What is now an undeveloped green space within sight of Gehlsdorf and Dierkow was a bustling hub of activity in the 8th and 9th centuries CE. Archaeologists are researching this area as the site of an important maritime trading centre of the Slavic period. Numerous remains of a vast settlement and harbour can be found in the flat valley between the Primelberg Hill and the Warnow River. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Slavs had diverse contacts with the Vikings, along with other groups as far away as the Black Sea region. The settlement was home to not only merchants, but also various artisans, who produced their goods for trading. By the 10th century the harbour area had silted up, but the settlement remained. At the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see a treasure find from the early 9th century, along with numerous other impressive objects. The treasure was found in 1990 immediately adjacent to a spring. Important items from the hoard included silver pieces of a sword pommel and 146 different glass beads. While the sword pommel was made in Scandinavia, the beads are most likely of Syrian-Egyptian origin. The trove also included a gold touchstone, three brass and two zinc bars, a lead matrix and several pieces of sheet silver, suggesting that the items were most likely the hidden possessions of a metalsmith who worked with precious metals.
Today, the Rostock Heath forest is a popular local recreation area, as well as Germany’s largest unfragmented coastal forest. It also has a special significance in the history of the Hanseatic City as the subject of Rostock’s oldest surviving town charter. The 1252 document was actually drawn up for the purchase of the forest. Heinrich Borwin III sold the forest area to the town for a total of 450 Mark Pfennige. However, the document also includes a copy of an older charter dated 24 June 1218, in which the Lord of Mecklenburg authorised the use of the “Lübeck Law” (constitution for a municipal form of government) and granted the residents of his lordship legal security, freedoms and exemptions from duties. He also renounced his right to the boats stranded in Rostock’s harbour, promised free movement and gave the town the fishing rights for the Unterwarnow estuary. The town privileges were expanded to include the Middle Town and New Town. The Heath forest document is one of the most important objects in the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800.
In the narrow side streets near St Mary’s Church you can still get an impression of what medieval Rostock may have looked like. One of the buildings here played an important and, above all, very symbolic role in the early years of Rostock’s history: the Rostock Mint. The right to mint coins was originally reserved for the territorial lord or duke. The wealthy town of Rostock took advantage of the ongoing financial difficulties of the heads of the House of Mecklenburg to purchase these rights from them in the years 1325 and 1361. As a result, Rostock gained an important privilege, which it tenaciously defended in the centuries that followed. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see medieval coinage dies from the 15th century. As early as 1424 Rostock, Stralsund and Greifswald agreed to adapt their coinage to that of the Wendish Monetary Union. However, when Stralsund, Greifswald, Anklam, Demmin, Szczecin and the dukes of Pomerania signed an agreement on the minting of Sundische Schillings in 1428, Rostock was not one of the signers. Nevertheless, in 1429 the Hanseatic City immediately began minting the new coins and remained a main mint within the Sundische-Schilling currency region.
The old governor’s house (Vogtei) in Warnemünde is situated directly on the Old Canal (Alter Strom). It once served as the residence of Rostock’s governor (Statthalter). As Vogt, this official ensured that Rostock’s interests were enforced, exercised police powers and served as the local judge on behalf of the council. By acquiring the village of Warnemünde at the mouth of the Warnow River, Rostock secured its access to the Baltic Sea and laid the groundwork for the development of the local shipping industry as the backbone of its economy. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, visitors can see not only the 1323 document with which the city’s purchase of the village was sealed, but also the decorative side panel of a wooden stall that was reserved for the members of Rostock’s council at the church in Warnemünde. It bore the coat of arms of the City of Rostock, as well as the griffin as the council’s emblem, clearly displaying the power structures for the people attending church services.
Rostock’s Town Hall has survived to this day as the city’s magnificent centrepiece. Over the course of its history, it has served as the seat of the council, as well as a court house and marketplace. Initially, each of Rostock’s three municipalities had its own town hall. They were located, respectively, on the eastern side of the Old Market (Alter Markt), on the New Market (Neuer Markt) and on the former market square of the New Town, today’s University Square (Universitätsplatz). After the municipalities, councils and courts had merged, the Middle Town market square became the main market and seat of the city government. In the exhibition, Rostock. Now 800, we offer an intriguing glimpse behind the façade of the Town Hall.
The gate “Kröpeliner Tor” is still an impressive architectural structure in Rostock’s city centre. With a height of 54 metres, it was the tallest secular building in medieval Mecklenburg. Important trade routes led from this gate to Wismar and Lübeck. The two lower floors, with the passageway and the portcullis, were built in the second half of the 13th century, and the upper floors were added in the 14th century. These have small windows and embrasures for light firearms. The beam holes in the outer wall are from a wooden walkway that originally wrapped around three sides of the sixth floor. It was removed in the mid-17th century. The site in front of the gate originally had a Zwinger, an outer gate and a wooden bridge – later replaced with a masonry bridge – that spanned the two moats. A breech-loading cannon from the 15th century provides evidence that the people of Rostock were well-equipped for self-defence. This cannon can be seen in the special exhibition for the city’s anniversary.
