History of Nuremberg

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The history of Nuremberg is one in which both the fortunes and the misfortunes of German history can be readily traced. This is a city that has been called everything from The Treasure Chest of the German Empire to the City of the Nazi Party Rallies. Throughout the year 2000, festivities are being held to celebrate the city's 950th anniversary. Archeologists have concluded that there were pockets of settlers in the area from the prehistoric age onwards, but it was not until 1050 that Nourenberc (rocky mountain) was first mentioned in an official document by Emperor Henry III.

The Staufer dynasty did much to contribute to the fact that Nuremberg became an increasingly important location within the German Empire and they held many Reichstage (imperial parliaments) here. It was in the Kaiserburg (Castle), which today still towers above the city, that many of the intrigues surrounding the emperors took place. In 1219, Emperor Frederick II gave the city the imperial title. This not only brought numerous economic advantages, but also ensured that Nuremberg was subject only to the emperors, not to any other princes.

Nuremberg is not situated near a big river or the sea yet despite its geographical location, it managed to become one of the most important medieval trading and craftsmanship towns. In part, this is due to the fact that some of the most important trading routes intersected here and further, there was no city equal in stature in the surrounding area. In 1356, the town received a further accolade: the so-called Golden Bull stated that new kings were obliged to hold their first parliamentary session in Nuremberg. Architecturally, this was an epoch in which the famous Hauptmarkt (Main Market), the beautiful Church of Our Lady, the Beautiful Fountain and the Old Town Hall were built.

In keeping with its special standing in the eyes of the successive emperors, Emperor Sigismund decreed that the imperial jewels were henceforth to be kept in Nuremberg. They remained in the city until the late 18th century. This era is also saw Nuremberg reach its cultural climax. Some of the city's favourite sons, including the painter Albrecht Dürer, the Humanist Willibald Pirckheimer and the mason Adam Kraft lived at this time and their work was praised throughout Europe.

As ecstatic as Nuremberg's cultural heyday was, its downfall was all the more tragic. Repeated outbreaks of the plague and the adoption of Martin Luther's Reformation alienated the Royal Family from what was their favourite city for 500 years. Moreover, despite remaining neutral during the 30-years war, Nuremberg continued to decline, with up to 40,000 of its citizens perishing because of starvation and other effects of the conflict.

The next formative period in the region was initiated by Napoleon. After defeating Prussia and Austria in 1806, he rewarded his ally Bavaria by annexing Bamberg, Würzburg, Ansbach and Nuremberg to its territory. Nuremberg, which had once been the foremost of imperial city's was reduced in status to become a mere province. For the Franconians, this was a heavy blow and the fact that they had to forsake their civic privileges for Bavarian State law was a difficult adjustment.

The onset of an industrial age turned out to be a blessing for Nuremberg and in 1835, the first steam train made its way from Nuremberg to the neighbouring town of Fürth. A few years later, the Germanic National Museum opened its doors. One of its most popular exhibits is the Behaim-globe. It was made in the city by Maritn Behaim in 1492 - the year Columbus discovered America. Over the course of the 19th century the Franconian metropolis became a favourite with the Romantics. As with those that advocated Pan-Germanism, followers of this movement saw the picturesque medieval town, which is surrounded by a city wall, as symbolising all that was to be admired in German culture, it reminded them of a period in history that was never to be repeated. Wagner also composed The Master Singers as a tribute to the city.

In the first half of the 20th century, Nuremberg again acquired national and international recognition, yet the circumstances surrounding its status are not the most favourable. In 1933, Nuremberg was christened The City of the Nazi Party Rallies. For Nazis such as Adolf Hitler, this was a town which had been connected to some of the most significant developments in German history, not least the former German Empire and patriotic sentiment. The increasingly hostile political atmosphere and the presence of one Julius Streicher, who was the Gau-Leader and Editor of Der Stürme (The Stormtrooper) also caused many members of the Jewish Community in the region to emigrate. The republican, civic tradition that along with a degree of liberalism had characterised Nuremberg previously, did not prove strong enough to resist the rise of National Socialism.

The allied bombing raids of World War Two took their toll on the city and by 1945, over 90% of the historic Old Town had been reduced to ash and rubble. After Dresden, this was the German city that was most heavily destroyed and moreover, Nuremberg's status in the Third Reich meant that it was also the scene of the War Crimes Trials. With hindsight, it can be said that the post-war period has seen many positive initiatives. The Old Town was painstakingly rebuilt and today, it helps tourism in the region flourish as people from all over the world come to savour its medieval aspects. The city's inhabitants have further worked together to develop their social and economic infrastructure, as well as the satellite city of Langwasser. Projects such as the building of an airport and an underground railway system have also helped the city's image. At the beginning of the 21st century, Nuremberg is a city with a population of half a million people. Tradition and progress and the old and the new are finely balanced, creating an atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else in Germany.

Nuremberg is twinned with the following cities:
Venice (Italy), Glasgow (Scotland), San Carlos (Nicaraguea), Antalya (Turkey), Cracow (Poland), Kharkov (Ukraine), Atlanta (USA), Sthenzhen (China),Hadera (Israel), Nice (France) and Skopje (Macedonia).

E. Hunte