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Gotha is the fifth largest city in the Free State of Thuringia and the district town of the Gotha district. From 1640 to 1825 Gotha was the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and from 1826 the capital and residence of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1820 the German insurance industry was founded in the city with Gothaer Versicherung. The Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAP) was founded in Gotha Tivoli in 1875 and later renamed the SPD. The city was a center of the German publishing industry, so the Justus Perthes publishing house, founded in 1785, mainly produced cartographic publications (maps, atlases, wall maps, etc.).

In the past, the medium-sized town of Gotha was rivaling Weimar, the other center of the Ernestine dynasty. While Weimar became the artistic center, Gotha became its scientific counterpart, as evidenced by the Natural History Museum and the Gotha Observatory today. The baroque Friedenstein Castle dominates the cityscape. It was the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg until 1825, and from then until 1918 those of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

A larger company from Gotha was the Gothaer Waggonfabrik, which mainly produced trams and airplanes. In Gotha today the Gotha tram or the Thuringian Forest Railway is one of the last cross-country trams in Germany (to Waltershausen and Tabarz).

Gotha is the seat of the Thuringian University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration; two of the three departments are located at this location.



Early settlement
Due to the availability of fertile soils and supra-regional traffic routes, the area of ​​what would later become Gotha and the surrounding area were populated early on. During construction work on a bypass road, rich finds were found in the districts of Boilstädt and Sundhausen. The earliest findings come from settlement remains of the Neolithic linear ceramics (5500 BC), while other settlement remains were assigned to the early Bronze Age. Further findings point to burial mounds from the late Bronze Age (approx. 1000 BC) and traces of settlement from the Iron Age (approx. 500 BC). The most important finds come from the early Middle Ages (around 600 AD) from the time of the Merovingians. The burial place of a warrior of the Thuringian-Franconian upper class from the 6th century is of particular importance. The “Herr von Boilstädt”, as the archaeologists called him because of the proximity of the site to Boilstädt, was buried with rich grave goods that are unique in Germany.

Gotha was first mentioned in a document issued on October 25, 775 in Düren. With her, Charlemagne gave the Hersfeld Monastery, among other things, the tithe of the lands, forests and meadows of Villa Gothaha (= good water). The relationship to Hersfeld may also have been the reason for the takeover of the city saint St. Gothardus (see coat of arms), a former abbot of Hersfeld and later bishop of Hildesheim. An older settlement can be assumed, however. The area of ​​Gotha has been settled for a long time, archaeologically proven.

According to the legend of The Goths, which was already known in the 16th century as the city's founder, Gotha owes both its foundation and its name to the Goths.

Around the year 510 warriors of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great are said to have come to Thuringia when his niece Amalaberga married the King of the Thuringians, Herminafried. Those Ostrogoths are said to have settled below today's Schlossberg and given the settlement the name Gota. This founding legend is still reflected today in the design of the Renaissance town hall portal: As the (Christian) symbols of lamb and lindworm were once attributed to the Goths, the reliefs of these two animals were attached to the portal in 1574.

middle age
Gotha developed as a central market town and stage station at an intersection of Via Regia or Hohen Straße (west-east direction), and a connection from Mühlhausen via Bad Langensalza to a transition over the Thuringian Forest near Oberhof (north-south direction) .

In a deed of donation dated May 18, 874, the current districts of Gothas Unsolteyleba (Uelleben), Kintileba (Kindleben) and the nearby community of Bufileba (Bufleben) along with 114 other places in Thuringia are mentioned as the Fulda Abbey. Archbishop Liubert zu Mainz and Abbot Sigehard zu Fulda asserted the right to raise the tithe for themselves. The dispute over this was decided by King Ludwig the German (840–876) at the court of Ingelheim in favor of the Fulda Abbey.

The planned urban layout, which is still recognizable today, was created under the Ludowingers. The city received Eisenach town charter around the middle of the 12th century under Landgrave Ludwig II. In 1180/89 Gotha was first mentioned as a city in a document from the Landgrave. It became one of the main landgraves' mints. In 1207 the first devastating city fire broke out. In 1223 the Mariae Magdalenae Hospital in Brühl was founded as the oldest charitable institution in the city by Landgrave Ludwig IV and his wife Elisabeth of Thuringia. the later Saint Elizabeth. In 1247 the rule of the state passed from the Thuringian landgraves to the Wettins.

