Sitting prettily in the geographical center of Thuringia, Weimar occupies a place in German political and cultural history completely disproportionate to its size (population 63,000). It's not even particularly old by German standards, with a civic history that started as late as 1410. Yet by the early 19th century the city had become one of Europe's most important cultural centers, where poets Goethe and Schiller wrote,
Johann Sebastian Bach played the organ for his Saxon patrons, Carl Maria von Weber composed some of his best music, and Franz Liszt was director of music, presenting the first performance of Lohengrin here. In 1919 Walter Gropius founded his Staatliches Bauhaus here, and behind the classical pillars of the National Theater the German National Assembly drew up the constitution of the Weimar Republic, the first German democracy. As the Weimar Republic began to collapse in 1926, Hitler chose the little city as the site for the second national congress of his Nazi party, where he founded the Hitler Youth. On the outskirts of Weimar the Nazis built—or forced prisoners to build for them—the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp.