History of Leipzig

This year Leipzig celebrates the thousand-year anniversary of its first mentioning in the chronicle of Bishop Thietmar von Merseburg under the name of “urbe libzi”. The official founding was in 1165, the same year as the consecration of the St. Nicholas Church. Leipzig became a university city in 1409 with the opening of the University of Leipzig, today the second oldest, continuously opened university in Germany. The University of Leipzig had a lot of well-known students, with some of the most famous ones being the author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Leipzig had a pioneering role by publishing the world’s first daily newspaper in 1660 and having the third oldest civil opera house in Europe, built in 1693.

Leipzig continued to hold a historical role during the reign of Nazi dictatorship in Germany. After the burning of the Reichstag, an event allowing Hitler to imprison political enemies and cut down civil rights through the use of emergency laws, the trials were held in Leipzig. Furthermore Leipzig was appointed trade fair city of the Reich, hosting the only fair for foreign trade in NS-Germany. After Leipzig became one of the central places for defence production, it was targeted by the allied bombers. The biggest attack of British bomber squadrons destroyed over 4.000 Buildings in Leipzig, hampering large parts of its infrastructure and killing over 1.800 people.

With the end of the World War II Leipzig fell under Soviet occupation and became a part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949. Leipzig earned its most important role in modern history during the Monday demonstrations. Starting in 1981 people gathered in the St. Nicholas Church for prayers for peace on a regular basis. On the 4th of September 1989 1.000 people began to stay in the forecourt of the St. Nicholas Church to demand the freedom to travel through a peaceful protest. Although less than 10.000 people participated in the first official Monday demonstration, two weeks later already 70.000 people were on the streets and on the 23th October an estimated 320.000 people demonstrated for more rights. The weekly demonstrations put enormous pressure on the government of the GDR leading to lowered restrictions of the right to travel, which was one of the fundamental steps toward German unification.

Leipzig today

DSC_0298Today Leipzig is the biggest city in Saxony with over 500.000 citizens. Besides its historical role Leipzig is renown around the world as a trade fair city, with one of the oldest trade fairs in the world. Today some of the most famous trade fairs in Leipzig are Leipzig’s book trade fair and the Auto Mobil International, both being the second biggest trade fairs in Germany in their field. Leipzig has one of the world’s most renowned orchestras, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, which was established in 1781, making it the world’s oldest civil orchestra.

Some of the most famous sons and daughters of the city of Leipzig are the scientist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the composers Richard Wagner and Clara Schumann.

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