Until 1849 the site in front of the gate “Steintor”, now a busy intersection, was occupied by a massive cannon tower. When the city was in the process of expanding to the south and the Steintor suburb was being established, the tower was in the way. Prussian pioneers and large quantities of explosives were needed in order to tear down its massive walls. The tower had been built between 1526 and 1532 by master builder Hans Percham from Wittstock and was a central part of the town fortifications. Originally, a deep, sunken lane led between the walls of the Zwinger from the Steintor gate to the cannon tower, passing through the remains of the medieval outer gate and the eastern wall of the Zwinger courtyard. A bridge spanned the moat. Due to its location, the Zwinger dominated the spacious site in front of the city, the rampart and the moat. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see drawings of the cannon tower by the Rostock-based painter Paul Tischbein and the town medical officer Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Lesenberg.
In the Middle Ages the street street “Hinter dem Rathaus” (meaning “behind the Town Hall”), originally “Hinter dem Weinkeller” (“behind the wine cellar”), was one of the top locations in Rostock. The high standards of the merchants, as the leading group in the city, were also reflected in the façades of their houses, which were built from stone on narrow plots with their gable on the narrow side facing the street. Behind them were usually large courtyard properties.
Today, the historical corner building is home to the registry office and archives of the Hanseatic City of Rostock. It was built around 1470 by Mayor Bertold Kerkhof and remained the property of his family until the 17th century. In 1605, after no heir could be found, the Burchard family took ownership of the house. In 1902 this and other properties were purchased by the city. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see the luxurious façade decorations that the family added in the mid-16th century. The majolica tiles, which had been imported from Saxony or Southern Germany, bear witness to the prosperity and artistic tastes of the time.
In 1256 Dominican friars established an influential monastery in Rostock. The monastery church was demolished in 1831, leaving no trace of the imposing monastic complex. The church’s main altarpiece is one of the most impressive exhibits in the collection of the Rostock Cultural History Museum. It was originally a winged altarpiece with a fixed shrine, two movable wings, a predella and a crowning superstructure. The work was commissioned by the secular Brotherhood of the Three Kings (Fraternitas trium regum). The Return of the Magi is the best-known painting in the altarpiece because the city in the background bears resemblance to Rostock in the Middle Ages. It includes the narrow church spires of St Peter’s and St Nicholas, the Grube River flowing into the harbour, the water gates and the jetties. This would make it the oldest illustration of the Hanseatic City of Rostock. The magnificent altar was removed prior to the church’s demolition in 1831. Its remains have been in the Museum’s collection since 1888.
Today, the region around the Fishery Harbour (Fischereihafen) is a densely developed industrial zone. In the Middle Ages this area was far from the town gates and home to not only farming villages, including Schmarl, Lütten Klein and Bramow, but also a large monastic complex. In 1396 Winhold Bagghel and Matthias von Borken, both from Rostock, founded this Carthusian monastery, which quickly expanded its property and influence. The monks from Marienehe served as council advisers and mediators in town disputes. After the Reformation of Rostock in 1531 the Carthusians held onto their Catholic faith and continued to provide pastoral care for the Rostock residents who were still following the old teachings. In 1533 the council passed a law prohibiting Rostock’s citizens from going to the monastery for church services or confession. Today, no trace of the former monastic complex remains. In March of 1552 Duke John Albert I, an uncompromising reformer, had the monastery plundered and the monks driven away. The Cultural History Museum has kept the seals of the monastery in its collection to this day and is showing them in the special exhibition celebrating the city’s anniversary.
St Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) in Rostock’s Old Town is now an important spiritual and cultural centre of the city and is often used as a concert venue. First mentioned in 1260, it was one of the city’s four parish churches. In 1316 it was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, fishermen and travellers. The exhibition Rostock. Now 800 presents one of Rostock’s two surviving chasubles. The valuable vestment was worn by the priest of the Bruch-fishermen’s altar for high feasts of the church year. The Bruch fishermen, like many other guilds and fraternities, maintained their own altar, at times with several priests, in order to alleviate the afterlife suffering of their living and deceased brothers and gain absolution for their sins through worship services and pious deeds. Rostock’s fishermen were divided into the groups “Bruch fishermen” (Bruchfischer), “street fishermen” (Straßenfischer) and “beach fishermen” (Strandfischer), along with the “sea fishermen” (Seefischer) of Warnemünde. In spite of their importance, they belonged to the Third Estate, as one of the least prestigious guilds. Starting in 1288 a concentrated community of street and beach fishermen formed on Fischerstraße in the New Town.
