Göttingen (; Low German: Chöttingen) is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The River Leine runs through the town. In 2011 the population was 116,052.
The origins of Göttingen can be traced back to a village named Gutingi to the immediate south-east of the eventual city. The name of the village probably derives from a small stream, called the Gote, that once flowed through it. Since the ending -ing denoted "living by", the name can be understood as "along the Gote". Archaeological evidence points towards a settlement as early as the 7th century. It is first historically mentioned in a document by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I in 953 AD, in which the emperor gives some of his belongings in the village to the Moritz monastery in Magdeburg. Archaeological findings point to extensive commercial relations with other regions and a developed craftsmanship in this early period.
Imperial palace of Grona
In its early days, Gutingi was overshadowed by , historically documented from the year 915 AD as a newly built fortress, lying opposite Gutingi on a hill west of the River Leine. It was subsequently used as an Ottonian imperial palace, with 18 visits of kings and emperors documented between 941 and 1025 AD. The last Holy Roman Emperor to use the fortress of Grona (said to have been fond of the location), Heinrich II (1002–1024), also had a church built in the neighbouring Gutingi, dedicated to Saint Alban. The current church building that occupies this site, the St. Albani Church, was built in 1423.
The fortress then lost its function as a palace in 1025, after Heinrich II died there, having retreated to it in ill health. It was subsequently used by the lords of Grone. The fortress was destroyed by the citizens of Göttingen between 1323 and 1329, and finally razed to the ground by Duke Otto I during his feuds with the city of Göttingen in 1387.
Foundation of the city
With time, a trading settlement started to form at the river crossing of the Leine to the west of the village, from which it took its name. It is this settlement that was eventually given city rights. The original village remained recognisable as a separate entity until about 1360, at which time it was incorporated within the town's fortification.
It is likely the present city was founded between 1150 and 1180, although the exact circumstances are not known. It is presumed that Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, founded the city. The configuration of the streets in the oldest part of the town is in the shape of a pentagon, and it has been proposed that the inception of the town followed a planned design. At this time, the town was known by the name Gudingin or also Gotingen. Its inhabitants obeyed welfish ownership and ruling rights, and the first Göttingen burghers are mentioned, indicating that Göttingen was already organised as a true city. It was not, however, a Free Imperial City, but subject to the Welf dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Henry the Elder (V) of Brunswick, eldest son of Henry the Lion and brother of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, is given as the lord over Göttingen between 1201 and 1208. The original Welf residency in the town consisted of a farm building and the stables of the Welf dukes, which occupied the oldest part of the city's fortifications built prior to 1250. In its early days, Göttingen became involved in the conflicts of the Welfs with their enemies. The initial conflicts in the first decades of the 13th century benefited the burghers of Göttingen, who were able to use the political and military situation to be courted by various parties, and hence forcing the Welf town lords to make certain compromises with the town. In a document from 1232, Duke Otto the Child gave the citizens of Göttingen the same rights which they had held at the time of his uncles Otto IV and Henry the Elder of Brunswick. These included privileges concerning self-governance of the town, protection of traders, and trading facilitation. The document also promises that the town is not to fall into the hands of other powers. It is to be assumed that at this time Göttingen possessed a city council of burghers. The names of council members are first given in a document from 1247.
The area secured by the initial fortification included the old market place, the old town hall, the two main churches, St. Johannes (St John's) and St. Jacobi (St. James's, often mistakenly called St. Jacob's), the smaller church St. Nikolai (St. Nicholas's), as well as the large Weender Straße, Groner Straße and Rote Straße (red street). Outside of the fortification in front of the Geismar city gate lay the old village with the Church of St. Alban, which was subsequently known as Geismarer altes Dorf (old Geismar village). This village was only to a limited extent under welfish control and thus could not be included in the town's privileges and fortification.
The town was initially protected by a rampart, as of the late 13th century then also by walls on top of the mound-like ramparts. Of these, only one tower with a short stretch of the wall survives in the Turmstraße (tower street). The thus protected area included maximally 600 m by 600 m, or about 25 hectares. This made it smaller than contemporary Hanover, but larger than the neighbouring Welfish towns of Northeim, Duderstadt and Hann. Münden.
The Gote stream that flowed south of the walls of the town was connected to the River Leine via a channel at about this time and the waterway has since been known as the Leine Canal.
Albert II attempted to gain further control over the economically and politically rapidly growing town by founding a new town west of the original town, across the Leine Canal and outside of the Groner City Gate. This competing settlement consisted of a single street, no more than 80 yards long, with houses on either side of the street. The Duke, however, could not prevent Göttingen's westward expansion nor the success of the Göttingen City Council in effectively checking any hope of economic development in the Neustadt. The St. Marien Church (St. Mary's) was built to the south of the Neustadt which, together with all adjoining farm buildings, was given to the Teutonic Knights in 1318.
