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History I

Hirstory II

Pictures

Maps

Twin Cities

Links

 

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st.sebastian

wasserturm

apotheke

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City of Würselen

 

History of Würselen

Part One "History of a City" (Geschichte einer Stadt) of the book “Würselen” describes in a compact yet sufficiently detailed way the development of the city of Würselen until the mid-1960s. The present essay is a translation of the original text from 1968. The wording there is often typical German. Complex nested sentences prevail. Even a native German speaker may read some sentences twice to get the clou.

Nevertheless, this treatise on Würselen’s history is the best I know if one wants to learn something about Würselen’s background. It is entertaining and full of little stories about the living in a small village close to Aachen in the Middle Age.

Poor English

Due to the complex German, the Mircrosoft WORD™ translation tool yields an English that often did not hit the point. Even after making necessary changes by the present author it may be painful for the native English speaker to read the result. And I admit, I did not do my very best because it would take a lot of time to shorten the sentences, rearrange the statements and improve the wording. I am pretty sure that anyone who is interested in the history of Würselen will enjoy the information and contents ignoring the bad English.

Formatting

A lot of changes were made to the format to get it ready for the web. No columns anymore, more paragraphs and the introduction of notes will hopefully make it easier to read it on a screen. The included drawings still have the original background of the whole text. Some links provide more information on some contents from other sources on the web.

Copyright

Please observe the copyright and the citation remarks on the authors and on the editor on the relevant extra page.

 

stadtwuerselen1969cover 800stadtwuerselen1969cite 800

 


Editing for electronic media

Dr. Karl-Wilhelm Hirsch

Preface - Editing the English version

 


Rights of use, publishing rights

The City of Würselen as editor holds the exploitation rights and copyright of the publication.

By letter from 15.01.2019, file number 11.02.06.60, the mayor of the City of Würselen has given permission to use and publish this work in full quotation with proof of source on the website. www.webwuerselen.de.


Part One

History of a City

(citation)

 

Contents

     

 


Part Two

Würselen Today

(selected pictures)

Würselen - Today: Selected Pictures

 

A coin, which was found after the service in the bell bag of the parish church of St. Sebastian in Würselen, is one of the earliest historical testimonies about the history of the city of Würselen. A farmer might have found it plowing in his field, and, having considered it worthless because of the strange inscription, he spends it light hearted to the collection. However, it was not worthless, though of simple ore. Together with other findings, this coin, showing a portrait of the Roman emperor Valentinian I (364-375), gives evidence to the fact that the area of the city of Würselen was already inhabited in Roman times. Two Roman roads, the road from Malmedy via Aachen to Geilenkirchen-Heinsberg and a second road from Herzogenrath to Verlautenheide, intersect here. A third Roman road today forms the quarter boundary against Broichweiden.

 

It almost seems that history has taken a break in the Aachen country at this point. In any case, for a few centuries we do not learn anything more about the fate of the settlements that emerged from the Roman army camps. As the curtain opens to the next act, the scenery has changed. The Franks have firmly established themselves and built an empire that encompasses almost all of mainland Western Europe. Of course, like all empire foundations, this process has not gone off without complications. The initially ruling Merovingians was replaced by the Carolingians. There was heavy infighting within the empire, at times even several kings in the divided empire, until finally, as almost always in history, the strongest, the bravest and smartest prevailed. In this case, he was called Charles The Great (Charlemagne, Karl der Große)

In his time, Aachen was one of the royal court estates where the ruler resided from time to time. A capital as center of an empire was not known at those times. Aachen, once a spa of the Roman legions, had become the court estate, the royal fold, which included numerous royal adjoining courts in the area.

One of those courts, the Salhof on the Wurm, was called "Wormsalt," which means nothing more and nothing less than Salhof on the worm. And Salhof means a manor house, which in its exterior was not significantly different from the other farms, apart from the fact that manor houses and storage facilities were usually slightly larger and firmer buildings.

Wormsalt is the first term recorded on 17 October 870 for today's city of Würselen. The evolution of the name from Wormsalt to Würselen Many other documents can be traced closely through the centuries.

1200: Wormsaldia

1239: Worselden

1300: Wursalda

1350: Wursulden

1372: Wörselden

1558: Wursulen

1616: Wurseln

1616: Würselen

Of course, Würselen is not the only place firstly mentioned by name in the Carolingian period. Numerous settlement centers are built during this period or are called for the first time in documents. They are royal domains, single courtyards, monasteries and defensive buildings. Many of them have become core cells of today's villages and towns. In addition to Würselen, Laurensberg, Bardenberg, Afden, Merkstein, Kirchrath and Vaals were mentioned as early as the 9th century.

With this document of 17 October 870, Ludwig der Deutsche transferred the parish church of Würselen to the abbot Ansbold of Prüm.

With this document of 17 October 870, Ludwig der Deutsche transferred
the parish church of Würselen to the abbot Ansbold of Prüm.

In it, for the first time, the name Würselen is mentioned in its form at that time:
Wormsalt – the fifth word in the third line.

Like all other farms, the buildings of the Wormsalt and the courtyard church belonging to were made from wood because Würselen, like any places around it, was built on forest soil. And the forests were one of the most important sources of life, which not only provided construction material and fuel, but also valuable fodder for the cattle pole, berries, beechnuts and acorns etc.

The Würselen Salhof was, as one can safely assume, close to the first Würselener church, which was to serve as a court church. It is believed that their place was located roughly on the site of St. Sebastian's parish church today. Why was there a church here in the royal side yard, so early on?

Charlemagne had to make his secondary courtyards independent from any clerical point of view, if the well-thought-out regulations of his country estate order were not to become ineffective on important points. In the 54th chapter of these detailed ordinances, which are intended for the administrators of the individual royal goods, it is stated that the landlords should not be allowed to shirk the work by messing around in other places, whether at fairs or under the Cover fulfillment of ecclesiastical obligations. Thus, if the emperor wanted to prevent his court people from staying away from work - more often in order to carry out real or alleged religious duties in Aachen, he had to give them the opportunity to fulfil these duties on the farm itself. This was the reason for the early foundation of two court churches outside Aachen, one in Würselen, the other in Laurensberg, also a royal tribcourt.

By the way, the river Wurm proved to be a church boundary line for the first time: The courtyards on the right worm side called "over Worm" and at that time also Würselen belonged to the diocese of Cologne, which on the left side belonged to the diocese of Liège.

This was a certain ecclesiastical independence for the secondary estates on one hand. On the other hand, they were in a strong economic dependence on the Aachen Palatinate as the main courtyard. On the adjoining farms, forges, bakers, carpenters, cobblers and, of course, farmers were working. Most likely, the grain was processed by the fields of the Würselener Hof at an early time in the valley of the river Wurm by a royal mill. The wolf mill (Wolfsmühle) in the Wurm-valley is known to have existed long before the year 1200. The supervisory and administration on the Wormsalt was - as with all court estates - the responsibility of a "Meier." In this official designation, the Latin word "maior," meaning the greater one, has been the godfather. All other farm sads were more or less unfree, the landlord commanded directly through the person of the subjects. As late as the 11th century, the entire lowly civil servant, peasant and craftsmanship and butt of the royal courts and their ancillary courtyards were serfs.

This changed, at least for the inhabitants of the Aachen Palatinate, in 1166. Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa from the house of the Hohenstaufen, which in the meantime represented the German rulers, awarded Aachen the city rights: market, wall, toll (customs rights) and an own coin. And all people born in Aachen got their personal freedom. The crown's ownership of the Palatinate had probably melted away greatly through donations from the emperors and kings to faithful followers, to monasteries and pens over the years. On the other hand, the residential area around the Palatinate had been enlarged by merchants and traders who settled there to such an extent that the granting of the city rights was the logical consequence of this development. At the coronation ceremonies and glamorous imperial days that took place in Aachen, the smaller the main courtyard in Aachen, had to rely more and more on the contributions of the secondary courtyards with respect to the provision of accommodation for the princely guests and their entourage.

In any case, little had changed in the conditions on the adjoining stabs compared to Aachen. They still appear to have been under direct royal administration in the 13th century as royal estates. This is indicated by an event from 1214, when the now self-confident citizens of the city of Aachen refused the king admission to their city. Friederich II repents and turns where with his many entourage? To the Königshof Wormsalt, where, unlike Aachen, he remains welcome and finds accommodation.

In one respect, however, a lot has happened in the adjoining houses around Aachen over the centuries: They have grown larger over time, forests are cleared, new fields are made arable, the number of their inhabitants increases, lands are separated. On which new goods and farms are created-in short, the original Carolingian courtyards form the core of villages that have slowly sprung up around them and continue to grow. Soon these villages, which as "imperial land" are directly under the control of the emperor, proudly call themselves imperial villages and thus turn out the opposition to the "national inhabitants" villages, which have the respective prince of the country as their master.

Please observe the copyright of the city of Würselen.
For more information see here.


Some comments and explanations have been added.Such information is presented as follows:

Comments and explanations go here.

 

 

In the 14th century, the former royal court of Wormsalt became the imperial village of Wursulden. Like other villages in the area, Wursulden was closely linked with the city of Aachen and its authorities. This was already ensured through the common Carolingian past. But this is also ensured by an imperial document of Louis IV from 1336. In this document the citizens of Aachen are confirmed “that these villages, located within the banner mile of the city of Aachen, with all their accessories and their inhabitants, and that you and the city of Aachen are so to this day were, stick and stay unlined. "

And at the end of the document, Ludwig IV solemnly assures "If someone, whoever it may be, has received from us or our predecessors - under any forecourt or form - a document that contradicts the present one, (we) so revoke the same and exalting them completely. And that is about peace, honor and the advantage of the kingdom." Now, though, it is not entirely clear which kingdom Ludwig means in the last sentence of the deed, possibly the German one of which he is the ruler. But henceforth there is a new term in the history of the Aachen country, which from now on naturalize as a name for the city of Aachen and the imperial villages and finds its way into all documents; The Aachen Empire.

The municipalities belonging to the Aachen Empire in the bypass of the city were divided according to "quarters." Three of them Würselen, Haaren and Weiden lay to the right of the river Wurm and were considered the "Quartiere over Worm." Two others were on the left side of the river Wurm, Orsbach and Berg, now called Laurensberg. Later on there was a sixth quarter, the district of Vaals, whose name still reminds us of its affiliation with the Aachen Empire at that time: Vaalserquartier.

The Würselen district consisted of the villages of Elchenrath, Grevenberg, Morsbach, Scherberg, Schweilbach and Würselen itself, while Drisch, Haal, Oppen and Dobach belonged to the Weidener Quartier at that time.

Under the government sovereignty of the Aachen Council, the inhabitants of Würselen had thus become subjects of the Aachen Empire. From the beginning, we see the imperial farmers as people who had the same rights as the citizens of Aachen themselves-with one exception: They were denied full citizenship and thus also the opportunity to participate in the government of the Aachen Empire was denied.

Though they were not admitted to the government, they were admitted to contribute equally to the imperial coffers paying the tax wine, beer and flour tax weighed on them to the same extent as the citizens of Aachen, and the Aachen magistrate paid strict attention to the fact that not (tax-free) foreign beer or foreign liquor were drunk.

In addition, there were property and business taxes and - especially in times of war - numerous special taxes. For many lands and tithing ‘The Tenth’ (Der Zehnte) had to be paid to the churches and cloisters, the ‘Lehnspfennig’ to the lord was due, and once a year the Aachen Council demanded its "Maischatz". You can see, there was no shortage of opportunities to empty the pockets, even then.

If one adds the districts and the manifold hand and clamping services in times of war, one can understand that the farmers sometimes rebelled against renewed burdens and the Aachen magistrate had to send out his city soldiers in order to collect the taxes.

The first news about the war achievements of the Würselener Quarter for the Aachen Empire dates back to 1385. At that time, the ‘Raubritterburg Reifferscheid’ (a robber-knights castle) was besieged. And “Pauwele van Scherberch” was, according to old protocols “10 dage myt 4 perden" (10 days with 4 horses) on the side of the besiegers.

For centuries, Würselen made up most defensive men in the Aachen Empire. The weapons carriers of the Würselener Quarter formed a company, the so-called ‘Schützerei’ which stood under a captain. The “Sebastianus Schützenbruderschaft“ was formed from this company in 1624.

Though the burden of taxes and military service on the villages were quite considerable, the membership of the larger protection association of the Aachen Empire also brought great benefit to the imperial villages.

The magistrate of Aachen, as landlord, was not always able to protect the imperial villages against warlike raids and acts of violence by fire-treasure mercenaries. In many of such cases, however, the imperial villages received at least a redress for the damage applied by the district chief to the magistrate of Aachen.

Here it is now the time to introduce an official to the story whose name may sound a bit strange at first: The "Hunne". The Hunne who was at the head of every quarter originally was the head of a village hundred of soldiers or "Hunnschaft”, from which his name is derived.

In the quarters of that time, the Hunne provided the office that the mayor and/or the city director now holds. His powers were correspondingly great, and there was one crucial difference yet: The Hunne was not elected by the inhabitants of the quarters, but was appointed by the Aachen Magistrate, the actual governing body of the Aachen Empire.

In the individual villages of the quarter, the so-called “Dorfmeister” supports the Hunne. They were responsible for the local implementation of council laws and orders. These Dorfmeister were elected by the inhabitants of the villages themselves, as were the other church and municipal officials of the individual quarters. For these elections, which took place on Ash Wednesday, there were five electoral districts in the Würselen district.

They elected

  • the ‘churchmaster’ (Kirchenmeister) who managed not only the church, but also the municipal treasury and the poor assets,
  • the forest master (Fortmeister),
  • the field shooter (Feldschütze) who provided the police services and received a yarn of grain from each farmer on three morning of land, and finally,
  • the verger.

At that time, the verger was still called "Offermann" and was used as a court messenger at the same time. It was clear that all elected people need to be settled and respected. This was mandatory for a municipal office, a requirement that was strictly observed through all time.

Citizens' participation in the self-government of their quarters, however, was evident not only at the annual municipal election day, but especially at the court days, where community matters were also dealt with. This is especially true for the ‘Synodal’ or ‘Send’ Court, which originally was responsible only for the jurisprudence in matters of faith and custom. The chairman of the Send Court has always been the local priest. He was assisted by volunteer jurymen, who were elected in Würselen for a term of seven years.

As the Send Courts become stronger, their chairmen and the jury are increasingly intervening in the local authority. Particularly important congregations were negotiated in specially convened public assemblies, the so-called "Kirchenständen".

Sometimes, however, the discussion of worldly affairs in the Kirchenständen went too far for the clergy - when the religious duties threatened to suffer. Thus, in 1613, the Würselen-based Rev. Bont complains bitterly that the participants in the Kirchenständen “sometimes remain seated at the Drunk dealing with worldly business during the Holy Mass, which was really annoying."

The interference of the Send Courts in the administration de quarters had to sooner or later arouse the displeasure of the Aachen Magistrate. Especially in the "over Worm" quarters, whose relative independence was favored by membership of the diocese of Cologne. The administration threatened to slip more and more from the hands of the Magistrate and its Hunne and to move on to the jury, chosen by the citizens.

The Aachen Magistrate followed this development with extreme discomfort. The Magistrate had repeatedly tried in the past to extend its authority to influence the self-administration and even the possessions of the quarters. Especially with regard to their property rights on the valuable forest areas, the quarters had to be always on their guard against the expansionary aspirations of the Aachen Magistrate.

With respect to ownership, there were often difficult legal disputes between Aachen and Würselen, which were carried to the ‘Reichskammergericht’ (the highest court at that time). But it was not only by legal means that the conflicting parties came together. The disputes sometimes hot rough and turned to violence.

In 1527, for example, an Aachen councilor was slain in Dobach. In 1664, three Aachen city soldiers wanted to single out the Würselen-born citizen Johannes Becker from the middle of a procession. For what reason, is not known. What is known is the nasty end of this action: The Aachen city soldiers were hardly beaten by the boasted processional participants and had to return, their mission unaccomplished.

When the disputes between the Council and the imperial villages reached a climax once again in 1681, it was enough for the peasants in the "over Worm" quarters. In agreement, Würselen, Weiden and Haaren tried to break away from the Aachen Empire and thus from the dependence on Aachen and to become subjects of the Duke of Jülich. The Jülicher of all people! As if in Aachen you hadn't already had enough trouble with the power-hungry gentlemen from Jülich! In this case, however, the Duke of Jülich's political cleverness prevailed over his ambition. Under the current political circumstances, it seems too daring to accept the offer of the breakaway quarters. For it was predictable that neither the Aachen Magistrate nor the Emperor would accept this territorial change unchallenged. Würselen thus belonged, just like Haaren and Weiden, to the Aachen Empire. There was no other choice.

The influence of the Send Court, however, on the management of the quarters became stronger and stronger. They are the actual municipal administrative body in the 17th century, and they were smart enough to find the support of the district leaders, who are now no longer called ‘Hunne’ but captains. Also the ‘Dorfmeister’, the ‘Kirchenmeister’, the ‘Feldschütze’ and the ‘Forstmeister’ operate their orders.

Of course, the Aachen Magistrate cannot stand idly by with this development. It catches up with a blow against the Send Court, firstly restricts their jurisdiction as an organ of public self-government and finally repeals the Send Courts in the quarters altogether in 1758, ordering the imperial subjects to deal only with the "alone Privileged "Aachen Magistrate.

