Ludwigshafen am Rhein is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is located on the Rhine river opposite Mannheim. With Mannheim, Heidelberg and the surrounding region, it forms the Rhine Neckar Area.
Known primarily as an industrial city, Ludwigshafen is the home of chemical giant BASF, as well as other companies. Among its cultural facilities are the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. It is the birthplace of the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and the philosopher Ernst Bloch.
In antiquity, Celtic and Germanic tribes settled in the Rhine Neckar area. During the 1st century B.C.E. the Romans conquered the region, and a Roman auxiliary fort was constructed near the present suburb of Rheingönheim.
The Middle Ages saw the foundation of some of Ludwigshafen's future suburbs, including Oggersheim, Maudach, Oppau and Mundenheim; most of the area, however, remained swampland, its development hindered by seasonal flooding of the Rhine river.
The Rhine Neckar region was part of the territory of the Prince-elector of the Kurpfalz, or Electorate of the Palatinate, one of the larger states within the Holy Roman Empire. The foundation of the new capital of the Kurpfalz, Mannheim, was a decisive influence on the development of the area as a whole. Parallel to the foundation of Mannheim in 1606, a fortress (die Rheinschanze) was built by Frederick IV, Elector Palatine on the other side of the River Rhine to protect the City of Mannheim, thus forming the nucleus of the city of Ludwigshafen itself.
It was only in the 18th century that the settlements around the Rheinschanze began to prosper, profiting from the proximity of the capital Mannheim. Oggersheim in particular gained some importance, after the construction of both a small palace serving as secondary residence for the Elector, and the famous pilgrimage church, Wallfahrtskirche. For some weeks in 1782, the great German writer and playwright Friedrich Schiller lived in Oggersheim, on flight from his native Württemberg).
War returned to the Ludwigshafen area with the armies of the French Revolution. The palace at Oggersheim was burned down, Mannheim besieged several times, and all the area west of the Rhine annexed by France from 1798 to 1813. The Electorate of the Palatinate was split up. The eastern bank of the Rhine with Mannheim and Heidelberg was given to Baden, while the western bank (including the Ludwigshafen area) was granted to Bavaria, following the Wars of Liberation (1813-1815), in which the French were expelled. The Rhine had become a frontier and the Rheinschanze, cut off politically from Mannheim, lost its function as the neighbouring city's military bulwark.
Foundation of Ludwigshafen
In 1808, during the French occupation, Carl Hornig of Mannheim tried 69 and had purchased the fortress from the French authorities and turned it into a way station for passing river traffic. Later, the Rheinschanze with its winter-proof harbour basin (created by a flood in 1824) was used as trading post. Hornig died in 1819, but Johann Heinrich Scharpff, a businessman from Speyer, continued Hornig's plans, which were then turned over to his son-in-law, Philipp Markus Lichtenberger, in 1830. Their activities marked the beginning of the civilian use of the Rheinschanze.
The year 1844 was the official birth of Ludwigshafen, when Lichtenberger sold this property to the state of Bavaria (Bayern), and the military title of the fortress was finally removed. The Bavarian king, Ludwig I, set forth plans to rename the settlement after himself and to start construction of an urban area as a Bavarian rival to Mannheim on the opposite bank.
During the failed German revolution of 1848 rebels captured Ludwigshafen, but they were bombarded from Mannheim (rumours said the Mannheimers didn't aim at the revolutionaries, but on the rival harbour's infrastructure), and Prussian troops quickly expelled the revolutionaries. On December 27, 1852, King Maximilian II granted Ludwigshafen am Rhein political freedom and as on November 8, 1859, the settlement gained town status.
Industry and growth of population
At its founding Ludwigshafen was still a very modest settlement with just 1,500 inhabitants. Real growth began with industrialization, and gained enormous momentum in Ludwigshafen due to its ideal transport facilities. In addition to its excellent position and harbor facilities on the Rhine, a railway connecting Ludwigshafen with the Saar coalfields was completed in 1849.
The year 1865 was an important date in the history of independent Ludwigshafen. After several discussions, BASF decided to move its factories from Mannheim to the Hemshof district, which belonged to Ludwigshafen. From then on, the city's rapid growth and wealth were linked to BASF's success and its expansion into becoming one of the world's most important chemical companies. Ludwigshafen also became home to several other rapidly growing chemical companies, including Friedrich Raschig GmbH, the Benckiser company (founded by Johann Benckiser), Giulini Brothers, Grünzweig&Hartmann AG, and the Knoll AG.
With more jobs available, the population of Ludwigshafen increased rapidly. In 1899 the city was governing more than 62,000 residents (compared to 1,500 in 1852).
This population explosion looked quite “American” to contemporaries; it determined Ludwigshafen's character as a “worker's town”, and created problematic shortages of housing and real estate. The solution was the expansion of the municipal area and the incorporation of the two nearest villages, Friesenheim and Mundenheim, in the years 1892 and 1899. In the area between the town centre and those two suburbs new quarters (“North” and “South”) were built after (then) modern urban development plans. Because the ground was marshy and too low to be protected from Rhine floods, all the new houses were built on raised ground, sometimes as high as 5 meters above the original ground. Visitors can see the original ground level in many backyards of Ludwigshafen, which are sometimes two floors below street level.
World War I through World War II
During World War I (1914-1918), Ludwigshafen's industrial plants played a key role in Germany's war economy, producing chemical ingredients for munitions, as well as much of the poison gas used on the Western Front. This contributed to Ludwigshafen having the dubious honour, on May 27, 1915, of being the target of the world's first strategic aerial bombardment. French aircraft attacked the BASF plants, killing twelve people and setting the precedent for the age to come.
