Heidelberg is a city in south-west Germany. The fifth-largest city in the State of Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg is part of the densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. In 2009, over 145,000 people lived in the city. Heidelberg lies on the River Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald.
A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is the location of Heidelberg University, well known far beyond Germany's borders. Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic and picturesque cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town.
Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of worship were built on the Heiligenberg, or "Mountain of Saints". Both places can still be identified. In 40 AD, a fort was built and occupied by the 24th Roman cohort and the 2nd Cyrenaican cohort (CCG XXIIII and CCH II CYR). The Romans built and maintained castra (permanent camps) and a signalling tower on the bank of the Neckar. They built a wooden bridge based on stone pillars across it. The camp protected the first civilian settlements that developed. The Romans remained until 260 AD, when the camp was conquered by Germanic tribes.
Modern Heidelberg can trace its beginnings to the fifth century. The village Bergheim (Mountain Home) is first mentioned in that period, in documents dated to 769 AD. Bergheim now lies in the middle of modern Heidelberg. The people gradually converted to Christianity. In 863 AD, the monastery of St. Michael was founded on the Heiligenberg inside the double rampart of the Celtic fortress. Around 1130, the Neuberg Monastery was founded in the Neckar valley. At the same time, the bishopric of Worms extended its influence into the valley, founding Schönau Abbey in 1142. Modern Heidelberg can trace its roots to this 12th-century monastery. The first reference to Heidelberg can be found in a document in Schönau Abbey dated to 1196. This is considered the founding date for Heidelberg. In 1155, Heidelberg castle and its neighboring settlement were taken over by the house of Hohenstaufen. Conrad of Hohenstaufen became Count Palatine of the Rhine. In 1195, the Electorate of the Palatinate passed to the House of Welf through marriage. In 1225, Louis I, Duke of Bavaria obtained the Palatinate, and thus the castle came under his control. By 1303, another castle had been constructed for defense. In 1356, the Counts Palatine were granted far-reaching rights in the Golden Bull, in addition to becoming Electors. In 1386, Heidelberg University was founded by Rupert I, Elector Palatine.
Heidelberg University played a leading part in the era of humanism and reformation and the conflict between Lutheranism and Calvinism in the 15th and 16th centuries. Heidelberg's library, founded in 1421, is the oldest public library in Germany still intact. A few months after the proclamation of the 95 Theses, in April 1518, Martin Luther was received in Heidelberg, to defend them. In 1537, the castle located further up the mountain was destroyed in a gunpowder explosion. The duke's palace was built at the site of the lower castle. In November 1619, the royal crown of Bohemia was offered to the Elector, Frederick V. (He was married to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I and VI of England and Scotland). He became known as the "winter king", as he reigned for only one winter before the Imperial House of Habsburg regained the crown by force. This overthrow in 1621 marked the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. In 1622, after a siege of two months, the armies of the Catholic League, commanded by Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, captured Heidelberg. He gave the famous Bibliotheca Palatina from the Church of the Holy Spirit to the Pope as a present. The Catholic Bavarian branch of the House of Wittelsbach gained control over the Palatinate and the title of Prince-Elector. In 1648, at the end of the war, Frederick V's son Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine, was able to recover his titles and lands.
Urbain de Maillé-Brézé fought in many battles. He also participated in the Siege of La Rochelle (1627–1628). In 1635 he conquered Heidelberg and Speyer, together with Jacques-Nompar de Caumont, duc de la Force, at the head of the Army of Germany.
To strengthen his dynasty, Frederick arranged the marriage of his daughter Liselotte to Philip I, Duke of Orléans, the brother of Louis XIV, king of France. In 1685, after the death of Charles Louis' son Elector Charles II, Louis XIV laid claim to his sister-in-law's inheritance. The Germans rejected the claim, in part because of religious differences between local Protestants and the French Catholics, as the Protestant Reformation had divided the peoples of Europe. The War of the Grand Alliance ensued. In 1689, French troops took the city and castle, bringing nearly total destruction to the area in 1693. As a result of destruction due to repeated French invasions related to the war of the palatinate succession coupled with severe winters, thousands of Protestant German Palatines emigrated from the lower Palatinate in the early 18th century. They fled to other European cities (where the refugees were called "the poor Palatines") and especially to London. In sympathy for the Protestants, in 1709–1710, Queen Anne's government arranged transport for nearly 6,000 Palatines to New York. Others were transported to Pennsylvania. They worked off their passage and later settled in the English colonies.
In 1720, religious conflicts with the mostly Protestant citizens of Heidelberg after he assigned a major church for exclusively Catholic use caused the Roman Catholic Prince-Elector Charles III Philip to transfer his residence to nearby Mannheim. The court remained there until the Elector Charles Theodore became Elector of Bavaria in 1777 and established his court in Munich. In 1742, Elector Charles Theodore began rebuilding the Palace. In 1764, a lightning bolt destroyed other palace buildings during reconstruction, causing the work to be discontinued.
