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The Hambach Festival

The basic theme of the exhibition in Hambach Castle is the main political event in the Vormaerz period: the Hambach Festival, the birth of democracy in Germany.

Why did the Palatinate become a place of protest?

The Palatinate had belonged to the French republic since 1797. A society developed which was oriented towards the ideals of the French Revolution: freedom, equality and brotherliness. In 1816, following the Vienna Congress, the Palatine, on the left hand side of the Rhine, was added to the kingdom of Bavaria. However, the French administration and justice system remained in place. Nevertheless, the Bavarian authorities restricted the attested rights of the citizens of the Palatinate. Extremely high taxes and an unfair duty system, which restricted the export of wine and tobacco from the Palatinate, led to great economic difficulties. In addition, crop failures reduced the people to a level of terrible poverty.

© Image: Historisches Museum der Pfalz, Speyer; Photographer: Kurt Diehl

"...with some prospect of good success during the course of the Hambach Festival, an effort could have been made for the general change in Germany. Those days in Hambach were the last opportunity granted to us by the goddess of freedom..." Heinrich Heine on the Hambach Festival, on May 27, 1832

In 1830, the July revolution in Paris gave hopes of civil freedom new impetus. In order to prevent the efforts towards freedom, the Bavarian authorities in the Palatinate restricted the rights of the citizens more and more, especially with regard to the freedom of the press. Censorship and printing bans were the order of the day. In 1832 liberal citizens and journalists in the Palatinate founded the "Deutscher Press und Vaterlandsverein" (German Press and Fatherland Association) to defend themselves against these bans on the press. The association soon had over 5,000 members. Two of the leading members of the German Press Association were the publicists Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer and Johann Georg August Wirth.

On May 27, 1832, Siebenpfeiffer and Wirth and the German Press Association organised a public festival - political assemblies were forbidden - at the Hambach Castle. Almost 30,000 people responded to the announcement: French, Polish and inhabitants of the Palatinate, men and women, members of parliament, students, craftsmen and citizens, farmers and wine-growers made their way up to the Hambach Castle ruins, singing and waving flags. Freedom, civil rights and national unity were the main demands made by the Hambach orators. The colours of the flags carried, black-red-gold, were later to become Germany's national colours.

© Image: Historisches Museum der Pfalz, Speyer; Photographer: Kurt Diehl

The permanent exhibition elucidates the feeling of change in the air in those times. Objects from Hambach such as flags, a printing press and contemporary documents bring the Hambach Festival back to life. Multi-media information systems illustrate the events of the Hambach movement right up to the first German national assembly in the Paulskirche church in Frankfurt on May 18, 1848.

© Image: Museum der Stadt Neustadt

The Hambach Festival in 1832 and the Paulskirche in 1848 are milestones in the development of democracy in Germany and represent stages in the development of freedom on its way to Europe.

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