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"What and where is 'Saar'?"


An eventful history

The political evolution of the smallest German state (apart from the city-states) mirrors the vicissitudes of German history in the 20th century. After World War I, upon the entry into force of the Treaty of Versailles in 1920, this coal and steel region was detached from the German Reich and placed under the administration of the League of Nations. In 1935 the people of the Saar voted by a majority of more than 90 percent in favor of its political reintegration into Germany. The same thing happened after World War II. France, the occupying power, closed off the border between the Saarland and the rest of Germany. In a referendum held in 1955, the Saarlanders again voted by a large majority in favor of the return of the Saar to the Federal Republic. France's consent to this wish was a milestone in the process of Franco-German reconciliation. The reintegration of the Saarland on 1 January 1957 was effected in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law (the German constitution) - setting a precedent for the process of German unification in 1990.

City, state and river

The Saarland takes its name from the Saar River, a tributary of the Mosel; the Saar also appears in the names of the state's largest cities. The Saar meanders charmingly through scenic countryside - a popular destination for tourists and hikers is the loop of the Saar at Cloef near Orscholz. Grapes grown along the lower reaches of the Saar yield a wine prized by connoisseurs. Saarlanders have a partiality for more than the wine, however: Their local cuisine combines German tradition with French refinement - just one example of the symbiosis of the French and German way of life which is typical of the Saarland. The state capital Saarbrücken (189,000 inhabitants) is also an industrial hub and a convention center, the venue of the International Saar Fair. One fine Baroque building is the Ludwigskirche built in 1762-1775 by Friedrich Joachim Stengel. The University of the Saarland in Saarbrücken, the colleges of art and music, and other higher education institutions and Fachhochschulen are attended by many students from neighboring countries as well. Saarbrücken offers a wide variety of cultural attractions including film and theater festivals, museums, orchestras and choral groups. A native of the city, the director Max Ophüls (1902-57), made film history with his delightful comedies.

The name of the city of Saarlouis recalls the fact that here, about 300 years ago, the French king Louis XIV ordered his military engineer Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban to erect a fortress to defend his conquests in the western part of Germany. Today Saarlouis is an important industrial city (automobiles, steel, food and electronics).

Völklingen was molded by the ironworks founded here in 1873, which by 1890 had already become one of the former German Empire's principal iron producers. This ironworks eventually became unable to compete on the world's markets and was shut down in 1986; substantial parts of it, however, were preserved. Today it is an industrial museum and is used for cultural purposes. In 1995 the Völklingen ironworks was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

One of Europe's core regions

"The Saarlanders show us by their example how it is possible to be a good Saarlander, a good German, a good European and a good neighbor all at the same time." Thus the former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker characterized the people of the Saar. The Saarland in Germany, Lorraine in France, and Luxembourg - often referred to by the abbreviation "SAAR-LOR-LUX" - are developing ever closer ties, not least as a result of extensive new transportation projects. Traditional branches of industry of supraregional importance are glass and ceramics as well as mechanical engineering, metal processing and chemicals. The Saarland has also developed a sophisticated research sector. Future-oriented areas of emphasis include information and communications technology, materials research, electronics, production technologies and medical technology. Numerous top-notch university and university-affiliated institutes form the interface between research and practical applications: the Max Planck Institute for Computers, for example, as well as the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, the Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing, the Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Technology, the Institute for Information Systems and the world-famous Institute for New Materials.


The origin

During the last few centuries before Christ, the celtic tribe of Mediomatrics lived around the area which is today the municipal district of Saarbrücken. Following the conquest of Gaul by Caesar's troops the left edge of Rhine was occupied by the Romans.

999 First mention in a document: Emperor Otto III. presents the King's castle "castellum Sarabrucca" to the bishops of Metz.

1120 The county of Saarbrücken derives from the existing fief. Thes ettlement Saarbrücken develops from the settling of dwellers of the castle, tradesmen and people seeking protection.

The late Middle Ages and the early modern age

Until the beginning of the14th century the inhabitants of Saarbrücken and St. Johann on the opposite side are serfs.