When the war was lost by Germany in 1918, the left bank of the Rhine was occupied by French troops, in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement. The French occupation lasted until 1930, and some of Ludwigshafen's most elegant houses were erected for the officers of the French garrison.
The economic recovery of the 1920s was marred by one of the worst industrial explosions in history when, on Sept. 21, 1921, a BASF storage silo in Oppau blew up, killing more than 500 people, injuring a further 2,000, and destroying countless buildings.
Despite this setback, Ludwigshafen reached a population of 100,000 in 1922, thus gaining “City” status. It prospered until the worldwide economic crisis of 1929, which brought unemployment, labor trouble, political strife, and the rise of the Nazis.
Initially, the Nazi party had few followers and votes in working-class-dominated Ludwigshafen, but after 1933, when they had come to power in Germany, the Nazis succeeded in enforcing their policies in Ludwigshafen. The Ludwigshafen synagogue was destroyed in 1938 and its Jewish population of 1,400 was deported in 1940.
The Nazis also interfered with Ludwigshafen's development as city. According to their ideology, many small houses with gardens were built, especially in the Gartenstadt. Further, similar to Nazi plans in other cities (e.g. Hamburg), they aimed at creating a ”Greater Ludwigshafen” by agglomerating smaller towns and villages in the vicinity. Thus Oggersheim, Oppau, Edigheim, Rheingönheim, and Maudach became suburbs of Ludwigshafen, raising its population to 135,000.
During the Oil Campaign of World War II, the Allies conducted bombing of Ludwigshafen and Oppau. Thirteen thousand Allied bombers hit the city in 121 separate raids during the war, of which 56 succeeded in hitting the Farben plant. Those 56 raids dropped 53,000 bombs each containing 250 to 4,000 pounds of high explosives, plus 2.5 million 4-pound magnesium incendiary bombs. (The bombers also dropped millions of leaflets warning the civilians to evacuate the city, plus counterfeit ration coupons.) Repairs took longer and longer as spare parts became more difficult to find. By December 1944, so much damage had been done to vital utilities that output dropped to nearly zero. Follow-up raids every week ended production permanently. By war's end most dwellings were destroyed or damaged; 1,800 people had died, and 3,000 were injured.
The Allied ground advance into Germany reached Ludwigshafen in March 1945. The US 12th Armored Division and 94th Infantry Division captured Ludwigshafen against determined German resistance in house-to-house and block-to-block urban combat during 21–24 March 1945.
Post-war, Ludwigshafen was part of the French occupation zone, becoming part of the newly founded Bundesland (state) of Rheinland-Pfalz and thus part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Reconstruction of the devastated city and revival of the economy was supported by the Allies, especially by American aid. In 1948, the “Pasadena Shares Committee” sent packages of blankets, clothing, food, and medicines to help the residents of post-war Ludwigshafen. Many friendships started to form, so that in 1956, Ludwigshafen am Rhein and Pasadena, California became sister cities.
Large parts of the city were literally ruined, but because BASF soon made enormous profits again, the city administration was wealthy enough to rebuild Ludwigshafen according to the architectural taste of the 1950s and 1960s. The most important projects were the Hochstraßen (highways on stilts), the revolutionary new main station (then the most modern station in Europe), today almost closed and not connected with important railway traffic, several tower blocks and a whole new suburb, the satellite quarter Pfingstweide north of Edigheim.
The city's trade tax profits also allowed a lot of social benefits and institutions to be introduced. Many other cities were jealous of Ludwigshafen's wealth and the population number reached its all-time climax in 1970 with more than 180,000 inhabitants, thus surpassing even the capital of Rheinland-Pfalz, Mainz, for a while.
In the early 1970s, a plan to reform the composition of the German Bundesländer, which would have created a new state around a united Mannheim-Ludwigshafen as capital with more than half a million inhabitants, failed.
Nevertheless, further ambitious projects were financed in Ludwigshafen, first of all the 15-floor city hall with its linked-up shopping centre (Rathaus Center). The last (up to now) new incorporated suburb was Ruchheim in 1974.
But then a process began that accelerated during the 1980s and 1990s and caused the financial near-collapse of Ludwigshafen. The enormous maintenance costs of the buildings and institutions introduced during the “fat time”, new tax regulations that cut down the trade tax profits from the local industries, and thousands of dismissals in BASF were the main causes for the city's crisis. Loss of population due to the loss of working places and general economic trends, such as the oil crises, further worsened Ludwigshafen's financial situation at the end of the 20th century.
The negative aspects of industrial success became obvious when examinations revealed the bad state of air and the Rhine due to pollution. There had always been some stench or dirt all over the city, caused by BASF and other plants, and as long as the industry had prospered, people had accepted it. Besides that, the concrete constructions that had been so modern after the war and had a formative influence on today's townscape were increasingly considered as obsolete.
In recent years, many efforts have been made to enhance Ludwigshafen's image in the media. The city administration has cut down its deficit by cutting down social payments and maintenance, pollution has been (not least by BASF) restricted, the formerly rotten Hemshof quarter has been restored.
In 2008, a fire broke out in a building where many ethnic Turks lived. 9 people died, all of them Turks and 5 of them children. It was believed to be an arsonist attack, however this was found to be not true.
One of the most annoying faults of Ludwigshafen – at least for many of the city's inhabitants - was its comparative lack of high-quality shopping possibilities. It has attempted to repair this deficiency by creating a second large shopping mall on the southern tip of the city centre (the Walzmühle near Berliner Platz) with affiliated railway station (Ludwigshafen-Mitte). In addition, another shopping mall on the banks of the Rhine, the Rhein-Galerie, was completed in September 2010.
Ludwigshafen has enormous importance as an industrial city.