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Mühlhausen / Thuringia (emphasis on the first syllable; from 1975 to 1991 Mühlhausen Thomas-Müntzer-Stadt) is the district town of the Unstrut-Hainich district and the tenth largest city in Thuringia. The large district city in the northwest of the state is located on the Unstrut, a tributary of the Saale, around 55 km northwest of the state capital Erfurt and takes the rank of a medium-sized center with partial functions of a regional center in the regional planning of the Free State of Thuringia.

In the Middle Ages, the imperial cities of Mühlhausen and Nordhausen were the second most powerful cities in the Thuringian region after Erfurt (see: Thuringian Tri-City League). The Mühlhausen fair, which is held annually for one week with 27 fair communities, took place for the first time in 1877 and is the largest city fair in Germany.

Mühlhausen is also known for its rich historical heritage, it was the place of work of Johann Sebastian Bach and Thomas Müntzer and an imperial city until 1802. Numerous historical buildings such as the city wall or St. Mary's Church still bear witness to its former importance. Johann August Röbling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, came from Mühlhausen.

In 2016, Mühlhausen was awarded the honorary title of “Reformation City of Europe” by the Community of Evangelical Churches in Europe.



Beginnings until 1400
As early as the early Stone Age, the geological conditions on the fertile Unstrut lowland formed an area that could be colonized, which is confirmed by archaeological finds. They also show that the place may have been culturally and politically significant between 400 and 531 at the time of the Thuringian Kingdom. In particular, the finds are linked to a fabulous tale according to which Attila the Hun King lived in Mulhus Castle on the train from Hungary to France in 451 and had a church built in honor of the knight George. (The Latinized name of Mühlhausen was later Mulhusinus.)

With the victory of the Franks over the Thuringian Germanic empire in 531, the state colonization began, which culminated in the final subjugation of the Thuringians at the beginning of the 8th century. At the same time the occupied territories were evangelized and Christianity made its way.

In 967 Mühlhausen was first mentioned in a document as a mulinhuson by Emperor Otto II. It was the center of an important imperial estate district with a fortified royal court, the origins of which go back to the Frankish empire of Charlemagne.

In the 11th century the development of the old town (market settlement) began, followed in the 12th century by the new town around the Marienkirche under Emperor Friedrich I. Barbarossa. In 1135, Emperor Lothar III was reconciled. in what was first called “villa regia” Mühlhausen with Konrad von Staufen. In 1135 Mühlhausen was the first place in Thuringia to receive city rights. Heinrich the Lion conquered Mühlhausen, which had developed into an important center of imperial power, in 1180.

Around 1200 the city wall was built around the city center (49 hectares) with seven double gates and 38 defensive and pulpit towers and a length of 2.7 kilometers. Mühlhausen, originally a royal chamber property, received coinage and customs rights at the beginning of the 13th century. At the same time, the city was closed off by walls from the castle, which was ruled by a royal burgrave. Around 1220 the "Mühlhausen Imperial Law Book" was recorded according to the Imperial Law (the oldest city law book in German). It also became applicable law for the imperial city of Nordhausen. In 1251 the city of Mühlhausen was granted the right to appoint a mayor, which made it a Free Imperial City, even though that office was pledged to the Count of Henneberg for a while in the 14th century. In the meantime the burgraviate had also come to an end: in 1256 the citizens stormed the castle and razed it to the ground. Emperor Karl IV confirmed the imperial freedom of the city. This enclosed its entire territory by a second fortification with numerous waiting areas, the "Landgraben". In the middle of the 14th century, the guilds received representation in the council. The Free Imperial City ("des riches Stadt") Mühlhausen had been a member of the Hanseatic League since 1286. The city acquired 60 surrounding villages, built many town houses and 14 churches. The latter were almost all built by the Teutonic Order.

The free imperial city of Mühlhausen was able to expand its economic and political importance in the Hessian-Thuringian border region on the Werra as early as the 13th century. Thus, like the neighboring bailiwick of Dorla, it came more and more often into disputes with the territorial powers - the Thuringian landgraves and later also the Hessian landgraves and the Archdiocese of Mainz. The legend of Blind Hesse, which was widespread in Mühlhausen and the surrounding area, reports that the city was to be attacked by a Hessian army and by robber barons from Eichsfeld and that the Mühlhausen were able to put the Hessians to flight with a ruse.

In 1292 the Breitsülze, a stream flowing along the city, was channeled into an artificial stream to supply water to the upper city. This was an engineering masterpiece by medieval standards. The stream was led into the upper town in a trench 5350 meters long with a slope of only 0.33 millimeters per meter. The plans for this building project come from a monk who, according to legend, made a pact with the devil and disappeared shortly after completion.


