Steyr — History

[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Steyr is a town, located in the Austrian federal state of Upper Austria. The town is situated at the confluence of the rivers Steyr and Enns. Steyr is Austria’s 12th most populated town and simultaneously the 3rd largest town in Upper Austria.

It has a long history as a manufacturing center and has given its name to several manufacturers headquartered there, such as Steyr Mannlicher (a firearms manufacturer best known for the Steyr AUG), Steyr Tractor, and Steyr Automobile.

Steyr marked its 1,000th anniversary in 1980, after undergoing extensive restoration of its historic architecture which has made it one of the best preserved old towns in Austria. Steyr is famous for its historic town centre built around the «Stadtplatz» (town square), which has been very well preserved for several hundred years, and which was largely restored following World War II. Its best-known piece of architecture is called The Bummerlhaus which is considered one of the finest pieces of Gothic architecture for its size in Central Europe.

The city is very attractively situated, with two rivers the Steyr and the Enns flowing through it and meeting near the town centre in the shadow of the Babenberg castle «Lamberg» and the church of St. Michael. This prominent location has made it prone to severe flooding through the centuries until the present, one of the worst cases being recently in August 2002.

To the south of the town rises a series of hills that climb in altitude and stretch out to the Alps. To the north, the hills roll downward towards the confluence of the Enns and Danube rivers, where the city of Enns is situated.

Historically, Steyr has had a number of well-known residents or visitors, including Franz Schubert who wrote his «Trout Quintet» there while on holiday, composer Anton Bruckner, was the organist at the local pfarrkirche, or parish church. Adolf Hitler spent a brief period there while in his teens. Hitler, who lived in a room at the Grünmarkt, went to the high school of Steyr in 1904. The school is located in the same building as the famous Saint Michael’s Church.

In 1934, the town became one of several battlegrounds between Social Democrat and Christian Social Parties (and their respective Schutzbund and Heimwehr militias) in the Austrian Civil War that brought about the fascist corporate state that ruled the country until the German Anschluss in 1938.

Because it was such a major producer of arms and military vehicles during the Second World War, Steyr became a target of Allied bombing raids which tried to knock out its factories. Much of the town was badly damaged, but the factories continued to function until near the end of the war. A dark point in Steyr’s history was the construction of a Nazi concentration camp, part of the Mauthausen network, in Steyr. The city was a meeting point in May 1945 when units of the 5th Guards Airborne of the Red Army and black troops of the US 761st Tank Battalion along with the 71st Infantry Division contacted each other on the bridge over the Enns River. Steyr was occupied by the U.S. Army—the Soviet Army moved east behind the demarcation line of the province of Lower Austria. The troops remained until 1955 when Austria officially declared neutrality.

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