Gotha developed under the protection of Grimmenstein Castle, a constantly strengthened Wettin castle and its own city fortifications, which were built up from walls, city gates, towers, earthworks and ditches. The municipal military organization of the guilds produced the first rifle regulations around 1442, which also regulates the training and arming of the vigilante group. The first bird shooting in front of the Brühler Tor was mentioned in 1478, and the best crossbowman was awarded a rifle chain by the city council. For a long time, the woad trade was the basis of a certain prosperity, until the 16th century there were more than 300 villages in the area around Gotha, Erfurt and Arnstadt that cultivated this woad plant. Woolen cloth production and finishing, as well as the manufacture of shoes and leather goods, can be named as the focus of the craft trades. In the 16th century, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, nails, coppersmiths and locksmiths, sword sweepers, needlers and plumbers had developed in the city with their own guilds, and in the leather trade there are now specialists in saddlers, belters, baggers, bag makers, belters and the tanners.


The water supply was a major obstacle to further urban development. The few natural springs in the urban area and the urban wells were only partially sufficient, so the Leinakanal was created in 1369 under Landgrave Balthasar of Thuringia. This still existing technical monument of the city's water supply led over twelve kilometers of water from the edge of the Thuringian Forest to the city, as there were no natural rivers in Gotha. According to a preserved town order from the 14th century, a fountain master had to be chosen in every street in Gotha to be responsible for keeping the hydraulic structures clean and repairing them.

Reformation time
After a first Reformation sermon in 1522, immediately after the Gothaer Pfaffensturm in August 1524, Friedrich Myconius, a friend of Martin Luther, was appointed as a Protestant preacher at the Marienkirche in Gotha, who was responsible for the consolidation of the Protestant faith and the organization of the communities in and around Gotha worked.

In 1526, Landgrave Philipp von Hessen and Elector Johann von Sachsen in Gotha reached an agreement that later led to the Schmalkaldic Confederation. In 1545 a city fire destroyed almost half of the residential buildings. There was further destruction during the siege of the city and the castle in 1566 and 1567 by imperial troops under the orders of the Elector August of Saxony. Duke Johann Friedrich II wanted to regain the lost electoral dignity and allied himself with the knight Grumbach, who was under imperial ban, against the emperor. The imperial troops finally won. The strong fortress Grimmenstein was razed during the Grumbach trade.

Elector August, who carried out the execution of the empire commissioned by the emperor, had a thaler struck on the capture of Gotha (1567) with a demonstratively large Kurschild, which propagated his victory on the front inscription and summarized the capture of Gotha in the inscription on the back.

Early modern times to the 19th century
In the 17th century Gotha became the residence of the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha under the Protestant Duke Ernst the Pious (since 1826 in personal union with Saxe-Coburg). The dukes of Saxe-Gotha created an exemplary state in terms of administration, economy and finance. Compulsory schooling for girls and boys and the Gotha school method of the pedagogue Andreas Reyher as the first school regulations were introduced, and scientific collections began. The Hoftheater (Ekhof Theater in honor of its co-founder Conrad Ekhof) was built into a ballroom of the palace and, as the first stage with a permanent ensemble, influenced the development of German theater for a long time.

In 1663 a fire devastated over 300 houses in the historic old town, including in the Mönchelsstrasse / Querstrasse construction site in the south of Neumarkt. Timbers here have been dated to 1490.

Around 1740 an anti-Prussian newspaper in French, the Gazette de Gotha, was published in Gotha, supported by the court and in particular by the Duchess Luise Dorothea von Sachsen-Meiningen. Although it was only known locally, it attracted the displeasure of the Prussian royal house of Frederick II. In December 1744, the Prussian war counselor Backhoff Freiherr von Echt tried in vain for a truthful representation of the events of the Second Silesian War in the Gazette de Gotha.

