Place:Soltau, Hannover, Preußen, Germany

Coordinates52.967°N 9.817°E
Located inHannover, Preußen, Germany
Also located inSoltau-Fallingbostel, Lüneburg, Niedersachsen, Germany    
Contained Places
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Soltau is a mid-sized town in the Lüneburg Heath in the district of Heidekreis, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It has around 22,000 inhabitants. The city is centrally located in the Lüneburg Heath and is known nationwide especially for its tourist attractions like the Heide-Park and the Soltau-Therme.



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Middle Ages

The region of the Lüneburg Heath had already been settled by the start of the New Stone Age about 4,000 years ago. The Soltau area was initially occupied by a few individual farms. The parish of Soltau was probably founded around 830 and the first wooden church Sante Johannis Baptista (St. John the Baptist) was built.

The first written record of Soltau was in the year 936 as Curtis Salta ("farm on the salt meadow"). King Otto the Great granted the estate to Quedlinburg Abbey. Within a span of almost 600 years the village of Soltouwe emerged from Curtis Salta. It was located in the area between St. John's Church and the Waldmühle mill.

In 1304 the Vogtei of Soltau was sold to the cathedral chapter of Verden. Between 1383 and 1388 the village was established by order of the duke as protection against robber barons at the confluence of the rivers Böhme and Soltau near Hagen and Burg, which today is in the town centre. Subsequently, it was decided to demolish the castle there as part of the peace treaty at the end of the Lüneburg War of Succession; at the same time Soltau was given town rights on 15 July 1388 by way of compensation. In 1400 the letters patent for the guild was issued, which entitled the town to trade. In 1440 another letters patent was specifically conferred on blacksmiths, tailors, cobblers, linen and cloth-makers.

The consequences of the war of succession in Soltau can clearly be traced and prevented the rapid growth of the new town; conditions were miserable and many farms were ruined. Moreover, Soltau was a long way from the centres of power, so did not receive much direct support and there were no local lords who felt an association with it.

In 1479 Soltau became part of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg and an Amtsvogtei was established. In 1511 the town was totally destroyed by fire.

The last known cavalry battle took place in June 1519 on the 'Wiehe Holt' near Soltau and is known as the Battle of Soltau, which represented the high point of the Hildesheim Abbey Feud. According to long tradition it was only thanks to a ruse by the Soltau townsman, Harm Tyding, who pretended to the advancing Brunswick troops that he knew the whereabouts of a large Lüneburg army and led them on a detour, that the town was not destroyed again.

The Reformation saw little conflict in Soltau as a result of the firm stand taken by the Lüneburg duke, Ernest I and his commitment to introducing the Protestant-Lutheran faith in 1527.

Modern era

In 1533 the town hall was established in an old chapel in Marktstraße but it was destroyed in a fire. In 1567 another great fire destroyed large parts of the town. In 1588 the first school building was erected, although the first records of school teaching go back to as early as 1563. The plague raged in 1626 and the population dwindled dramatically. Before 1620 there were several years of legal disputes about the acquisition of building land outside the town wall.

In the Thirty Years' War Soltau was once again entirely destroyed. All that remained was a great ruin in the landscape and only one building from that time remains. It was a long time before the town recovered from the war's consequences. The traces of the war and the area's occupation by Swedish troops, which began in 1632, is still documented today by the Ellinger Grenzstein ("Ellingen Boundary Stone").

Market rights and therefore the right to host two fairs a year and a horse market were conferred in 1668. The Old Town Pharmacy (Alte Stadtapotheke) was opened in 1796, the first chemist in Soltau.

Soltau first became a garrison town in 1712, a year when the first cloth factory was built. Napoleonic troops occupied the town in 1803 and turned it into a French border town for the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1810. Soltau belonged to the Canton of Harburg in the Department of Bouches-de-l'Elbe. In 1813 the Lützow infantry and cossacks ended ten years of occupation. In 1826 the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) was built on Poststraße.

In 1873 the first railway through Soltau was opened, the line which linked Bremen and Berlin. It was followed in 1901 by the Heath Railway between Hamburg and Hanover and, in 1912, the lines of the East Hanoverian Railways to Celle and Lüneburg. In 1885 Soltau became a district town (Kreisstadt). In 1896 the gas works was built and, two years later, the gymnasium and shooting hall.

On Christmas Eve 1906 a fire destroyed St. John's Church which had been mentioned in the records since 1464. It was then rebuilt and is still standing today. In 1911 the Lutheran Church was consecrated, the second Protestant church to be founded, and in 1915 the Catholic Church of St. Mary's followed. A royal officers' riding school was founded in 1913.

Soltau Camp (Lager Soltau), the largest German prisoner-of-war camp of the First World War was built in 1914. In the same year the mining of potassium salts (Kalisalz) began at the Heinrichssegen Shaft; it had to be halted only four years later as a result of the war, after having reached a depth of just six metres. From 1934 several Wehrmacht units were quartered at Wolterdingen Camp (Lager Wolterdingen) and after the end of the Second World War it was used to house refugees and forced labourers until about 1960. In April 1945, the town was partly destroyed by air raids, in which there were many more civilian victims than military ones.