This command finds sharp rejection in Würselen. The chairman of the Würselener Send Court answers the Magistrate by saying that he will impose the maximum allowable punishment on anyone rebels against Würselen’s Send Court and go to Aachen Send Court. The maximum allowable sentence was the loss of community affiliation with all its consequences for the person concerned. Even in previous centuries, the Würselen-based Send Court had always reacted very sensitively if one wanted to deprive it of its prerogatives and its independence and if Würselen residents were to be summoned before another Court.

In 1479, there was even the threatening instruction saying to catch any messenger who would come up with a letter of charge before a foreign Send Court or even with the threat of ecclesiastical punishments. This messenger " should eat the letter, and one should make a pit and put the man in and throw soil at him until he is dead.

In the constant tug of war, the inhabitants of Würselen kept the upper hand again and again. In the end, the Würselen Send Court was even confirmed as lawful by the Cologne Curia. The Send Court under the chairmanship of the pastor with its seven jurymen, could continue to meet in the church-"under der Kronen" -under the chandelier of the church, speak law and, as bitterly this would be for the Aachen Magistrate, strengthen the common self-government of the quarter. But as great as the independence of individual quarters became over the years, the Aachen Empire with the city of Aachen and the surrounding imperial villages remained untouched under the supremacy of the Aachen Council as a political entity.

Please observe the copyright of the city of Würselen.
For more information see here.


Some comments and explanations have been added.Such information is presented as follows:

Comments and explanations go here.

 

 

From today's point of view, it is surprising that this unit has been preserved for almost five centuries, looking at the map of those days Almost ten neighboring more or less expansionist states surrounded the Aachen Empire like a narrow ring. Probably only the fact that emperors and kings repeatedly protectively held their hand over the former coronation city of Aachen, the "archchair" of the German Empire, the Aachen Empire owes its continued existence even in threatening situations. And there were enough of such situations! Especially the neighbor to the east, the Duke of Jülich, who had built a fortress, Fortress Wilhelmstein in Bardenberg, within spitting distance to the border to the Aachen Empire tried over and over again to incorporate the Aachen empire into his duchy.

Since the Aachen Magistrate could not rely on the favor of its emperors and kings alone, it surrounded its empire with a strong fortification, a ring of ramparts and ditches, the so-called ‘Landwehr’, which was popularly called the Landgraben. First of all, the border was against the Duchy of Jülich and secured also Würselen, which was located on the most endangered north-east corner of the empire. It was therefore protected by the Landwehr as early as 1419 between Bardenberg and Würselen along the Würselener border.

The Landwehr consisted of a four-meter-high central wall and two approximately 1,20-meter-high side walls separated by three to four-meter-deep trenches. The main wall was planted with a wide, dense hedge of hornbeam and oaks that were pruned to allow them to develop only to the side. Over the years, as a result, the branches grew into an impenetrable thicket.

image5 1024

Excerpt from a map of the Duchy of Limburg with the Aachen Empire

The street passages were particularly secured by tollgates and barriers. In addition, eight watchtowers were distributed throughout the Landwehr, at the strategically important points. One of these towers was located in Morsbach. In times of war, the towers guard posts were positioned there, who had to report the advancing enemy immediately. In peaceful periods of time, for the sake of economy, foresters use the towers as dwelling. The construction of the enormous fortification, which began with great vigor, soon stalled - for a reason that also today brings many construction projects to a premature standstill: Money became scarce in the coffers of the Aachen Empire.

Hence, it lasts nearly fifty years to complete the Landwehr around the Aachen Empire. It now offered protection from undesirable, moving people, predatory shingles, wandering piles of armies. But it was difficult to defend in a real case of war because of its great expansion. Time and again foreign troops broke into the Aachen Empire, from which the Würselen-based quarter also suffered greatly.

As early as 1410, even before the construction of the Landwehr, the Count of Virneburg and his people invaded the village and completely burned Würselen. In the wars of the following centuries, it were the troops from Brandenburg and the Pfa1z Neuburg in 1699 and 1610 that devastated Würselen after the inhabitants had previously fled into the forests. After the Brandenburg and Neuburg troops, the inhabitants of Würselen made acquaintance in 1641 and 1642 with the soldiers of two other German principalities, the Hesse and Weimarer, who were no less unpleasant. Once again, Würselen was almost completely destroyed under serious acts of violence.

Barely rebuilt, the French moved in in 1678. The inhabitants of Würselen, now already experienced in dealing with foreign troops, retreated again in time to the safe forests. When they ventured out again, they found little more than smoking debris from their homes.

For the Aachen Empire, however, the end comes only a good century later.

image6 1024

The Morsbach "castle," destroyed in 1944, above the foundations of the fortification of the old Aachen Empire

In 1792, the troops of the French Revolution enter the left side of the Rhine and crush all the small and smallest states and dominions to be incorporated in the "one and indivisible" republic. "The French Revolution” also swept away the heads of the duchies, knighthoods and city-states crowned by grace of God.

"The French turned Aachen into the capital in the department of de la Roer, winning the first and decisive victory over the former political narrowness and small-state discord.

Twenty years of French government made the Aachen people forget that the Duke of Jülich had been the hereditary enemy throughout his life. Now the ground is prepared for a fundamental and comprehensive reorganization, which is not only reflected in the municipal area, but also in the economy and in the cultural development of the Aachen country and its communities.

Under French government, Würselen is initially divided into the four districts of Würselen, Morsbach, Scherberg and Schweilbach. But November 1, 1800, a decision is made that is most important for the shape of today's city: All the villages, hamlets and courtyards are grouped together into a Grand-Würselen having one single mayor.

The modern era has begun.

Würselen, one of the quarters in the Aachen Empire for almost 500 years, belongs among the new masters to the canton of Burtscheid, arrondissement Aachen, Département de la Roer.