The various interests of the dukes established Gotha's reputation as a city of natural sciences and the arts. Porcelain was already being produced in Gotha in 1757, making the porcelain factory one of the oldest in Europe.

Renowned scientists and artists came to the court through Gotha's reputation. The castle fortifications were lifted under Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. A park based on the English model was created. The Duke financed a modern observatory from private funds, which, according to his will, should be preserved as his only memorial. In 1785 the geographical publishing house Justus Perthes was founded, in which the Gothaer Adelskalender (Der Gotha) appeared from 1785 to 1944. Ernst-Wilhelm Arnoldi founded the modern mutual insurance through the Gothaer Feuerversicherungsbank in 1820 (today: Gothaer Allgemeine Versicherung AG in Cologne) and the life insurance bank in 1827 (today: Gothaer Lebensversicherung AG in Cologne). The Gothaer Group in Cologne emerged from them. Thus Gotha can be seen as the place of origin of today's German insurance industry.


In 1847 it was connected to the railway network and the Gotha train station was built. Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha consistently represented the Prussian unification policy. He gained popularity as an advocate or protector of singers, gymnasts, riflemen, hunters and student fraternities. In 1849 the post-parliament took place in Gotha. Out of liberal conviction, a progressive constitution was approved and proclaimed, which enabled “all-German” congresses such as the establishment of the German Rifle Federation in 1861 or the union of the workers 'parties of Ferdinand Lassalle and August Bebel to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany, later the SPD. On the basis of the education law of Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, August Köhler established the first training center for teachers and kindergarten teachers. Köhler founded the German Froebel Association for Thuringia in 1863, from which the General Froebel Association emerged in 1872 and the German Froebel Association a year later. All dealt with the teachings of the German "original pedagogue" Friedrich Froebel. The first German crematorium was built in Gotha in 1878.

1900 to 1945
Favored by the good traffic conditions, the city developed into an important location for mechanical engineering, the printing industry and the processing of agricultural raw materials. Aviation was recognized as a rapidly developing branch very early on (Fliegerstadt Gotha). In 1910 an airfield with airship hangars and a military airfield was built near Gotha on the southern slope of the Kleiner Seeberg. Before the First World War, the company began manufacturing aircraft. With a Gotha dove, a replica of the Rumpler construction, Karl Caspar crossed the English Channel to Dover in 1914 and dropped the first bomb to fall on the English mainland. The bombers known as Gothas carried out the first air raids on a large city (London) in World War I from 1917. After the defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Duke as part of the November Revolution, there was political radicalization that led to armed fighting in 1920 (Kapp Putsch) and 1923 (Reich execution). Gotha was the center of the fighting between left and conservative forces in Thuringia as early as 1918 and also in the following years as the state capital of the Free State of Saxony-Gotha. It was one of the few cities in Thuringia where bloody battles broke out at the time. When the rearmament began, aircraft production in the Gotha wagon factory was resumed. In addition, Kampfgeschwader 253 "General Wever", later renamed Kampfgeschwader 4, was set up for the Luftwaffe.

As part of a comprehensive regional reform, the district of Gotha was created in 1922, while the city of Gotha itself remained independent.

During the National Socialist era, some Gotha residents also resisted the regime. The socialist editor of the Thuringian People's Newspaper, Otto Geithner, was arrested by the Nazis and interned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, but experienced liberation. Otto-Geithner-Strasse was named after him. The Protestant pastor Werner Sylten worked in the office of the Confessing Church at Gartenstrasse 29, who organized help for Jewish Christians. He was murdered in the "euthanasia" institution in Hartheim (Austria). Werner-Sylten-Strasse is a reminder of him. A memorial for the victims of fascism has stood in the rose garden below the castle since 1969 and was demolished in 2011. A new memorial with the inscription "Honoring memory of the anti-fascist resistance and the victims of the Nazi regime 1933 - 1945" was built in 2012 at the Gotha main cemetery and inaugurated on August 31, 2012 at its new location. During the pogrom night of 1938, the Gotha synagogue was set on fire by the SA. A memorial at the former location on Moßlerstrasse has been commemorating them since 1988. Between 1934 and 1943 207 men and 475 women were victims of forced sterilization. From September 1939 to April 1945, 6,778 forced laborers and prisoners of war from the countries occupied by Germany had to do forced labor, mainly in Gotha armaments factories (e.g. Gothaer wagon factory). 215 victims of forced labor are buried in the main cemetery. A memorial stone commemorates them.


