Landeshauptstadt Kiel Kiel.Sailing.City
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View of the Kiel shipyards on the east shore

Work in the Howaldtswerke dry dock, 1998
Work in the Howaldtswerke dry dock, 1998

Until the mid 19th century the Kiel shipyards occupied only the west shore of the firth, but when the Prussian naval base was developed and the city declared “Reichskriegshafen” (Reich naval harbour) in 1871 a new shipbuilding industry sprang up on the east shore. It soon crowded out the fishermen’s settlements and villages there, and modern workers’ housing estates grew up in the hinterland.

Shipbuilding in the Germania yard c. 1912
Shipbuilding in the
Germania yard c. 1912

Germania shipyard c. 1930
Germania shipyard c. 1930

Today the Howaldtswerke - Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW), part of the Thyssen-Krupp group, dominates the silhouette of Kiel harbour with its gantry cranes. But before the First World War, three large-scale shipyards spread out from the Hörn and beyond the Schwentine estuary: the Krupp-Germaniawerft, the Kaiserliche Werft - which was entirely state-run - and the Howaldtswerke, all massively involved in building the fleet for the German Reich. The Kiel shipbuilding industry employed over 30,000 people at that time. Kiel was also among the most important German naval armament sites under National Socialist rule, and thus became a target for the Allied air raids, which reduced the city and its shipyards to rubble.

After the Second World War, Kiel built merchant ships and fishing boats at first, but with the warships, and submarines in particular, were commissioned again. Kiel is still world market leader in this field, as the cradle of German submarine building.

Pictorial material: Kieler Stadtarchiv, Stadt- und Schifffahrtsmuseum

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