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Rudolstadt (Thuringian Rudelstadt, dialect: Rolscht) is a town in the district of Saalfeld-Rudolstadt in the Free State of Thuringia, Germany. The former princely residence of Rudolstadt is embedded in a forest-surrounded valley and stretches like a ribbon along the wide arch of the Saale river.

The city was first mentioned in a document in 776 and has had city rights since 1326. Its landmark, visible from afar, is Heidecksburg Castle, which towers over the city. Rudolstadt is known for the Anker stone building sets from the Richter company and its porcelain factories (Volkstedt). From 1599 to 1920 it was the capital of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.



Early history
There was a fortified hilltop settlement on the vineyard in Oberpreilipp. The recovered finds come from the end of the Urnfield Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. A Celtic was followed by the Germanic settlement and membership of the Thuringian Kingdom. From the time after 500 a partial settlement of Slavs is proven through archaeological finds.

In 776 the place was first mentioned as Rudolfestat (settlement of Rudolf) as a gift from Charlemagne to the Hersfeld monastery.

middle age
At the beginning of the 13th century, Rudolstadt was in the possession of the Counts of Orlamünde, from whom it passed partially to the Counts of Schwarzburg around 1300 and in 1334 completely. Between the years 1264 and 1334 the "Niedere Burg" and the "Obere Burg" (Heidecksburg) are documented in Rudolstadt. The former probably stood in the area of ​​today's Ludwigstrasse and Burgstrasse, the other on the later palace terrace. In 1217 a pastor Heinrich who was active at the former parish and later city church of St. Andrew in the old town is recorded.

In the 14th century the place underwent a decisive expansion. A settlement that was built at the foot of the castle hill along the road from Schalbach to Andreaskirche was granted city rights by the Counts of Orlamünde. This resulted in the construction of the town hall, market and fortifications with the old gate and church gate. The oldest surviving document with the statutes dates to the year 1326. Council masters are first attested in 1378.

In the same century the lords of Schaala were named. They probably had an influence on the design of the defensive character of the church and the churchyard. Both the church and the churchyard were fortified to protect the citizens until the middle of the 15th century.

From around 1340 Rudolstadt was owned by the Grafschaft Schwarzburg, whose capital it later became and remained until 1920. In 1345 the two castles and the town (town hall and a large part of the old and new town) suffered considerable destruction by an Erfurt army as part of the Thuringian Count's War. In the course of the reconstruction from 1345 to 1437, the city got a completely new face (extension of the city fortifications). Between 1434 and 1448 the Upper Castle was expanded into a three-wing complex. In 1573 the successor building partially burned out, whereupon the three-wing renaissance castle was built. In 1548 there were free settlements of fiefs of the Schwarzburg counts on the site of the lower castle.

Modern times
After the Thirty Years War, the original “Neustadt” became the “Old New Town” and the “New New Town” was developed. The 18th and 19th centuries brought the city a cultural heyday, when numerous artists lived and worked here. Friedrich Schiller also stayed in the city often. He met his future wife Charlotte von Lengefeld here and first met Goethe in the Beulwitz house, which is now a Schiller Museum, on September 7, 1788.

In the course of the March Revolution in 1848, the democrats under Friedrich Carl Hönniger in Rudolstadt became the leading political force. In 1848, Hönniger took over the office of president in the Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt state parliament for a short time before he was elected by the Democrats as a member of the Frankfurt National Assembly. Until 1918, when the last prince abdicated, Rudolstadt belonged to the Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (suzerainty). The last prince had no biological descendants, so that the residential palace Heidecksburg passed into the possession of the state of Thuringia.

In the period up to 1932, the SPD was the strongest party in the Rudolstadt city council. As early as December 1932, the NSDAP got as many seats as the SPD and KPD (four of 19 seats each). After the transfer of power to Hitler in 1933, the self-governing organs of the communities and districts created in the Weimar Republic were effectively wiped out. From 1936 to 1945 Rudolstadt was a garrison town of the Wehrmacht. In 1938 the meeting of the German Hitler Youth took place in Rudolstadt.

In 1918 at least 80 Jews were still living in what was then the principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. The Rudolstadt Jews who could not flee were deported and murdered after 1938. In 1935 the Jewish cemetery, which was located at the northern foot of the castle hill, was leveled.


The persecution of opponents of Hitler claimed numerous victims, such as the life of the KPD city councilor Werner John, who died in the 999 penalty battalion. A street and a residential area remind of him. Paul-Herger-Strasse has been commemorating the city councilor and chairman of the KPD local group Volkstedt Paul Herger, who died as a result of his imprisonment in Buchenwald concentration camp, since 1949. A street name has also been a reminder of the resistance from Catholic circles around Pastor Caspar Schulte since 1949. In the period between 1933 and 1944, 597 people were victims of forced sterilization in the state hospital. 126 inmates of the Rudolstadt-Cumbach care house were murdered in 1940 in Zschadraß and Pirna-Sonnenstein as part of the “euthanasia” program Action T4. A memorial inaugurated in 1947 on the square of the victims of fascism commemorates all victims of resistance and persecution. During the Second World War, 953 women and men, mainly from Poland, had to do forced labor in the war-essential Thuringian Zellwolle AG in Schwarza. A grove of honor and other graves in the north cemetery on Weimarische Strasse commemorate victims of forced labor from the Soviet Union and other nations. Steles in Volkstedt and Schwarza have been commemorating the victims of the death marches since 1985. Three prisoners shot by the SS and found on Mönchshügel near Groschwitz were buried in the Lichstedt cemetery.

In the last days of World War II, the Volkstedt district was bombed by American aircraft on April 10, 1945. 35 people and 165 houses, including the church, were killed. Until his escape in 1941, the future French President François Mitterrand was housed as a prisoner of war in the Schaala district.

After the Second World War, Rudolstadt-Schwarza developed into a center of the chemical industry in the GDR. More than 6,000 employees found work in what was then the “Wilhelm Pieck” chemical fiber combine, and several thousand more in the supply industry.

In 1952 the district of Rudolstadt was transformed into the district of Rudolstadt and its layout was changed. The state of Thuringia was also dissolved and the Rudolstadt district assigned to the Gera district. Shortly before that, the industrial town of Schwarza (1939: 3233 inhabitants) bordering on Rudolstadt was incorporated.

On August 15, 1992, on the 5th anniversary of Rudolf Hess' death, the Rudolf Hess memorial march took place in Rudolstadt, in which the members of the NSU core group also took part. Together with the neo-Nazi Andreas Rachhausen from Saalfeld, Thomas Dienel organized the event, for which almost 2,000 neo-Nazis from all over Germany traveled. According to the authors of the book Heimatschutz about the NSU complex, Stefan Aust and Dirk Laabs, the then 17-year-old Tino Brandt from Rudolstadt helped organize the demonstration.

Volkstedt was incorporated in 1921 and Cumbach in 1929. On July 1, 1950, the towns of Mörla, Pflanzwirbach, Schaala and Schwarza followed. On October 1, 1993, Keilhau was incorporated into the city of Rudolstadt with Eichfeld, which was incorporated on July 1, 1950. Lichstedt, Oberpreilipp and Unterpreilipp followed on January 1, 1997. On January 1, 2019, the city of Remda-Teichel was incorporated.