That same month, prisoners from concentration camps were able to escape from a railway train that had been stopped in Soltau as the result of an Allied air attack. The prisoners were hunted down by members of the Wehrmacht, SS and Hitler Youth, with the help of several townsfolk, and 92 of them were shot dead. A few townspeople, by contrast, risked their own lives by providing the escapees with food and clothing. The post-war trials of those who took part ended in acquittals due to the lack of evidence. Consequently, all that could be recorded were several confirmed killings, but not murders.

Post WW-II

In 1949 Soltau became a British garrison during the Cold War and home of Headquarters 7th Armoured Brigade. They were based at the former SS Riding School on the outskirts of town (Reitschule). The base was the home of 207 Signal Squadron and 11 Ordnance Company. It was the most northerly posting for any British serviceman in BAOR (British Army of the Rhine), excluding minor outposts like Dannenberg, Hamburg and Kiel, in what was known as West Germany. Armoured vehicles were regularly seen on the streets on their way to the military training area at Lüneburg and the HQ was responsible for the nearby Soltau-Lüneburg Training Area and its associated hutted camp at Reinsehlen. The signal squadron had three troops, two of which were armoured, using variants of the FV432 for telecommunication purposes. The soldiers were given the freedom of the town on 18 September 1982, and again after returning from the first Gulf War in 1991. They marched through the town to mark the occasion.

The site of the British barracks was the first in Germany to be turned over to private hands in 1993, one year after the withdrawal of British troops. Today the old barracks is a business centre, used for doctors' practices and social institutions. It is also home to the Alte Reithalle ("Old Riding Hall") Event Centre which has become an important indoor event location after its finished restoration in 2003.

In 1972 Soltau became a state-recognised spa and in 1987 was designated as a "state-recognised town with brine cure facilities". In the administrative reforms of 1974 16 surrounding villages were incorporated into the new municipality. In 1977 the districts of Soltau and Fallingbostel merged into the district of Soltau-Fallingbostel; Soltau lost its status as the district administrative seat.

The Heide Park was opened in 1978; today it is the largest amusement park in North Germany. Other tourist attractions include the Soltau Thermal Baths, which opened in 1990 and the North German Toy Museum which followed in 1994. In 1988 the Showpalast ("Show Palace") was founded at the Soltau secondary modern school (Hauptschule); it remains Germany's only schoolchildren's cabaret.

In 1998 a retail park opened in the Alm industrial estate. From 1996 there were discussions in Soltau about the construction of a outlet store. The town failed several times in the courts, the last time in 2006 at the Federal Administrative Court of Germany. Protests were led by the surrounding towns of Verden, Rotenburg and Lüneburg]. In 2006 proceedings were begun to obtain permission to deviate from a planning objective which would enable the construction of an outlet centre in spite of the latest rejection. With a change to the state regional development programme in 2008 the establishment of a factory outlet centre in the tourist region of the Lüneburg Heath was finally granted. For the purposes of the town of Soltau, the town of Bad Fallingbostel and the municipality of Bispingen regional proceedings were begun. In February 2009 this process was concluded by the supreme state planning department (State Ministry of Economics) producing a positive outcome for Soltau and a negative one for its two competitors. Construction was due to start in 2010 despite Bispingen launching an appeal. It

On 20 October 2004 an earthquake shook the region. It had a strength 4.5 on the Richter Scale and its epicentre was in Neuenkirchen. There had been a previous earthquake of strength 4 with an epicentre in Soltau on 2 June 1977.

Since the beginning of 2005 there have been discussions about a memorial of eight representative steles from the Berlin Holocaust Memorial for "all victims of the Nazi dictatorship". However an internet survey by the newspaper, the Böhme-Zeitung showed that a majority of those who responded were against the memorial. This caused a furore nationally and gave those in favour of a memorial reason to accuse the opponents of having Nazi sentiments. Nevertheless, plans to erect the monument in central locations such as immediately in front of the station could not be carried out. This monument appeared from autumn 2006 to March 2007 in the vicinity of the remote site of the killings in the forest of Sibirien (today a hospital stands on the exact spot). The massive opposition from long-time residents of Soltau is frequently put down by them to the lack of commemoration of the many civilian and military victims from their own ranks, because they are not obviously included in the memorial.

In March 2007 a concept for the transformation of the town centre was proposed. The [[Wikipedia:C+C Schaper|Schaper Market]], which had been built in the 1970s and lain empty since 2004, a footbridge (locally called the Fenner-Kringel) and a multi-storey car park were demolished in 2008 and the theatre moved to Hagen, so that a new building could be built with a total sales floor of about . The new shopping centre was opened in March 2009.

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