Following Arnoldstraße toward the Elbe, you will reach location 6: Thomas-Müntzer-Platz.
Before 1945: Field marshalls, floods and flight
The area now known as Thomas-Müntzer-Platz
first came to be in 1904, under the name Feldherrenplatz (General Square). Its name referred to the bordering street, Feldherrenstraße (today Florian-Geyer-Straße). It is possible that Feldherrenstraße was given its name in honor of then Crown Prince—later King—Albert’s appointment to General Field Marshall in 1871. The space remained undeveloped until about 1912. After 1912, buildings at number 3, 4 and 5 sprang up one right after the other. They were constructed by Striesen master carpenter and building firm owner, Max Albin Förster. Three years later came houses number 6 and 7, by surveyor Hans Gentsch and the building industry’s Friedrich E. Hermann, and number 10, by Wachtel & Voigt. From 1915 onward, the office of the 25th police precinct was located in house no. 1. The new houses were primarily occupied by well-to-do citizens of Dresden, including court actors, art dealers, engineers, a bank officer, a factory owner and a city building inspector.
Antons Bad on the Elbe, not far from the Fährgarten (ferry grounds), became a beloved local spot for swimming and excursions. The elected chief river inspector, Christian Gottlob Anton, acquired the plot of land in 1754, which had previously been home to a lime kiln. He received permission to both construct a house with a garden and to run an inn with a distillery, bakery and butcher shop. His building was based on the rococo style of French country house. In 1922, the city of Dresden built a light and air bath on the property (see picture below). The bombs that fell on Dresden in 1945 destroyed Antons Bad. Today, all that is left to mark the former site is a hedge growing next the Elbe.
Find more information on the history of Antons Bad here.
Hydroplane port, Dresden – Hamburg
Dresden, 1925. A first in Europe: the establishment of a hydroplane route along the Elbe between Dresden-Johannstadt and Altona bei Hamburg, with a stopover in Magdeburg, through Junkers Luftverkehr AG. The company aimed to set up regular air travel on the Elbe with Junkers F13 hydroplanes, initially for three months. For flight check-in, they used the extant rowing club building (which now belongs to the sports field). To the cheers of an excited public, the first plane took off from the banks of Johannstadt on August 10, 1925, near what was once Gneisenaustraße (today Bundschuhstraße). Just one year later, the hydroplane route had proved to be uneconomical: after the 1926 summer season, the line ceased operations that fall.
Find more information on the history of the hydroplane port here.
After 1945: Fährgarten and festivals
Feldherrenplatz becomes Thomas-Müntzer-Platz
Unlike a large portion of its surroundings, Feldherrenplatz survived the aerial attack of 1946 unharmed. At building no. 9, an old marker designating shelters for war casualties can still be made out. Starting in 1946, numerous streets in north Johannstadt received names relating to the peasant’s revolt (e.g., Bundschuhstraße, Pfeifferhannsstraße, Florian-Geyer-Straße). In the same vein, Feldherrenplatz received the name of the leader of the peasant’s revolt, Thomas Müntzer. After 1945, a track for carting away rubble ran across the square and was used into the mid-1950s to transport rubble out from the ruins of Johannstadt and into fields along the Elbe (Elbwiesen).
Elbwiesen after 1945
After the end of the war, large swaths of the Johannstädter Elbwiesen—from Käthe-Kollwitz-Ufer to the Waldschlösschen bridge—were piled up with rubble and as such, noticeably raised. A collection of the rubble unearthed during the construction of a car park at Waldschlößchen bridge in 2007 is on display in the Wohnkultur exhibition in the JohannStadthalle. After the ruins were removed in 1958, the area of Antons Bad was used initially for an allotment garden, named Elbfrieden II. Plans to build an international campground in the 1970s could never be implemented because the area was situated within a flood zone. The Elbwiesen (Elbe fields) are used today as a local recreation area, as well as an event site for the Johannstädter Elbefest in the summer and the kite festival in the fall.
Johannstädter Festspiele and Elbefest
The Johannstädter Festspiele on the Elbwiesen was started in 1973 by the Stadtbezirk Dresden-Mitte. The three-day event was conceived as a folk festival and offered entertainment for young and old. In 1983, it had 70,000 visitors, who in total consumed 7,000 liters of beer and 12,600 fish buns at the Konsum “steamboat-stand”. The Johannstädter Festspiele took place 14 times, right up until the end of the GDR: the final event was held from September 8th to 10th, 1989. In 2001, the tradition of was revived by the Wohnungsgenossenschaft Johannstadt (WGJ) as the yearly Johannstädter Elbefest. Since 2018, the Elbefest has been organized by the JohannStadthalle e.V..
On August 15, 1998, almost 100 volunteers answered the call of then head councilman, Dr. Dietrich Ewers (1939-2018), and plunged into the not yet quite clean waters of the Elbe (quality grade 2) at the Blaues Wunder, swimming three kilometers downstream to receive a free drink and a bratwurst from host, Jens Bauermeister. This tradition has lasted until today. In 2018, 1,789 people took part in the Elbeschwimmen – a new record. Dr. Dietrich Ewers led the swim until 2016. Born in Magdeburg, he had lived at Thomas-Müntzer-Platz since 1965, and was an original Johannstädter. With the fall of the wall, the former mechanical engineer for Robotron entered politics, became a city councillor for the SPD and in 1990, took over the leadership of Altstadt local authority for the next 14 years. Besides the Elbeschwimmen, the Dresden Marathon e.V. and the Vietnamese Garden in Johannstadt were also created thanks to his efforts.
Find more information on the Johannstädter Elbeschwimmen here.
Text: Matthias Erfurth, Matthias Kunert, Henning Seidler