Bruchsal (orig. Bruohselle, Bruaselle) is a city at the western edge of the Kraichgau, approximately 20 km northeast of Karlsruhe in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is located on Bertha Benz Memorial Route.
Bruchsal is the largest city in the district of Karlsruhe and is known for being Europe's largest asparagus producer and one of the economic centers of the region of Karlsruhe. The Bruchsal area also includes the cities and towns of Bad Schönborn, Forst, Hambrücken, Karlsdorf-Neuthard, Kraichtal, Kronau, Oberhausen-Rheinhausen, Östringen, Philippsburg, Ubstadt-Weiher and Waghäusel. Until 1972 Bruchsal was the seat of the district of Bruchsal, which was merged into the district of Karlsruhe as a result of the district reform, effective January 1, 1973.
Bruchsal's population passed the 20,000 mark around 1955. When the new Body of Municipal Law for Baden-Württemberg went into effect on April 1, 1956, the city was therefore immediately awarded Große Kreisstadt status. In addition, Bruchsal cooperates with the neighboring communities of Forst, Hambrücken and Karlsdorf-Neuthard in administrative matters.
Ancient era and early Middle Ages
Excavations and artifacts provide evidence of a settlement on the Michelsberg (Untergrombach) as early as 4000 BC during the Neolithic. In the core of Bruchsal the oldest settlement discovered was dated back to 640 AD. It is located near the present Peterskirche. The first mention of Bruchsal in official documents occurred in 976 when the King came to town. During October of the year 980, Otto II and his Court stayed at the King's palace in Bruchsal for several days.
Henry II became ruler of Bruchsal in 1002 following the subjugation of his rival Herrmann of Swabia. In 1056 Henry III presented the settlement to the bishop of Speyer (Konrad I) as a gift. The city remained part the diocese until the German Mediatisation in 1802. It also was the seat of an administrative district that originally only consisted of the core of Bruchsal (i.e., the city as it existed prior to the various district reforms). In 1067 Henry IV resided in Bruchsal from time to time. 1248 was the first time Bruchsal was referred to as a city, and in 1278 St. Peter's Church is mentioned for the first time. After extensive damage to both, the Palace and the Peterskirch were reconstructed in 1320. The Bergfried (an outlook and defensive tower bastion) was erected in 1358, and the city wall was completed in 1452. In 1460 the first coin was minted in Bruchsal.
1501 - 1750
In 1502 the first peasant revolt (Bundschuh), led by Joß Fritz of Untergrombach, chose Bruchsal as its target. Traitors to the rebellion allowed the authorities to take the revolt's leaders into custody. Ten were decapitated in the Bruchsal Palace courtyard. Joß Fritz got away and went into hiding in the Southern Black Forest. In 1525 the peasant revolts peaked. Inflation, hunger and the Plague added to the desperation, and the revolts were forcibly put down by the Prince. The known peasant leaders Hall, Wurm and the Minister Eisenhut were captured and decapitated in the Palace courtyard. During the 30 Years War in 1622 Bruchsal was completely destroyed, and in 1644 the French garrison in Philippsburg raided the city. In 1676 the French again destroyed parts of Bruchsal, and on August 10, 1689 the city was bombarded by the French general Duras and was completely destroyed. After that Bruchsal counted only 130 residents.
1751 - 1815
In 1753 the Schönborn Gymnasium was founded by Bishop von Hutten. In 1770 the new Bishop, Count August von Limburg-Stirum, took up office. Bruchsal now counted 6,000 residents. In 1796 French troops occupied the city. German Mediatisation turned all property owned by the Diocese of Speyer over to the House of Baden, and Bruchsal became the seat of the district court. The district then was divided and reunited several times through 1819.
