10 largest cities in Germany
Frankfurt am Main




Greifswald (Low German Griepswold) is the district town of the Vorpommern-Greifswald district in the north-east of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The university and Hanseatic city lies on the river Ryck, which flows into the Baltic Sea, on the Greifswalder Bodden between the islands of Rügen and Usedom.

On May 14, 1250, Greifswald was granted the town charter of Luebeck. The University of Greifswald, founded in 1456 with around 10,000 students and around 6,000 employees, is the second oldest university in the Baltic Sea region.

The city has 59,232 inhabitants (December 31, 2019), making it the fifth largest city in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Together with Stralsund, Greifswald forms one of the four regional centers in the state. The university town is a member of the transnational federation of the Euroregion Pomerania.



St. Nikolai (Saint Nicholas) Cathedral (Greifswald)
The Greifswald Cathedral St. Nikolai, the patron saint of seafarers and merchants, is a Gothic brick building, a symbol of the city of Greifswald and is located in the western center of the city. The Greifswald Cathedral was the main or bishop's church of the Pomeranian Evangelical Church from 1947–2012 and is today the sermon place of the regional bishop for the Mecklenburg and Pomerania District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany and is used by the parish of St. Nikolai.



Name history
The original name of the settlement, which developed into the independent city of Greifswald, has not been passed down. A confirmation certificate from Duke Wartislaw III. from 1248, in which the oppidum Gripheswald cum omnibus pertinentiis suis (the Gripheswald area with all its accessories) was confirmed for the Eldena Monastery, is the first documented mention of the current name. In the feudal deed of Wartislaw III. from June 1249 there is an explicit reference that the oppidum Gripheswald is called Gripeswald in German, which suggests that the settlement originally had a different Slavic, Danish or German name. There is no evidence for the theory that the original name was a Danish one based on Gripscogh, the name of a forest near Esrom in Denmark, the mother monastery of Eldena Monastery. The written names Gripeswald (1249), Grifeswolde (1250), Gripesuuolde (1280), Gripesuualde (1280), Gripswalt (1285), Gripeswald (1383), Gripeswolde (1383), Gripswald (1491) are also from the following years and centuries , Gripswolde (1577), Greipßwalde (1601), Gripheswalde (1602), Gripheswaldt (1602), Greypffswald (1604) and already Greifswald (1621).

The Middle Low German grip stands for the griffin and is probably to be understood as a reference to the heraldic animal of the Pomeranian dukes, who were later also referred to as griffins; the wolt / wold stands for forest. Greif and forest can also be found in Greifswald's coat of arms.

The Latin name of Greifswald is Gryphisvaldia.

Since 1990, the city has had the addition of the Hanseatic city again and is now a university and Hanseatic city.

Middle age
Greifswald's founding in Pomerania goes back to the Eldena Monastery, to whose estate it initially belonged. The settlement was opposite the salt pans on the other side of the Ryck, which has been proven to have existed since 1193 at the latest; it was probably built in the second quarter of the 13th century as a settlement for the workers of the Greifswald salt works. For the settlement, where two old trade routes crossed, the monastery received in 1241 both from the Ruegen Prince Wizlaw I and from the Pomeranian Duke Wartislaw III. officially granted market rights. In June 1249 Wartislaw III. persuade the monastery to give him the market settlement of Greifswald as a fief, and on May 14, 1250 he granted it the town charter of Luebeck, which made Greifswald much more independent from the Pomeranian dukes. In 1254, Wartislaw made the Ryck estuary a free port and promised the merchants compensation for losses suffered by pirates. On May 17, 1264, he allowed the city to defend itself and build a protective wall, after which the fortifications were built. In addition to the old town, the new town developed to the west with today's Rubenow-Platz as the market square and the St. Jacobi Church as the church center; an order of Wartislaw III. of 1264, according to which there should be only one market, one bailiff and one right, prevented the new town from developing independence compared to the old town. In 1278 Greifswald was first mentioned in a document as a member of the Hanseatic League. The city belonged to the influential "Wendish quarter". One of the first Hanseatic Days took place in Greifswald as early as 1361. However, as early as the 14th and then in the 15th century, the Greifswald port no longer met the requirements of shipping traffic, as it silted up - unlike the ports in Stralsund, Wismar or Rostock. As a result, Greifswald fell behind the other Hanseatic cities.