It is now a "community", a congregation, and the name of the mayor at the time deserves to be noted here because he has become the first of a long line. His name was Peter Leuchter and ran the administrative business until 1808.

Please observe the copyright of the city of Würselen.
For more information see here.


Some comments and explanations have been added.Such information is presented as follows:

Comments and explanations go here.

 

 

The rule of the French did not last long. It ended in 1814, a year after Napoleon suffered his decisive defeat in the Battle of Leipzig. Nevertheless, after the French left, the old balance of power will not be restored. In 1815, after the decision of the Congress of Vienna, the Rhineland fell to Prussia.

The Prussian eagles appear on the council and municipal houses as a sign of the new national sovereignty. In the same year, the Prussian Rhineland were divided into the six administrative districts of Düsseldorf, Aachen, Cologne, Kleve, Koblenz and Trier. In 1816, the counties were set up and from then the municipality of Würselen belonged to the district of Aachen.

In many areas of the administration, the reforms introduced by the French have held their way, albeit in a modified form. This is most evident in the municipal administration, for which the French municipal constitution remains valid. It was not until 1845 that the Rhenish Municipal Order took its place. On 5 September 1817, the Aachen district council sworn in the former municipal secretary Sebastian Kind as mayor.

The old Teut pit in the Worm Valley (circa 1780)

The old Teut pit in the Worm Valley (circa 1780)

This act is so significant because, after a series of honorary mayors, Kind becomes the first professional mayor of the municipality. As the official residence, two old school rooms are available on the market. Everything quite small and modest, and you certainly can't blame the newly minted mayor if he ran his official business mostly from his apartment in Adamsmühle.

In 1823, 3648 citizens lived in the mayoralty of Würselen. The village of Würselen itself had a population of 340 around the same time. Their numbers grew slowly.

In 1845 there were only 358 inhabitants, the village consisted of 69 houses. In the general community, the number of residents had risen to 5464 by 1871, living in a total of 912 homes.

With the introduction of the Rhenish Municipal Code of 1843, the mayoral Würselen had a municipal council with 18 members. They had to deal with an unpleasant problem right at the start of their term: The government in Aachen did not want to confirm the mayor elected by the local council Ignoring the municipal council’s vote, Aachen appointed the mayor of Haaren as mayor of Würselen in personal union.

For more than 50 years, Haaren and Würselen were then managed in personal union, with the administration's seat in Haaren, even though Würselen was the larger and more important one of the two municipalities. In Würselen itself, in the house Markt 21, purchased as an administrative building, a room was set up as a municipal office only on the ground floor, where the mayor held a few hours of consultation on a weekly basis.

There was also a council meeting room in that house, a registry room, two arresting local and the housing of the prisoner keeper and another police officer. They were the only police force in Würselen in the middle of the 19th century.

Therefore, at the beginning of industrialization, Würselen was able to rely on its commercial tradition that has been developed over many hundred years. Especially in metal processing, the place had rich experiences. As early as 1650, there were six copper mills, in whose melting furnaces made of copper and calamine brass were extracted and hammered into sheets and plates.

Copper blacksmiths, the „Kofferschläger”, then took over the material and processed it into artistically high-ranking products that were shipped all over the world. In addition to the copper blacksmiths, the Würselen-based needles also had a world-wide reputation. Their products, which were smoothened and cut needles in the water mills on the river Wurm, were originally also made of brass.

However, coal mining became even more important than these two branches of trade for the further development of Würselen. The Mining in the Wurm area is one of the oldest in Europe. As early as the 12th century, the yearbooks of the monks of Klosterrath gives evidence of the coal-mining district along the river Wurm.

Adamsmühle in the Wurm Valley after a photograph from 1896

There is more infomation here.

Adamsmühle in the Wurm Valley after a photograph from 1896

From these early beginnings up to the French period, the Aachen Council, as the lord of the country, has secured a decisive influence on the coal-mining in the Würselen-based ‘Bergwerksfeld’. Those who wanted to extract coals in Würselen had to apply to the Aachen Council for the award, paid an enrolment fee and then received permission to exploit a coal leader with “Gang and Strang” (lifting hole and ducts) of course against corresponding levies to the city. Temporarily, the city of Aachen had even owned its own mine with the Teut mine in the Wurm Valley.

In its early days, coal extraction in the Wurm area took place almost exclusively in open-pit mining, as most coal seams reach out to the earth's surface. Later, several beneficiaries merged to form societies or small "unions" capable of cutting coal even underground in a larger style and with better tools. But as late as the 18th century there were no less than 69 "Kohlwerke" (coal mines) in the Würselen area! It was not until the 19th century that the first major concentration measures began.

The Unification Society for Coal Mining in the coal field along the river Wurm acquired the three most important Würselen pits called Gouley, Teut and Königsgrube one after the other, thus creating the precondition for an efficient mining industry in the age of industrialization. In 1907, the Unification Society merged into the Eschweiler Mines Association.

In the course of the 15th century, other important branches of trade in Würselen were settled in the existing sectors, among them works of the cloth industry, the electrical and chemical industries.

However, they not only brought joy to those responsible in the large community at the time: In the general pursuit of rapid growth and increased profitability that dominated the hectic early years of industrialization, the social problems all too easily were overlooked. Hence, taking care of the poor soon became a child of pain for the administration. A report, from 1856, states:

“The ‚Armenwesen‘ (poor relief, social care) is expanding in the community as a result of the increasing industrial establishments from year to year; Some of which damage the vitality and the health of the workers to a high degree; Some of which lead to an irregular way of life. Male and female children from the working class, which is predominant in Würselen at that time, can hardly wait for their dismissal from school, only to seek employment and earn money in factories or mines as soon as possible.

The value of money is not really noted because it is so easily won. Waste, drunkenness, etc. are an unavoidable consequence .... " The report also complains that poverty and the number of poor people is constantly increasing and that the subsidies to the fund for the poor are therefore increasing significantly.

