Instead of red roses, the glowing fires of hell descended from the heavens into the middle of the old, medieval city of Dresden, Germany after 10 p.m. on the night of St. Valentine’s Day in 1945. Within hours, the elegance and 2,000-year history of Germanic tribes and the best examples of Baroque style architecture in Europe were burned to the ground by bombs from British aircraft.
With the war almost over and the Russian forces within 50 miles of the city, stories abound as to why Dresden was bombed at all. Since Dresden was still intact so close to the end of the war, some say that Churchill did it to give the English people closure for all the bombs the Germans dropped on London. Others claim that it was still a strategic target that saved Russian soldiers from a house to house battle in Dresden, but in truth, we will never know why this cultural work of art was destroyed.
To make things worse, after World War II Dresden became a major part of the Russian-dominated German Democratic Republic (East Germany). This puppet government held back free trade, allowed no religion, and kept the people in bondage for more than 40 years. Instead of reconstructing the Altstadt (Old Town) and the famous Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), the totalitarian government chose to build cheap concrete (socialist modern) buildings and even destroyed the remains of many historic structures.
During the time when Vladimir Putin was the KGB (Secret Service) chief in Dresden, civil disobedience began spreading throughout the area, and within a couple of years, Germany was reunified. This brought tremendous changes to Dresden, including reconstruction of the Frauenkirche as a symbol of reconciliation between East and West Germany.
Even before the original Frauenkirche was finished in 1743, it became famous in 1736 when Johann Sebatstian Bach gave a recital with the church organ in December of that year. After completion, the unique dome was similar to Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome and stood 96 meters above the Old Town. It became known to the Germans as Die Steinerne Glocke (The Stone Bell), and could be seen from vantage points throughout the Elbe River Valley.
The Frauenkirchein NeumarThe Ceiling Inside the Fra…Using primarily privately raised funds, the restoration of the Frauenkirche was completed in 2005, and is today a beautiful reminder of the resilience of the people of Dresden. This historic church is the centerpiece of Neumarkt Square, which is a part of the urban renewal that brought the Old Town back to life.
Another important part of restoring Dresden was the connection over the Elbe River from the Old Town to the New Town. The bridge known as the Augustusbrucke was first constructed in 1727 and later reconstructed in 1907. It is still a picturesque part of the Dresden community, especially when almost 200-year-old paddlewheelers are seen on the river.