1400 to 1600
In 1430 Mühlhausen joined the strong Goslarer Bund within the Hanseatic League together with Erfurt and Nordhausen, which had been united with these two cities in the Thuringian Tri-City Federation since 1310. Mühlhausen continued to flourish economically. Mühlhausen cloths had already passed through Hamburg customs in 1247. Flemish and Walloon immigrants brought with them new knowledge and skills in wool weaving, cloth making and linen weaving. “Mühlhäuser Laken” became a household name. The cultivation, processing and trade of woad and the trade in cloth up to distant countries played a major role. With Wanfried, Mühlhausen even had a port: the goods were brought there by land and then further down the Werra and Weser by ships. At the end of the 15th century, Mühlhausen had 10,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities in Germany. Mühlhausen also knew how to make good use of the emperors' constant financial embarrassment, and expanded its narrow town hall more and more. The star of Mühlhausen began to decline with the decline in the importance of the dye plant woad and with the emergence of Leipzig as a trading city. New trade routes led widely around Mühlhausen.

With the Peasants' War in 1525, Mühlhausen became the center of their radical reformation movement through the preacher Thomas Müntzer and his colleague Heinrich Pfeiffer: “Power should be given to the common people”. The "Mühlhausen eleven articles" and an "Eternal Council" were supposed to end the rule of patricians and nobility in the city forever. Mühlhausen citizens also took part in the Battle of Frankenhausen in 1525. After the defeat of the farmers, Thomas Müntzer was executed at the gates of the city. Today a monument on the last remaining city wall gate, the Frauentor, reminds of him. The city suffered heavy fines and compensation payments and lost its villages. It temporarily lost its imperial freedom; the princes of Saxony and Hesse became patrons. These had become Protestant, and Mühlhausen also accepted the Reformation. After 1525, Mühlhausen was also one of the centers of the Central German Anabaptist movement, which was partly influenced by Thomas Müntzer. In 1548, a new imperial freedom was negotiated under Emperor Charles V. In 1565 the imperial city owned 21 villages with a total of 949 people. The council of Mühlhausen signed the Lutheran concord formula of 1577. By purchasing the properties of the Teutonic Knight Order (1599), the city acquired a large property (a total of 220 km²).

1600 to 1914
At the Fürstentag zu Mühlhausen in March 1620, the Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony abandoned the Protestant Union's cause and declared himself with the Rhenish archbishops for the emperor. For being spared the destruction in the Thirty Years War, Mühlhausen had to pay hard to pay 1.75 million guilders. Taxes were raised considerably and there was general impoverishment. The population of Mühlhausen fell by half. The surrounding villages were looted and burned down, their citizens fled to the protection of the city walls. Major fires in 1649 and 1689 as well as the Seven Years War also reduced the city's productivity. Important Mühlhausen citizens left the city, such as Gottfried Christoph Beireis and Wilhelm Gottlieb Tilesius von Tilenau.

From the 16th to the 18th century, Mühlhausen experienced a heyday of church music. 1707/1708 Johann Sebastian Bach was organist at the main church Divi Blasii (Sankt Blasius). The cantata Gott ist mein König (BWV 71) was written for the change of council on February 4, 1708.

On August 5, 1802, when Prussian troops moved in, imperial freedom ended and Mühlhausen and its surrounding area became part of the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1807 the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Westphalia created by Napoleon. While the city of Mühlhausen formed the canton of Mühlhausen, most of the places that belonged to the former Free Imperial City came to the canton of Dachrieden, while some places belonged to the cantons of Dorla and Dörna. In 1815 Mühlhausen and the surrounding area came back to Prussia. This incorporation into a larger territory offered new economic opportunities.

In 1831, Johann August Röbling, who was born in Mühlhausen, emigrated to the USA, where he constructed the world's largest wire rope suspension bridge in 1865, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.


In 1861 Mühlhausen was connected to the telegraph network. In 1870 the Gotha – Leinefelde railway was put into operation and the train station was inaugurated. In 1897 the Ebeleben – Mühlhausen railway followed. In 1882 a new post office was inaugurated, in 1887 Mühlhausen was connected to the telephone network, and in 1895 the waterworks was opened. In 1898 a power station was built and the Mühlhausen tram started operating. The municipal hospital was built from 1897 to 1899.

During the economic phases, textile production, metal processing and the tobacco industry in particular grew in Mühlhausen. Economic progress went hand in hand with population growth; in 1900 the population had risen to over 33,000. This was followed by the construction of new schools and the establishment of a teachers' college. In 1900 the Marienkirche was completed with imperial support by building the tallest church tower in Thuringia. The first movie theater opened in 1907, and the town hall was renovated and expanded in 1914. For the Reichsbank branch, which has existed since 1876, a new building was built in 1911–1912. 1910–1917 the Pfafferode Provincial Sanatorium was built.