1803 to 1933
Heidelberg fell to the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1803. Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Baden, refounded the University, named "Ruperto-Carola" after its two founders. Notable scholars soon earned it a reputation as a "royal residence of the intellect". In the 18th century, the city was rebuilt in Baroque style on the old Gothic layout.
In 1810, the French revolution refugee Count Charles Graimberg began to preserve the palace ruins and establish a historical collection. In 1815, the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia formed the "Holy Alliance" in Heidelberg. In 1848, the German National Assembly was held there. In 1849, during the Palatinate-Baden rebellion of the 1848 Revolutions, Heidelberg was the headquarters of a revolutionary army. It was defeated by a Prussian army near Waghaeusel. The city was occupied by Prussian troops until 1850. Between 1920 and 1933, Heidelberg University became the center of notable physicians Czerny, Erb, and Krehl; and humanists Rohde, Weber, and Gundolf.
Nazism and the war period
During the Nazi regime (1933–1945), Heidelberg was a stronghold of the NSDAP, the strongest party in the elections before 1933 (the NSDAP obtained 30% at the communal elections of 1930). The NSDAP received 45.9% of the votes in the German federal election of March 1933 (the national average was 43.9%). Non-Aryan university staff were discriminated against. By 1939, one-third of the university's staff had been forced out for racial and political reasons. The non-Aryan professors were sent off in 1933, within one month of Hitler's rise to power. The lists of those to be deported were prepared beforehand.
Between 1934 and 1935, the Reichsarbeitsdienst (State labor service) and Heidelberg University students built the huge Thingstätte amphitheatre on the Heiligenberg north of the old part of Heidelberg, for Nazi (NSDAP) and SS events. A few months later, the inauguration of the huge Ehrenfriedhof memorial cemetery completed the second and last NSDAP project in Heidelberg. This cemetery is on the southern side of the old part of town, a little south of the Königstuhl hilltop. During WWII and after, Wehrmacht soldiers were buried there.
During the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, Nazis burned down synagogues at two locations in the city. The next day, they started systematic deportation of Jews, and sent 150 Jews to Dachau concentration camp. On October 22, 1940, during the "Wagner Buerckel event", the Nazis deported 6000 local Jews, including 281 from Heidelberg, to Camp Gurs concentration camp in France. Within a few months, as many as 1000 of them (201 from Heidelberg) died of hunger and diseases. Among the deportees from Heidelberg, the poet Alfred Mombert (1872–1942) left the camp in April 1941 thanks to the Swiss poet Hans Reinhart. From 1942, the deportees that had survived internment in Gurs were deported to Eastern Europe, where most of them were murdered.
On March 29, 1945, the Wehrmacht left the city after destroying three arches of the old bridge, Heidelberg's treasured river crossing. They also destroyed the more modern bridge downstream. The U.S. Army (3rd Infantry, 7th Army) entered Heidelberg on March 30, 1945. The civilian population surrendered without resistance.
Some historians suggested Heidelberg escaped bombing in WWII because the U.S. Army wanted to use the city as a garrison after the war. As Heidelberg was neither an industrial center nor a transport hub, it did not present a target of opportunity. Other notable university towns, such as Tübingen and Göttingen, were spared bombing as well. Allied air raids focused extensively on the nearby industrial cities of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.
The U.S. Army may have chosen Heidelberg as a garrison base due to its excellent infrastructure, including the Heidelberg-Mannheim Autobahn (freeway), which connected to the Mannheim-Darmstadt-Frankfurt Autobahn, and the U.S. Army installations in Mannheim and Frankfurt. The intact railroad infrastructure was more important in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when most heavy loads were still carried by train, not by truck. Heidelberg had the untouched "Grossdeutschland Kaserne" Wehrmacht installation. The US Army used it as the Campbell Barracks soon after.
History after 1945
In 1945, the University was reopened relatively quickly as a result of the initiative of a small group of professors, among whom were the anti-Nazi economist Alfred Weber and the philosopher Karl Jaspers. The surgeon Karl Heinrich Bauer was nominated rector.
On December 9, 1945, US Army General George S. Patton had a car accident in the adjacent city of Mannheim, and died in the Heidelberg US Army hospital on December 21, 1945. The funeral ceremony was held at the Heidelberg-Weststadt Christuskirche (Christ Church), and he was buried in the 3rd Army cemetery in Luxembourg.
During the post-war military occupation, the U.S. Army used the Thingsstätte for cultural and religious events. Civilian use started in the early-to-mid 1980s for occasional concerts and other cultural events. Today, the celebrations on Hexennacht (Witches' Night, also called Walpurgis Night), the night of April 30, are a regular "underground" fixture at the Thingstätte. Thousands of mostly young people spontaneously congregate there to drum, to breathe fire, and to juggle. The event has gained fame throughout the region, as well as a certain notoriety due to the amount of trash left behind.