In 1296, Duke Bogislaw IV freed Greifswald from his army succession and promised not to keep a court in the city and not to build any fortifications towards the Peene. In 1289 he had already allowed a Jewish settlement in the city, presumably to stimulate trade. However, the privilege was not used.


In 1412 Greifswald clashed with the Pomeranian Duke Wartislaw VIII when his citizens attacked his vassals. The dispute dragged on until 1415 before a reconciliation was reached through the mediation of the estates. The city also received fishing rights in the Greifswalder Bodden. When Duke Wartislaw IV died in 1326 and the First War of Succession with Mecklenburg over the question of rule broke out around his underage children, Greifswald formed a state peace alliance with its neighboring towns of Stralsund, Anklam and Demmin in order to keep the Pomeranian dukes in power. With the help of the Danish king, the Mecklenburgers could be turned away. The same city alliance was concluded again when it was necessary to protect oneself from pirates and robber barons at the end of the 14th century. When disputes arose between Pomerania and the Teutonic Order around 1390, which also impaired relations with Poland, Greifswald granted the Polish merchants transport privileges in order to maintain trade with them. In 1452, with the award of the Golden Privilege by the Pomeranian Duke Wartislaw IX, Greifswald received extensive trading rights that helped the city to achieve economic power and prosperity.

In 1456, Duke Wartislaw IX followed. the initiative of Mayor Heinrich Rubenow and founded the university as a Pomeranian state university. The foundation of the university has had a positive effect up to the present day.

16th to 18th century
The Reformation found its way into Greifswald in 1531. At the instigation of the citizens, the Stralsund Lutheran clergyman Johannes Knipstro came to the city and was able to introduce Luther's teaching there without much resistance. A new evangelical school was founded in 1561 in the abandoned Franciscan monastery. Under the rector Lucas Tacke she won many students around 1600.

With the Thirty Years War, hardship and misery came to the city. On May 19, 1626, sovereign Bogislaw XIV ordered the Greifswalders to improve the fortifications, some of which had fallen into disrepair, as much as possible, but on November 10, 1627 the seriously ill Duke surrendered Pomerania to the imperial troops. These moved into Greifswald under Wallenstein on November 20, 1627 and established a regime of terror in which the population was looted in the worst possible way. To repel the Swedish troops, Wallenstein had the fortifications reinforced and used the population to do forced labor. A plague epidemic decimated the inhabitants so much that only half of the houses were still inhabited by the end of the war. In June 1631 the troops of King Gustav Adolf II stood in front of the city and took it after a short battle.

The following period, the so-called Sweden Era, lasted 184 years. Until the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Swedes were masters of Western Pomerania and thus also responsible for Greifswald's fate. However, they left the Pomeranian cities quite independently. Greifswald was upgraded to the extent that it became the seat of the highest judicial and church authorities for Swedish Pomerania. With the relocation of the higher tribunal in 1803, Greifswald received a higher appeal court in addition to the existing court of appeal and thus became the location of three courts. Brandenburg tried several times to recapture the lost territory, and in 1678 it was possible to occupy Greifswald for a year. In the previous battles, the city center including St. Mary's Church was badly damaged. In the walls of the church there are still a number of Brandenburg cannonballs. The wars of the 18th century placed a heavy burden on the city. During the Great Northern War in 1712 and 1713 the passing Danish, Saxon and Russian troops had to be supplied, and in the Seven Years War in 1758 a powder magazine set up in the city by the Prussians exploded, which destroyed large parts of the city. Before that, major fires in 1713 and 1736 had cremated parts of the city center. The efforts of the Swedes for the University of Greifswald have been fondly remembered. After its decline at the end of the Thirty Years' War, they revived teaching and had the main university building built in 1747.