It is impossible to imagine Rostock’s skyline without the imposing St Mary’s Church (Marienkirche). As the parish church of the Middle Town, it was the largest, wealthiest and most important of the churches in Rostock’s history. The church was first mentioned in 1232. Owing to its central location near the New Market (Neuer Markt) with the Town Hall, it was chosen as the main and council parish church when the three municipalities of Rostock formally merged between 1262 and 1265. As a result, St Mary’s soon became the symbol of the urban community. In 1419 it was made a university church. Its parish comprised Rostock’s Middle Town between the Grube River to the east, the streets Lagerstraße, Faule Grube and Kleine Doberaner Straße to the west and the town wall to the north and south. The building management and church oversight was the responsibility of Rostock’s council, which had the impressive structure rebuilt through a series of construction campaigns between 1290 and 1452. The exhibition Rostock. Now 800 includes a detailed model of the church from the 19th century, as well as a valuable gold-plated wafer box from the 16th century, which is still used for ceremonial church services.
St Peter’s Church (Petrikirche) towers over the Old Market (Alter Markt) in Rostock’s Old Town. Although it was not mentioned in a document until 1252, it is believed to be the oldest of Rostock’s four parish churches. Its congregation consisted primarily of simple craftsmen, fishermen and day labourers, making it the poorest of the Rostock churches. St Peter’s holds special historical significance for Rostock as the church of the famous priest and reformer Joachim Slüter. In World War II it was damaged by bombs, and the steeple collapsed. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see interesting remains of its historical furnishings. In parish churches wealthy citizens or institutions often donated candle holders and financed their upkeep. St Peter’s had a total of three chandeliers and 29 sconces. They had been donated between 1554 and 1599 by Rostock families, goldsmiths, presbyters and guild leaders from the Old Town. These figures once decorated the largest chandelier. Their garments and tonsures are reminiscent of mendicant friars. They presumably originated from the nearby Franciscan monastery, which was co-administered by the priests of St Peter’s Church after the Reformation in 1533.
In 1487 the intersection of Grapengießerstraße and Lange Straße became the scene of a spectacular crime. After Rostock’s council had approved the establishment of a cathedral chapter (Domstift) at St James’ Church against the wishes of the people, the chapter was consecrated on 12 January. In the process, Ducal Chancellor Thomas Rode was named Provost. On 14 January the angry citizens rebelled, interrupting the mass at St Mary’s Church before marching to the Town Hall and on to the Hospital of the Holy Spirit to find the canons (clergy members on the cathedral staff). Thomas Rode was seized, beaten and taken to the aforementioned intersection, where he was killed. In 1494 Duke Magnus II ordered the city of Rostock to erect an atonement stone on this site as a punishment. The following is a translation of the weathered Latin inscription: “In 1487, on the feast day of St Felix, Thomas Rode passed from life unto death; may God be merciful and gracious.” The stone can now be found at the Cultural History Museum and is part of the exhibition Rostock. Now 800.
The Heiligengeisthof courtyard in the centre of Rostock is now an idyllic place with shops and restaurants. In the Middle Ages it was the site of the inner courtyard of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. Originally in the Old Town, the hospital was rebuilt here in 1275. Its wealth and influence increased through donations and grants. The hospital’s large church connected the courtyard with the street that is now called Kröpelinerstraße. Hospitals played important roles in the mediaeval city. They cared for the sick, the elderly and orphans. In exchange for donations or volunteer work, unmarried people or childless married couples could gain the privilege of living at and being cared for by the hospital in illness or old age. Today, no traces of the hospital remain in the urban landscape. When the houses on Heiligengeisthof were being built in the 18th and 19th centuries, the grand hospital church was falling into disrepair. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see parts of one of its mediaeval altars. The valuable relief shows the figure of God the Father on his heavenly throne with the body of Christ. Originally, there was also a dove above their heads, symbolising the Holy Spirit. The image epitomises a certain understanding of the Trinity: God is presenting Christ to mankind as his son who died on the cross for their sins. The Holy Spirit, shown between God and Christ, acts as an intermediary between them.
Today, the only traces that remain of the old hospital complex are the name of the street St.-Georg-Straße and the small houses on the two streets known as 1st and 2nd St.-Jürgen-Straße. St George’s Hospital, which opened outside of the town gates in 1260, cared for the sick, including lepers. Through donations or volunteer work, it was possible to acquire the privilege of being cared for by the hospital in sickness or old age, so-called prebends (Präbende). Some of the small “prebend houses” have survived to this day. However, the Hospital’s church and the cemetery north of St.-Jürgen-Straße have completely disappeared from the cityscape.
