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Saalfeld / Saale is a city in Thuringia. It is the district town of the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district in the south-east of the state and is located in an approximately 250 km² area with 75,000 inhabitants, which also includes the cities of Rudolstadt and Bad Blankenburg. The three cities cooperate with each other within the framework of the “Saalebogen city triangle”. Saalfeld is located on the Saale in the middle of the Saale arch. The Thuringian Slate Mountains begin southwest of the city. The most famous attractions are the fairy grottoes. The city is also a major rail hub. Saalfeld is classified as a middle center with partial functions of an upper center. Together with Rudolstadt and Bad Blankenburg, it forms a tripolar center.



Saalfeld was first mentioned in a document in 899 and is one of the oldest foundations in East Thuringia. There was a Carolingian royal palace here, the chapel of which is the church of the Graba district. The later Emperor Heinrich II gave the area around Saalfeld in 1012 to the Count Palatine Ezzo of Lorraine, whose daughter Richeza gave it to the Archdiocese of Cologne in 1056. When in 1071 (other information: 1074) the Archbishop of Cologne, Anno II. Founded the Benedictine monastery of St. Peter and Paul here, the place quickly developed into the ecclesiastical center of power in eastern Thuringia. The monastery led the Christianization and settlement of the area. The historian Lampert von Hersfeld, who stayed in the Saalfeld monastery for several weeks, reports on the founding of the monastery. For many years his chronicles are the only written sources on regional history. The monastery existed until after the Reformation (until 1526).

After it came back into imperial possession, Saalfeld received city rights in 1208 as the fourth place in Thuringia. At the same time, Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa commissioned the construction of an urban settlement to be built south of the old village (Altsaalfeld). The town charter was confirmed in 1208 by the Schwarzburgers, who were the feudal lords of the Saalfeld area at the time. The city wall was erected in 1363, there was a first town hall in 1389, and the first Saale bridge is mentioned in 1373. Around 1250, a Franciscan monastery was added to the Benedictine monastery, which existed until 1534. It was located in what is now the city museum. The Saale rafting and from the late 13th century mining are known as economic sectors. In 1346 the city finally received the right to fish in the Saale, which the barbel in the city coat of arms still stands for today. Another right was added in 1482, when the Saalfelder received high jurisdiction over neck and hand. An economic boom set in. In 1389, Saalfeld passed from the Schwarzburgers to the Wettins, who owned it until the abolition of the monarchy in 1918. When Erfurt was partitioned in 1572, Saalfeld came to Saxe-Weimar, 1603 to Saxe-Altenburg and 1673 to Saxe-Gotha.

In 1514, after almost 150 years of construction, the Johanneskirche was completed. However, a city fire destroyed large parts of Saalfeld as early as 1517. During the subsequent reconstruction, the city received its present-day image, which is characterized by Renaissance buildings. Among other things, today's town hall (1529 to 1537), the mint (1551) as well as many town houses and a little later also the city pharmacy (1617 to 1620) were built.

Duke Albrecht made Saalfeld his residence in 1675 and began building Schloss Saalfeld in 1677, which was then taken over by his younger brother Johann Ernst in 1680 and completed by 1726. It was created on the area of ​​the former Benedictine monastery, which was demolished for this purpose. The necessity of a residential palace arose from the prospect of an inheritance division of the Ernestines from 1675 and finally carried out in 1680, during which the Duchy of Saxony-Saalfeld was created, which only existed until 1745 and then became the property of Saxony-Coburg (then as Saxony-Coburg -Saalfeld designated) passed over. After the line Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg died out in 1825, Saxe-Gotha came to Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (therefore renamed Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), which gave Saalfeld and most of Saxe-Hildburghausen to Saxe-Meiningen. Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen became Duke of the re-founded Sachsen-Altenburg.

1800 to date

On October 10, 1806, the battle took place near Saalfeld, which ended with a victory for 14,000 French soldiers over a 9,000-strong Prussian army and in which the Prussian Prince Louis Ferdinand was killed. In the 19th century, industrialization began in Saalfeld, which took its greatest boom after the opening of the Leipzig – Gera – Saalfeld railway in 1871. In the decades that followed, Saalfeld developed into an important railway junction between Leipzig and Nuremberg, with further connections to Hof and Gera in the east, Jena in the north, Nuremberg in the south and Erfurt and Sonneberg in the west. Local railway lines also led via Rottenbach to Königsee and Katzhütte. The steep Frankenwald Railway was electrified for the first time in 1939, before the Soviet Union had the contact wire removed as reparations in 1945, as was the case with the Saalbahn. The re-electrification of the line between Probstzella and Camburg did not take place until 1995 after German reunification. During industrialization, the Saalfeld mining industry, which had been in operation since the Middle Ages, developed into the Maxhütte Unterwellenborn, a branch of the Upper Palatinate Maxhütte founded in 1872. The rafting of the Saale, which had also been in operation since the Middle Ages, was only discontinued in 1938 after the Saale Cascade was built.