19th century
After the coup d'état of the Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf and the legal separation of Swedish Pomerania from the Holy Roman Empire, the Swedish constitution was introduced on June 26, 1806 and serfdom was revoked on July 4. The Greifswald Landtag in August 1806 primarily served to represent the new conditions.

During the Napoleonic Wars, troops from France and its allies occupied the city from 1807 to 1810 and 1812/13. In the course of the Peace of Kiel in January 1814, Greifswald and Swedish Pomerania were to fall to Denmark, but came to Prussia during the Congress of Vienna by ceding the then Prussian Duchy of Lauenburg to Denmark. The transfer to Prussia took place on October 23, 1815. In the course of the Prussian administrative reform, Greifswald became the administrative seat of the district of the same name in 1818. With the connection to the Berlin – Stralsund trunk road in 1836 and the connection to the railway network in 1863, the prerequisites were created for an - albeit modest - industry to develop in the former country town. In 1848, 53 merchant ships were based in Greifswald. In 1864 the Boddenstadt was the seat of 14 shipowners, who owned 60 sailing and four steamers with a total of 8,744 loads and employed 575 seafarers. The largest Greifswald sailing ships at that time were the barque unity of the ship owner Carl Graedner (303 loads, captain: JCF Braun, 13 man owner) and the barque Greifswald of the same shipowner (277 loads, captain: Hermann Vorbrodt, 13 man owner). . This was followed by the Bark Rubenow owned by shipowner J.D. Hagen (259 loads, captain: CD Stüdemann, 13 man owner) and the barque Louise of the shipowner H. Odebrecht (255 loads, captain: Robert Beckmann, 13 man owner), finally the barque Hermann of the ship owner W. Haeger (253 Loads, captain: L. Reetz, 13 man owner) and the barque Fomalhaut of the shipowner L. Wittenberg (245 loads, captain: Robert Bülow, 13 man owner). In addition to several mechanical engineering companies and foundries, the main railway workshop built in 1863 was an important economic factor. For many decades it was one of the city's largest employers. The university was still of the greatest importance. Construction of the clinic district in the north-west of the city had already begun in 1856.

In 1871 - late compared to other cities - an independent Jewish community with around 100 members emerged, which was separated from the Stralsund community. A Jewish cemetery on its own property had existed on the road to Gützkow-Jarmen since 1860. When the community moved away, the community dwindled until it had shrunk to just a few people before 1938 during the Nazi era. A memorial plaque on the site of the former prayer room in the Marktostquartier reminds of the community today.

On November 13, 1872, a storm flood led to 2.64 m above sea level. to the highest high water level since the beginning of the recording.

20th century
At the turn of the century, lavishly built new streets were built, in which the increasingly affluent citizens settled. In 1912 Greifswald received the status of an independent city. At the beginning of the First World War, 1,500 students were enrolled at the university. In 1915 a new theater was opened. A donation of land from the city to the university in 1925 enabled the university to grow beyond the boundaries of the old town. In 1929 a modern skin clinic was opened on the new university campus in the east of the city. In 1934 the construction of the arboretum began there; In 1935 the Clinic for Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases opened.

In 1926, the railway workshop - known as RAW (Reichsbahn repair shop) since the DR (Deutsche Reichsbahn) was founded in 1920 - was closed after labor disputes. The world economic crisis of the 1930s made itself felt through high unemployment. On the occasion of the regional reform carried out in 1939, the towns of Wieck and Eldena were incorporated. This increased the population to over 37,000. From 1940 to 1945 the large prisoner-of-war camp, main camp IIC, existed on today's Franz-Mehring-Strasse, in which many prisoners of war from numerous countries occupied by Germany were interned and used in subcamps for forced labor. The city, which housed a large garrison of the Wehrmacht, survived the Second World War without being destroyed. On April 30, 1945, at the instigation of city commandant Rudolf Petershagen, it was handed over to the Red Army without a fight. The then rector of the University of Carl Engel, the deputy city commander Max Otto Wurmbach and Gerhardt Katsch as head of the university clinics and senior medical officer in the city were involved in the negotiations.


