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Kassel [ˈkasl̩] (until 1926 officially Cassel) is a city situated on the Fulda River in northern Hesse in western-central Germany. Kassel is the administrative seat of the Kassel administrative region (Regierungsbezirk) and of the district (Kreis)of the same name. The city has 194,146 inhabitants (2003) and covers an area of 106.77 square kilometers. Geographic location .
The city's name is derived from the ancient Castellum Cattorum, a castle of the Chatti, a German tribe that has lived in the area since Roman times.
Kassel as such is first mentioned in 913 as the place where two deeds were signed by king Conrad of Franconia. The place was called Chasella and was a fortification at a bridge crossing the Fulda river. A deed from 1189 certifies that Kassel had city rights, but the date of their conveyance is not known.
In 1567 the landgraviate of Hesse, until then centered in Marburg, was divided among four sons, with Hesse-Kassel becoming one of its successor states. Kassel was the capital and became a centre of Protestantism in Germany. Strong fortifications were built to protect the Protestant stronghold against Catholic enemies. In 1685 Kassel became a refuge for 1700 Huguenots who found shelter in the newly established borough of Oberneustadt. Landgrave Charles, who was responsible for this humanitarian act, also ordered the construction of the Oktogon and of the Orangerie (see sights). Hesse-Kassel later became infamous for selling mercenaries (Hessians) to the British crown to help suppress the American Revolution and to finance the construction of palaces and the landgrave's opulent lifestyle.
In the early 19th century the Brothers Grimm lived in Kassel and collected and wrote their fairy tales. At this time (1803) the landgravate was elevated to an electorate. Shortly after, it was annexed by Napoleon and, in 1807 became the capital of the short-lived Kingdom of Westphalia under Napoleon's brother Jérôme. The electorate was restored in 1813.
Having sided with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War for supremacy in Germany, the electorate was annexed by Prussia in 1866. The Prussian administration united Nassau, Frankfurt and Hesse-Kassel into the new Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. Kassel ceased to be a princely residence, but soon developed into a major industrial centre as well as a major railway junction.
During World War II, during the night of October 22/23, 1943, 569 British bombers razed Kassel (see: Bombing of Kassel in World War II), destroying 90% of the city centre; some 10,000 people died in the raid and 150,000 were rendered homeless, in a firestorm comparable to the one in Hamburg in July 1943. The attack had been disguised by a feint attack on Frankfurt am Main that commenced five minutes before the raid on Kassel. By far most of the casualties were civilians or wounded soldiers recuperating in local hospitals, whereas Kassel's heavy weapons factories survived the attack generally undamaged. The attack included one of the most accurate target markings since the Hamburg firestorm raid. On the night of the Kassel firestorm raid RAF Bomber Command introduced Operation Corona to confuse the German nightfighters, making the raid a complete success.
After the war, most of the ancient buildings were not restored, and large parts of the city centre were completely rebuilt in the style of the 1950s. A few historic buildings, however, such as the Museum Fridericianum (see below), were restored.
There is a frequently repeated legend among Kassel citizens alleging that the city was close to becoming the provisional capital of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. It is true that the interim parliament ("Parlamentarischer Rat") was at that time considering a new location for the capital, since Berlin was then a special administrative region controlled directly by the allies and surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation. A number of cities were proposed to host the federal government, but Kassel was eliminated in the first round. Most of the members of the German constitutional assembly (as well as the U.S. Supreme Command) favoured Frankfurt am Main where the Hessian administration had already started the construction of a plenary assembly hall . In the end Bonn won after Chancellor Adenauer intervened emphatically for Bonn which was only fifteen kilometers away from his hometown.
Kassel is twinned with
- Florence, Italy since 1952
- Izmit, Turkey since 1999
- Mulhouse, France since 1965
- Ramat Gan, Israel since 1990
- Rovaniemi, Finland since 1972
- Västerås, Sweden since 1972
- Yaroslavl, Russia since 1988
- Berlin-Tiergarten Berlin/Germany since 1962
- Arnstadt, Thuringia/Germany since 1989
Due to the destruction of 1943, the city was almost completely rebuilt in the 1950s. Hence there are very few old buildings in the centre. The oldest monument is the "Druselturm". The "Brüderkirche" and the St. Martin Church are also in part of medieval origin, but the towers of St. Martin are from the 1950s.
What historic buildings have survived are mainly outside the center of town. Wilhelmshöhe Palace, above the city, was built in 1786 by landgrave Wilhelm IX of Hesse-Kassel. The palace is surrounded by a park where more sights can be found. The Oktagon is a huge octagonal stone structure surmounted by a replica of Hercules by Benvenuto Cellini. The Löwenburg ("Lions Castle") is a replication of a medieval castle, also established by Wilhelm IX. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 Napoléon III was imprisoned in Wilhelmshöhe. In 1918 Wilhelmshöhe became seat of the German Army Command (OHL): it was there that the military commanders Hindenburg and Ludendorff prepared the German capitulation.
Another large park is the Karlsaue along the Fulda River. Established in the 16th century, it is famous for the Orangerie, a palace built in 1710 as a summer residence for the landgraves. Today there is also a planetarium in the park.
Kassel is scene of the Documenta, an important international exhibition of modern and contemporary art. Museums include: Wilhelmshöhe Palace (Antiquities Collection and Old Masters'), Museum für Sepulkralkultur (the only German Museum of the culture of funerals); Art Gallery (Albrecht Dürer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Franz Hals, Antoon van Dyck ), New Gallery (Tischbein Family, Joseph Beuys).
In 1558 the first German observatory was built in Kassel, followed in 1604 by the Ottoneum, the first permanent theatre building, and in 1779 by Europe's first public museum, named the Museum Fridericianum after its founder. By the end of the 19th century the museum held one of the largest collections in the world of watches and clocks.
Famous inhabitants of Kassel include Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte; the Brothers Grimm; Paul Reuter; and Philipp Scheidemann. Also Astrid Proll and her brother Thorwald, members of the German terrorist group the Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang), were born here in 1947 and 1941 respectively.
- Kassel City Panoramas - Panoramic views and Virtual Tours
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