Hannover - From Henry the Lion to the EXPO 2000

    Hanover is the Capital of the German Land Lower Saxony and ranks eleventh among Germany’s biggest cities with 520,000 inhabitants. The first recorded document in which Hanover was mentioned dates back to 1150 AD. After being expanded under the rule of Henry the Lion, it was declared a city in 1241. In 1350, the city wall was built. This period marks a time of great economic wealth for the roughly 4,000 inhabitants, as Hanover was made a Hanseatic city. The Reformation was welcomed with open arms, and in 1533, the citizens converted to Martin Luther’s words and concepts and drove the Catholic town council out of the city. Although the Catholic League tried to take the city back several times, it always failed. In 1636, still during the Thirty Years’ War, George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, moved his residence to Hanover, and the architecture of that time is characteristic for the city even today. Many years passed, during which dukes and electors steered the course of the city, until, in 1714, George Louis, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, ascended the throne of Britain, thus becoming George I, and leaving Hanover more or less to its own devices.

    The city suffered from this negligence, the palace stood empty, the palace gardens withered away. Finally, in 1837, the personal union of the crowns ended with the enthronement of king Ernest Augustus I of Hanover. Progress was fostered in Hanover: In 1825, it became the first European city to be lit by gas lamps, and in 1843, the city was added to the steadily growing railway network. By 1859, 68,000 people lived in Hanover. Seven years later, Prussia annexed the kingdom of Hanover, which turned out quite beneficial for the city, however, as it produced many economic advantages and attracted more and more people to Hanover. As of 1873, more than 100,000 inhabitant lived within the city limits.

    Progress and the incorporation of the suburbs increased this population growth even further, and a 1920 census found more than 400,000 people living in Hanover. Years before, the Germans had put an end to monarchy by chasing the emperor out of the country, and the first blossoms of democracy were budding in the city. A member of the Social Democrats had been elected as the first lord mayor in 1918. Unfortunately, democracy was soon disturbed, and in 1937, the mayor and the city council were puppets of the Nazi regime. Like anywhere else in Germany at that time, Hanover saw many of its citizens persecuted because of their creed, their ideology, or their ethnic background. In 1938, 4,800 Jews lived in Hanover – at the end of the war, there were less than 100.
    Being an important traffic junction and industry centre, Hanover was the target of several air raids during the second World War, and about 7,000 people were killed during these bombings. After the war, the city had lost more than half of its residents due to deportation, expulsion, flight, evacuation, and the raids. One of the goals during the reconstruction of the city was to make it more car-friendly. To that purpose, the city centre was surrounded with multi-lane streets, and expressways were built to keep long-distance traffic out of the residential areas. The historical groundplan of Hanover changed a great deal as new districts were added to the city. At the end of that process, Hanover was more modern and more “American”, and it had become well-known beyond the borders of Germany.

    Since 1947, the world’s biggest industry convention, Hannover Messe, takes place in the city. Normally, Leigzip, the classical German trade fair city, would have been the first pick for such an event, but as it was situated in the Soviet occupation zone, that was not possible. The Wirtschaftswunder, the great economic upswing of the 1950s, was also reflected in the growth of Hanover. In 1954, more than half a million people lived there. In 1965, the decision was made to establish a subway system that was eventually connected to the tramway system. Only in 1993 were the last finishing touches on the subway completed.
    The international popularity of Hanover was propelled to a whole new level in 2000, when it became the location of the first world exhibition in Germany. 155 nations and 18 million visitors partook at the EXPO. Today, Hanover is the one of the economic and industrial centres of Northern Germany, and a well-established international trade fair location.

    Did you know?

    • Ferdinand Sichel invented the world’s first ready-for-use wheatpaste in Hanover in 1881.
    • The disc record and the gramophone were developed in Hanover by Emil Berliner (1887).
    • Karl Jatho built the first German motor airplane in Hanover in 1903, and he is said to have taken it for a short flight on August 18, 1903 – four months before the first flight of the brothers Wright.
    • The first European car to be put together on an assembly line was produced in Hanover.
    • Rudolf Augstein founded the well-known German news magazine “Spiegel” in Hanover in 1947.
    • Walter Bruch invented the PAL colour television system in Hanover in 1962.