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Gießen is a university town in the district of Gießen in central
Hesse and with 89,802 inhabitants (December 31, 2019) the seventh
largest city in the state of Hesse and one of the state's seven
special status cities. As the seat of the administrative district of
Gießen and the district, it is the administrative center of Central
Hesse, an important transport hub and one of the regional centers.
With Wetzlar, located ten kilometers to the west in the Lahn-Dill district, the city forms an agglomeration area with around 200,000 inhabitants; in the closer region there are around 275,000 inhabitants. The cities of Marburg (Marburg-Biedenkopf district) upstream of the Lahn, Fulda (Fulda district) beyond the Vogelsberg, Siegen (Siegen-Wittgenstein district) in South Westphalia, Friedberg (Hesse) and Bad Nauheim in the Wetterau district and Limburg an der Lahn (district Limburg-Weilburg) on the edge of the Westerwald.
In the city are the Justus Liebig University, several areas of the Technical University of Central Hesse, the Free Theological University of Giessen and a department of the Hessian University for Police and Administration as well as the Hessian initial reception facility for refugees.
Wilhelm von Gleiberg founded a moated castle in the valley below in 1152 and later moved his seat from Gleiberg Castle there; this laid the foundation stone for the future city of Giessen. Gleiberg Castle, about 8 km northwest of today's city, was built by the Conradins around the 10th century and passed to the Luxembourgers at the end of the 10th century, who thus established the county of Gleiberg on the central Lahn.
On the way to the city
The first written mention of the name (by the) "Giezzen" comes from 1197. In 1248 Gießen was first attested as a city. In 1264, Gießen came to the Landgraviate of Hesse through the sale of Count Ulrich I von Asperg from the house of the Count Palatine of Tübingen, to whom it had passed by inheritance. The new town was founded around 1325. From around 1370 there were mayors in Gießen who were on an equal footing with the lordly castle men, as well as a council representing the citizens. The old town hall on the market square, which was destroyed in 1944 as a symbol of bourgeois power, was built around 1450, the town church until 1484. In 1442 Gießen received market privilege. Today's "Marktplatz" was still used as a marketplace, while the weekly market is held today on Lindenplatz, in the Marktlauben (Alte Marktlauben 1894, Neue Marktlauben around 1910) and at Brandplatz.
Foundation of the university
Around 1535, Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous had the city fortified. In the same decade, the old cemetery and the new castle were built. On May 27, 1560, a major fire destroyed the northern part of the city around the Walltor. When the Landgraviate was divided in 1567, Gießen became part of Hesse-Marburg and in 1604 Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1605, Landgrave Ludwig V founded the Ludovicianum grammar school in Giessen as a Latin school. On May 19, 1607, a privilege granted by Emperor Rudolf II enabled the university to be founded as a counterpart to that in Marburg. Two years later the botanical garden, today one of the oldest in Germany, opened in its original location. In 1634/35 a severe plague epidemic decimated the city's population. In the 18th century, the region was repeatedly ravaged by wars and the city was occupied by foreign troops.
In 1803, Gießen became the capital of the new province of Upper Hesse in the Grand Duchy of Hesse. In the following years the city fortifications were razed and the ramparts (green areas) were created in their place. From 1824 to 1852 Justus Liebig taught at the University of Giessen, which was named after him after the Second World War. On January 14, 1838, the "School for Technical Drawing" was founded, a forerunner of today's TH Mittelhessen (THM).
In the revolutionary year of 1848 there were also unrest in Giessen; one student was killed. August Becker published the radical democratic daily newspaper “Jüngster Tag” in Giessen. In 1849 the city was connected to the German railway network with the opening of the Main-Weser-Bahn (Frankfurt-Kassel). The railway to Cologne followed in 1862, followed by the connection to the Lahn Valley Railway from Wetzlar to Koblenz in 1864. From about 1860, especially during the tenure of the first professional mayor August Bramm (1875–1889), the city grew beyond the ramparts.
In 1855 the works fire brigade of the Gail'schein Werke was founded, in the same year the municipal volunteer fire brigade of Giessen.
