Not lost, but now divided German Towns
Another divided town today is another German city named Frankfurt: Frankfort on the Oder. It owes
its origin and name to a settlement of Franconian merchants in the I3th century.
Cottbus was established in the 10th century, when Sorbs erected a castle on a sandy island in the
Spree river. From the 13th century when German settlers came to the town, they have lived together
with the Sorbs. In medieval times Cottbus was known for wool and fabric manufacturing. On
February 15, 1945, the lovely old town of Cottbus was bombed by 4,000 high-explosive American
bombs, destroying 356 houses and damaging 3,600. 1,000 people dead, among them 400 children,
and 13,000 were left homeless. Parts of its hospital were destroyed, its doctors and nurses killed. It
was handed over to the communists where it could languish for decades. It is now part of Germany.
Medieval Plauen, on the Elster river, won its city charter in the early 13th century. St. Johann's
Church was dedicated in 1122 and the Rathaus built in 1508. There was once a rich cotton dealer,
Baumgärtel, whose stuccoed festive hall dated from 1786. A Schleierherren (veil man) of Plauen, he
sold woven fashion merchandise in the 18th century. Plauen lace became famous throughout the
world after 1880. The Lutheran church at the northern edge of the old city had existed since 1722,
and was the oldest significant Baroque building left in Saxony. Its four-winged altar, which was in
the St. Thomas Church of Leipzig until 1722, was created around 1500 near Erfurt.
While most German cities and towns in the east were lost forever, their cultural legacy either stolen
outright or reinvented, a few were simply cut in half by Churchill's genocidal final solution. Their
cultural connection to Germany difficult to reestablish after years of communist occupation and
propaganda. Görlitz was one of the most beautiful eastern German cities, containing five centuries of
architectural treasures. Görlitz became a major trading city in the late Middle Ages as the crossroads
of two major trade routes, the Via Regia, which led from Spain to Russia, and the Amber Road,
connecting the Baltic Sea and Bohemia. The Thirty Years War and the Napoleonic invasions both
scarred the face of the city, but it recovered, becoming one of the wealthiest towns in Germany.
In late medieval times, the town dominated the trade on the river between the German cities of
Breslau and Stettin. In 1430, Frankfurt joined the Hanseatic League, but for only a short time. The
Elector of Brandenburg founded a university here and in the 19th century Frankfurt played an
important role in trade. Its central position, heavily-trafficked river and large annual trade fair was
surpassed only by that in Leipzig. Frankfurt decayed under Communist occupation, its bomb
damage unrepaired and its downtown uglified. Its ancient Marienkirche had been destroyed and
never fully rebuilt, its destroyed red brick tower rebuilt in white concrete, and all the stained glass
windows removed and shipped to museums in Moscow. Once located on both sides of the Oder
River, it was cut in two and its other half is in Poland and goes by the name of Słubice.
However, in these closed cellars crowded with people, the air supply became dangerous during 2-3
hour air raids. Ancient St Johann's Church was all but totally destroyed. From April 16 to June 30,
1945, the American army occupied Plauen and the Vogtland, containing the people before handing
them over to the communists on July 1. The ancient city entrances were later blown up by
occupying Soviet troops.
The right bank of Görlitz was taken by the Soviet military on May 8, 1945, and in 1948 the name of
that half of the town was changed to "Zgorzelec." Almost immediately the town was inhabited
mostly by four distinct groups of incoming people: Polish ex-soldiers and forced laborers, inmates of
a large POW camp set up in Görlitz in 1939, Poles from central Poland and people forcibly moved
from the territories taken over by the Soviet Union in eastern Poland. From 1946, the Polish
communist authorities began a systematic 'repatriation' of all Germans in the town, with the result
that there are no more Germans living there today. In 1950, 15,000 communist Greek political
refugees settled in the town, but there are only about 200 of them still there today.
Guben developed around 1200 as a marketplace on the roads between between Leipzig, Görlitz and
Frankfurt (Oder). Guben received the municipal law by the Wettin Mark count Heinrich III. of
Meissen in 1235. A cloister of Benedictine nuns began developing on the western shore of the river.
Until 1815, Guben belonged to the Margravate of Lower Lusatia ( which between 1367 and 1635
belonged to Bohemia ) without interuption. In 1635, Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony received
Lower Lusatia and Guben in the Peace of Prague. In 1815, the Margravate of Lower Lusatia was
replaced with the district system and Guben became the capital of a district within the Province of
Brandenburg. Guben's textile industry began to develop in the 16th century, and it became a center
of hatmaking. Guben became a rail connection between Frankfurt/Oder and Breslau in 1846 and
between Cottbus and Crossen an der Oder in 1871.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Guben was 90 % destroyed by Allied Bombing and because
Guben was on the Lusatian Neisse, the city was separated into German Guben and Polish Gubin.
The German residents of the Polish part of Guben were forcibly "evacuated" in 1945. Because the
historical center of Guben became Gubin, the western suburbs which grew from the cloister
remained in Guben.
5,700 tons of weapons were dropped by British and American bombers on Plauen, destroying 75%
of the city and killing 2,443 humans in 14 air raids. In the bombing, the citizens had ingeniously
fortified old rock cellar areas under a former factory. The underground halls held 7,000 to 8,000
persons and it had its own water and electric supply.
The population of the once prosperous city has fallen by 15 per cent since 1990 as the younger
people have left to find work. Before the Second World War, Görlitz was the gateway to the German
province of Silesia, which was given away to Poland in 1945. Fortunately, the re-drawing of the
border, while slicing the town in half, left the historical town center and the majority of the town's
buildings, which were largely undamaged by war, in Germany. Churchill turned half of it into another
"historically Polish city". German Görlitz in 1575, above