In 1914 the fairy caves were made accessible to the public after they had been discovered in old mine tunnels in 1910. After the First World War, the monarchies were abolished and the new Free State of Thuringia was founded. Saalfeld now became the district town of the Saalfeld district, which existed until 1994. Before that, the city had been the administrative seat of the Saalfeld district in the Duchy of Saxony-Meiningen since 1868, which, however, had a much different regional layout than its successor.

During the time of National Socialism, people were subjected to persecution for racist, political and religious reasons, which began in 1933 when they were brought to the local court prison, popularly known as hat boxes. People were also persecuted for eugenic reasons, such as the 571 people who were made victims of forced sterilization by the Hereditary Health Court. The Jewish citizens of Saalfeld were forced to emigrate and from 1941 were put to death in ghettos or extermination camps.

As early as 1939, Jews were deployed as part of the closed labor deployment in the construction of the Hohenwarte Dam and housed in a camp near Saalfeld. During the Second World War, 1,491 prisoners of war as well as women and men from the countries occupied by Germany, mainly from the Soviet Union, had to do forced labor: at Optische Anstalt 99, at SAG 99, at Mecano-Werke, at Mitteldeutsche Elektro, at Max Schaede, at Auerbach & Scheibe, at the Saaletalsperre working group in Hohenwarte, at Paschold, Döger & Co., at the Mauxion chocolate factory, at Adolf Knoch, at Paul Eberlein Söhne, at Gustav Bodenstein and at Reichsbahn. A Soviet memorial with 68 gravestones and three memorial plaques was built in the cemetery in 1947. To commemorate the victims of the Buchenwald concentration camp death march in April 1945, a stele was erected in 1985 at the Schloßstraße / Auf dem Graben intersection. In 2008, 10 stumbling blocks for Jewish victims of National Socialism were laid in Saalfeld.

From 1936 to 1945 Saalfeld was the location of the Wehrmacht (the Prinz-Louis-Ferdinand-Kaserne was outside the city area, in the municipality of Beulwitz).


The city was badly damaged in bombing towards the end of the Second World War, the main focus of the attack was the extensive railway facilities. In an American air raid on Monday, April 9, 1945, at least 208 people died in the hail of bombs and gunfire from the 52 missions (around eight waves with six to seven aircraft each) that started shortly before 9 a.m. and lasted until 7 p.m. The victims were mostly women and children, military personnel, wounded from a hospital train standing in the train station and railway personnel. There were also countless seriously injured people. Surveys by the city administration show that 22 houses were completely destroyed, 146 apartments were bombed and 573 were damaged in this attack. There was damage of 7.5 million Reichsmarks caused by more than 1,300 bombs with an explosive force of 500 to 1,000 pounds as well as the fires. Were heavily bombed u. a. the train station, an important traffic junction, and the industrial area (Altsaalfeld) near the train station. An air raid at around 8:20 a.m. also brought production in the Maxhütte to a standstill because the energy supply center was hit hard. Architectural monuments in the old town were also affected: the Johanneskirche, the Franciscan monastery (city museum), Saalfeld Castle, Kitzerstein Castle, the hall gate and the town hall.

On April 12, US troops stood on the outskirts, and on the morning of April 13, Saalfeld was handed over to the Americans by the incumbent mayor. Before that - on April 12th and 13th - all the bridges across the Saale in and around the city had been blown up by the Wehrmacht. 819 inhabitants of Saalfeld were killed in World War II.

Like all of Thuringia, Saalfeld was handed over by the Americans to the Red Army at the beginning of July 1945 and thus part of the Soviet Zone, and from 1949 of the GDR.

On August 16, 1951, a large number of enraged bismuth miners stormed the city's prison and police station, demanding the release of imprisoned pals. The background to this was the dissatisfaction with the poor social conditions brought about by the rapid influx of many miners to promote uranium ore mining for the Soviet nuclear weapons program. In May 1952, the Thuringian State Court sentenced twelve alleged ringleaders to eight to 15 years in prison. The mining of uranium ore in the area around Saalfeld proved to be unprofitable and has been discontinued.

In 1994 the districts of Saalfeld and Rudolstadt, which were established in 1952, were merged to form the district of Saalfeld-Rudolstadt, the district of which became Saalfeld. In 1999 the Thuringian Day took place in Saalfeld.

On July 1, 1950, the previously independent communities of Obernitz and Remschütz were incorporated. Gorndorf followed on January 1, 1963. Beulwitz on April 6, 1994 and Arnsgereuth on December 1, 2011. Saalfelder Höhe and Wittgendorf were added on July 6, 2018, and Reichmannsdorf and Schmiedefeld on January 1, 2019.