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Coat of arms of Wilhelmshaven
Coat of arms
Country Germany
State Lower Saxony
District Urban district
 • Lord Mayor Carsten Feist[1] (Ind.)
 • Total 106.91 km2 (41.28 sq mi)
Population (2013-12-31)[2]
 • Total 75,728
 • Density 710/km2 (1,800/sq mi)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes 26351–26389
Dialling codes 04421, 04423, and 04425 (each partially)
Vehicle registration WHV
Website www.wilhelmshaven.de

Wilhelmshaven (German pronunciation: [vɪlhɛlmsˈhaːfn̩], lit. Wilhelm's Harbour; Northern Low Saxon: Willemshaven) is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea, and has a population of 76,089.[3] Wilhelmshaven is the centre of the "Jade Bay" business region (which has around 330,000 inhabitants) and is Germany's main military port.

The adjacent Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park (part of the Wattenmeer UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site) provides the basis for the major tourism industry in the region.


The Siebethsburg castle (de), built before 1383, operated as a pirate stronghold; the Hanseatic League destroyed it in 1433. Four centuries later, the Kingdom of Prussia planned a fleet and a harbour on the North Sea. In 1853, Prince Adalbert of Prussia, a cousin of the Prussian King Frederick William IV, arranged the Jade Treaty (Jade-Vertrag) with the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, in which Prussia and the Grand Duchy entered into a contract whereby Oldenburg ceded 3.13 km2 (1.21 sq mi) of its territory at the Jade Bight to Prussia. In 1869 King William I of Prussia (later also German Emperor) founded the town as an exclave of the Province of Hanover and a naval base for Prussia's developing fleet. All the hinterland of the city remained as part of the Duchy of Oldenburg.

A shipbuilding yard developed at Wilhelmshaven, the Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven (Wilhelmshaven Imperial Shipyard). On 30 June 1934 the "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee was launched at Wilhelmshaven.

In 1937 Wilhelmshaven and the adjacent village Rüstringen merged[4] and the united city, named Wilhelmshaven, became a part of the Free State of Oldenburg.

World War II

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In World War II (1939–1945), Allied bombing destroyed two thirds of the town's buildings while the main target, the Naval Shipyard Wilhelmshaven, remained operational despite serious damage.[5] A major attack on residential areas of Wilhelmshaven was carried out on 15 October 1944. Various churches, hospitals, schools and many residential buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.[6] On 28 April 1945, the First Canadian Army captured Emden and the Polish First Armored Division captured Wilhelmshaven, and took the surrender of the entire garrison, including some 200 ships of the Kriegsmarine.[citation needed] The Poles remained as part of the Allied occupation forces until 1947. During the war, Alter Banter Weg (No. 1582 Wilhelmshaven), functioned as a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp.[citation needed]

Since 1945

In 1947 the city council decided to seek a new emblem for the city. After the Control Commission for Germany – British Element (CCG/BE) had rejected several designs, Wilhelmshaven selected the image of a Frisian warrior (Rüstringer Friese), designed after a nail man erected in the city during the First World War to collect war donations.

Between 1947 and 1972 Wilhelmshaven was the home of Prince Rupert School, a comprehensive boarding school for children of British Army of the Rhine and Royal Air Force Germany personnel serving in West Germany. The school relocated to Rinteln in Lower Saxony in 1972, and closed in 2014. There is an active association of former Wilhelmshaven pupils called The Wilhelmshaven Association. After World War II the shipyard was totally disarmed under the British Commander in Chief, and of course many military buildings were damaged or vacant. While it was prohibited to establish any kind of military-linked businesses, Wilhelmshaven took the opportunity to provide a convenient location for Olympia Werke, which became one of the most popular quality typewriter factories in the world. A workforce of 7,000 worker was employed there in 1953.[7]

A liquefied natural gas terminal for LNG ships was built at Wilhelmshaven in 2022. Planning began in 2017,[8] but regulatory impediments delayed construction for years.[9] Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, as gas commitments from the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 undersea Baltic pipelines became unreliable to unavailable, construction of the Wilhelmshaven LNG terminal was rapidly accelerated during the war[10][9][11] and the terminal received its first load of LNG in December 2022.[12]


Wilhelmshaven and its city districts

Wilhelmshaven is Germany's only deep-water port, and its largest naval base. Concerning the new plans for the Bundeswehr which took shape in 2011 it has become the largest military base in Germany as well.[13] The benefits of the deep shipping channel were already recognised at the end of the 1950s with the construction of the first oil tanker jetty. Wilhelmshaven has been the most important German import terminal for crude oil ever since.[citation needed] Pipelines from here supply refineries in the Rhine-Ruhr region and Hamburg. Other major business operations followed, and constructed jetties for crude oil and oil products, coal, and chemical products. Construction of a liquified natural gas (LNG) import regasification facility began in May 2022 to displace some of the pipeline gas imported from Russia.[14]