Although the hospital withstood the Reformation relatively unchanged, it was completely destroyed in 1631 during the Thirty Years’ War. The hospital was named after Saint George. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see a wooden equestrian statue from the 15th century. Saint George was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and is the patron saint of the sick and suffering. This extremely popular saint was also the subject of numerous legends. The legend of St George and the Dragon was particularly famous.
Universitätsplatz with the “Fountain of the Joy of Life” is now a central and popular inner-city square in Rostock. In the first years after the founding of Rostock, the Town Hall of the New Town was located here, just west of where the fountain now stands. When the university was founded in 1419 the building was used for the Faculty of Liberal Arts. In 2019, the university will be celebrating its 600th birthday. In this year’s special exhibition commemorating the city’s anniversary, we are showing a valuable document on loan from the University Archives: the Liber Facultatis Philosophiae, or “Book of the Faculty of Philosophy”. This is where the students and by-laws of the faculty were recorded. All students were required to pass the foundation courses of this faculty. In order to register with the university, they had to report to the rector’s residence to introduce themselves. As part of this registration process, the student was required to take an oath of unconditional obedience to the rector, which involved promising to be a good and diligent student. After the oath was taken, the student paid the enrolment fee. Students enjoyed a special status in the city, for example legally. University membership was for life. However, it could be revoked for immoral behaviour, or individuals could voluntarily relinquished their status.
Today, the former house of the Brethren of the Common Life on Altbettelmönchstraße is home to the Library of Philosophy and Theology (Fachbibliothek Philosophie und Theologie), as well as the community centre of Rostock’s United Methodist Church congregation. This impressive building behind the Rostocker Hof shopping mall has a fascinating past. In 1462 the Brethren of the Common Life resettled from the Münster region to Rostock. The monastery-like religious community was known primarily for its achievements in book production. The eastern part of their building housed a church, and the western part was where the community members lived and worked. This was also the location of their printing press, the first of its kind in Rostock. The Brethren’s work in this area made the Hanseatic City one of the important centres of book production in the Baltic Sea region. During the course of excavation in the 1950s, numerous ink containers from this first printing shop were discovered. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see not only these ink containers but also important printed works from the Brethren.
One of the greatest catastrophes in Rostock’s history began here, where the streets Große Goldstraße and Altschmiedestraße intersect. At 8:30 a.m. on 11 August 1677 a fire started at Joachim Schulze’s bakery and spread quickly to the neighbouring houses. After two long days, the people of Rostock finally managed to put out the fire with the help of some rain. The last blazes of the largest fire in Rostock’s history were extinguished on Wokrenter Straße. The fire destroyed one-third of the city’s buildings and significantly weakened its economic base. During the period following the fire, Rostock lost half of its population. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can learn about how fires were fought 350 years ago. We are showing the city’s fire ordinance, as well as a fire lantern. The latter was used as the sign of the squad leader during fire-fighting operations after the outbreak of a fire.
In front of the main university building stands an imposing bronze statue of Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. In 1819 Rostock dedicated a memorial to its famous native son, and the story of how it came to be is interesting in its own right. On 22 July 1918 a Hamburg newspaper printed an article announcing plans to build the memorial. After reading the article, Blücher wrote a personal thank-you letter to the Hanseatic City. However, it turned out that the article had been a mistake. When the Rostock municipal administration received Blücher’s letter, it realised that, owing to public pressure, the promised memorial would have to be built. The Berlin-based sculptor Gottfried Schadow created the design for the figure, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote an inscription for the base. The finished memorial was erected on the square Hopfenmarkt in front of the Grand Ducal Palace and dedicated on 29 August 1819 with a large celebration. In 1938 the statue was moved several meters to its current site. The exhibition Rostock: Now 800 includes a tobacco box with an illustration showing the ceremonial dedication of the memorial. The university building “Weißes Kolleg” and the church of the Convent of the Holy Cross can be seen in the background.
In 1844 the town medical officer Johann Wilhelm Lesenberg moved into the house at Burgwall 41. Lesenberg was born on 21 September 1802. He studied medicine in Rostock. In 1840 the City of Rostock appointed him town medical officer. As such, he was responsible for overseeing the city’s healthcare system. In the museum’s collection is an elegant, ornately inlaid wood table that was once owned by the medical officer. It came to the museum through Anna Lesenberg, who had inherited it from her grandfather. She was one of the last canonnesses of the Convent of the Holy Cross. The table is now part of the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800. Together with other pieces of furniture and jewellery from the same period, it provides insight into the middle-class tastes of the time. Biedermeier became the first style of middle-class furniture design, and the private parlour with a sofa, sewing table and secretaire was the centre of the middle-class-family home.