Social legislation was not yet known. But as early as 1851, a support fund was set up to support factory workers in the event of illnesses in Würselen, whose contributions were funded by employers and employees in half. Workers received free medical treatment and medication. The revenue and expenses of the funding were estimated at around 1000 ‘Reichstaler’ per year.

With the growth of industrial enterprises, a lively construction activity had begun in Würselen. Often, 80 to 90 new houses were built in one year. Entire streets were newly developed, and since new districts spring up like mushrooms in neighboring Aachen, many workers from Würselen found employment in the construction industry. Wages rose rapidly, so that in 1865 the day wage for a henchman was 25 silver groschens - by then a lot of money.

But, as always with a stormy development, there were some who do not benefit. It was the farmers who lost more and more workers to industry and construction, and eventually had to move on to recruiting “guest workers”: Men and women from Holland who were willing to work in agriculture.

Once in the process of construction, people in Würselen no longer wanted to do without their own town hall. In 1904, on 11, June, the foundation stone was laid in the present town hall, but already eight years later it proved too small and had to be extended by a side wing.

The individual districts that were to be managed from this town hall had grown more and more together. On 9 November 1904, therefore, the government considered it necessary to impose the name Würselen as a uniform place designation to the villages of Bissen, Drisch, Elchenrath, Grevenberg, Haal, Morsbach, Oppen, Scherberg and Schweilbach, which already belonged to the district of the municipality of Würselen. This name also was applied to the hamlets of Dobach and Neuhaus as well as to the residential places at Duisburger Straße, Hochbrück, Kaisersruhe, Meiß, Teut and Strangenhäuschen.

Only in the places of residence Knopp, Pumpermühle, Teuterhof, Adamsmühle and Wolfsfurth were dispensed. They were allowed to keep their previous names because it was considered impossible due to the spatial distance that they would ever merge with the rest of the municipality.

At the same time, the individual streets of Würselen were given their street names, with emphasis on them: Keep the old village and hamlet designations.

The extraordinary name of the place “Kaisersruhe” (Emperor's resting place) - or far more often used “Kaisersruh” - dates back to an event in the autumn of 1818. At that time, the rulers of Prussia, Austria and Russia met in Aachen for a European "summit conference": the three-monarch congress. On it, the peace in Europe regained after the Napoleonic wars should also be secured for the future.

During the congressional breaks, Tsar Alexander made a penchant for a long ride into Aachen's vicinity – mostly incognito. One of them led him to the nearby Würselen. It was November 12, 1818, when he stopped at a country estate with his companion, a Russian officer. The incognito of the two "officers" was soon ventilated, and henceforth the place where the high lord chose to rest was called - Kaisersruh. By the way, with the most gracious approval of the tsar.

 

Plants of the Soda factory on Krefelder Straße, which was discontinued in 1929

Plants of the Soda factory on Krefelder Straße, which was discontinued in 1929

Not only among themselves, the districts of Würselen had grown together in the 19th century, but also the neighboring communities had closer contact. This is what the railways have already made sure of. The first connection by rail was given to Würselen in 1875 with a railway line connecting the village with Aachen-Nord station. During this time, the station at Elchenrath was built. 1892 the Würselen-Kohlscheid railway line went into operation. A few years later, the small railway line was added between Aachen and Würselen, which was handed over to traffic on 22 August 1894.

At the turn of the 20th century Würselen offered the image of an up-and-coming community that had taken the path from pure agriculture to a commercial large-scale economy at an early stage, open to technological and industrial progress and in lively exchange with the neighboring communities and the city of Aachen.

The population had also been constantly upwards. In 1900, Würselen had a population of almost 10,000. They all firmly believed that nothing would stop the upswing of their place.

On June 28, 1914, the ominous shots of Sarajevo fell. The First World War began. The war and the subsequent occupation of the Rhineland by French and Belgian troops abruptly interrupted the development, which had begun so hopefully.

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Due to the passive resistance of the authorities and the population against the occupying powers, the occupied Rhineland was completely cut off by the rest of Germany after the First World War. Many workers became bread-less during that time. Inflation did the rest to make poverty and hunger more and more palpable.

When the need had risen to the highest, many unemployed people in Würselen moved in front of the town hall and demanded permission to require livestock, cereals and food from farmers and businessmen. Since they could not be given this permission, the unemployed, in desperation, resorted to self-help and get what they needed for themselves and their families to live.

Würselen Market Church of St. Sebastianus at the turn of the century

Würselen Market Church of St. Sebastianus at the turn of the century

With the exception of a few years, Würselen was occupied by Belgian troops almost continuously until 1930. The costs of this occupation were considerable.

Their true costs, however, are difficult to estimate, as the billions expected during inflation confuse the picture. In 1923, for example, 41 trillion 687 billion marks of crew costs must be raised in Würselen.

It was not until 30 November 1930, twelve years after the end of the First World War, Würselen was finally cleared by the occupying forces.

Despite the serious times in which one lived at that time, a story handed down from 1923, about which one would still smile today. The story reports how the deputy mayor of Würselen stopped the separatist to capture the town hall. The separatist movement, which allegedly campaigned for a "free, independent Rhineland," had barely appeared in Würselen until then.

Now, however, one of their emissaries had turned up in Würselen and tried to find followers. To provoke the authorities, he struck two posters at City Hall calling out the "Rhenish Republic." When an official banned him from doing so, he fumbled around with a gun, shouting wild threats and eventually disappeared to find reinforcements.

That incident prompted the deputy mayor to order heightened alert to gather all police officers - little enough - at City Hall. In fact, on the night of October 22-23, 1923, nearly 300 separatists appeared to storm the town hall.

