DRESDEN, East Germany

The Rebuilding of a City

Page 1 - Downtown

Dresden, once heralded as the "Florence at the Elbe", used to be one of Germany's most beautiful cities. It was almost completely destroyed in one of the last major air raids of World War II, on February 13, 1945. Many people know the scene of destruction from the movie "Slaughterhouse 5". (By the way: did you know that the film team used footage of Prague for all the scenes that were to show Dresden before the bombing?)

What is widely unknown, is that some of the wounds of the war never were repaired during the 40 years of socialism in East Germany. Entire city blocks lay in ruins, as if the bombing had happend yesterday.

The ruin of the Frauenkirche, 1970

Part of the reason for this may have been a simple lack of funds, part may have been political - churches and castles were just not high on the list of priorities for a socialist government. Growing up in this city, it was an eerie feeling to walk past the charred rubble on a daily basis - a steady reminder of what war can do. I will forever remember the burned clock on the castle tower, its hands frozen at the moment in time when the bombs hit. To me, the piles of rubble were sacred memorials to the thousands of lives lost during that night.

Dresden castle - semi rebuilt

The Dresden Castle, 1996

The charred wall on the left is reminder of what the building looked like just 5 years ago.

After the reunification of Germany, a decision was made to rebuild the remaining city parts. Even though many people felt odd about the thought of rebuilding a war memorial, the majority decided it was time to move on.

Since then, construction crews have been busy resurrecting the architectural jewels of Dresden's downtown. A daunting task - given that all that was left were charred walls. It would have been easier to remove the rubble and start anew, but city fathers wanted to keep any and all of the original structure. Progress is slow, but steady - and now, more than 50 years after the war, the original face of the castle is slowly re-emerging.

City architects decided to rebuild the castle as it looked during its renaissance prime. So, much to the surprise of many Dresdeners, who only knew the building as black, the sand stone facade of the castle turned out not to be plain off-white, but covered with intricate paintings.


Dresden castle in 1999

The Dresden Castle in 2000: Outside

As the scaffolding comes off the completed parts, the castle shows a mix of old and new sand stone blocks. All the black stones are the original ones found in the rubble. The new, white ones will eventually darken as they are exposed to the air. (A natural process, and not related to pollution or fire exposure.)

Castle in 1999

The Dresden Castle in 2000: Inside

Progress with the interior castle yard has been impressive. This corner shows what the finished design will eventually look like...


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More Information on the Rebuilding of Dresden


Documentaries on East Germany


Information & Pictures of the Berlin Wall


visit DRESDEN (links to many different photos)


This page was created by Simone Shoemaker, Coastline Productions. For comments, questions or to report missing links, please contact: simone@coastlinevideo.com