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History of the border region St. Germanshof

From one Europe to the European Union: 1215 years of border history at St. Germanshof.

St. Germanshof has about 40 inhabitants and is a district of the municipality of Bobenthal in the Western Palatinate region. If you look at this district, which is located directly on the French-German border, a cross-border perspective is essential in order to understand its origins and long history. In essence, it was always about a chapel, a castle complex and - at its place - the courtyard complex. Restaurant, cemetery, customs houses, sawmill etc. were only added in the 20th century.

  • Origins and conflicts in the Medieval Times

    At the place of today‘s town Wissembourg there was only the monastery Wissembourg, which was founded around the middle of the 7th century and then turned into a Benedictine monastery starting from the 8th century. The chapel, which was erected in 803 on the site of today's pilgrimage chapel, dates from the reign of Charlemagne, at a time of a few empires in the middle of Europe. About 250 years later, the provostry of St. German was founded by the Abbey of Wissembourg - initially to cultivate the monastery's own land, later also to secure the monastery to the west - together with three other provostries in the north, south and east, which became more and more fortified over time. In the War of Wissembourg - also known as the Wissembourg Abbey Feud - which was led by Elector Friedrich I the Victor against the abbey and town of Wissembourg, some of these provosts were severely damaged between 1469 and 1471. 

    The chapel was destroyed at the end of the 15th century by the knight bandit Johann von Drodt, lord of the castle Berwartsein. During the War of the Palatinate Succession, Louis XIV had all towns, castles and palaces on the Rhine and in the Palatinate destroyed. As a result of the Peace of Rijswijk in 1697, the areas bordering to the north were incorporated into the French kingdom. A new chapel was built in 1725 at the request of the Polish king Stanislas Leszcynski, who lived in exile in Wissembourg. During the French Revolution the chapel was converted into a barn for hay. Around 1803, Father Oberlé of Wissembourg had the chapel restored. After Napoleon's defeat, St. Germanshof and the entire canton of Dahn were assigned to the Bavarian Palatinate. In 1856 Weiler received its own parish and the chapel became a parish church.

  • The time of the Great Wars (1870-1945)

    The German-French War of 1870/71 did not directly affect the St. Germanshof, but the neighbouring Wissembourg. The losses of the battles were enormous. At the Battle of Wissembourg on August 3rd, 1870, 1,000 German and 700 French soldiers died. The Battle of Woerth on August 6th, 1870, with even more losses, ended with 25,000 dead and wounded. With the Peace of Frankfurt in 1871, Alsace, Wissembourg and Lorraine were added to the newly founded German Empire. In 1918 the area became French again.

    During the First World War, a sawmill was set up at St. Germanshof. Since 1911 a restaurant has been known there. In 1915 a prisoner-of-war camp with a military hospital was established near Weiler not far from the chapel. Prisoners who were too weak to work in the Saar mines came here. They were used for work in the fields and in the vineyards. 165 of them did not survive this time and their names can be found today on the crosses and steles of the national cemetery. At the beginning of the Second World War, St. Germanshof was located between the Siegfried Line and the Maginot Ligne, so to speak between the "fronts". From 1940 to 1944/1945, the city of Wissembourg and Alsace were annexed by the German Reich. In March 1945, the city and its environs were conquered by US troops as part of Operation Undertone.

  • Territorial disputes and reconciliation

    From 1950 the pilgrimage site of Weiler became the meeting place for the Pax Christi reconciliation movements between French and Germans. Numerous pilgrims, German and Alsatian priests and bishops came from both sides of the border to pray together for peace. On the 6th of August 1950, St. Germanshof was in the headlines all over Europe when 300 demonstrators enthusiastic about Europe destroyed the French and German barriers and hoisted the European flag. On the 11th of May 1952 the first great Pax Christi pilgrimage took place, which led 5,000 pilgrims here.

    And then there was... the „Mundat Forest“:
    In 1949 the French occupation authority annexed an area in the German part of the Upper Mundat Forest to the French territory. The aim was to secure the water supply for Wissembourg. This was legally secured by the decree no. 212 on border corrections of the 23rd of April 1949, which was never officially signed by the German side. According to the German border version, St. Germanshof would have remained in Germany. Despite this error, France "temporarily" took over the territorial sovereignty a little later. D-Marks were exchanged for Francs, and tax documents were issued in both German and French at the same time. After various negotiations on the status of the territory and the conclusion of several individual agreements - for example to enable the Germans to transport wood duty-free through the French territory - the final agreement was reached in 1984. France agreed to repeal the regulation. In return, Germany committed itself to register the French Republic as landowner in the land register of the area in question. France was also granted unlimited wood, hunting and water rights for the area. Since 1986, the Upper Mundat Forest has again been an unrestricted German territory.

  • Open borders, memory and dialogue

    In accordance with the "Schengen I" agreement concluded in 1985, border controls between Germany and France were finally abolished on March 26, 1995, including St. Germanshof. The former German toll house is now - after several other private owners - owned by a participant of the 1950 demonstration, called "storm of students".

