Brandenburg an der Havel is a town in the state of Brandenburg, Germany. It is located on the banks of the Havel river.
Although the town of Brandenburg is less known than the state of Brandenburg, it provided the name for the medieval Bishopric of Brandenburg, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, and the current state of Brandenburg. Today it is a small town compared to nearby Berlin, but once it was the origin of the realms of Brandenburg and Prussia.
Brandenburg is the oldest town in the March of Brandenburg, with a history going back to at least the 6th century, when Slavs settled near today's cathedral.
The castle of Brandenburg, which had been a fortress of the Slavic tribe Stodoranie, was conquered in 929 by King Henry the Fowler. The town remained German only until 983, when a Slavic rebellion was successful. During the next 170 years the area was ruled by Slavic princes of the Hevelles tribe. The last of them, Pribislav, died in 1150. Afterwards Albert I settled here and became the first margrave of Brandenburg. The town was restricted to the western bank of the Havel until 1196, when it was extended to the eastern side. The parts on either side of the river were regarded as three different towns (Old Town, New Town and Brandenburg cathedral district) for centuries.
In 1314-1315 the Old and New Towns joined the Hanseatic League. In the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) the towns suffered plundering and destruction which led to a loss of power; Potsdam became the new capital, and the court left the town of Brandenburg. In 1715 Old Town and New Town were merged to form a single town. In 1928 the Brandenburg cathedral district was added.
In the late 19th century Brandenburg an der Havel became a very important industrial center in the German Empire. Steel industries settled there, and several world famous bicycle brands such as Brennabor, Corona and Excelsior were manufactured in the city. A world famous toy industry was also established. With a giant industrial complex, the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Imperial Railways) was located in Brandenburg-Kirchmöser during the time between the two world wars and the time of the former GDR. The city's excellent infrastructure was a big advantage: the city is located at the junction of Federal Highways 1 and 102, the Autobahn A2 is nearby, the river Havel and the Silo canal serve as European Waterways. The railroad connection between Berlin and Magdeburg also runs through Brandenburg an der Havel.
A concentration camp, one of the first in Germany, was located on Nikolaiplatz in Brandenburg Old Town. After closing this inner city concentration camp, the Nazis used the Brandenburg-Görden prison, located in Görden, a suburb of Brandenburg. In the Nikolaiplatz camp, the Nazis killed people with mental diseases, including children. They called this action "T4" because of the Berlin address Tiergartenstraße 4, the HQ of this planned and well-organized killing "Euthanasia" organisation. Brandenburg an der Havel was one of the very first locations in the Third Reich where the Nazis experimented with killing their victims by gas. Here they prepared the mass killings in Auschwitz and other devastation camps. After complaints by local inhabitants about the smoke, the mobile furnaces used to burn the corpses ceased operation. Shortly after this the Nazis closed the old prison.
Friedrich Fromm, a German officer involved in the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler, was executed here in March 1945 for his part in the plot, even though Fromm betrayed those conspirators he knew and ordered their execution.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall the city's population declined from over 100,000 in 1989 to roughly 75,000 in 2005 through emigration. The migration was mainly by young people. As a result the future of the city is uncertain.
Although still recovering after severe damage from World War II (and GDR planning), the town is being restored, and its baroque churches and waterside setting make it a decent day trip.
The Dominsel (Cathedral Island) is the historic heart of the town. Here stands its oldest edifice: the Dom St. Peter und Paul (Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul). Although construction began in the Romanesque style in 1165, it was completed as a Gothic cathedral during the 14th century. While the exterior is rather austere, the cathedral surprises the visitor with its sumptuous interior, especially the painted vault of the Bunte Kapelle (Coloured Chapel).
The Katharinenkirche (Pfarrkirche St Katharinen, St. Catherine's church) built in 1401 in the Neustadt is an impressive example of northern German brick Gothic architecture. The Gotthardkirche (St. Gotthard's church) was built of the same material just a few years later.
Another interesting building is the Altstädtische Rathaus (Old Town Hall), a late Gothic brick building with stepped gables and an ornate portal. In front of it stands a 5.35m high statue of the knight Roland. Made in sandstone, the statue was erected in 1474 as the sign of the town's independence.
There is also a part of Brandenburg's medieval city wall, with four preserved watchtowers: the Steintorturm and the Mühlentorturm (in Newtown), and the Rathenower Torturm and the Plauer Torturm (in Oldtown).
The Brandenburg Industrial Museum is an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage.
Museum im Frey-Haus