Today, there are few traces left of Rostock’s first railway station. The former station building has been used as a retirement home since 2009. The railway station, which was named after Grand Duke Frederick Francis,was opened in 1850. In its first year, the station was used by 26,547 passengers. The railway line to Schwerin via Bad Kleinen laid the foundation for the Hanseatic City’s economic growth. After the completion of the station, the city began expanding to the south. Country lanes were replaced by streets lined with modern, middle-class houses. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see one of the first timetables of the Mecklenburg Railway, as well as a city map from 1872 that shows the Steintor Suburb in its early years.
The former site of the Neptune Werft shipyard was a pivotal location in Rostock’s economic history. One of the former shipbuilding halls is now known as the “Neptun Center” and houses various businesses. Most of the remaining property is occupied by modern residential buildings. In the early 19th century, before the shipyard was built, this area outside the city walls was characterised by gardens and green spaces.
In 1850 Wilhelm Zeltz and Albrecht Tischbein founded a shipyard and machine works here. It was called the Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik von Wilhelm Zeltz und Albrecht Tischbein. In 1890 this company was reorganised into the joint-stock company “Neptun” Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik. At the time, it was the largest company in Mecklenburg. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see a model of the ship Erbherzog Friedrich Franz, as well as a copperplate engraving showing the launch of the Königin Marie in 1857.
This screw steamer was equipped with a steam engine that had been built in Hanover. Named after Queen Marie of Hanover, it was used by a Dutch company for carrying passengers between Amsterdam and Harburg.
Here in the north-western part of Rostock, not far from the former Neptun Werft shipyard, was the production facility of one of the most important local companies of the 19th century.
The chemical factory of Friedrich Witte was the flagship of the Rostock economy. Friedrich Witte had trained as a pharmacist with Theodor Fontane in Berlin. After completing his studies and practical training, he took over his father’s pharmacy, the Hirsch-Apotheke. However, he eventually decided to sell this business and found a chemical company. In 1871 his company succeeded in producing caffeine in crystalline form. In the following years, the factory achieved great success with the development of production techniques for pure pepsin, rennet powder, peptone, pancreatin and papain. Witte garnered great recognition internationally, particularly for his peptone. The company became the global market leader and exported its products primarily to the U.S. and Russia. Witte, who embodied the modern, middle-class entrepreneurial mindset of the Gründerzeit, was also a member of the Reichstag.
One of the objects we are showing in the special exhibition commemorating the city’s anniversary is a centrepiece that had been a gift from the trade association Allgemeiner Mecklenburgischer Handelsverein for its co-founder and chairman, Friedrich Witte. Between 1868 and 1893 the family engraved the names and dates of fourteen family members onto this centrepiece.
The new Steintor Suburb between St. Georg Straße and the railway station is still characterised by lavish middle-class villas. Many of them have been extensively refurbished and give an accurate impression of the neighbourhood’s original character. In 1887 a spacious and modern suburb was established between St. Georg Straße and the railway station, which had been completed one year earlier. This neighbourhood was designed with broad streets and green spaces to meet the high standards of the wealthy elite.
At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see an architectural model of the villa at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 3 (now Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße). The large villa with a tower was built in 1896. It was one of the most impressive buildings on the main street leading to the railway station. Accordingly, the villa was most likely also one of the most expensive, which would explain why it was often empty. From 1900 to 1903 the master builder Wilhelm Voss had his flat and office here. As chairman of the Grand Ducal Chaussee Building Inspection Commission, he was responsible for the major roads between Rostock, Güstrow, Ribnitz and Wismar. The landowner Carl Grieffenhagen also lived here for several years. In 1911 the house was acquired by Wilhelm Koch. He not only was chair of the Rostock Common Council (Bürgervertretung) and head of St Mary’s Church, but also owned the soap factory J. C. Lange Erben, with its headquarters at Ziegenmarkt 3. After his death in 1924 his widow founded a home for girls in the villa.
As a lively student neighbourhood with numerous bars and shops, the Kröpeliner-Tor Suburb (KTV) in western Rostock is now one of the city’s most attractive residential areas. However, the highly sought-after flats in the older buildings here were originally planned as simple and inexpensive housing for workers. Between 1890 and 1908, the city began systematically developing the existing paths and streets in front of the gate “Kröpeliner Tor” into a residential area with large blocks of flats, primarily intended for the petite bourgeoisie, civil servants, artisans and workers. Owing to the ever-expanding economy and the establishment of larger companies, there was no longer enough space in the densely developed city centre to meet the growing demand for housing. As a result of this economic growth, Rostock’s population had increased from 30,000 to 45,000 between 1871 and 1890. By 1905 the city already had 60,000 residents. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, we are showing not only impressive large-format photos from the first years of the KTV, but also a detailed architectural model of a residential building for workers on Waldemarstraße.
