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Dessau is a district of the independent city of Dessau-Roßlau in
Saxony-Anhalt. Until July 1, 2007 Dessau was an independent city.
Measured by the number of inhabitants, Dessau was the third largest
city in Saxony-Anhalt after Halle (Saale) and Magdeburg (the second
largest in terms of area) and one of the three regional centers in
the state. The closest larger cities are Halle (Saale), about 40 km
southwest, Leipzig, about 52 km south, and Magdeburg, about 65 km
northwest. Historically, Dessau was the capital and residence of the
prince, later duchy of Anhalt-Dessau and Anhalt. 80% of the city was
destroyed in the air raids on Dessau in World War II.
Dessau is located in the middle of an extensive meadow landscape on both sides of the lower Mulde, which flows into the Elbe north of the city. The city is regularly threatened by floods, as the water in the Mulde can no longer drain into the Elbe after heavy rainfall and it backs up; in 2002 the district of Waldersee was completely flooded.
In the south the city borders on the wooded Mosigkauer Heide, in which the pigeon springs. Dessau is at an altitude of 61 m above sea level. NN. The highest point is the approx. 110 m high former garbage dump (Scherbelberg) in the southwest of the city. Dessau is surrounded by numerous palaces and parks and is therefore one of the greenest cities in Germany.
12th to 20th century
As a trading center at the intersection of trade routes on the Mulde near its confluence with the Elbe at the end of the 12th century, Dessau was first mentioned in a document in 1213. The trading post developed into an agricultural town. For a long time already the castle of the Ascanians, Dessau became the permanent residence of the princes of Anhalt-Dessau and Anhalt in 1470. The conversion of the castle into a palace and the expansion of the Marienkirche were the first building activities of the princes to upgrade the residence. The city had only limited self-government, so that the history of the city is inextricably linked with the history of Anhalt-Dessau and the Princely House.
Initially, the Reformation was hesitantly accepted. As recently as 1526, Catholic princes in Dessau formed the Dessau Bund. 1534 the Reformation by George III. but officially introduced. In 1552, many inhabitants of Dessau fell victim to the plague and Prince Joachim evacuated the farm to Warmsdorf Castle near Güsten.
At the end of the 16th century, the city experienced an economic boom, which the Thirty Years War put an end. The Elbe Bridge near Roßlau made Dessau a marching area for numerous troops from all warring sides and the scene of a great battle in 1626, the Battle of the Elbe Bridge. It was not until the end of the 17th century that Dessau was able to pick up on the pre-war development, supported by the Prince's active settlement policy. A large Jewish community also developed. During the reign of Leopold I, the Old Dessau, Dessau was converted into a baroque residence and expanded.
In the second half of the 18th century under Prince Leopold III. Friedrich Franz Dessau became a center of the Enlightenment in Germany, which attracted European attention with a far-reaching reform work in education and national culture and the establishment of the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Empire as well as numerous buildings in the style of classicism.
The industrialization of the region began in 1844 with the establishment of the machine factory of the Sachsenberg brothers in Roßlau. Dessau became with the industrial companies u. the Berlin-Anhaltische Maschinenbau AG (BAMAG, founded 1872) and the Dessauer Waggonfabrik (1895) to a city of mechanical engineering and vehicle construction and with the Dessauer Actien Zucker Raffinerie founded in 1871 also the food industry. The aircraft construction of the later Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke, which was operated in Dessau from 1915, began in the local factory for gas bath stoves by Junkers & Co., founded in 1895.
The Bauhaus, founded in Weimar in 1919, was relocated to the Bauhaus Dessau building planned by Walter Gropius in 1925/26. On August 22, 1932, at the request of the NSDAP parliamentary group, the Dessau municipal council passed a resolution to dissolve the Bauhaus, with the SPD abstaining and the mayor voting against and the four votes from the KPD, on October 1, 1932. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe then led it continued as a private institution in Berlin until mid-1933.
Since 1918 the capital of the Free State of Anhalt, Dessau was initially an independent city, on January 1, 1932, the district town of the newly formed Dessau-Köthen district, after 1933, capital of the NSDAP district of Magdeburg-Anhalt and, through the incorporation of Roßlau, in 1935 a major city. As in many other German cities, the Old Synagogue was burned down during the Reichspogromnacht in 1938 and the Jews who remained were deported in the period that followed.
The city of Dessau and the Junkers aircraft and engine works on the outskirts of Dessau were the target of a total of 20 Allied air raids from 1940. Parts of the residential development on the south-western outskirts as well as railway systems were also damaged. On March 7, 1945, the densely populated city center of Dessau became the core target of a night British bombing raid under the Area Bombing Directive, with 520 heavy Lancaster bombers and 1,700 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs. The air strike killed 700 people and destroyed 80 percent of the built-up urban area. In the old town, almost 97 percent of all buildings were completely destroyed or irreversibly damaged. The historical cityscape with its churches, palace complexes, many public buildings, aristocratic and civil buildings was almost completely lost. The very high degree of destruction is due in particular to the combination of incendiary and high explosive bombs, including many air mines.
In the course of the reorganization and the ordinance of July 23, 1945, the state of Anhalt came to the province of Saxony on February 1, 1946 and together with it formed the new state of Saxony-Anhalt with the districts of Dessau, Magdeburg and Merseburg. The Roßlau district was spun off from the city of Dessau again.
After 1945 Dessau lost its capital city function, but was still
the seat of the district government until 1952 and was assigned to
the Halle district from 1952 onwards. The city center and several
cultural buildings were rebuilt in the style of the time. From 1972,
again temporarily in a large city, Dessau remained an industrial
city with a focus on machine, plant and wagon construction and
became the largest brewery location in the GDR era. After the fall
of 1989/1990, the industrial base was largely lost and high
unemployment led to the emigration of residents, which was countered
with incorporations. Dessau now came to the re-established state of
Saxony-Anhalt. The city was designated as the seat of the
administrative district of Dessau.
In April 1992, the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences was founded in the historic Bauhaus building in Dessau (today: Anhalt University of Applied Sciences) and in 1994 the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.
Dessau is located in the midst of an extensive meadow landscape
on both sides of the lower Mulde, which flows into the Elbe north of
the city. The city is regularly threatened by floods, as the water
in the Mulde can no longer drain into the Elbe after heavy rainfall
and it backs up; in 2002 the district of Waldersee was completely
In the south the city borders on the wooded Mosigkauer Heide, in which the pigeon springs. Dessau lies at an altitude of 61 m above sea level. NN. The highest point is the approx. 110 m high former garbage dump (Scherbelberg) in the southwest of the city. Dessau is surrounded by numerous palaces and parks and is therefore one of the greenest cities in Germany.