District of Spandau

The district of Spandau was first given city rights, or charter, in 1232. However, the name "Spandoh," as it was then called, appeared in documents dating back to 1197. Its first building complex was the citadel. Spandau citadel, one of Berlins few fortified castles, stands at the junction of the Havel and Spree rivers in northern Berlin. It is a reminder out of the past of the conflicts that have torn Germany for the last thousand years. Today the ruins of this once important link in the defense of early Germany are preserved as a historic monument, open to visitors interested in viewing the way of life of the earliest Berliners. The original building was constructed near trans-European trade routes, which followed old Roman roads laid out when Caesar's Legions subdued the "barbarians of the north." Started in 928, the building was enlarged and repaired after the wars and remodeled right up to the 20th century when the castle, Julius Turm was used to store gold marks. Money stored there was eventually taken a reparation money by the Allies after world War !. At one time during its history, the citadel was the center of Berlin's defense against the Slavs. In those days the rulers always made their headquarters in the citadel. Later, when Berlin became part of the kingdom of Prussia, the king actually made his home in the castle. The town that grew up around the citadel was primarily a fishing village with a few tradesmen to support the people who lived in the castle. During the middle ages, Spandau was periodically ravaged by fire and plague. The economic effect was so devastating at times that, for example, in 1240 the city was declared exempt from paying taxes. All citizens, however, combined efforts and the destruction and losses were overcome. The citadel was enlarged between the years 1560 and 1594, but the walls and trenches built during the Thirty Years War delayed Spandau for many years from extending its boundaries. During this period, the citadel was occupied mostly by armament and ammunition factories. Barracks and military installations of all types dominated the Spandau. In the time of the Napoleonic Wars, French troops were garrisoned there. For all practical purposes, the city was actually a fortress and even today contains an abundance of barracks and military facilities. Despite the ravages of time and warfare, many of the earlier buildings still remain in the area, providing the visitor a glimpse of what life was like years and years ago. A museum stands next to the Julius Tower; this museum contains many valuable exhibits depicting the history of Spandau. Today the citadel also houses a construction school, which trains students in all phases of building construction. It is the only school of its kind in Berlin, in that it actually fulfills construction orders for the Berlin government. In 1920, Spandau became the eighth administrative district of "Greater Berlin," but not without the opposition of its residents. The Spandauers demonstrated their reluctance to be amalgamated in 1911 during the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Rathaus. At that time one of the councilors remarked, " May the Kaiser's strong hand protect us from Greater Berlin and the administrative union." The borough of Spandau is the westernmost in Berlin and comprises chiefly the area beyond the Havel River. It is second only to Reinickendorf in having the largest acreage, over 21,100 acres. Presently it is the largest industrial district in Berlin. In addition, more than 30,000 homes have been built in the area since 1945. Of all the sundry industries in Spandau, bar far the greatest enterprise is Siemens, a producer of electronic devices. This company alone employs more than 40,000 people. The British-American Tobacco company is also located in Spandau, as are many metal processing companies, wagon and dredging factories, textile plants and shipyards. Spandau, however, is not limited to industry. It is also the largest agricultural district of Berlin. Approximately 2,500 are presently cultivated and there is an abundance of fishing industries. Besides the citadel, Spandau has many attractions for the visitor. Many old buildings are being preserved and renovated for their cultural and historical value and one soon forgets that he's in the "Big City." A visit to the St. Nikolai Church, which was built in the 14th century, is well worthwhile. It was in this beautiful church that the reformation of the Mark of Brandenburg began in 1539 when elector Joachim II was converted to Protestantism. Inside the church is an old Prussian baroque pulpit and Renaissance alter dating back to the 16th century. Directly across from the church is another popular attraction, the Hotel zum Stern, built in 1750. The districts beautification program has been very successful and is rapidly expanding. Parks have been created along the banks of the Havel, a network of promenades has been laid out in the southern part of the district and a new regatta line has been formed for international regatta races. This two-kilometer course is located near Gatow and replaces one which now lies in the Soviet Zone. Of historical interest-and somewhat of a small oddity-is the name of the main street of Spandau. It was named after a man who is well known to American historians, Carl Schurz. He was the U.S. Secretary for the Interior from 1877 to 1881. He had fled Germany and gone to the United States because of the part he had played in the 1848 revolution. Before fleeing, he rescued his friend, a liberty fighter, from the Spandau prison.
Back to the front page