Kassel is a city located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the seat of the Regierungsbezirk Kassel and the Kreis of the same name and has 200,507 inhabitants in December 2015. The former capital of the state of Hesse-Kassel has many palaces and parks, including the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel is also known for the documenta exhibitions of contemporary art. The citys name is derived from the ancient Castellum Cattorum, a castle of the Chatti, Kassel was first mentioned in 913 AD, as the place where two deeds were signed by King Conrad I. The place was called Chasella and was a fortification at a crossing the Fulda river. A deed from 1189 certifies that Cassel had city rights, 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 its capital and became a centre of Calvinist Protestantism in Germany, strong fortifications were built to protect the Protestant stronghold against Catholic enemies. Secret societies, such as Rosicrucianism flourished, with Christian Rosenkreutz’s work Fama Fraternitis first published in 1617, in 1685, Kassel became a refuge for 1,700 Huguenots who found shelter in the newly established borough of Oberneustadt. Landgrave Charles, who was responsible for this act, also ordered the construction of the Oktagon. In the early 19th century, the Brothers Grimm lived in Kassel and they collected and wrote most of their fairy tales there. At that time, around 1803, the Landgraviate was elevated to a Principality, shortly after, it was annexed by Napoleon and in 1807 it became the capital of the short-lived Kingdom of Westphalia under Napoleons brother Jérôme. The Electorate was restored in 1813, having sided with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War to gain supremacy in Germany, the principality 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. Henschel & Son, the largest railway locomotive manufacturer in Germany at the end of the century, was based in Kassel. In 1870, after the Battle of Sedan, Napoleon III was sent as a prisoner to the castle of Wilhelmshohe above the city, during World War I the German military headquarters were located in the castle of Wilhelmshohe. In the late 1930s Nazis destroyed Heinrich Hübschs Kassel Synagogue, the most severe bombing of Kassel in World War II destroyed 90% of the downtown area, some 10,000 people were killed, and 150,000 were made homeless. Most of the casualties were civilians or wounded soldiers recuperating in local hospitals, Karl Gerland replaced the regional Gauleiter, Karl Weinrich, soon after the raid. The Allied ground advance into Germany reached Kassel at the beginning of April 1945, post-war, most of the ancient buildings were not restored, and large parts of the city area were completely rebuilt in the style of the 1950s
Kassel, 16th century
A map of Kassel in 1648.
Königsstrasse, the main shopping street
Installation by Thomas Schütte during Documenta IX, 1992