Dresden developed as a Slavic settlement in the late 12th century. It became the capital of the margravate of Meissen in 1270 and the seat of the dukes of Saxony from 1485 on. When Saxon ruler Frederick Augustus became King of Poland in 1697, he turned Dresden into a hub for artists from all parts of Europe and the city soon gained a reputation for being a major arts center. The city suffered great destruction after Prussia conquered it in 1760, but was subsequently rebuilt and became the capital of the Kingdom of Saxony in 1806, once again propering during that time. In the early 20th century, Dresden became home to large numbers of soldiers, housed in a specifically built garrison named Albertstadt. This fact, along with the city’s general significance, led to its complete destruction in World War II. In three days in February 1945, British and American forces used some 1200 aircraft to drop 4000 tons worth of bombs and incendiaries on Dresden, fully wiping out the inner city and killing an estimated 25,000 people on the ground. Winston Churchill would later distance himself from the severity of the bombing action and the attack remains controversial in the view of historians. Rebuilding after the war, when Dresden was at first occupied by Soviet forces and later subject to the East German government’s decisions, was often done in a Stalinist way of architecture, of which there are quite a few examples in the city, in particular in large-scale residential buildings. However, some of the historic buildings in the city were restored, but until today, one can see traces of the 1945 wounds inflicted upon the city.
In 2002, Dresden and the surrounding towns suffered greatly from a flood caused by large amounts of rain. More than 30,000 inhabitants of the city had to be evacuated and Dresden once again experienced heavy damage. While many German cities suffered from destructions caused in several wars, few have a history that compares to Dresden’s but the city draws strength from the fact that it had always had the power to rise again after great calamities fell upon it.
In the years after the German reunification, Saxony’s capital experienced a surge and now counts a population larger than at any other time in history. Dresden is one of Germany’s fastest growing cities. These inhabitants enjoy a broad cultural program from theatre companies to the famous opera and great art collections in the city’s museums. While Dresden’s unemployment rate is still rather high - a fate shared by almost all East German cities -, the town has grown into a business center, hosting several research institutions and a number of large companies from the pharmaceutical, engineering and semiconductor industries. Dresden is home to five universities fueling these industries.