Facts and figures
The first historical records referring to Chemnitz date from 1143. A Benedictine monastery founded seven years earlier was the centre of the original market town. The early heart of the city was the Schloßberg hill, where today the Schloßberg Museum of City History still stands. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I granted Chemnitz the rights of an imperial city in 1170. The oldest building in the city centre is the Roter Turm (Red Tower), which was erected in the latter part of the 12th century. Over the years, it has been part of the city’s fortifications, the seat of the town magistrate, and a prison. It was also the model for bottles of washing-up liquid from East German brand “fit”!
Chemnitz’s history of textile production began at an early stage in its development: it was granted the right to establish a textile bleaching facility in the 14th century. The industrial revolution of the 19th century led to a dramatic increase in the city’s population, with the number of residents reaching 100,000 for the first time in 1883. Factory buildings dominated the landscape at that time. But the city was also expanding outwards: the Kaßberg area close to the city centre was settled in around 1870, and soon grew to become Europe’s largest Gründerzeit and art nouveau-influenced neighbourhood. The centre itself was meanwhile becoming a beating heart for the city.
However, there was a major setback on the night of 5 March 1945: the city centre was almost completely destroyed in a single night of bombing raids. The ensuing reconstruction was overseen by socialist city planners. They built streets wide enough to hold parades and lined with prefabricated buildings, the Karl Marx monument – one of the largest portrait busts in the world – a new city hall and hotel tower. To solidify Chemnitz’s image as a model socialist city, it was renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1953.
It did not revert to its former name until a referendum was held on 1 June 1990. Since then, Chemnitz has become the lively centre of a region that is home to more than a million people – with attractive job opportunities and plenty of cultural and leisure activities to explore.
The Tourist Information Office runs a monthly city tour that includes a visit to the Roter Turm. There, you can also take in an exhibition of these and other famous Chemnitz residents. Group tours can be run on request.Book a Roter Turm city tour. Find out more about other famous Chemnitz residents here.