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Ratzeburg (Low German Ratzborg) is a small town in Schleswig-Holstein, near the border with Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Ratzeburg is the district town of the Duchy of Lauenburg district. It is known as a climatic health resort and due to the location of its old town in the middle of the Ratzeburg Lake and its connection with the mainland, which only runs over three dams, it is also an "island town". In addition to the old town island, St. Georgsberg, Vorstadt and Dermin also belong to the urban area.



The name goes back to the prince Ratibor / Ratse, who was at the head of the Obodritischen sub-tribe of the Polabians. He resided here in the early 11th century in a ring wall. The “Racesburg” is mentioned in 1062 in a recipient certificate issued by Heinrich IV in Worms, but not handed over. According to the document, he gave the castle to Ordulf, Duke of Billung. Adam von Bremen also mentions the then Slavic Ratzeburg in 1076 in his description of the death of Ansverus on July 15, 1066 on the Rinsberg near Einhaus above Lake Ratzeburg: Ansverus monacus et cum eo alii apud Razzisburg lapidati sunt. Idus Iulii passio illorum occurrit. (The monk Ansverus and others with him were stoned near Ratzeburg. Their martyrdom took place on the Ides of July.) The Ansverus cross can still be seen today on the edge of the forest in Einhaus near Ratzeburg. Christianization took place in three attempts, the city was founded and the diocese was finally established in 1154 by Heinrich the Lion (see also the article in the diocese of Ratzeburg). A memorial stone erected after 1163 commemorates Heinrich von Badenide, the first Count of Ratzeburg. The stone on the cathedral island bears the (Latin) inscription:

“During the times of King Conrad and Duke Heinrich of Saxony, Count Heinrich came to Ratzeburg and was the first to give Christianity a solid foundation. Rest his soul in peace. Amen."

Since the 17th century
While the city later belonged to the Duchy of Saxony-Lauenburg, the later Prussian district Duchy of Lauenburg, the monastery area with the cathedral courtyard came into the hands of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1648 through the Peace of Westphalia as the Principality of Ratzeburg and in 1701 it became part of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

The city, which was heavily fortified by Duke Georg Wilhelm von Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1692, aroused the displeasure of the Danish King Christian V, who more or less completely reduced Ratzeburg to rubble and ashes except for the Cathedral Island in 1693, so that a complete reconstruction in the baroque style the example of the city center of Mannheim became necessary. The last fortifications were removed by the Danes in 1816.

On the market square in front of the Alte Wache, the more than 300 year old Ratzeburg Peace Linden tree, which has been designated as a natural monument since 1935, commemorates the destruction of Ratzeburg. This linden tree was supposed to give way to a new marketplace in 2010, but has been preserved after violent public protests. Ratzeburg is generally known for its stock of old linden trees, which the romantic writer Victor Scheffel already described in the summer of 1848 on his trip with Reich Commissioner Carl Theodor Welcker.

From 1705 to 1976 Ratzeburg was the seat of the (state) superintendent of Lauenburg. It was followed in 1977 by the Duchy of Lauenburg Church District and in 2009 by the Lauenburg Provost in the Lübeck-Lauenburg Church District.

Equipped with a recommendation from the poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, the English romantic Samuel Taylor Coleridge spent the winter of 1798/1799 in Ratzeburg with the local pastor. He describes the city and its surroundings with very flattering words (“The whole has a sort of majestic beauty, a feminine grandeur”), but criticizes: “The only defect in the view is, that Ratzeburg is built entirely of red bricks, and all the houses roofed with red tiles. To the eye, therefore, it presents a clump of brick-dust red. "

Relations with Bismarck and Moltke
On September 26, 1865, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck appeared for the first time to accompany the Prussian King Wilhelm I in Ratzeburg. He wanted to receive the hereditary homage to the knights and landscape in the Petrikirche. The Duchy of Lauenburg had been linked to the Kingdom of Prussia in personal union since 1865, and Bismarck negotiated on behalf of the Prussian King (as Minister for Lauenburg) with the Lauenburg estates in order to achieve full integration into Prussia (in 1876 it became a Prussian district). In 1871, as thanks for his role in the unification of the empire, Bismarck received part of the property in the Schwarzenbek office that had fallen to the Prussian king in Lauenburg (including the Sachsenwald), which the king raised to a knighthood. Bismarck was also awarded the duchy of Lauenburg when he left in 1890, but he did not use the title.

