Free City of Lübeck

The Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck (German: Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck, Danish: Lybæk) was a city-state from 1226 to 1937, in what is now the German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck
Location of the Free City of Lübeck within the German Empire
Location of the Free City of Lübeck within the German Empire
Territory of the Free City of Lübeck, 1815–1937
Territory of the Free City of Lübeck, 1815–1937
StatusFree imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire
Member of the German Confederation
Member of the North German Confederation
State of the German Empire
State of the Weimar Republic
Official languagesGerman
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Lübeck
• Gained Imp. immediacy
    from Emp. Frederick II
• Annexed by French Empire
• Regained sovereignty under
    Congress of Vienna

• Abolished by the
    Greater Hamburg Act

1 April 1937
1905297.7 km2 (114.9 sq mi)
• 1834
• 1871
• 1900
• 1933
Preceded by
Succeeded by
County of Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein Province
Today part of Germany


Imperial Free City and the Hanseatic League

In 1226 Emperor Frederick II declared the city of Lübeck to be a Free Imperial City. Lübeck law was the constitution of the city's municipal form of government developed after being made a free city. In theory, Lübeck law made the cities which had adopted it independent of royalty. In the 14th century Lübeck became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League", being by far the largest and most powerful member of this medieval trade organization.

In 1359 Lübeck bought the ducal Herrschaft of Mölln from the indebted Albert V, Duke of Saxe-Bergedorf-Mölln, a branch of the ducal house of Saxe-Lauenburg. The City and Duke—with the consent of the Duke's brother Eric—agreed on a price of 9,737.50 Lübeck marks. The parties also agreed to a clause allowing for the repurchase of the lands by the Duke or his heirs, but only if they were buying back the property for themselves and not for a third party.[1] Lübeck considered this acquisition to be crucially important, since Mölln was an important staging post in the trade (especially the salt trade) between Scandinavia and the cities of Brunswick and Lunenburg via Lübeck. Therefore, Lübeck manned Mölln with armed guards to maintain law and order on the roads.

In 1370 Lübeck further acquired—by way of collateral for a loan—the Lordship of Bergedorf, the Vierlande, half the Sachsenwald (Saxon Forest) and Geesthacht from Duke Eric III, who had meanwhile succeeded his late brother Albert V.[2] This acquisition included much of the trade route between Hamburg and Lübeck, thus providing a safe freight route between the cities. Eric III retained a life tenancy of these lands.

Arrivals % Origin, Destination Departures %
Movement of 680 ships entered/left Port, 18 Mar 1368–10 Mar 1369
289 33.7 Mecklenburg-Pomerania 386 42.3
250 26.8 Skania 207 22.8
145 16.8 Prussia 183 20.1
96 11.2 Sweden 64 7
35 4.3 Livonia 43 4.7
28 3.2 Fehmarn 27 3
12 1.6 Bergen - -
3 0.4 Flanders 1 0.1[3]

Lübeck and Eric III further stipulated that once Eric had died, Lübeck would be entitled to take possession of the pledged territories until his successors could repay the debt and simultaneously exercise the repurchase of Mölln. By this stage the sum involved was calculated as 26,000 Lübeck Marks, an enormous amount of money at that time.[4]

In 1401 Eric III died without issue and was succeeded by his second cousin Eric IV, Duke of Saxe-Ratzeburg-Lauenburg. In the same year Eric IV, supported by his sons Eric (later reigning as Eric V) and John (later John IV), captured the pawned lands without making the agreed repayment and before Lübeck could take possession of them. Lübeck acquiesced.[5]

In 1420 Eric V attacked Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg and Lübeck gained Hamburg for a war alliance in support of Brandenburg. The armies of both cities opened a second front and conquered Bergedorf, Riepenburg castle and the Esslingen river toll station (today's Zollenspieker Ferry) within weeks. This forced Eric V to agree to the Peace of Perleberg on 23 August 1420, which stipulated that all the pawned territories, which Eric IV, Eric V and John IV had violently taken in 1401, were to be ceded irrevocably to the cities of Hamburg and Lübeck. The cities transformed the gained areas into the "Beiderstädtischer Besitz" (condominium of both cities), ruled by bailiffs for four-year terms. The bailiffs were to come from each of the cities alternately.