1914 to 1945
During the First World War, Mühlhausen recorded 1,300 dead and missing. The inhabitants took part relatively little in the November Revolution of 1918, only on a few days with rallies on the Blobach and parades through the city. This was followed by hyperinflation in the early 1920s, emergency money, impoverishment, company failures, over 5000 unemployed, housing shortages and severe tensions between the political parties of the Weimar Republic. After 1923 there was some consolidation. The Stadtberg was built on with houses and the Sachsen-Siedlung was built as an "unemployment settlement". The Pfafferode State Hospital was expanded structurally. In 1928 the city erected the memorial to those who fell in World War I (The Lion). In 1928/29 the new city cemetery with a modern crematorium was put into operation. The court building on Untermarkt was given its present form in 1929–1931.

When the NSDAP came to power in early 1933, the mayor Hellmut Neumann, who did not conform to the system, had to resign. On May 20, 1933, books by various German writers were burned on the Blobach. Mühlhausen was declared an "emergency area" and promoted with public buildings and support for private buildings. In the course of the armament of the Wehrmacht, Mühlhausen became the location of a garrison in 1935. In the same year a new large district savings bank was handed over. Among the new buildings, however, barracks and the armaments industry predominated, such as in Mackensenstrasse 75 (today Friedrich-Naumann-Strasse) a factory of C. Lorenz AG for the manufacture of radio equipment for the Wehrmacht. In 1937, the Berlin company also set up a production facility for special electron tubes for military equipment in the former Franz Riebel cigar factory, Eisenacher Str. 40. A connection to the network of the Reichsautobahn, which is currently under construction, was planned. Unemployment was reduced through the construction work, through "voluntary labor service" or "Landjahrdienst" and the military service in the Wehrmacht, which was extended to two years in 1936. Between 1934 and 1943, 140 people were victims of forced sterilization in the city hospital.

During the November pogroms, the synagogue of the Jewish community was devastated on the night of November 9-10, 1938, and the rabbi was seriously injured by gunfire. The memorial book of the Federal Archives for the Victims of the National Socialist Persecution of Jews in Germany (1933-1945) lists 85 Jewish residents of Mühlhausen, most of whom were deported, mostly murdered and victims of the Holocaust.

Between 1939 and 1944, 2,841 patients died in the Pfafferode state sanatorium and nursing home; the death rate rose from 13.5% to 49.3% during this period. Of the dead, 1,976 are counted as Nazi victims of Aktion T4 and Aktion Brandt. Since 2000, a memorial stone has been commemorating these victims in the foyer of today's Hainich Ecumenical Hospital.

In 1944 the two satellite camps "Martha I" and "Martha II" of the Buchenwald concentration camp were set up on the outskirts. The prisoners interned in more than 1870 were forced to work in armaments factories (including the Gerätebau GmbH in the Mühlhausen municipal forest).


In the air war on September 11, 1944, 24,500 kg of high-explosive bombs were dropped on Mühlhausen during an American bombing raid. 17 houses were destroyed, 22 damaged. Industrial buildings were also hit and 17 people died. When five explosive bombs were dropped on September 13, 1944, another 10 mill houses died. On April 4, 1945, troops of the US Army took the city, whose hospitals were occupied with over 1,000 wounded, without a fight. On April 7, 1945, the German Air Force launched an air raid on Mühlhausen with cluster bombs and gunfire. Numerous houses were damaged and several people were killed.

1945 to 1990
After the city was handed over to the Red Army on July 5, 1945, Mühlhausen was in the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ).

From 1945 onwards, numerous expellees from the former German eastern regions and the Sudetenland were settled in Mühlhausen, including many from the Bohemian Saaz (today Žatec). In the Unstrut-Hainich district they form a group of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft with a large number of members. The strong influx of refugees also explains the significant increase in the population of Mühlhausen in the post-war years, despite the war losses. This then diminished again significantly through the escape from the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR and then again after the fall of the Wall and peaceful revolution.

Between 1952 and 1990 Mühlhausen was in the Erfurt district and was the seat of the Mühlhausen district.

On June 17, 1953, 3,000 people, mostly farmers from the surrounding villages, demonstrated on the town's market square. They demanded a lowering of the tax target, the abolition of collectivization measures, the elimination of discrimination against large farmers, but also “all-German free and secret elections” and the “elimination of the restricted zones” on the inner-German border. The release of imprisoned farmers was requested in front of the courthouse, and there were violent disputes with the KVP. These were only ended with the appearance of the Soviet military commander with 20 soldiers. The demonstration was broken up in the evening and a state of emergency was declared by the occupying forces. The GDR security organs handed 20 to 25 arrested people over to the military commander.