The besieged opened a barred window in the town hall door, giving the separatists an opportunity to take a look inside. What they saw there had to make the blood freeze in their veins. City Hall was seemingly teeming with heavily armed police. In reality, however, it was only a handful of officials who were constantly running back and forth in the hallway with guns on their arms, giving observers the impression of large numbers.

And as for the rifles – they were nothing more than dummies, wooden rifles that belonged not even to the police but to a gun-fraternity, as police were hardly allowed to have proper weapons at the direction of the occupation.

The deception, however, succeeded excellently: The separatists did not dare to fight against such power and withdrew again. In Würselen, after years, there was still a laugh about this affair, in which officials had once proved that they are capable at all times to defend their city even with a fake.

And you could laugh all the more heartily at it, because during these difficult postwar years, there was little reason to laugh. Even an event that would certainly have been celebrated with great joy in difficult times could not arouse the right mood in the occupation period:

In 1924, Würselen, now grown to around 14,500 inhabitants, became a city.

With particular pride, one could now show the city coat of arms. In its first field, the black imperial eagle spreads its swings and recalls the medieval affiliation of Würselen to the Aachen Empire.

The second quarter area of the coat of arms fills a green field with silver wave beam. It refers to the geographical position of Würselen on the river Wurm, which is also expressed in its city name.

The third, equally green field shows silver mallets and iron with golden stems over a golden tribberg: Symbol of the coal mining that has determined for centuries the economic life of the city.

Finally, in the last quarter, the colorful coat of arms in the silver field contains a black beam cross indicating the former ecclesiastical affiliation of the village to the archbishopric Cologne.

The Würselen City Coat of Arms

The Würselen City Coat of Arms

With the coat of arms alone, however, it was not enough. The Würselen elevation to a city brought numerous new tasks in the social, cultural and structural fields. For Würselen in particular, the question of spatial planning and urban design was not easy to solve, because the city does not have an actual center, around which the community of living and settlement could grow in organic construction.

Schweilbach, Scherberg, Morsbach and other districts already had independent settlement tendencies as Franconian individual goods or market cooperatives. Even the common Würselen-Parish Church, the most important center of the medieval community, was able to take part in local politics. Hardly bringing the villages closer to each other.

It therefore took all the efforts of the Council and the administration to weld Würselen together into an organic whole. The decisive factor in this was the structural planning, which was initiated in 1934 and 1939 by the acquisition of the industrial site between Krefelder Straße and Elchenrather Straße.

In the meantime, with the takeover of the power by the rulers of the Third Reich, drastic changes had also taken place in the communal. Many upright men were removed from their posts and positions by the new masters for alleged "political misconduct", especially in the mayoralty there were numerous terminations, permits and dismissals.

The trade union organizations had already been disbanded in 1933. The political parties had disbanded themselves later that year under pressure from the National Socialist leadership. The activities of the confessional youth associations were severely restricted in 1934. In 1938, the fate of the dissolution also hit the Youth Association and the Ketteler Association. The National Socialist organizations now took their place.

As early as 1929, local groups of the Nazi Party had been founded in Würselen and Morsbach, which were grouped together into a local group in 1935. Formations of the SA and SS, the Hitler Youth and other political associations completed the appearance of the ruling state party.

In 1936, the National Socialist institutions represented in the district of Aachen were merged into Würselen. Würselen becomes the seat of the district management of the Nazi Party in the district of Aachen. A year later, the banner site of HJ-Bannes Aachen-Land also settles in Würselen. This has put the city at the heart of political life in Aachen county - a dubious honor thinking of how the National Socialist spirit began to have an impact in the various areas of daily life.

There were not only torchlight processions and chants, May celebrations and children's landings winter aid collections, days of the Wehrmacht and stew Sundays. All this still looks comparatively harmless compared to the complete political alignment in all fields, against slander and denunciation, and the absolute suppression of any political opinion that is somehow different.

All officials and teachers are obliged to make a Hitler salute, teachers must take their oath to the leader, the crucifixes disappear from the classrooms, clergy are no longer allowed to give religious lessons in schools. From the official seals, the city coat of arms is cut out and replaced through the empire Eagles and the swastika. Numerous squares and streets are renamed and now carry out the names of the political greats of the Third Reich.

Soon the manifestations in which the new empire is embodied include the consequences of the Second World War, the bread, fat, sugar, meat and nutrient cards, the nocturnal aviator alarms, the droning of the flak guns. Soon orders are required like this: In the event of a warning after midnight the next morning, the instruction in the classes in schools will not take place.

Soon the schoolrooms will be occupied with soldiers or with men from the Todt organization working on the Westwall. Soon, as part of a "general Reichaction," there will be an order to transport all Jews resident in Würselen to Haaren-Hergelsmühle, from where their further fate leads into the unknown.

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The last years of the Second World War are the hardest that Würselen has ever had to survive in its many hundred-years lasting history. They begin with an almost uninterrupted succession of aviator alarms, in which numerous houses are destroyed and many people in Würselen are killed. In the large-scale attacks on the neighboring city of Aachen, Würselen is rarely spared. The population has been trained in air protection. At dusk all houses, street lights and vehicles must be blacked out. Air raid shelters are set up in the basements of the houses, the houses themselves connected by basement breakthroughs as escape routes. All basement holes have been given seals due to the risk of shell splinters. In addition, tunnels were created in the Sodaberg, at the Singerwerke, in Zechenhausstraße, Balbinastraße and Aachen Street; They should provide protection for the population against the bombs in airstrikes. But despite all these measures, there are repeated fatalities.

St. Sebastian Parish Church after World War II

St. Sebastian Parish Church after World War II

On September 12, 1944, air raid warning is given for the last time. It is the 532nd warning, as a Würselen-based resident notes in a diary. However, this time, residents left behind in the city are vainly waiting for the ‘all-clear’ signal. It will never happen again. Instead, the next day the first grenades hit Würselen, the battle of advancing Americans for the city had begun. From now on, the Würselen area is under constant fire for three months.