The Hanseatic League, under Lübeck's leadership, fought several wars against Denmark with varying degrees of success. Whilst Lübeck and the Hanseatic League won in 1435 and 1512, Lübeck lost when it became involved in the Count's Feud, a civil war that raged in Denmark from 1534 to 1536. Lübeck also joined the Schmalkaldic League. After its defeat in the Count's Feud, Lübeck's power slowly declined. Lübeck remained neutral in the Thirty Years' War, but with the devastation of the war and the new transatlantic orientation of European trade, the Hanseatic League, and thus Lübeck, lost importance. After the de facto disbandment of the Hanseatic League in 1669, Lübeck remained an important trading town on the Baltic Sea.

Full sovereignty in 1806

Lübeck remained a Free Imperial City even after the German Mediatisation in 1803 and became a sovereign state at the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. During the War of the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon, troops under Bernadotte occupied neutral Lübeck after a battle against Blücher on 6 November 1806.

First annexation

Under the Continental System, trade suffered and from 1811 to 1813 Lübeck was formally annexed as part of the First French Empire.

Reestablishment as sovereign state in 1813

Lübeck reassumed its pre-1811 status in 1813. The 1815 Congress of Vienna reconfirmed Lübeck's independence and it became one of 39 sovereign states of the German Confederation. Lübeck joined the North German Confederation in 1867. The following year Lübeck sold its share in the bi-urban condominium of Bergedorf to the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, which was also a sovereign state of the North German Confederation.[6] In 1871 Lübeck became an autonomous component state within the newly founded German Empire. Its status was weakened during the Weimar Republic by the Republic's enforcement of its right to determine state and Reich taxes. In 1933, in the course of the Gleichschaltung, Lübeck's senate (the city government) and Bürgerschaft (parliament) were streamlined in order to manufacture Nazi majorities. By 1935 the statehood of Lübeck, like that of all German states, had faded completely, without being formally suspended.

Second and final annexation

In 1937 the Nazis passed the Greater Hamburg Act, whereby the nearby Hanseatic City of Hamburg was expanded to include towns that had formerly belonged to the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. To compensate Prussia for these losses (and partly because Adolf Hitler had a personal dislike for Lübeck after it refused to allow him to campaign there in 1932 [7] and because the flag of Lübeck was extremely similar to the flag of Poland, (which Hitler hated after 1935 due to the death of Józef Piłsudski) the 711-year-long statehood of Lübeck came to an end and almost all its territory was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein.

Lübeck was occupied by the British Army in the closing days of World War II. The Soviet Army later occupied all territory to the east of the city, as agreed by the Allied powers. Prussia was dissolved as a state by the occupying Allied forces after the war. However, unlike Hamburg and Bremen, Lübeck was not restored to statehood. Instead the city was incorporated into the new federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. Lübeck's position on the inner German border, which cut off the city from much of its hinterland, was a key factor in this development. In 1956, the West German Federal Constitutional Court upheld a decision by the federal government to strike down an attempt to restore Lübeck's statehood by referendum (→Lübeck-Urteil).

See also


  1. ^ Elisabeth Raiser, Städtische Territorialpolitik im Mittelalter: eine vergleichende Untersuchung ihrer verschiedenen Formen am Beispiel Lübecks und Zürichs, Lübeck and Hamburg: Matthiesen, 1969, (Historische Studien; 406), p. 88, simultaneously: Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1969.
  2. ^ Elisabeth Raiser, p. 90.
  3. ^ G.Lechner, Die Hansischen Pfundzollisten des Jahres 1368 (1935), pp.48, 53, 66, 198
  4. ^ Elisabeth Raiser, pp. 90 seq.
  5. ^ Elisabeth Raiser, p. 137.
  6. ^ Hamburg integrated the area into its state territory, making up most of its today Borough of Bergedorf.
  7. ^ Lübeck: The town that said no to Hitler, Simon Heffer, The Daily Telegraph; retrieved 28 June 2010.

Coordinates: 53°52′11″N 10°41′11″E / 53.86972°N 10.68639°E

Action of 14 August 1564

The second Battle outside northern Öland was a sea battle fought during the Northern Seven Years' War between Sweden against Denmark and the Free City of Lübeck, on 14 August 1564. Sweden who suffered one ship (Elefanten) won the battle over the allies whom suffered three captured ships (Böse Lejonet, Morian, David).

Albrecht VII, Duke of Mecklenburg

Albrecht VII, the Handsome, Duke of Mecklenburg in Güstrow (25 July 1486 – 5 January 1547), was a minor ruler in North Germany of the 16th century. He also asserted claims to Scandinavian thrones based on the royal lineage of the House of Mecklenburg.