1321 Count Johann I. of Saarbrücken-Commercy confers the town charter and the royal charter upon the settlement Saarbrücken and upon the fishing village St. Johann. The rules drawn up in the self-administration are in force until 1798 and connect the two settlements to one single town.

1549 Emperor Karl V suggests building the old bridge (Alte Brücke) during a visit. It becomes the most important connection between St. Johann and Saarbrücken for the following centuries.

1604-1617 Count Ludwig instructs a new castle to be built in the style of renaissance. He also founds the Ludwigs-Gymnasium.

1618-1648 The Thirty Years' War also leaves its horrifying traces in Saarbrücken. The number of inhabitants diminishes from 4,500 in 1628 to 70 in 1637. The horror of the Thirty Years' War had not yet been overcome when a new War of Reunion began.

1677 The town of Saarbrücken burns during the wars of Ludwig XIV. With the exception of 8 houses the whole town is destroyed.

The age of principality

1741 After Wilhelm-Heinrichs coming to power, the town has an enormously booming economy. The prince has the coal mines nationalized. New melting plants for iron arise. They facilitate a better exploitation of inland ore. A visible expression of economic change is the Saarkrahnen Saar crane.

Infrastructure and social life change: The introduction of a regular postal service and the development of education. Prince Wilhelm-Heinrich supports the building of churches of all allowed religious movements. He engages the printer Gottfried Hofer to publish a common weekly which is the foundation stone of the Saarbrücker Zeitung. The brilliant architect of the baroque period Friedrich-Joachim Stengel comes to Saarbrücken and influences the townscape with his buildings.

1738-1748 Thanks to Stengel a splendid baroque residence arises from the ruins of the castle. Some further important buildings of Stengel are the Friedenskirche (1745), the Alte Rathaus near the Schloßplatz and the catholic church St. Johann - a Basilica minor.

1775 Stengel completes his work in Saarbrücken by building the Ludwigskirche, one of the most important buildings of the baroque period.

Revolution, Restauration and Nationalization

1793 French revolutionary troops occupy the town. The baroque castle is plundered and burns down to the ground. Prince Ludwig has to flee.

1794 Prince Ludwig dies in exile. Prince Heinrich suffers the same tragedy of fate. The line Saarbrücken-Nassau has died out.

1797/1801 Through the Peace agreements of Campo Formio in 1797 and of Lunéville in 1801, the county of Saarbrücken belongs to France.

1815 Together with the area around the river Saar, Saarbrücken becomes part of the kingdom Preußen. The district council includes the municipalities Saarbrücken and St. Johann and the country communities Malstatt, Burbach, Brebach andußhütte.

1852 Saarbrücken celebrates the official railway opening. The railway connects the Ludwigsbahn with the eastern French railway.

1856 The ironworks in Burbach are put into operation.

1860 The canalization of the Saar facilitates the transport of coal and ore. At the same time the Saar is connected to the important French network of canals.

1870/71 German/French war: on the outskirts of the town the bloody battle of Spicherer Höhen takes place.

1897-1900 The architect Hauberisser builds the Rathaus St. Johann.

1909 The uniting of the "Saar towns" St. Johann and Malstatt-Burbach leads to the foundation of the city of Saarbrücken with 150,000 inhabitants, the fifth largest town on the left Rhine bank at that time.

1911 A zeppelin touches down on St. Arnual's meadows. It is the place where Saarbrücken's first airport is built. Saarbrücken's airport of today is situated in Saarbrücken-Ensheim.

World War I

1914 Saarbrücken is the main deployment zone for the front lines from Verdun to the northern Voges mountains.

1915 An air raid hits Saarbrücken for the first time. The city of Saarbrücken receives a municipal coat of arms - with the lion of Saarbrücken, the rose of St. Johann and mallet, iron and pincers of Malstatt-Burbach.

1918 The industrial areas of the Saarland are to be annexed. The last German troops leave the town. Marshall Foch marches with his troops into Saarbrücken and removes the workers' council and the soldiers' council.

The League of Nations

1919 The regulations laid down in the treaty of peace of Versailles put the Saarland under the control of the League of Nations' administration for 15 years. The coal mines pass to France.

