Councilor for the Contistory Christian Gottfried Körner’s social life are housed in the nine rooms.
If music is your cup of tea, journey through the Carl Maria von Weber Museum and experience the works of Weber and his family. Situated in Weber’s former summer home, the museum provides tourists the opportunity to view pictures, texts and various documents related to his achievements.
Known for providing the city with hope and reconciliation, the Frauenkirche is a one of Dresden’s most important landmarks. From its various murals and reconstructed oak doors, this site will allow you to take in the city’s beauty. Entrance into the church is free; however, donations are appreciated.
Travel the streets of Dresden in style by taking part in a hop-on, hop-off tour. During this excursion, you will travel to 22 landmarks throughout the city. If something catches your eye, feel free to hop off the bus and experience the site. Want to spend some extra time at the sites? Do not worry; buses arrive at various sites every 30 minutes so you have a way to get around. Tickets for the guided tours can be purchased at www.getyourguide.com or www.expedia.com.
Whether you are a history buff, artist or musician, or enjoy admiring beautiful architecture, Dresden has something for everyone. To find more information about Dresden’s museums, visit www.museen-dresden.de.