For many people from Rostock and numerous out-of-town visitors, the Warnemünde beach has become a hallmark of the Hanseatic City. Tourism is a key element of the economy, with some 3.5 million overnight stays in hotel establishments every year. Today, it is impossible to imagine Warnemünde without the large cruise ships, crowds of visitors and full beaches in the summer. However, for a long time Warnemünde was only a fishing village, a home for sailors and Rostock’s second harbour. It was not until the 19th century that the small district evolved into a popular seaside resort. The first people began coming to the beach for relaxation as early as 1821. By 1834 Warnemünde, with its 1,500 residents, was already attracting 1,000 summer guests. After the introduction of economic freedom in 1869, its development accelerated. Artisans and businesses, which were previously forbidden in Warnemünde, came to the area. Many residents began making their living from tourism, e.g. by renting out rooms and the new verandas of their homes. They established hotels and guest houses. Warnemünde became easily accessible to tourists from other regions when a railway station was added in 1886 and a new ferry connection to Denmark was started in 1903. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see historical swimwear and a parasol.
The name of the tram stop “Schröderplatz” (Schröder Square) is a reminder that this busy intersection was once a public square. A large photo featured in the exhibition Rostock. Now 800 calls to mind a symbolic day: the opening of the Brinckman Fountain. On 26 July 1914 the people of Rostock came together to honour a fellow Rostock native through the dedication of an impressive fountain. It is one of the last photographs of Rostock from the imperial period. Few of the festively dressed guests could have suspected that a war would be breaking out within the next week and that this war would put an end to the centuries-old power structures.
Today, Warnemünde is best known as a tourist destination. During the summer months, thousands of people stroll along the promenade beside the “Alter Strom” channel and dine at the harbour restaurants. However, World War I turned Warnemünde into a frontline town. With Russia as an enemy, the Baltic Sea was a theatre of war, and the seaside resort became a restricted military area. Visitors could enter but required a special pass. The Alter Strom was used by warships. In Hohe Düne was an airfield with a naval aviation unit. Civilians were not allowed access to the pier, windows had to be kept dark, and all cameras were prohibited. Nevertheless, the tourism industry gradually recovered after its collapse at the beginning of the war. One reason for this recovery was that it was easier to buy food in the seaside resort because it was surrounded by agricultural areas.
Most of the old streets and houses in this area have since been replaced by large, newer buildings, such as the headquarters of the Ostseesparkasse and the Deutsche Med building. From 1906 until the 1980s this was the site of the Hanseatic City’s main fire station. One of the photographs in the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800 shows a memorable event from World War I. The bells of eight Rostock churches are lined up in the courtyard behind the fire station. The seizure of the church bells began in 1917. During the war, Germany suffered from severe material shortages, and soon its metal requirements could no longer be met by private donations. In addition to its church bells, the city was forced to sacrifice the copper roofing of the gate “Steintor”, which was removed as early as 1916. Before the bells were taken down, the churches rang them one last time in June of 1917. These measures brought the reality of the war to the city’s doorstep.
A charming bronze statue has been standing in a fountain in the park with Rostock’s historic fortifications (Wallanlagen) since 1922. The Viennese artist Victor Heinrich Seifert first created this figure of a naked woman drinking slowly from a bowl in 1910. It was subsequently cast in bronze in various sizes and used in a number of different contexts. In 1922 the Rostock-based merchant Friedrich Best gave a version of this statue to the City of Rostock for a fountain on Wallgrabenstraße (now Hermannstraße). Since then, the fountain has had an eventful history. In the winter of 1995 the bronze figure disappeared overnight. A recast was financed through donations from a bank. However, over Christmas of 2005 it was stolen again. Thanks to donations from various banks and individuals, the city was able to purchase a new statue, which once again adorns the eastern entrance to the park. An early version of the Drinking Woman can be seen in the special exhibition for the city’s anniversary, Rostock. Now 800.
Today, it is difficult to imagine that the grounds of the Baltic Sea Stadium (Ostseestadion), the large square in front of the stadium and the wide street that leads to the square Holbeinplatz were originally built for a completely different purpose. Rostock’s parade grounds were opened here in 1936 as a venue for the organisation of large Nazi propaganda events in Rostock. The initial plans included a convention centre for 20,000 people beside the completed blocks of bleachers and the square for the regional party conventions. The parade grounds in the Barnstorfer Anlagen forest and the associated road axis with the “Square of Allegiance” were designed with the aim of transforming Rostock into a National Socialist model city. These and other structures are evidence of the special role that the city played for the Nazi regime in Mecklenburg. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see impressive photographs and video recordings of the parade grounds.