From 1867 Gießen was a military base for Infantry Regiment 116 as a garrison town. In 1870 the Vogelsberg Railway to Fulda opened, and in 1872 the Lahn-Kinzig Railway to Gelnhausen. From 1879 to 1888 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen taught at the University of Giessen. In 1893 what is now the largest church in the city, the Protestant St. John's Church on the southern complex, was inaugurated. The town theater, initiated by the citizens, opened in 1907. From 1894, there was local public transport in Gießen, initially with horse-drawn buses, and since 1909 with an electric tram.
In 1903 the New Cemetery was put into operation as a non-denominational municipal cemetery. One year later the progressive sewer system in Giessen was inaugurated. The professional fire brigade was founded in 1914. The “Volkshalle” on today's Grünberger Straße and the Giessen airport were opened in 1925.
With effect from November 1, 1938, the Reichsstatthalter in Hesse, in his function as leader of the state government, decreed not only the spin-off of the cities of Darmstadt, Mainz, Offenbach and Worms, but also the city of Gießen from their previous district. Giessen became an independent city. By incorporating Wieseck, Kleinlinden and Schiffenberg, the population rose to 42,000 in 1939. On September 10, 1955, the Hessen State Fire Brigade Association, founded the year before, held its first association meeting in Giessen.
After the First World War and the provisions of the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Gießen was interesting as a military location because it was just outside the demilitarized zone. In the 1930s and 1940s, around 467 hectares of urban land were given to the army and air force for a small price when they were upgraded. Further barracks were built: Artillery barracks (Bleidorn barracks, later Pendleton Barracks) and Waldkaserne (Verdun barracks, later Rivers Barracks). A training area was set up between the former Steuben barracks and the Hohe Warte. The other barracks included Zeughauskaserne and Neue Kaserne (mountain barracks).
From 1936 to 1939 a military hospital was built on the corner of Schubertstrasse and Karl-Franz-Strasse. It remained undestroyed in World War II and, like the Giessen barracks, was initially used by the US Army after 1945 and by the French armed forces from 1951. In 1957 it was returned and put into service as a military hospital; later renamed the Bundeswehr Hospital. In 1997 it was closed; After a conversion, the building is now being used by the tax office, among others.
The Wehrmacht maintained the Gisela communications bunker on what is now the current automobile mile (Rivers Barracks), which was used, among other things, to coordinate the attack on France in 1940. Large parts of the facility are still there today.
Gießen has most of the still existing angular bunkers in Germany. There are still eight copies distributed throughout the city.
Air raids in World War II
The No. 5 Royal Air Force bomber group bombed Giessen on December 2 and in the night of December 6 to 7, 1944 as part of the Area Bombing Directive. During the second attack ('operation hake'), almost the entire historic town center of Giessen was destroyed by a firestorm; around 390 people died and around 30,000 were left homeless. The train station, the railway systems and the numerous military installations, however, remained largely intact. It could have been worse for Gießen: A not inconsiderable part of the bomb load of the second air raid was accidentally dropped over the mine forest. Many of the circular pools there are bomb craters.
On December 11, 1944, 353 USAAF B-17 bombers dropped 731 tons of high explosive bombs and 1,116 tons of incendiary bombs when the cloud cover was closed. An area between Ludwigstrasse and the industrial area / mining forest was hit primarily. In the months that followed, many more people died from low-flying attacks. On March 28, 1945, the entry of US troops ended the war for the people of Giessen. Two thirds of the city was destroyed, 90 percent of the inner city.
Emergency reception center after 1946
At the end of October 1945, the military government of the USA informed the state government of Greater Hesse that the state would have to accept around 600,000 displaced persons and refugees in 1946. At the beginning of February 1946, the first 1,200 people reached the city in freight cars. The temporary “refugee transit camp” was not far from the train station. Since Gießen was a rail hub, on May 7, 1947 the State Commissioner for Refugees made it a government transit camp for all refugees to Greater Hesse. In 1948 the Lord Mayor Otto-Heinz Engler asked the regional council in Darmstadt to relocate the camp due to the high burden on the city's social budget from the refugees. Later, the mayor Hugo Lotz achieved financial compensation for the city through the country.
