Dresden Stadtmuseum (city museum)

  (   if you know German)  - darkometer rating:  2 -
A museum about Dresden, mainly its history, including the fateful Allied bombing in 1945, located in the city centre. The dark aspects are only one part, but worth seeing when in town.   

>What there is to see


>Access and costs

>Time required

>Combinations with other dark destinations

>Combinations with non-dark destinations


What there is to see: The museum consists of two rather distinct parts. The first few rooms/halls chronicle various older aspects of Dresden's 800 years of history. Since hardly anything of that is relevant to dark tourism, I just sped through those parts – and won't waste space reporting on it here.
The section of interest to the dark tourist is the third hall on modern history which is entitled "Demokratie & Diktatur" (you guessed it – it means: 'democracy and dictatorship'). It is also in this section that the bombing of Dresden is covered.
Before it comes to that, however, there are bits about WWI and the time of the Weimar Republic before the Nazis when the city flourished culturally and economically. Some interesting aspects include the bizarre "Kugelhaus" a completely spherical steel house, a then unique piece of modern architecture from 1928. It was demolished in 1938 – apparently because it offended the Nazis' infamously narrow-minded sense of aesthetics.   
Then of course things get much darker: the Nazis' rise to power, their propaganda and eventually the persecution and extermination of Jews in the Third Reich are covered, including film footage of deportations and camps, diaries and a pocket calendar of a Theresienstadt prisoner.
The whole room is bisected by a kind of wedge, which highlights the most significant turning point in Dresden's history; the destruction of the city centre by Allied bombing in February 1945. Inside the "wedge" is a narrow exhibition space on this subject.
At the far end is a screen onto which images of aerial bombing destruction are projected. It is quite cleverly done in that the changing images are only labelled by captions after a few seconds. And not all of them are from Dresden, but also include images from other bombed cities such as Rotterdam and Warsaw – both bombed by German planes.
The images of the cities reduced to rubble look strikingly similar. That way it is made clear that both sides were guilty of such bombing of civilian "targets" without resorting to much finger-pointing or didactic evaluation (as is often the case at sites with a similar history – see e.g. Hamburg's Nikolaikirche). Here, the images are left to speak for themselves. And they do.
Also in this room is a whole shelf with books about the bombing of Dresden which are worth some intense browsing. On the opposite wall are a few artefacts in a small glass display cabinet. Amongst them are rusty binoculars and glass bottles welded together and deformed by the heat of the firestorm. Especially shocking are also some small photographic images of the heaps of corpses of those killed and charred in the fires …
Outside the wedge is another artefact pertaining to the bombing, namely a twisted piece of rusty metal that is a partially ruptured bomb casing.
But then you proceed to the other half of the hall where the topic is that of post-WWII Dresden and the socialist GDR era. Here, products from the era (presumably made in Dresden) are on display, as are models of typical apartments in that kind of practical but aesthetically a bit stuffy GDR design.
Some of the socialist propaganda of the day is also to be seen, both in the form of posters as well as in that of medals featuring hammer and sickles galore but also more unusual images, such as that of a cow … apparently it was a medal given to a worker who was exceptionally good at milking cows in some state-owned agricultural collective farm.
Towards the end of this section we move towards the end of the GDR in the peaceful revolution of 1989 which led to Germany's reunification. A rather funny item here was a poster of Erich Honecker that was "tampered with" in the form of black lines drawn from top to bottom so that it looks like he's behind bars (and he also has a red dot on his forehead – as if he's been shot in the brow … somebody must really have hated the guy …).
In addition to the display of artefacts, documents, models and so on, there are also a few interactive audio-visual stations with headphones provided. Not all of these stations were working, though, when I visited (March 2013 ... but I have been told that meanwhile they've been fixed).
One severe limitation of the exhibition from the point of view of international visitors is that only some general informational text panels feature a translation into English, while most exhibit labels and other materials are in German only, including the interactive multimedia screens. Moreover, the quality of the translations, where they are provided, is occasionally quite dubious. So foreign visitors who cannot read German sufficiently well lose out quite a bit here. Still, many objects more or less speak for themselves so it's still worth a look even so.
Downstairs behind the reception/ticket counter is a huge shop – but unfortunately I can't comment on its offerings as it was already closing by the time I got down there from the exhibition.
All in all, a worthwhile museum to pop into when in the city, if only for a cursory look at most of it except for the modern history section, which deserves a little more time. But if you can't find the time to go there, you won't have missed all that much either. Regard it as a little bonus when in Dresden, but don't expect too much.  
Location: right in the heart of Dresden's historic (reconstructed) old city centre, namely wedged between the wide main road of Wilsdruffer Straße and the smaller Landhausstraße (where the entrance is) at the eastern edge of the inner core of the old town.
Google maps locator: [51.05013,13.74299]
Access and costs: very central, not too expensive.  
Details: From anywhere within the centre of Dresden it's no more than a few minutes' walk to the museum. Wilsdruffer Straße is the main road that bisects the inner core of the old town and the museum is at its eastern end. The entrance, however, is round the corner on Landhausstraße, only one block from the Neumarkt square with the famous Frauenkirche (see under Dresden).  
If you're coming from further away you can use the tram: lines 1, 2 and 4 have a stop (called Pirnaischer Platz) right outside the museum on Wilsdruffer Straße.
The opening times of the museum are: Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Fridays an hour longer; closed on Mondays.

Admission: 5 EUR (concession 4 EUR) – free on Fridays after 12 noon (unless it's a public holiday).
Time required: If you're prepared to skip the older parts and just want to concentrate on the modern history sections, then an hour should easily suffice, unless your German is good enough for reading all the texts and using the interactive screens, in which case up to two hours could be a more reasonable estimate.   
Combinations with other dark destinations: see under Dresden in general.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: in general see under Dresden. Given the museum's very central location, most of the top mainstream attractions of the fabled old town are just a few minutes' walk away, including the Frauenkirche, which is just round the corner.
Contrasting (too harshly so, some say) is a piece of very modern architecture that is actually attached to the museum's mixed baroque and classicist facade, namely the hyper-modern design of the fire escape, which looks more like an art installation than anything of such mundane practical use. I like such architectural contrasts (see also Military History Museum!)
  • Stadtmuseum 0 - outsideStadtmuseum 0 - outside
  • Stadtmuseum 1 - indication of main focusStadtmuseum 1 - indication of main focus
  • Stadtmuseum 2 - extravagant fire escape stirsStadtmuseum 2 - extravagant fire escape stirs
  • Stadtmuseum 3 - the important sectionStadtmuseum 3 - the important section
  • Stadtmuseum 4 - exhibition with bomb shellStadtmuseum 4 - exhibition with bomb shell
  • Stadtmuseum 5 - destructionStadtmuseum 5 - destruction
  • Stadtmuseum 6 - glass melted in the firestormStadtmuseum 6 - glass melted in the firestorm
  • Stadtmuseum 7 - another firestorm relicStadtmuseum 7 - another firestorm relic
  • Stadtmuseum 8 - socialist era sectionStadtmuseum 8 - socialist era section
  • Stadtmuseum 9 - main stairsStadtmuseum 9 - main stairs


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