Today, Kröpeliner Straße is one of the most popular shopping streets in Rostock’s city centre. Numerous people peruse the shops and shopping centres. This was no different back in 1933. However, shoppers on their way to the long-established Wertheim department store on 30 March 1933 were greeted with a grim sight. A large-format photograph in the exhibition Rostock. Now 800 shows SA stormtroopers in front of the department store. The Jewish family Wertheim ran successful department stores in Stralsund, Rostock and Berlin. The Rostock store had been growing steadily since its founding in 1884. In 1903 the family opened a new three-storey building with an atrium and winter garden.
Starting in 1933 Rostock’s Jews faced ever-increasing repression. The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses (Judenboykott) began with the posting of SA paramilitaries outside of Jewish shops. This was followed by a large rally at the Reiferbahn park on 31 March. The boycott of 57 businesses, medical practices and law offices was enforced by intimidation and violence.
Anti-Semitism reached an unprecedented high in 1935 with the introduction of the “Nuremberg Laws”, which deprived Jews of basic rights and left them defenceless. Subsequently, they were required to wear the Star of David and add “Israel” or “Sarah” to their legal names.
In 1938 Rostock’s Augustenstraße was the site of a historic tragedy. The synagogue at Augustenstraße 101 was burned down during the November pogrom.
The synagogue had been the centre of the Hanseatic City’s active Jewish community, who also ran their own community house and Sunday school. In 1932 this community had around 350 men, women and children. During the pogrom on 9 November 1938, the synagogue was set on fire and burned to the ground. In the context of a mass deportation on 28 October 1938, a total of 37 Jews were arrested and deported to Poland. Most of the community members tried to flee the country. Between 1942 and 1944, 70 people were deported to concentration camps, where nearly all of them lost their lives. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, two photographs document this dark chapter of Rostock’s history.
In 1935 a “trainee hall” for the Ernst Heinkel Aircraft Works was established here in the Marienehe district. Since the 1920s Rostock had been a central location of aviation history and the site of several technical breakthroughs. After the National Socialists came to power, numerous German companies, including Ernst Heinkel, were converted to weapons production. The series production of warplanes at Ernst Heinkel began after its new facility had been established in Rostock Marienehe in 1935 and the number of employees had been increased to several thousand. On 27 August 1939, just before the start of the war, the world’s first turbojet aircraft took off in Marienehe. However, technical achievements like these were overshadowed by the impending war. Heinkel’s He111 was used as the standard bomber of the Luftwaffe for nearly all of its World War II operations. This made Rostock one of the most important military production sites in Northern Germany. In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see fascinating documents from the city’s history as a centre of military production.
Rostock’s Lange Straße is one of the most prominent streets in the Hanseatic City and sets the tone for the city centre. However, it was also a silent witness of Rostock’s war years. As an important military production centre in Northern Germany and a model city of National Socialism, Rostock was one of the first cities to be targeted by the Allies’ bombing campaigns. Over the course of four nights between the 23rd and 27th of April 1942, Allied bombers reduced Rostock to rubble. Approximately 300 people were killed or injured in the attacks, and 60% of the buildings were destroyed. Lange Straße was particularly hard hit, losing most of its buildings. After these nights of bombing, the appearance of the city centre was permanently changed. The empty northern side of the New Market (Neuer Markt), the widened stretches of Steinstraße and Lange Straße and the empty space around the gate "Kröpeliner Tor” are only a few examples of how major sections of Rostock were rebuilt from ruins.
In the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see not only numerous photographs of Rostock after the air raids, but also fascinating remnants of the bombing campaigns, including a piece of the copper roof of St Peter’s Church, which was also gutted by fire.
Three parish churches from medieval Rostock are still prominent in the cityscape. St Mary’s, St Peter’s and St Nicholas have survived for centuries in spite of numerous structural changes. The fact that Rostock was actually once home to four large parish churches can now only be seen on old maps, drawings and paintings of the city. The green space known as “Jacobi-Kirchplatz” (St James’ Church Square) in the middle of the densely developed inner-city area is named after the magnificent parish church of the New Town. Construction on St James’ Church began as early as 1280, and the choir was mentioned for the first time in 1329. As the church of the wealthy New Town, it had an opulent interior. During the air raids of 1942, it was completely gutted by fire. When the nearby Blücher Bunker was demolished with explosives in 1947, the nave of the church collapsed. The Rostock Cultural History Museum has preserved an impressive relic of this parish church: a 1599 funerary monument showing Mayor Heinrich Runge survived the flames because it was made of sandstone. When the nave collapsed as a result of the demolition of the Blücher Bunker just south of the church, the monument fell off the wall and shattered.