The attack by American troops was primarily aimed at conquering Aachen. Until September 21, Aachen was encompassed from almost all sides. Only via the Krefelder and Jülicher Strasse there was still a loose connection to the hinterland, the "hose of Würselen". It was often mentioned in the war reports in those days, but it also shouldn't stay open for much longer. In the second battle for Aachen, which began on 2 October 1944, which includes fierce battles for Bardenberg and Würselen and the bunker positions there, the hose was brought in more and more until the latch position was no longer held on 16 October. Aachen was completely surrounded.

On 21. On October 10, the white flag appeared on the bunker of the Aachen Combat Commander: The German troops surrendered to the forces of the I. US Division.

In Würselen, little more than 1000 people had been left behind at that time, 1000 of the approximately 15000 regular inhabitants. All the others had been evacuated in part under coercive measures. Also evacuated was the city administration, which first moved to Stetternich in Jülich County and from there to Hennef  on the river Sieg. One of their main tasks at that time was to answer the requests of citizens evacuated from Würselen, which arrived from all parts of Germany with questions on the fate of relatives.

But let us stay in Würselen with those who were neither to be moved by persuasion nor by threats to leave their homeland from the rolling up avalanche of war in order to bring themselves to safety. Their fate is described in a contemporary report:

"The population left in Würselen after all the tribulations, coercion and threats by the party men camped out in the cellars of their shot houses or in the tunnels. Some ‘basement communities’ had formed.

Hundreds of men and women had to spend day and night in the tunnels without interruption.

There it was almost always dark and humid. The water dripped from the walls and ceilings. The floor was wet. In some places, the water stood up a hand width. Almost no one could lie anymore. People had to stand or sit. The water supply was interrupted, as was the supply of light. You look at yourself with candles, as far as those were available.

The potato harvest could no longer be brought in due to the strong shelling and the risk of mines. Anyone who tried to bring potatoes home anyway did so at their own risk. Milk for the babies was hard to find.

The population lived on existing food supplies and the surrounding and wounded livestock, which was slaughtered and distributed. In this situation, food rations had to be restricted to the extreme. Only during the battle-free time – early in the morning, during lunchtime and in the evenings between 5 and 6 o 'clock it was possible to bring in water from an intact well.

Many who left their hiding place to draw fresh water had to pay their trials with injuries or even death. A sixteen-year-old girl was left with her head by shards of grenade while fetching water at the Knopp. The dead could often no longer be buried in the cemetery but were buried where the fate had befallen them. "

On the night of October 9, 1944, the first American tanks rolled through Gouleystraße and took Morsbach. Despite fierce resistance, the Americans also managed to occupy the nearby districts of Schweilbach and Scherberg. Aachener Straße and Krefelder Straße now formed the main battle line, where the frontline combat troops, separated only by a width of the roads, were opposite each other.

The destroyed town hall

The destroyed town hall

On the German side, strong tank units were once again deployed to turn the situation. However, they failed to kick the Americans who answered the attacks with artillery fire from the occupied districts. On the other hand, The Americans are not recording any terrain gains in the battle for the center of Würselen, even though they had given heavy bombs to the city's core on October 18 to force a rapid progress of the operation.

For nearly six weeks, the front went through the middle of Würselen. On November 17, 1944, the Americans hit the decisive blow. The distraught, horror-paralyzed people who had survived the battle in the air raid shelters and tunnels so far had to endure a nearly three-hour drumfire.

It is estimated that 5000 to 6000 shells fell on the city center. The cringing of the tank chains mixed into the eerie silence that followed the shelling at the morning. The first American tanks, did not find any significant resistance, moving up to the railway line Neuhäuserstraße – Friedrichstraße. They conquered a city that had been turned into a grisly debris field by the weeks-long battles, where piles of debris and scree masses covered the streets, so that ploughs are deployed to carve a path for the tanks.

Let's listen again to the report from those days: "That morning there were 178 men, women and children who came out of the cellars. Each had believed he was the only survivor. The city was like extinct, and everyone felt the sinister of this state. The extinct fear was still in people's eyes. The six weeks in the forefront had witnessed everything that involved war and passed a tremendous nerve test. "

On the night of 17 to 18 November, the last German soldiers left the districts of Oppen and Haal. On November 18, the Americans also occupied these two parts of the city in the morning, in the day. For Würselen, total war was over. It left behind a 79 percent destroyed city, ravaged streets, agitated and mined fields, mine-infested paths, wire cages, fragmented tree stumps, earth holes and shooters digging - where a thriving city once stood.

Here, in fact, the history of Würselen ends, the history of a city, if one sees history as the representation of the past. Everything which happened in the last 25 years in Würselen from now and still happens is living presence, designed and experienced by all of us. But one day it too will be part of the history of this city. It is up to us, the citizens of a democratic state and a democratically administered city, how it will be written later.

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 This page present some selected picture taken from part two of the book "Würselen". The book is published in 1969. This very year is the 'today'. All pictures are taken before 1968 oder earlier.

 
 
 
Memorial medallie of the city of Würselen for the 1100-year celebration in 1970

Memorial medallie of the city of Würselen for the 1100-year celebration in 1970

 

Ring of Honour of the City of Würselen

Ring of Honour of the City of Würselen

 

Mayor's chain of office for 1100-year celebration donated by the Würselen hometown club

Mayor's chain of office for 1100-year celebration donated by the Würselen hometown club

 

Indoor pool at Wisselsbach

Indoor pool at Wisselsbach

 

 

Outdoor pool at Wisselsbach

 Outdoor pool at Wisselsbach

 

The Kaiserstraße is the main commercial street and important motorway through Würselens (circa 1965)

The Kaiserstraße is the main commercial street and important motorway through Würselens (circa 1965)

 

 

Sage woven: Würselens "Original Düvel" in the tower of the parish church of St. Sebastian

Sage woven: Würselens "Original Düvel" in the tower of the parish church of St. Sebastian

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