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38th IVU World Vegetarian Congress

Dresden, Germany

Sunday July 27 - Sunday August 3, 2008

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Dresden in 1908

Old postcards of Dresden

click on pictures for bigger images

Altmarkt (old market)

Altstadt (old town)


Galerie & Theater

Palais & Teich im Grossen Garten

Kathkirche & Kolschloss

Hauptbanhoff (station)

Das Hostheater

Zwinger & Hopienkirche

Zwinger mit D. Theater

Neumarkt & Frauenkirche 1903

An attempt to give an impression of what Dresden was like at the time of the founding of IVU in 1908. The text is from 'Dresden : Tuesday 13 February 1945' by Frederick Taylor; published by Bloomsbury 2004. The book is mainly concerned with the bombing of Dresden in 1945, but gives a useful historical background. The pictures on the right are from old postcards.


So, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Goethe's friend, the writer Johann Gottffried Herder, was able to remark: 'In respect of its cultural treasures, Dresden has become a German Florence.' The description stuck. Elbflorenz - Florence on the Elbe - became the accepted version, found everywhere from tourist guides to political speeches.

It was not only the buildings that earned Dresden it flattering title. The middle of the nineteenth century saw such cultural giants as Carl Maria von Weber, Schumann, Wagner, Caspar David Friedrich, and Ibsen settle on the Elbe, many with salaried jobs paid for by the crown.

. . .

The first paddle steamer, the Queen Maria, took to the Elbe in 1837. Others followed, the foundation of a fleet that still plies the river today. In 1839 the first railway line between Leipzig and Dresden was finished, the first between two major German cities.

. . .

The young Richard Wagner had been living in Dresden for some years when he was appointed conductor of the Royal Opera there in 1843. Rienzi and The Flying Dutchman were both premiered there. Tannhäuser and Lohengrin were written there. He started to map out what was later to become the Song of Nibelungen there.

. . .

. . . inhabitants . . . in 1876 . . . 187,500, thirty years later [1906] . . . 517,000 . . . foreigners resident in Dresden . . . twenty eight thousand . . . four thousand or more British and American.

. . .

[late 19th century] The lingering responsibility of being the capital of a state with warlike ambitions finally fell away, and as a result the city became a much more easy going place, known all over Europe and in the Americas for its beauty, its civilized amenities, and a general style of life that would toward the end of the twentieth century be described as 'laid back.'

The four decades between German unification and the outbreak of the First World War witnessed a new blooming of Augustus the Strong's historic city that paralleled, even exceeded, the development of other parts of the Reich. A fourfold increase in population was mostly accommodated in carefully proportioned apartment blocks and fast-growing but spacious and rustic suburbs. With railways now crisscrossing Europe like vital arteries and veins, there was a boom in mass tourist traffic that put Dresden even more firmly at the heart of European artistic and cultural life. And the time witnessed a rapid expansion of the modern consumer industries, which Dresden not only adopted but also, in a disproportionate number of cases, actually originated.

The brassiere was invented in Dresden by a Fräulein Christine Hardt in 1889. The city could also claim to have been the first place in Europe to manufacture the cigarette (initially by hand, later by machine), the coffee filter, the tea bag, squeezable toothpaste ('Chlorodont') - and the latex condom. Oh, and it became a key center of the typewriter and the camera industries. Seidal and Naumann's classic Erika prtable typewriter became world famous. Carl Zeiss may have ground his special lenses and mirrors in Jena, but when it came to producing cameras for the public, it was the nimble fingers and sharp eyes of thousands of Dresden workers he relied on. Many other companies would build camera factories in Dresden, not just Zeiss, making it the city's most important single industry.

The common element was affordable luxury, artifacts conceived to provide pleasure to the vastly increased number of relatively ordinary people who had money, leisure, and taste - or at least aspiration.

So came the turn of the twentieth century. Dresden seemed symbolic of the best of old and new.

Largely owing to the imposition of strict planning - Dresden was the first city in the world to accept the notion of zoned development - it had grown to a metropolis of four hundred thousand . . . while still retaining its reputation as a garden spot among european cities. New factories were not allowed in the oldest parts of the city, though some workshops and yards quietly survived, and business went on. Some of the newer buildings - the new royal ministries on the north bank of the Elbe, the neo-classical museum and archive building known as the Albertium after the king who ordered its construction in the 1880s - were criticized as disproportionately massive in the Prussian style and made from hard alien stones, but generally Dresden was not ruined or made ugly in the process of accommodating its increased population and supplying it with employment.

Although the heart of the city had been densely built upon, the royal parks and the municipal green spaces had survived. It was decided back in the 1840s that the new railways would not be allowed to either drive through the historic center or to ring Dresden and deform its suburbs as they had elsewhere.

. . .

Particularly in the heart of Dresden, the prosperous and the struggling citizen coexisted side by side to a remarkable degree, as they had since the Middle Ages, but in far more salubrious conditions. This was a good place to live. By the standards of the early twentieth century elsewhere in Europe and North America, very good indeed.

So Dresden became a popular tourist destination, leading to the bulding of a host of comfortable hotels and boarding houses, as well as places of entertainment and restaurants. Moreover, many well-off Europeans and Americans came for long visits, or even settled permanently. With its enviable architecture and lively (but not too avant-garde) cultural traditions, pleasant climate, magnificent surrounding countryside, and relatively low cost of living, the Saxon capital attracted thousands of such foreigners as long-term residents. There were . . . British, American, and Russian churches. There was also an international finishing school for young ladies. This was connected to the fact that in winter, much of the central European haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy visited Dresden for society balls - which doubled as discreet marriage markets.


Dresden, February 14, 1945


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