Air raids in February, August and November 1944, as well as in February, March and April 3, 1945 caused considerable damage to the city. The Margarethenkirche was badly hit (in 1952 the exterior was rebuilt in its old form, the interior was greatly changed). The state theater burned down (the preserved surrounding walls were removed in 1958). The Gotha Orangery was partially destroyed. The neoclassical station hall from 1848 was destroyed and later rebuilt in a simplified manner. A number of destroyed valuable town houses were not rebuilt. Lighter damage suffered, among others: the Augustinerkirche, the Friedrichskirche, Schloss Friedenstein (only the main portal badly damaged), Schloss Friedrichsthal, Orangery, Park Temple and House Königsaal (Brühl). This damage was repaired relatively soon after the end of the war. Overall, Gotha was destroyed to five percent.

When American units approached at the end of the Second World War on April 4, 1945, an offer of surrender by the city commandant Josef Ritter von Gadolla prevented further serious destruction of the city and unnecessary losses. Von Gadolla was legally shot for this act the following day in Weimar. The city was initially occupied by American troops for three months before it was occupied by Soviet troops in accordance with the decisions of the Yalta Conference in early July 1945 and Gotha became part of the Soviet occupation zone.

1946 to autumn 1989
On April 7, 1946, under pressure from the Soviet occupation forces, the KPD and SPD in Thuringia were united to form the SED in Gotha. The monument to Infantry Regiment No. 95, erected in 1927, was demolished.

After the administrative reform in the GDR, Gotha was a district town in the Erfurt district. After dismantling and reconstruction, the city's profile as an industrial city (in particular vehicle construction, printing (especially cartography), rubber industry, food) was retained.

Gotha was involved in the unrest in the GDR on June 17, 1953 and in the days after. So there was a strike in VEB Lowa-Waggonbau. Preparations for a demonstration in the city were prevented by SED agitators. The strike at the same plant on June 18 was carried out with political demands: the overthrow of the GDR government and free elections. On that day only the Soviet Army was able to prevent demonstrations from developing into the city by declaring a state of emergency. The following night "provocateurs" were arrested. On June 19, striking workers continued to demand the release of those arrested. Security organs prevented the plant from leaving for the city under threat of the use of firearms. VP sub-lieutenant Günter Schwarzer from Gotha was executed on June 19 for refusing to take action against the strikers.

The tradition as a non-university education center of supraregional importance for the entire GDR could be continued (technical schools for finance, transport technology, construction, engineering teachers, kindergarten teachers and nurses).

The museums (castle, regional and natural history museums), the state and research library, archives and important sights have been preserved or have been reopened. However, hundreds of works of art were lost under the American occupation and in 1946 the entire remainder of the Gotha art collections, the coin cabinet and the ducal library were transferred to the USSR as looted goods. The main part of the library (over 90%), the coin cabinet and most of the works of art returned from the Soviet Union in 1958. In December 1979, the art theft of Gotha, a theft of five paintings from the exhibition in Friedenstein Castle, was the most serious art theft in the history of the GDR.

At times, with a population of around 60,000, including students, an all-time high was reached.

Since the post-war period, there have been major losses of historical buildings in Gotha, especially in the late GDR period. This included the demolition of the quarter west of the market square, including the Bürgeraue, as well as most of the houses on Moßler- and Große-Fahnen-Straße.

From autumn 1989

The turning point in Gotha was actively brought about by Friday demonstrations based on prayers for peace. The first demonstration took place on Friday, October 27, 1989. The highlights were the peaceful occupation of the District Directorate of State Security on Dec. 4, 1989 and Willy Brandt's appearance on January 27, 1990 on the main market in front of thousands of listeners.