After the failure of the new town, the city council bought up the uncomfortable competition to the west in 1319 for three hundred Marks, and obtained the promise from the Duke that he would not erect any fortress within a mile of the town.
Two monasteries were also founded on the edge of the town at the end of the 13th century. To the east, in the area of today's Wilhelmsplatz, a Franciscan monastery was built as early as 1268, according to the city chronicler Franciscus Lubecus. Since the Franciscans walked barefoot as part of their vow of poverty, they were known colloquially as the barefoot people, hence the name Barfüßerstraße (Barefoot People's Street) for the road that led to the monastery. In 1294, Albert the Fat permitted the founding of a Dominican monastery along the Leine Canal opposite the Neustadt, for which the Paulinerkirche (Pauline church), completed in 1331, was constructed.
Jews settled in Göttingen in the late 13th century. On 1 March 1289, the Duke gave the City Council permission to allow the first Jew, Moses, to settle inside the town limits. The subsequent Jewish population lived predominantly close to St. James's Church on the Jüdenstraße.
Growth and independence
After Albert the Fat's death in 1318, Göttingen passed to Otto the Mild (d. 1344), who ruled over both the "Principality of Göttingen" and the territory of Brunswick. These dukes joined Göttingen and surrounding towns in battles against aristocratic knights in the surroundings of Göttingen, in the course of which the citizens of Göttingen succeeded in destroying the fortress of Grone between 1323 to 1329, as well as the fortress of Rosdorf. Since Otto the Mild died without leaving any children, his brothers Magnus and Ernest divided the land between themselves. Ernest I received Göttingen, the poorest of all the Welf principalities, which was to remain separate from Brunswick for a long time to come. At this time, the territory consisted of the regions formerly owned by Northeim, the towns of Göttingen, Uslar, Dransfeld, Münden, Gieselwerder and half of Moringen. Not much is known about the rule of Duke Ernest I, but it is generally assumed that he continued to fight against aristocratic knights.
Ernest I was succeeded after his death in 1367 by his son Otto I of Göttingen (the Evil; German: der Quade) (d. 1394), who initially lived in the city's fortress and attempted to make it a permanent Welf residency. The epithet the Evil came from Otto I's incessant feuds. Breaking with the policies of his predecessors, he frequently aligned himself with the aristocratic knights of the neighbourhood in battles against the cities, whose growing power disturbed him. Under Otto the Evil, Göttingen gained a large degree of independence. After losing control of the provincial court at the Leineberg to Göttingen in 1375, Otto finally tried to impose his influence on Göttingen in 1387, but with little success. In April 1387, Göttingen's citizens stormed and destroyed the fortress within the city's walls. In retaliation, Otto destroyed villages and farms in the town's surroundings. However, Göttingen's citizens gained a victory over the Duke's army in a battle between the villages of Rosdorf and Grone, under their leader Moritz of Uslar, forcing Otto to acknowledge the independence of the town and its surrounding properties. 1387 thus marks an important turning point in the history of the town. Göttingen's relative autonomy was further strengthened under Otto's successor Otto II "the One-eyed" of Göttingen, not least because the Welf line of Brunswick-Göttingen died out with Otto II, and the resulting questions surrounding his succession after his abdication in 1435 destabilized the regional aristocracy.
After Duke Otto I of Göttingen relinquished his jurisdiction over Jews to the town of Göttingen in the years 1369-70, conditions for Jews greatly deteriorated, and several bloody persecutions and evictions from the town followed. Between 1460 to 1599, no Jews lived in Göttingen at all.
The trend towards ever diminishing Welf influence over the town continued until the end of the 15th century, although the town officially remains a Welf property. Nevertheless, it is counted in some contemporaneous documents among the Imperial Free Cities.
The 14th and 15th centuries thus represent a time of political and economic power expansion, which is also reflected in the contemporary architecture. The expansion of the St. Johannis Church to a Gothic hall church began in the first half of the 14th century. As of 1330, a Gothic structure also replaced the smaller St Nikolai Church (St. Nicholas's). After completion of the work on St. John's Church, the rebuilding of St James's was begun in the second half of the 14th century. The original, smaller church that preceded this building was probably initiated by Henry the Lion or his successor, and functioned as a fortress chapel to the city fortress that lay immediately behind it. The representative old town hall was built between 1366 and 1444.
Around 1360, the town's fortifications were rebuilt to encompass now also the new town and the old village. In the course of this construction work, the four city gates were moved farther out, and the town's area grew to roughly 75 hectares. The city council forged alliances with surrounding towns, and Göttingen joined the Hanseatic League in 1351 (see below). Göttingen also gained Grona (currently Grone) and several other surrounding villages in the Leine Valley.