In 1806 the Marquess Amalie of Baden, widowed since 1801, took up residence in Bruchsal's baroque château and lived there until 1823. She had 8 children of whom 6 were daughters, and she was known as Europe's mother-in-law. Amalie's son, the later Grand Duke Karl, was married to Stéphanie de Beauharnais, a niece of Napoleon's wife Josephine per orders given by Napoleon himself. In 1812 Stephanie gave birth to a son, who died after 14 days. This was the origin of the legend of Kaspar Hauser's nobility. Amalie's daughter Louise was married to Alexander I of Russia and became the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth Alexeievna. Amalie's daughter Friedericke wed Gustaf IV Adolf to become Queen of Sweden (though she asked for and received asylum in Bruchsal after 1807 due to the coup d'état of her husband's government). Amalie's daughter Maria was married to the Duke of Braunschweig, and two other daughters were married to the regents of Bavaria and of Hessen-Darmstadt.
In 1815, after Napoleon's reign was over, Bruchsal and Amalie entertained the following company in the baroque château at Bruchsal until the dust settled: The Russian Tsar, Prince Metternich, the King of Prussia, as well as his son, the later Emperor of Germany.
1816 - 1880
In 1841 the Rhine Valley Railway was completed between Heidelberg, Bruchsal, and Karlsruhe. In 1848/1849 the Baden Revolution did manage to stray into Bruchsal a bit. While the revolutionaries (Gustav Struve, Lorenz Brentano, Amand Goegg and others) met in the château, the burgers freed prisoners from the just-completed prison. This prison, the Old Palace, was the scene of executions well into World War II and even later. On June 23, 1849, the revolution was quelled by Crown Prince Wilhelm at the battle of Ubstadt. 1856 brought gas lighting to Bruchsal, and the city received Baden's Guillotine. In 1864 the district of Philippsburg was merged WITH the Bruchsal district, which now belonged to the newly formed "Greater Karlsruhe." On June 1, 1869 the first German railway signal factory, Schnabel-Henning, was founded in Bruchsal. Later it was merged with Siemens AG, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and 1871 made Bruchsal an important rail hub for the provisioning of German troops.
1881 - 1945
In 1881 a Jewish synagogue was built. The Industrial Revolution brought economic growth, mostly with the help of the railway and the area's tobacco and hops production. 1889 gave residents in Bruchsal their first telephones, and in 1906 the Prince-Styrum Hospital was built. The city's slaughterhouse opened in 1908, and World War I again turned Bruchsal into a major hub on the supply line for the troops. Immediately after the war, in 1919 and 1920 the city was wired for electricity. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 the city's residents took it in their stride. In 1934 the Autobahn was built between Heidelberg and Bruchsal, and in 1936 the Bretten district was merged with the Bruchsal district. In 1938 the Nazis destroyed the synagogue (in its place stands a fire station today), and the Jewish part of the population was deported. In 1939 the District Bruchsal became the district of Bruchsal, which included 38 towns and cities until it was merged into Karlsruhe (district) during the district reform of 1970. On the afternoon of March 1, 1945, Bruchsal was bombed by the Allies. At the time of the attack, the war was essentially over, with the front lines only 20 km from the city limits and nearly no one left to defend it. To this day, that particular attack upsets residents as the consensus is that it had been staged even though unnecessary and inconsequential to the outcome of the war. There are allegations that the attack by U.S. bombers was conducted in retaliation for the killing of a parachuted pilot by farmers. In addition to the 1,000 lives that perished that day, the entire inner city and the baroque château were destroyed. On April 2, 1945, allied forces took Bruchsal without resistance.
1946 to the present
Starting from 1 April 1956 Bruchsal was awarded the Große Kreisstadt status, as its population had passed the 20,000 mark in 1955. Between 1971 and 1974 the district reform incorporated 5 neighbouring communities into the city of Bruchsal, including the cities of Heidelsheim and Obergrombach. The district reform in 1973 also effected the incorporation of the district of Bruchsal into the Karlsruhe (district). As a result, Bruchsal lost its district seat status, though it still remains a major economic centre of the region.
During the district reform in the early 1970s the following cities and towns became part of the City of Bruchsal. Before the district reform these all were part of Bruchsal (district).