One of the main industrial sectors in Wilhelmshaven is the port industry with its wharves, sea port service companies, service providers and repair businesses, transhipment and handling businesses, agencies, etc.... The "JadeWeserPort" – Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven (CTW), operational since 2012 and the development of the neighbouring Freight Village provide prospects for employment in areas such as logistics and distribution. In 2016 Eurogate increased transhipment volume up to 480,000 Container (TEU). And since Volkswagen is interested in using the deep-water facilities the number of employed workers is assumed to rise from 400 to 600.[15]

Another element of the "Wilhelmshaven energy hub" programme is the chemical industry (refinery, PVC, and chlorine gas production), as well as power generation (two coal-fired power stations, wind power).[citation needed]

The German defence forces (German Navy, navy arsenal, logistics centre) together with the public sector, are the main pillars of the local employment market.[citation needed]


The Jadestadion, the stadium of SV Wilhelmshaven
Ruins of Sibetsburg Castle
File:2009 04 Kopperhoerner Muehle.JPG
Windmill Kopperhörner Mühle
  • The Jadestadion, the stadium of Regionalliga Nord club SV Wilhelmshaven
  • Wasserturm Wilhelmshaven – water tower built in 1911 and a significant landmark of Wilhelmshaven city.
  • Aquarium Wilhelmshaven, located on the Helgolandkai – a view of the oceans and underwater habitats around the world.
  • The Botanischer Garten der Stadt Wilhelmshaven, a municipal botanical garden.
  • The Deutsches Marinemuseum (Navy Museum), whose main exhibits are the former German Navy destroyer Mölders (D186), a submarine, and some smaller warships as well as an exhibition of German naval history from the 19th century onwards.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Wadden Sea Visitor center. The large permanent interactive exhibition provides insight into the Wadden Sea environment. One of the special displays is the 14-metre-long skeleton of a sperm whale which beached on the island of Baltrum in 1994 and weighed 39 tonnes when alive. The whale's organs were preserved using plastination by Gunther von Hagens.
  • The Küstenmuseum (Coastal Museum). The exhibition displays a broad spectrum of the past, present and future of the coast.
  • The Bontekai, city harbor jetty, featuring the former light vessel "Weser" and the steam engine powered buoy layer "Kapitän Meyer", an active museum ship. During the "Jade Weekend" (late June) it is berth of tall sailing ships, too.
  • The double swing bridge Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke ("Emperor Wilhelm Bridge") crosses an inlet of the Jade Bight. It was built from 1905 to 1907 and is considered to be one of Wilhelmshaven's landmarks.
  • The Town Hall (Rathaus), a large brick building, constructed from 1927 to 1929 by the architect Fritz Höger as the town hall of the city of Rüstringen. It was severely damaged by bombs in 1944 and rebuilt from 1948 to 1953.
  • Ruins of Sibetsburg Castle. It was built in 1383, conquered and dismantled in 1435.[16]
  • The oldest church of the city is St. Jakobi Church at Neuende which was built about 1383 under the direction of the chieftain of Jever Edo Wiemken.[17] The Christus-und-Garnisionskirche, built in 1869 by the Prussian architect Friedrich Adler was heavily damaged by bombs in 1942 and rebuilt after the war.[18]
  • Kopperhörner Mühle is a windmill dating from 1839 which was renovated in 1982 and 2000.[19]
  • Kaiser-Wilhelm-Denkmal at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz, a monument erected in memory of emperor Wilhelm I of Prussia in 1896, who was one of the founder of the city. After the statue had been melted down in 1942, it was reconstructed in 1994.
  • The entrance building of the former Kaiserliche Marinewerft ("emperor's shipyard"), built in the 1870s.
  • The building of the former Kaiserliche Westwerft ("emperor's western shipyard"), completed in 1913.

Every year in the first days of July, the big "Weekend on the Jade" event attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the big port, the southern beach and the navy arsenal. Another big event takes place at the end of the sailing season at the beginning of October when two dozen large sailing ships dock in Wilhelmshaven as part of the "JadeWeserPort Cup".

Notable people

Twin towns – sister cities

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Wilhelmshaven is twinned with:[20]

See also


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  2. Landesbetrieb für Statistik und Kommunikationstechnologie Niedersachsen, 102 Bevölkerung - Basis Zensus 2011, Stand 31. Dezember 2013 (Tabelle K1020014)
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  12. Germany Welcomes First LNG Carrier At New Wilhelmshaven Terminal, OilPrice.com, 3 January 2023.
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  17. de:St.-Jakobi-Kirche (Neuende)
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General sources

External links

  •  Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  • Media related to Wilhelmshaven (category) at Wikimedia Commons
  • Wilhelmshaven travel guide from Wikivoyage