In 1969 the Mühlhausen tram was shut down and switched to bus transport. On the 450th anniversary of Thomas Müntzer's death in 1975, Mühlhausen was officially added to the name “Thomas-Müntzer-Stadt”. In August 1976 the 26th Pugwash conference took place in Mühlhausen.

From October 22, 1989 to February 1990, there were political demonstrations in Mühlhausen, originating from church assemblies, at which first the democratization of the situation and soon German reunification were called for. In December 1989 a town partnership was signed with Eschwege and in 1990 with Münster. In May 1990 democratic local elections took place. As early as July, the newly elected city council passed the resolution to immediately end the demolition work in the historic old town, which should be preserved and renovated as a “unique area monument”. The first structural security measures started, also supported by the "Hessenhilfe für Thüringen". The association “Friends of Mühlhausen” from Münster also helped (financing the pavilion on the city wall). Streets and squares were given their historical names again. The city's large companies ran into difficulties, there were layoffs and there were also strikes because jobs were at risk. Many applications for reprivatisation were made. The border troop command disbanded in September 1990, and Mühlhausen became a Bundeswehr garrison.

1991 until today
1991 brought the end of the Soviet garrison era. In the same year the city council deleted the nickname "Thomas-Müntzer-Stadt" from the city name and decided that Mühlhausen / Thuringia should be the official name of the city. The renovation of the old town made good progress, one focus was the redesign of the Steinweg pedestrian zone. Mühlhausen was awarded a bronze plaque in 1994 as part of the federal competition "Preservation of the historical urban space in the new federal states" The redevelopment of the city went and continues successfully. The Plattenbau Hotel Stadt Mühlhausen am Untermarkt was demolished. On November 9, 1998, the restored synagogue in Jüdenstrasse was inaugurated as a synagogue and meeting place. In 2001 a memorial plaque was unveiled at the location of the Soviet military tribunals at Untermarkt 17 (now the District Court): “From 1945 to 1948 innocent people were imprisoned and tortured here by the Soviet secret service NKVD. Many were deported or sentenced to death ”.


The city's major problems are the decline in the birth rate since reunification, deindustrialization, the abandonment of the military base and the emigration and aging of the population associated with structural change. The function as a supply and service center has remained. Mühlhausen has a high retail density.

In 2005, Mühlhausen became the first German city to join the German Language Association. In the same year they voted the readers of the German language world as the language true of the year.

The location on the Unstrut and several streams flowing all year round allowed intensive mill management. The name of the city and the mill iron in the coat of arms refer to it. Around 1800 there are 19 watermills in the urban area. The fresh water was also a prerequisite for wool, cloth and leather processing (tanners and white tanners). In the middle of the 19th century there were around 50 leather-processing manufacturers. Fabrics made in Mühlhausen were among others. sold throughout Europe by the international wholesaler Lutteroth.

In the 19th century, small businesses located here developed into industrial operations, such as B. Stephan Lederwarenwerk (bicycle saddles and school bags), Binkebank & Hammer (weaving mill), Claes & Flentje OHG (sewing machines, knitting machines, bicycles).

After the Second World War, nationalizations between 1952 and 1972 resulted in the following state-owned companies:

Textile industry: VEB Mülana (“Obertrikotagen”), VEB Cottana (previously: VEB Buntweberei Mühlhausen; originally: Binkebank & Hammer, weaving mill), VEB West Thuringian worsted yarn spinning mill Mühlhausen, VEB Textilveredlungswerke Mühlhausen (originated from Gebrüder Hecht KG, textile finishing, and Heinz. Schüler, Garnveredlung, and Heinz. Schüler, Garnveredlung) ), VEB Mühlhäuser Strickmoden (previously Paul Schäfer Strickmoden KG)
Heavy industry: VEB Möve-Werk (until 1952 Walter & Co. GmbH; supplier for vehicle technology, e.g. to IFA), VEB trolleys and fittings, VEB pedestal warehouse, VEB children's vehicles ZEKIWA, VEB special sewing machines (previously Claes und Co. GmbH)
In 1952 the VEB tube factory for the production of electron tubes was founded. The plant was renamed "VEB Mikroelektronik Wilhelm Pieck Mühlhausen" in 1971 and became part of the combine microelectronics Erfurt. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the company produced electronic pocket calculators (including the standardized school calculator SR1). Later the production of the most popular home computer series in the GDR was added: the KC 85 / 2-4 small computers.

Until the middle of the 20th century, travertine was broken in the urban area.