The reason for the progressive power increase in the late Middle Ages was the growing economic importance of the town. This depended largely on its good connection to the north-south trade route, particularly the north-south trade route that followed the Leine Valley, which greatly aided the local textile industry in particular. Next to the guild of linen weavers, the guild of wool weavers gained in importance. The wool for the weaving originated in the immediate surroundings of the town, where up to 3000 sheep and 1500 lambs were kept. Woollen cloth was successfully exported all the way to the Netherlands and Lübeck. From 1475, textile production was augmented by the addition of new weavers who brought novel weaving techniques to Göttingen and consolidated the position of the town as a textile exporter for three generations. Only at the end of the 16th century did the decline of the local textile industry occur when Göttingen could not compete anymore with cheap English textiles.
Göttingen's traders also profited from the important trade route between Lübeck and Frankfurt am Main. Göttingen's market became important beyond the region. Traders from other regions would come in great numbers four times a year. Göttingen also joined the Hanseatic League, to the first meeting of which it was invited in 1351. Göttingen's relationship with the Hanseatic League remained distant, however. As an inland town, Göttingen enjoyed the economic connections of the League, but it did not want to get involved in the politics of the alliance. Göttingen only became a paying member in 1426, and left as early as 1572.
Loss of independence to the present day
After several dynastic splits and shifts in power that followed the death of Otto the One-Eyed, Duke Eric I "the Elder", Prince of Calenberg, annexed the principality of Göttingen, which became an integral part of the Principality of Calenberg. The town refused to pay homage to Eric I in 1504, and as a result, Eric I had the Emperor Maximilian I, declare the town of Göttingen outlawed. The subsequent tensions economically weakened Göttingen, leading to the town finally paying its homage to Eric I in 1512. Afterward the relationship between Eric and the town improved, because of Eric's financial dependence on Göttingen.
The University of Göttingen was founded in 1737 by George II August, who was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and prince-elector of Hanover. During the Napoleonic period, the city was briefly in the hands of Prussia in 1806, turned over in 1807 to the newly created Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia, and returned to the State of Hanover in 1813 after Napoleon's defeat. In 1814 the prince-electors of Hanover were elevated to kings of Hanover and the Kingdom of Hanover was established. During the Austro-Prussian War (1866), the Kingdom of Hanover had attempted to maintain a neutral position. After Hanover voted in favour of mobilising confederation troops against Prussia on 14 June 1866, Prussia saw this as a just cause for declaring war. In 1868, the Kingdom of Hanover was dissolved and Göttingen became part of the Prussian Province of Hanover. The Province of Hanover was eventually disestablished in 1946.
Third Reich era
During the 1930s, Goettingen housed the top math-physics faculty in the world, led by eight men, almost all Jews, who became known as the Goettingen eight. Their members included Leo Szilard and Edward Teller. This faculty was not tolerable to the Reich, however, and the University of Göttingen suffered greatly as a result. The Goettingen eight were expelled, and these men were forced to emigrate to the West in 1938. Szilard and Teller went on to become key members of the Manhattan Project team. Ironically, the Nazi insistence on a "German physics" prevented German scientists from applying Albert Einstein's breakthrough insights to physics, a policy which stifled the further development of physics in Germany. After the end of World War II, the famous university had to be reorganised almost from scratch, especially in the physics, mathematics and chemistry departments, a process which has continued into the 21st century.
The synagogue in Göttingen was destroyed during Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938. Many of the Jews of Göttingen were killed in Nazi German extermination camps. Also, there was a concentration camp for adolescents in Moringen, which was not liberated until 1945.
During the widespread British, Canadian and American air raids on Nazi Germany, Göttingen suffered comparatively little damage. Only about 1% of the city was destroyed. Beginning in July 1944, the air raids were sometimes heavier, but these mainly hit the area of the main railway station. The historic old town of Göttingen remained practically undamaged.
The Junkernschänke, a historic half-timbered house, was destroyed by Nazis, but it was rebuilt after the war. Two of the churches (Paulinerkirche and Johanniskirche) in the old town, and several buildings of the university, were heavily damaged. The Institute of Anatomy and 57 residential buildings, especially in Untere Masch Street in the centre of the city, were completely destroyed by SS. Overall, only about 12 deaths were caused by the air raids, a comparatively small number. However, the neighbouring cities of Kassel, Hanover and Brunswick, experienced some impact of the bombing raids.
Because the city had many hospitals, those hospitals had to take care of up to four thousand wounded Wehrmacht soldiers and airmen during World War II. Göttingen was also fortunate in that before troops of the U.S. Army arrived in Göttingen on 8 April 1945, all of the Wehrmacht's combat units had departed from this area, hence Göttingen experienced no heavy ground fighting, artillery bombardments or other major combat.
After the war the city and district of Göttingen joined the administrative district (Regierungsbezirk) of Hildesheim. In a reform in 1973 the district of Göttingen was enlarged by incorporating the dissolved districts of Duderstadt and Hannoversch Münden.
On 1 June 2010, a World War II-era British bomb exploded in Göttingen while disposal teams were seeking to disarm it. The bomb was found by construction workers building a new sports arena. The bomb was the second found in a week; the first had been disposed of safely. Three people were killed and six injured in the blast.