In the course of the so-called Count's Feud, the Free City of Lübeck involved Duke Albrecht in its alliance with various parties and offered him the Danish crown. King Christian III of Denmark, however, managed to keep his kingdom: Christopher, Count of Oldenburg, and Duke Albert were besieged in Copenhagen in 1535–1536 until they capitulated.

Dano-Hanseatic War (1426–1435)

The Dano-Hanseatic War from 1426–1435 (as was the Kalmar War with the Hanseatic League) was an armed trade conflict between the Danish-dominated Kalmar Union (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) and the German Hanseatic League (Hansa) led by the Free City of Lübeck.

When Danish king Eric opened the Baltic trade routes for Dutch ships and introduced a new toll for all foreign ships passing the Øresund (Sound Dues), six Hanseatic cities (Hamburg, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Rostock, Stralsund, Wismar) declared war, put a naval blockade on Scandinavian harbours and allied with Eric's enemy Henry IV, count of Holstein. Therefore the war was intensively linked with the Dutch–Hanseatic War (1422/38–1441), the Kalmar War with Holstein (1409/22–1435) and the Swedish revolt (1434–1436).

After years of changing fortune in warfare Rostock and Stralsund signed a separate peace agreement in 1430. Lübeck, Hamburg, Wismar and Lüneburg, however, continued the war and assisted Holstein to conquer Flensburg in 1431. Thereafter they agreed an armistice in 1432 and started peace negotiations. Meanwhile an anti-Danish revolt broke out in Sweden (Engelbrekt rebellion). In 1434 Eric had to agree an armistice with the Swedes, too. In April 1435 he signed the peace of Vordingborg with the Hanseatic League and Holstein, followed by the peace of Stockholm with Sweden a few months later the same year. The Hanseatic cities were excepted from the Sound Dues but they had to accept Dutch competition in the Baltic trade. The Danish Duchy of Schleswig was ceded to the count of Holstein. Sweden's autonomous rights and privileges were extended. These peace agreements weakened Eric's position dramatically, and in 1439 he got dethroned by Danish, Swedish and Norwegian Privy Councils.

Free city

Free city may refer to:

Special economic zone, a zone located within the national borders of, and controlled by, a sovereign country, but where business and trade laws differ from the rest of that country (and are usually less regulated).

City-state, region controlled exclusively by a sovereign city

Free city (antiquity) a self-governed city during the Hellenistic and Roman Imperial eras

Free City (album), album by the St. Lunatics

Free Imperial City, self-governed city in the Holy Roman Empire subordinate only to the emperor

Royal free city, or free royal city, a term for a self-governed city in the Kingdom of Hungary

Free City of Greyhawk, a fictional city-state

Friedrich Knebel

Friedrich Knebel (died 1574) was an alderman of the Free City of Lübeck and a naval admiral who participated in the Northern Seven Years War as an ally of Denmark-Norway against Sweden. He commanded the Lübeck fleet at the first battle of Öland in 1564 and the naval battle of August 14, 1564 in the Baltic Sea.

Gau Schleswig-Holstein

The Gau Schleswig-Holstein was an administrative division of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 in the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein, the Free City of Lübeck and parts of the Free State of Oldenburg. Before that, from 1926 to 1933, it was the regional subdivision of the Nazi Party in that area.

Jesus of Lübeck

Jesus of Lübeck was a carrack built in the Free City of Lübeck in the early 16th century. Around 1540 the ship, which had mostly been used for representative purposes, was acquired by Henry VIII, King of England, to augment his fleet. The ship saw action during the French invasion of the Isle of Wight in 1545. She along with the Samson were used in an unsuccessful attempt to raise Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, after she foundered during the Battle of the Solent. She was latter chartered to a group of merchants in 1563 by Queen Elizabeth. Jesus of Lübeck became involved in the Atlantic slave trade under John Hawkins, who organized four voyages to West Africa and the West Indies between 1562 and 1568. During the last voyage, Jesus, along with several other English ships, encountered a Spanish fleet off San Juan de Ulúa (modern day Vera Cruz, Mexico) in September 1568. In the resulting battle, Jesus was captured by Spanish forces. The heavily damaged ship was later sold for 601 ducats to a local merchant.

Kurd von Schlözer

Kurd von Schlözer (original name Conrad Nestor von Schlözer; 5 January 1822, in Lübeck, Free City of Lübeck – 13 May 1894, in Berlin, Germany) was an imperial German historian, diplomat and German Ambassador to the United States from 1871 to 1882.

List of wars involving Denmark

This is a list of wars involving the Kingdom of Denmark.