On September 1, 1950, the camp was renamed the Gießen emergency reception center and acquired nationwide competence. At that time, the proportion of people displaced was already a fifth of the total population of Giessen. The Gießen emergency reception center was also a transit camp for refugees from the Soviet occupation zone who wanted to stay in the American zone. Since the 1960s it was the first stop for numerous GDR citizens who had left; In 1989 it experienced first the onslaught of East Germans who fled via Hungary and in autumn that of those who crossed the now open border legally. In 1986 it was renamed the Federal Reception Center, today it is the central reception center of the State of Hesse with a location on Rödgener Straße.
The reconstruction was based on the teachings of modern urban
planning: Old town plots were combined into large units, streets and
plazas were expanded, and public space was largely adapted to the
interests of car traffic. In 1953 the last line of the Giessen
tramway, which had previously been laboriously rebuilt, was shut
down, instead trolleybuses ran until 1968.
Many of the few streets in the city center that had been spared from the bombing raids were torn down, as well as partially preserved ruins such as the rebuildable ruins of the 500-year-old town hall. New buildings in the style of the 1950s were built, including the (already demolished) high-rise office building on Berliner Platz or the congress hall and the townhouse built in 1961 and demolished in 2006.
The last war ruin in the city center was a rear building on Goethestrasse; it was removed in 2004. The arterial roads, the ramparts and the most important axes in the city center were expanded into multi-lane traffic roads (plant ring). By 1975, numerous sections of the motorway were built around Gießen, including the Gießener Ring (partly expressway).
In the period after the Second World War, Gießen became a location for troops of the US Army. Among other things, it was under the control of the Steuben barracks. The US Depot Gießen and the location of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) had an important supply function for the US Army in Europe. The properties managed during the Cold War included the Gießen special ammunition depot and the Alten-Buseck special ammunition depot with nuclear warheads and the Patriot position at Hohe Warte. The Americans still have a military training area on the Hohe Warte. The permit was granted in 2000, although it is now a nature reserve.
The cityscape, the social structure and especially the gastronomy (many bars) of the city were strongly influenced by the members of the US Army in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1947/48 there was a pronounced black market in Gießen's Bahnhofsviertel, especially with cigarettes and discarded - also new - uniform parts (trousers, jackets, parkas) of the Americans. “American cigarettes” were also used as a means of payment at this time. Butts thrown away were u. a. collected by "Kippenstecher" or "Kippenleer" and rolled new cigarettes from the tobacco. At that time the Gießener "Kippenleser-Blues" was created with the text: "Babbe gugg, do unne laid en Kippe, vo e'r gure Chesterfield, heeb en off, da hu m'r aut ze rache, so eh gure Chesterfield ..." the melody of "In the Mood".
The withdrawal of the Americans in Giessen resulted in a high loss of jobs.
Episode "City of Lahn"
On January 1, 1977, in the course of the regional reform in Hesse, the city of Lahn was created as the upper center of Central Hesse with 155,247 inhabitants by virtue of state law from Gießen, Wetzlar and 14 surrounding communities. After only 31 months of existence, it was disbanded on August 1, 1979. In the course of this, Gießen received the Lützellinden district.
In 2005, after a year of construction, the Neustädter Tor gallery was opened. It combines several shops in one building complex. There is a direct bus and train connection through the two stops at Oswaldsgarten. An integrated car park has 1,100 parking spaces.
In 2006, after the old town hall from the 1950s was demolished, construction began on the new town hall from 2009 on Berliner Platz in which almost all the authorities were brought together again. New medical centers such as the day clinic in the north facility, an extension of the university clinic, the new Martinshof next to the St. Josefs hospital and the care center in Grünberger Strasse were built.
In 2012, the new biomedical research center of the Justus Liebig University was inaugurated on Seltersberg. It stands out due to its striking colors and distinctive architectural style.
In 1939 the surrounding communities of Wieseck (north) and Kleinlinden (south) were incorporated. Before the independent city of Gießen became part of the city of Lahn, the communities of Allendorf an der Lahn and Rödgen were incorporated. Lützellinden followed in 1979, making it the youngest district in Giessen.