After German reunification in 1990, representative buildings such as the castle, winter palace, town hall, churches, water art and the Grand Ducal Museum were repaired. Many residential buildings could also be renovated with the new options. On the other hand, empty buildings increasingly fell into disrepair, including those that were listed. In 2014, an entire row of houses on the Brühl was demolished, including four houses from the 16th to 18th centuries, a Renaissance building and the oldest house in Gotha.

In 2020 Gotha was awarded the honorary title of “Reformation City of Europe” by the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe.

As part of the regional reform in Thuringia, the municipalities of Boilstädt and Uelleben were incorporated on July 1, 1994. The formerly independent villages Siebleben and Sundhausen were incorporated in 1922 and 1974 respectively.

Population development
From the end of the 1860s to 1910, Gotha's population doubled due to the economic development caused by the high level of industrialization in Germany. The First World War resulted in a slump of around ten percent, but this was evened out again by 1919.

After the end of the Second World War there were around 12,000 resettlers and evacuees in the city. This led to a further increase in the population. In 1975 the population reached its historic high of almost 60,000. In the 1970s, an increase to 70,000 inhabitants by the year 2000 was forecast. However, the population stagnated in the late 1980s to a value between 57,000 and 58,000.

With the turnaround and German reunification, there was a rapid loss of population. This can be attributed to the strong birth deficit in the post-reunification years and a negative migration balance. The move at the beginning of the 1990s mainly related to the surrounding communities of Gotha, in which extensive residential areas developed. Proof of this is the population increase in the Gotha district over the same period. At the end of the 1990s and around the turn of the millennium, however, emigration to the old federal states increased for economic reasons. In 1997 the number had fallen to below 50,000 inhabitants, this mark has not been reached since then (as of 2019).

In the years from 2005 onwards, the negative migration balance of the city of Gotha was continuously reduced, so that immigration and emigration were now almost balanced. With the 2011 census, the population registers were cleaned up, which reduced the population by over 1,000 people. From 2012, however, immigration to the city will exceed the birth deficit, which will initially lead to a stabilization and currently to a growth in the population.

The following overview shows the population figures according to the respective territorial status. 1818 is an estimate, then census results or official updates from the statistical offices or the city administration. Before 1843, the number of inhabitants was determined according to inconsistent survey methods.


Geographical location

The city lies at the transition from the southern edge of the Thuringian Basin to a foreland region of the Thuringian Forest, which is known as the West Thuringian mountain and hill country.

The urban area extends between the Trügleber Höhe, the Boxberg and the Kleiner Seeberg on an area of ​​over 6900 hectares. The Krahnberg in the northwest is 431.3 m above sea level. the highest point in the urban area. The lowest point is at 269.4 m above sea level. in the Heutal.


Natural space

The city and its surrounding area between the Thuringian Forest and its foothills in the south and the wooded ridge of the Fahner Heights in the north are embedded in the varied landscape of the Thuringian Basin, which is characterized by agriculture.

The largest elevations are the Krahnberg (431 m) and the Kleine and Große Seeberg (406 m). In the north-west and south-east they reach up to the built-up urban area. They were reforested in the 19th century as urban recreational areas and, together with the Schlossberg (331 m) rising in the city center, form the natural framework of the city.

The castle complex on the Schlossberg, visible from afar, dominates the cityscape. The old town on the northern slope of the Schlossberg is bordered by the floodplains of the Wiegwasser in the west and the Wilden Graben or Flutgraben and the Ratsrinne in the east.



The flood ditch flows through the urban area from south to north. The Rot rises in the Siebleben district, a tributary of the Apple Town. In Gotha-Nord the Wiegwasser runs through the city area. It is a small stream that takes in the water flowing down from the Krahnberg. It rises about 100 m west of the end of Werner-Sylten-Straße and is led, partly underground, to the vicinity of Hersdorfplatz, where it joins the Wilder Graben shortly after it has taken up the Leinakanal.

Neighboring communities
Neighboring communities are in the north Nessetal, in the east Friemar, Drei Gleichen and Tüttleben, in the south Emleben, Georgenthal and in the west Hörsel. All communities belong to the district of Gotha.