In the immediate post-war years, functions for the part of Pomerania that remained with Germany were relocated from Stettin to Greifswald. the management of the Pomeranian regional church, the regional archive and the Reich Railway Directorate. In 1945 the Soviet occupiers reopened the railway works. From the RAW and some other companies, the KAW (Kraftwagen-Maschungswerk) was later formed; there was also a motor vehicle depot (KBW).

The damage and loss of important parts of the building structure of the historically valuable old town can be traced back to demolition and neglected restoration and maintenance in the GDR; Due to demolitions, for example the classicist Steinbecker Tor (also known as the Brandenburg Gate) by Carl August Peter Menzel in 1951, and historicizing new (slab) buildings in the north of the old town, around half of the historical building fabric was lost between 1945 and 1990.

"It was the slaughter of a historic old town," said Conrad. Similar to the West Pomeranian historian Norbert Buske in 1991: "Anyone who comes to Greifswald today must think that Greifswald was also hit by the war roller and left the city in ruins".

At the end of the 1960s, the redesign of an inner-city sub-area between Brüggstrasse and Bachstrasse, Old Harbor and Markt began as part of a research project by the GDR Building Academy in "adapted panel construction". In the process, some listed objects were restored, including the city library, the captain's house, today's funeral home and the buildings on the north side of the market. After this renovation was completed in the late 1970s, other parts of the northern old town were redesigned according to this pattern.

From around 1965 to 1988 the large prefabricated residential areas Schönwalde I / Südstadt (1496 apartments (WE)), Schönwalde II (5250 WE), Old Ostseeviertel (731 WE), Ostseeviertel / Parkseite (2202 WE) and Ostseeviertel / Ryckseite (804 WE) in the south and east of Greifswald.

After 1990
The renovations of the historic city center that have been carried out since 1991 as part of the urban development subsidy have meanwhile made the parts of the old town still preserved worth seeing again. In particular, the market square with its free-standing town hall is considered to be one of the most beautiful in northern Germany. Since 1993 the redesign and upgrading took place and from 2000 also the demolition in the prefabricated housing estates (urban redevelopment).

In the course of the district reform Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 2011 on September 4, 2011, Greifswald lost its district freedom and became part of the newly formed district of Vorpommern-Greifswald. The city therefore tried to maintain its status as an independent city of a special kind. Together with some neighboring communities, which all remain independent, the Hanseatic city wanted to form its own urban district.

In 2017, Greifswald was awarded the honorary title “Reformation City of Europe” by the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe.

Population development
Population development in Greifswald according to the table below. Above from 1618 to 2018. Below an excerpt from 1871

Population density of Greifswald 2011
In 1989 the population of the city of Greifswald reached its historical high of over 68,000. In the years following the fall of the Wall in the GDR, the city lost around 15,000 inhabitants by 2004 due to a decline in the birth rate, relocation due to high unemployment and relocation to surrounding communities. The number of students at the university, on the other hand, increased and reached its highest level in 2012 with around 12,500 students. In a 2008 study, Greifswald was the “youngest” city in Germany; it had the highest proportion of households with people under 30 years of age. Between 2005 and 2020 the city grew moderately by around 6,500 inhabitants to over 59,200. With secondary residences, Greifswald has a population of around 62,000.

The following overview shows the population figures according to the respective territorial status. Up to 1833 these are mostly estimates, then census results (¹) or official updates from the respective statistical offices or the city administration itself “Population at the place of the main residence”. Before 1843, the number of inhabitants was determined according to inconsistent survey methods.