During the night-time air raids of World War II, Rostock’s Lange Straße was particularly hard hit. Since its reconstruction, it has become one of the city’s most prominent streets. Today, it would be hard to imagine the cityscape without it. The street’s present-day appearance is the result of redevelopment work that was carried out on the city centre in the 1950s with Lange Straße as a central element. The planners wanted the centre to have a broad, domineering main street to emphasise Rostock’s political importance. From an urban-development perspective, the scale of this project was unparalleled in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The changes that were made would have a major and permanent impact on the landscape and character of the city. For example, the Christ Church (Christuskirche) on the square Schröderplatz and the buildings on the north side of the New Market (Neuer Markt) were torn down in order to create the required access to Lange Straße. The architecture was predominantly based on the style of Socialist Classicism (“Stalinist architecture”), which also played a dominant role in the design of other GDR construction projects, like Frankfurter Allee. However, elements of Northern German Brick Gothic also found their way into the designs. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see shaped bricks from the original façade decoration. When placed together, the four ceramic plates form one of the four-piece Gothic motifs that adorn nearly all of the Lange Straße façades as decorative friezes.
Today, the streets between Lange Straße and the Warnow River are a highly sought-after residential area in Rostock. At first glance, it may not be apparent that most of the buildings here are so-called Plattenbauten (typical East German buildings constructed of large, prefabricated concrete slabs). In the 1980s the area Nördliche Altstadt (“Northern Old Town”) was redeveloped after many of the original buildings had been torn down. Only a few historical buildings survived. These included the warehouse of Friedrich Witte’s chemical factory on Schnickmannstraße, warehouses on Grapengießerstraße and the “Hornsche Hof” (a former trading post and residential house). Most of the new buildings were constructed on Wokrenter Straße. Like similar Plattenbauten on Lange Straße, their façades were designed to look like those of historical houses in order to blend harmoniously into the cityscape.
Through these extensive redevelopment projects, the neighbourhood underwent a drastic transformation. The old buildings had been in an obvious state of disrepair. Owing to the centralised system of housing allocation, a new social stratification emerged. The development areas on the city’s outskirts were primarily home to large families, high-earning workers and politically compliant citizens. The limited investment funds flowed into these areas because the idea was to solve the housing problem primarily through the construction of Plattenbauten. Flats in the older buildings of the inner-city areas had yet to be modernised and were quickly falling into disrepair. These buildings were primarily home to single men and women, unskilled workers, dissidents and older people. The impressive photographs in the exhibition Rostock. Now 800 provide valuable insights into these developments.
Many Rostock natives still vividly remember the cable crane that was built in 1955 and, owing to its size, became a prominent feature in Warnemünde’s skyline. As part of the Warnow shipyard, the crane also became a symbol of shipbuilding on the Warnow River. In the GDR period, Rostock was developed as a central shipyard and port location. The Warnow shipyard and international port formed the backbone of this development. At the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see numerous objects that provide insight into this chapter of Rostock’s economic history. These exhibits include a 1962 book by Franz Fühmann, Kabelkran und blauer Peter (“Cable Crane and Blue Peter”), which was based on the author’s earlier experiences at the Warnow shipyard in Warnemünde.
In the 1950s and 1960s the GDR leadership attempted to present the work of the state-owned companies in an ideal light. The commissioned authors also frequently noticed bottlenecks and difficulties in production. However, they were rarely allowed to write about these issues openly.
The Hotel “Neptun” has been Warnemünde’s largest and best known hotel since 1971 and, with a height of 64 metres, is the second tallest building in the Hanseatic City. It was considered one of the GDR’s top three hotels and was a dream destination for many East Germans. In its first years, the hotel only accepted guests from the West. However, after the Eighth Party Conference of the SED, which raised the “unity of economic and social policy” principle to the status of a doctrine, 80% of the rooms were reserved for the holiday service of East Germany’s Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB). The price for twelve days with full board was 310 East German marks. These visits were awarded by the “holiday commissions” of the companies, which selected holidaymakers on the basis of “socialist” criteria. At the exhibition Rostock. Now 800, you can see a so-called Storeticket. Owing to the large percentage of guests from other countries, particularly West Germany, the Hotel Neptun had its own currency. All guests were required to exchange their own national currency for Storetickets. The purpose of this system was to prevent illegal currency exchange and black-market trade.
Football fans from the city and surrounding region regularly flock to the Baltic Sea Stadium (Ostseestadion) to cheer on their team. The Hansa Rostock football club has captured the hearts of countless people in Northern Germany. The club was formed in 1965 from the football department of the Empor Rostock sports club and is now an important trademark of the city, as well as a driving force for its economy. Its development was closely tied to Rostock’s role as district capital. When the Baltic Sea Stadium was completed in 1954, none of the local football teams were playing in a higher division. After the relegation of the Motor Wismar sports club in 1951/52, there was no northern team left in East Germany’s top level football league. This is why the GDR sports administration at the suggestion of the first secretary of the SED district administration decided to move the team of the Saxon club BSG Empor Lauter to Rostock during the 1954 season. One of the related objects being shown in the special exhibition Rostock. Now 800 is a 1980 pennant from the club.