Erich Kästner (February 23, 1899 – July 29, 1974) was not only a renowned writer, but also a child of Dresden Neustadt. His 125th birthday provides the perfect opportunity to explore his roots and his unforgettable connection to the city of Dresden.
Kästner's early years in Dresden
Erich Kästner was born in a small attic flat at Königsbrücker Straße 66. His childhood in Dresden was characterised by modest circumstances, where his mother worked at home sewing waistbands.
It was from here that he conquered his Dresden. He described it in his memoir "Als ich ein kleiner Junge war" (When I was a little boy), lovingly and, as always, with a good dose of humour.
Kästner attended school in Dresden and then a teacher training seminar. Here he experienced the drill of recruit training. The end of the war prevented his deployment to the front. His early literary talent was already evident at König-Georg-Gymnasium, where he published his first poem in the school newspaper.
Image: The young Kästner sits on the wall of today's Erich Kästner Museum on Albertplatz. The figure was created by Mathyas Varga (1999). The poet often visited his uncle's villa as a child.
„My favourite thing to do was to sit on the garden wall and watch the hustle and bustle on Albertplatz.”
Works, war and reconstruction
Having already established himself as a writer, Erich Kästner experienced the burning of his books in Berlin in 1933. Works such as "Emil and the Detectives" and "Fabian" had already achieved cult status by then. The fact that he nevertheless remained in Germany also had to do with Dresden. More specifically, with his beloved mother, without whom life was unimaginable for him.
The destruction of Dresden in February 1945 hit Kästner hard. He described it as the loss of his hometown, which was "witched off the face of the earth".
It is not witchcraft that much of what Kästner lamented as a loss has been restored to its former splendour. The Residential Palace, the Zwinger, the Semper Opera House or the Neumarkt with the "old miracle building" Frauenkirche, in which Kästner "sometimes sang along to motets", the Japanese Palace, where he "swotted as a doctoral student". Or the Kavaliershäuschen in the Great Garden, where the young Kästner would have liked to live.
Picture: The Erich Kästner memorial by Wolf-Eike Kuntsche (1990) is located on Albertplatz, at the beginning of Alaunstraße.
„Dresden was a wonderful city, full of art and history and yet not a museum inhabited by six hundred and fifty thousand Dresdeners by chance. The past and the present lived together in harmony.”
Erich Kästner Haus für Literatur
Erich Kästner left behind a rich cultural legacy in Dresden, which is not only reflected in his literary works, but is also anchored in the city's lively cultural awareness. His deep roots in Dresden can still be felt today in a variety of events, memorials and especially in the Erich Kästner Museum.
This museum, located in the villa that once belonged to his wealthy uncle, the horse dealer Augustin, today symbolises Kästner's legacy. It is not only a "mobile interactive micromuseum®", minimalist in concept, but also a rich treasure trove on the author's life and work.
A special attraction is the bronze statue of the little boy sitting on the wall of the villa - a silent but impressive symbol of Kästner's enduring connection to the city of his birth.
Image: The Erich Kästner Museum in Dresden, the city where the poet was born, was founded in 1999 and opened in 2000. It is located in the "Villa Augustin" at Antonstraße 1, in the centre of the Innere Neustadt district, close to Albertplatz.