He came into contact with the Lauenburg Jäger Battalion No. 9 for the first time during the Franco-Prussian War, when it moved into a bivouac behind St. Ingbert on August 9 while advancing from the Saar.

It was not until November 30, 1890 that Bismarck returned to Ratzeburg, now as former Reich Chancellor, to inspect the monument before it was unveiled. He then visited the officers 'corps' casino.


He was an honorary citizen of Ratzeburg and appeared several times at the meetings of the district council, in which an armchair with the coat of arms of the first chancellor of the German Reich remembered him.

Close relationships developed between the battalion and Bismarck in Friedrichsruh, about an hour away by train. This culminated when the battalion band congratulated the prince with a morning serenade on his 80th birthday.

Moltke had never officially been in Ratzeburg. But he had visited his sister who lived there several times. One of his favorite walks there was the path around the small Küchensee to the Waldesruh restaurant. In the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, a monument was erected in a large granite boulder on a field stone substructure. It shows the gold-plated inscription: Field Marshal Graf Moltke's favorite place. 1853-1888. The year numbers reminded of his first and last visit to Ratzeburg.

The monument to Kaiser Wilhelm I.
On September 26, 1890, the ceremonial unveiling of the imperial monument took place on the Ratzeburg market square. The construction of the monument was made possible by committed citizens of the city through collections of voluntary donations. The total cost of the monument was around 34,000 marks.

This 310 cm high statue of the deceased monarch, created by the Berlin sculptor Robert Bärwald and cast bronze by the bronze foundry of the Aktiengesellschaft [former] Hermann Gladenbeck & Sohn in Friedrichshagen near Berlin, stood on a pedestal made of red Swedish granite. On the front of the base was the dedication: "DEM EINIGER / DEUTSCHLANDS / KAISER WILHELM I. / DEM SIEGREICHEN / DAS THANKBARE LAUENBURG."

The reverse bore the inscription: "The king of Prussia paid homage / the Duchy of Lauenburg / on September 26, 1865."

Round relief medallions by Bismarck and Moltke made of bronze were attached to the left and right of the base.

The statue and the reliefs were victims of the metal donation by the German people in 1944; the empty base was removed after 1945.

Since the 20th century
Unlike the rest of the city, the Domhof was for a long time under the rule of the bishop and had belonged to Mecklenburg-Strelitz since 1803. Only with the Greater Hamburg Law in 1937 did the cathedral district become part of the municipality. When it was reorganized in 1937, the cathedral courtyard was also part of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. The parish of the cathedral remained part of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg; After the end of the war, the cathedral archives kept the collection of older church registers from (almost) all Mecklenburg parishes, which have since been returned to the Schwerin regional church archive. Ratzeburg has been the seat of the Luther Academy since 2003.

At the end of the Second World War, the population of Ratzeburg grew considerably due to refugees and displaced persons from the former German eastern regions. In mid-March 1945, a trek control center was therefore set up in Ratzeburg. Ratzeburg was overcrowded and many of the refugees had to be transported on, only the sick remained. Not every refugee survived the rigors of their flight. In the cemetery on Seedorfer Straße, 191 graves of refugees, including 25 of children, testify to this suffering.

On May 2, 1945, Ratzeburg was occupied by the British without a fight. On the same day the executive government fled from the Eutin-Plön area 50 kilometers further north to Flensburg-Mürwik. Only two days later, all German troops in northwest Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark were surrendered.