    On the initiative of Dr. Herbert Breiner and his colleagues, a European monument consisting of twelve sandstone steles was erected at St. Germanshof, which was inaugurated on the 9th of September 2007 in the presence of Regional Council President Adrien Zeller. On the 11th of November 2010 - the anniversary of the end of World War I - the restored national cemetery was inaugurated and elevated to the status of a national necropolis. Since 2013, the Chawwerusch theatre ensemble has performed the play "One Night in August" several times, which was very well received. It addresses the events of the 6th of August 1950.

    In times in which European integration has increasingly led to differences in the attitudes of many EU states - some want more integration, others see over-regulation, bureaucracy etc. sketpically - a dialogue between citizens and young people is becoming increasingly important. Many consider the "Europe project" to be too important to be left to politics alone. The St. Germanshof is becoming more and more a symbol for a citizens' Europe and is the target of demonstrators, hikes and events. It is no coincidence that the place of the European monument is called "Place de la Marche vers l'Europe". The St. Germanshof becomes a European meeting place.

  • Historical Postcard
    Historical Postcard
    St. Germanshof
  • Postcard St. Germanshof History

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  • Castle Berwartstein

    At the end of the 15th century, the robber knight Johann von Drodt, also known as „Hans Trapp“, resided at Berwartstein Castle. Elector Friedrich‘s adoptive son Phillipp II used him at the castle, which had previously belonged to the Abbey of Wissembourg. Hans became known for his enemieship with the Wissembourg monastery. For example, he had the Lauter dammed up and then the dikes torn down, flooding the lower quarters of Wissembourg.

  • St. Anna Chapel

    Johann von Drodt frightened the inhabitants of Wissembourg and the neighbouring villages. Among other things, he forbid the townsfolk to hunt in their own forests. He blackmailed travellers, merchants, farmers and winegrowers. Although he was prosecuted in Rome and excommunicated by Pope Innocent VIII, he went on robberies until his death in 1503. He was buried in St. Anna‘s Chapel.

  • St. German

    The St. German complex near today‘s St. Germanshof, which was conceived as a protection to the west, is referred to in the literature as a „forest fortress“. Remains of armour and artillery embrasures can still be found in the cellar of the St. Germanshof. The builder was Abbot Samuel from Wissembourg. The castle was probably destroyed in 1470 during the War of Wissembourg.

  • Chapel Nôtre Dame

    In August 1950, the toll houses at St. Germanshof on the French-German border became of European political interest as young people demonstrated for the first time for a federal Europe. However, the history of St. Germanshof began much earlier with the construction of a chapel in 803 on the site of today‘s Notre Dame pilgrimage chapel.

  • European Monument

    The memorial marks the historic event of the student demonstration in 1950. On the initiative of the contemporary witness Dr. Herbert L. Breiner and the Action Group Bobenthal-St. Germanshof e.V. it was erected in 2007 across the former toll house at St. Germanshof. Based on the twelve stars of the European flag, the monument consists of twelve steles, which are adapted to the average height of a European. Today this meeting place is called "Place de la marche vers l'Europe".

  • National Necropolis

    The names of the fallen prisoners of war of the First World War can be found today on the crosses and statues of the cemetery. Among them are mainly Russians from Siberia, Italians, North African soldiers who fought for France and many more. Therefore, there are also gravestones of orthodox Christians as well as Muslims.

  • St. Panthaleon

    The four-winged, fortified provost‘s residence in the south of Wissembourg was built in the 11th century and destroyed on April 15, 1470. It was used for the cultivation of surrounding estates of the Abbey. There are no visible remains of the „Four Tower“.

  • Wissembourg

    At first, only the monastery founded around the middle of the 7th century, which was a Benedictine monastery from the 8th century onwards, was located on the site of today‘s town. The later attached provosts St. German, St. Panthaleon, St. Rémi and St. Paul were founded around 1055 as priories for the cultivation of the land and to secure the abbey.

  • St. Paul

    Also called „Pauliner Castle“. From the former medieval tower castle in the north of Wissembourg, only a three-storey tower has survived. The castle, to which a chapel once belonged, was built in the 11th century as a priory to secure the Wissembourg Abbey. It was destroyed in the War of Wissembourg in 1470, rebuilt and destroyed again in the Peasants‘ War of 1522/23.

  • St. Rémy

    The remains of a trapezoidal hall building can be seen from the former lowland castle, which was originally founded as a provost‘s seat in the east of Wissembourg Abbey. It was destroyed for the first time in the War of Wissembourg, rebuilt and destroyed again in 1830. The bandit Johann von Drodt took possession of the castle in his time and plundered the villages of the region from there.

  • St. German
    St. German
    at St. Germanshof
  • Castle Berwartstein
    Castle Berwartstein
  • National Necropolis
    National Necropolis
  • Chapel Nôtre Dame
    Chapel Nôtre Dame
  • St. Anna Chapel
    St. Anna Chapel
  • St. Panthaleon
    St. Panthaleon
  • St. Paul
    St. Paul
  • St. Rémy
    St. Rémy
  • Wissembourg

    Aktionsgemeinschaft Bobenthal – St. Germanshof e.V.
    Am Mühlbach 5
    67697 Otterberg
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