Hamburg (pron.: /ˈhæmbɜrɡ/; German pronunciation: [ˈhambʊɐ̯k], local pronunciation [ˈhambʊɪç]; Low German/Low Saxon: Hamborg [ˈhaˑmbɔːx]), officially Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, is the second largest city in Germany, the thirteenth largest German state, and the sixth largest city in the European Union. The city is home to over 1.8 million people, while the Hamburg Metropolitan Region (including parts of the neighbouring Federal States of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein) has more than 5 million inhabitants. Situated on the river Elbe, the port of Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe (after the Port of Rotterdam) and tenth largest worldwide.
Hamburg’s official name, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (German: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg), reflects Hamburg’s history as a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, and that Hamburg is a city-state and one of the sixteen States of Germany. Before the 1871 Unification of Germany, Hamburg was a fully sovereign state of its own. Prior to the constitutional changes in 1919, the stringent civic republic was ruled by a class of hereditary grand burghers or Hanseaten.
Hamburg is a major transport hub in Northern Germany and is one of the most affluent cities in Europe. It has become a media and industrial centre, with plants and facilities belonging to Airbus, Blohm + Voss and Aurubis. The radio and television broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk and publishers such as Gruner + Jahr and Spiegel-Verlag are pillars of the important media industry in Hamburg. Hamburg has been an important financial centre for centuries, and is the seat of the world’s second oldest bank, Berenberg Bank. In total, there are more than 120,000 enterprises.
The city is a major tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors; Hamburg ranked 17th in the world for livability in 2012, and, in 2010, the city ranked 10th in the world.
The Limes Saxoniae border between the Saxons and the Slavic Obotrites, established about 810.
The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy’s reports, Treva. But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808. The castle was built on rocky terrain in a marsh between the River Alster and the River Elbe as a defence against Slavic incursion. The castle was named Hammaburg, burg meaning castle or fort. The origin of the Hamma term remains uncertain, as is the exact location of the castle.
In 834, Hamburg was designated the seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric, whose first bishop, Ansgar, became known as the Apostle of the North. Two years later, Hamburg was united with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. In 1529, the city embraced Lutheranism, and Hamburg subsequently received Reformed refugees from the Netherlands and France and, in the 17th century, Sephardi Jews from Portugal.
Hamburg was destroyed and occupied several times. In 845, a fleet of 600 Viking ships sailed up the River Elbe and destroyed Hamburg which, at that time, was a town of around 500 inhabitants. In 1030, the city was burned down by King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland. Valdemar II of Denmark raided and occupied Hamburg in 1201 and in 1214. The Black Death killed at least 60% of Hamburg’s population in 1350. Hamburg had several great fires, the most notable ones in 1284 and 1842. In 1842, about a quarter of the inner city was destroyed in the «Great Fire». This conflagration started on the night of the 4 May 1842 and was extinguished on 8 May. It destroyed three churches, the town hall, and many other buildings, killing 51 people and leaving an estimated 20,000 homeless. Reconstruction took more than 40 years.
In 1189, by imperial charter, Frederick I «Barbarossa» granted Hamburg the status of an Imperial Free City and tax-free access up the Lower Elbe into the North Sea. In 1265, an allegedly forged letter was presented to or by the Rath of Hamburg. This charter, along with Hamburg’s proximity to the main trade routes of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, quickly made it a major port in Northern Europe. Its trade alliance with Lübeck in 1241 marks the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities. On 8 November 1266, a contract between Henry III and Hamburg’s traders allowed them to establish a hanse in London. This was the first time in history that the word hanse was used for the trading guild of the Hanseatic League. The first description of civil, criminal and procedural law for a city in Germany in the German language, the Ordeelbook (Ordeel: sentence) was written by the solicitor of the senate of Hamburg, Jordan von Boitzenburg, in 1270. On August 10, 1410, civil unrest forced a compromise (German: Rezeß, literally meaning: withdrawal). This is considered the first constitution of Hamburg.
When Jan van Valckenborgh introduced a second layer to the fortifications to protect against the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century, he extended Hamburg and created a «New Town» (Neustadt) whose street names still date from the grid system of roads he introduced.
Upon the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Free Imperial City of Hamburg was not incorporated into a larger administrative area while retaining special privileges (mediatised), but became a sovereign state with the official title of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Hamburg was briefly annexed by Napoleon I to the First French Empire (1810–14). Russian forces under General Bennigsen finally freed the city in 1814. Hamburg reassumed its pre-1811 status as a city-state in 1814. The Vienna Congress of 1815 confirmed Hamburg’s independence and it became one of 39 sovereign states of the German Confederation (1815–66).
In 1860, the state of Hamburg adopted a republican constitution. Hamburg became a city-state within the North German Confederation (1866–71), the German Empire (1871–1918) and during the period of the Weimar Republic (1919–33). Hamburg experienced its fastest growth during the second half of the 19th century, when its population more than quadrupled to 800,000 as the growth of the city’s Atlantic trade helped make it Europe’s second largest port. With Albert Ballin as its director, the Hamburg-America Line became the world’s largest transatlantic shipping company around the start of the 20th century. Shipping companies sailing to South America, Africa, India and East Asia were based in the city. Hamburg was the departure port for most Germans and Eastern Europeans to emigrate to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Trading communities from all over the world established themselves here.
A major outbreak of cholera in 1892 was badly handled by the city government, which still retained an unusual degree of independence for a German city at the time. About 8,600 died in the largest German epidemic of the late 19th century, and the last major cholera epidemic in a major city of the Western world.
Flakturm on the Heiligengeistfeld in Hamburg — one of four enormous fortress-like bunkers which were made of reinforced concrete, built between 1942 and 1944 and equipped with anti-aircraft artillery for air defense
In the Third Reich, Hamburg was a Gau from 1934 until 1945. During World War II, Hamburg suffered a series of Allied air raids, which devastated much of the inhabited city as well as harbour areas. On 23 July 1943, a firestorm developed as a result of Allied firebombing and, spreading from the Hauptbahnhof (central station) and quickly moving south-east, completely destroyed entire boroughs, such as Hammerbrook, Billbrook or Hamm-south. As a result, these densely populated working-class boroughs underwent a dramatic demographic change as thousands of people perished in the flames. While some of the destroyed boroughs have been rebuilt as residential areas after the war, others such as Hammerbrook are nowadays purely commercial areas with almost no residential population. The raids, codenamed Operation Gomorrah by the RAF, killed at least 42,600 civilians; the precise number is not known. About 1 million civilians were evacuated in the aftermath of the raids.
Not fewer than another 42,900 people are thought to have perished in the Neuengamme concentration camp (situated about 25 km (16 mi) outside the city in the marshlands), mostly due to epidemics and in the bombing of evacuation vessels by the Royal Air Force at the end of the war.
Hamburg surrendered without a fight to British Forces on 3 May 1945. After World War II, Hamburg was in the British Zone of Occupation and became a state of the then Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. From 1960 to 1962, the Beatles launched their career by playing in various music clubs in the city. On 16 February 1962, the North Sea flood of that year caused the Elbe to rise to an all-time high, inundating one-fifth of Hamburg and killing more than 300 people.
The Inner German border — only 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of Hamburg — separated the city from most of its hinterland and further reduced Hamburg’s global trade. Since German reunification in 1990, and the accession of some Central European and Baltic States into the European Union in 2004, the Port of Hamburg has restarted ambitions for regaining its position as the region’s largest deep-sea port for container shipping and its major commercial and trading centre.