List of wars involving Norway

This is a list of wars involving the Kingdom of Norway in some capacity, both the modern polity and its predecessor states.

North German Confederation Treaty

The North German Confederation Treaty (in German Augustbündnis, or Alliance of August) (also called the North German Federation Treaty and the Treaty of 18 August 1866) was the treaty between the Kingdom of Prussia and other northern and central German states that initially created the North German Confederation, which was the forerunner to the German Empire. This treaty, and others that followed in September and October, are often described as the August treaties, although not all of them were concluded in August 1866.

The treaties followed the Austro-Prussian War of Summer 1866, after which the German Confederation of 1815 was dissolved. The treaties established

a military alliance, and

an agreement to transform the alliance into a nation state, based on the Prussian reform plan for the German ConfederationThe German states involved arranged the election of a North German parliament in February 1867. The parliament on the one hand, and the governments on the other, agreed on a constitution for the North German Confederation on 1 July 1867. This Confederation, a federal state, was expanded in 1870–71 with the south German states and became the German Empire. The August treaty of 1866, therefore, can be seen as the first legal document that established the modern German nation state.

Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law

The Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law of 16 April 1856 was a diplomatic policy agreed to by 55 nations. Written by France and Great Britain, its primary goal was to abolish privateering, whereby a belligerent party gave formal permission for armed privately owned ships to seize enemy vessels. It also regulated the relationship between neutral and belligerent and shipping on the high seas introducing new prize rules. They agreed on three major points: free ships make free goods, effective blockade, and no privateering. In return for surrendering the practice of seizing neutral goods on enemy ships, France insisted on Britain's abandoning its Rule of 1756 prohibiting neutral assumption of enemy coastal and colonial trade.

Province of Schleswig-Holstein

The Province of Schleswig-Holstein (German: Provinz Schleswig-Holstein [ˈʃleːsvɪç ˈhɔlʃtaɪn]) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia (subsequently the Free State of Prussia after 1918) from 1868 to 1946.

Rostock Peace Treaty

The Rostock Peace Treaty (German: Rostocker Landfrieden) was a treaty, or Landfriede, agreed on 13 June 1283 in Rostock to secure the peace on land and at sea, as well as the protection of taxes and other freedoms. The parties to the treaty agreed that, for ten years, they would avoid the use of force in exercising their rights. This treaty was the foundation for the economic growth of Wismar and other medieval seaports on the Baltic Sea.

The signatories to the treaty were the Hanseatic towns of Lübeck, Rostock, Wismar, Stralsund, Greifswald, Stettin, Demmin and Anklam as well as the dukes of Saxony and Pomerania, the Prince of Rügen, the lords of Schwerin and Dannenberg as well as the lesser nobility of Rostock.


Travemünde (German: [ˈtʁaːvəmʏndə] (listen)) is a borough of Lübeck, Germany, located at the mouth of the river Trave in Lübeck Bay. It began life as a fortress built by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, in the 12th century to guard the mouth of the Trave, and the Danes subsequently strengthened it. It became a town in 1317 and in 1329 passed into the possession of the free city of Lübeck, to which it has since belonged. Its fortifications were demolished in 1807.

Travemünde has been a seaside resort since 1802, and is Germany's largest ferry port on the Baltic Sea with connections to Sweden, Finland, Russia, Latvia and Estonia. The lighthouse is the oldest on the German Baltic coast, dating from 1539. Another attraction of Travemünde is the Flying P-Liner Passat, a museum ship anchored in the mouth of the Trave.

The annual Travemünder Woche is a traditional sailing race week in Northern Europe.

The annual Sand festival in Travemünde is known as the Sand World.

Treaty of Malmö (1512)

The Treaty of Malmö (Swedish: Freden i Malmö, "The peace at Malmö") were actually two and a quarter peace treaties that were all signed on 23 April 1512, which brought an end to the second Dano-Swedish War.

The first treaty included John, King of Denmark (Danish: Kong Hans) and Sweden. The other treaty dictated peace terms between the same King and the Free City of Lübeck. The rest was a formal demand to King Louis XII of France to settle his disputes with Pope Julius II.

The original peace treaties are preserved in their entireties at the Danish National Archives in Copenhagen and at the Public Library of Lübeck. The French envoy Pierre Cordier's original report documenting his visit can be found in Malmö and at the public library in Besançon.

Grand Duchies
North German Confederation States of the North German Confederation (1867–71)
Grand Duchies
Grand Duchies
Imperial Territories
Until 1920
separatist movements

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