1935 The population votes for the re-unification with Germany with a majority of more than 90%. The predecessor of the Saarländischer Rundfunk starts broadcasting its first radio programme.

World War II

During World War II Saarbrücken is hit by several heavy bombing attacks.

1939/1944 The population has to be evacuated twice. The district Alt-Saarbrücken is almost completely destroyed. Altogether 11,000 houses are destroyed. At the end of the war American troops occupy Saarbrücken. The French military government takes over the administration of Saarbrücken.

From the end of World War II to today

1947 The Saarland becomes an autonomous state. Saarbrücken becomes the capital of the Saarland. In November the Saarland's economy is affiliated to France.

1948 Foundation of the University of the Saarland.

1950 The first Saarmesse in the exhibition centre is declared open.

1955 A majority of 2/3 of the population declines the Saarland statute which had brought political independence to the Saarland.

1957 The Saarland becomes the 11th state of the Federal Republic of Germany - with Saarbrücken as capital city.

1958 Franz-Josef Röder is elected prime minister of the Saarland. He'll hold office for 20 years.

1959 On 5th July the Saarland also joins the Federal Republic of Germany in an economic respect. This day is called "Tag X". During the following years, Saarbrücken advances to a regional economic centre. The townscape is changing, Saarbrücken is growing. The motorway through the city, the Deutsch-FranzösischerGarten and the zoo are built. But also administration buildings, banks and department stores.

1961 In the year during which the Berlin Wall was built, the promenade along the Saar gets its name: Berliner Promenade.

1964 The Saarländischer Rundfunk moves into its new domicile on Hallberg. Soon, the "Europawelle Saar" starts broadcasting its first programme.

1965 The French town Nantes becomes Saarbrücken's first twin town.

1970 The sporting airport Ensheim is extended to an international airport. The old part of the town is redeveloped.

1974 Through the local government reform the neighbouring town Dudweiler and the neighbouring villages Altenkessel, Brebach, Bübingen, Ensheim, Eschringen, Fechingen, Gersweiler, Klarenthal, Schafbrücke and Scheidt are incorporated. Saarbrücken's population increases from 123,006 to 209,104 (+70%).

1975 Saarbrücken enters into the second town twinning-with Tbilisi in Georgia, Caucasia. Through this Saarbrücken is the first town in the FRG which maintains a partnership with a town of the former USSR. In the year of the historical European monuments, the citizens celebrate the first Saarbrücker Altstadtfest.

1976 Oskar Lafontaine becomes Saarbrücken's Lord Mayor.

1979 Oskar Lafontaine declares the new pedestrian precinct at St. Johanner Market open.

1985 The SPD Saar wins the Landtag elections. One month later Oskar Lafontaine is elected leader of the Saarland. Hans-Jürgen Koebnick becomes Lord Mayor of Saarland's capital.

1986 The Westspange, a bridge over the Saar with an immense importance for the city traffic, is declared open. On this occasion, the foundation stone of the "Bürgerpark Hafeninsel" is laid.

1987 Cottbus, a town in the former GDR becomes Saarbrücken's third twin town.

1989 Saarbrücken celebrates two important events: The 80th birthdayas a city and the opening of the restored castle. The "Bürgerpark Hafeninsel" is inaugurated.

1991 Saarbrücken's city council elects Hajo Hoffmann Lord Mayor. As a symbol for commercial spirit The Saarkrahnen is handed over to the Lord Mayor by the president of the chamber of commerce. The crane was built in 1761 by Friedrich-Joachim Stengel and destroyed by a flood at a later time and rebuilt in 1991. In December, the city council decides to build the Saarbrücker Stadtbahn.

1992 On the occasion of the international conference of environment in Rio de Janeiro the UN awards a prize to Saarbrücken and to the Stadtwerke Saarbrücken for their energy programme.

1994 After Wiesbaden (1991), Kiel (1992) and Hamburg (1993) Saarbrücken is the 4th twintown of UNICEF. In December the capital of the Saarland wins the 2nd Speyer prize because of their "Exemplary contributions to modernizing the administrative organization".

1995 Saarbrücken celebrates the 20th and 30th anniversaries of town partnerships with Nantes and Tbilisi.