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The Essen Abby, a monastery for women of nobility, was founded in approximately 852 by Altfrid of Hildesheim, a Benedictine on who would later become Bishop of Hildesheim, and still later, the Roman Catholic Saint Altfrid. It was an extraordinary abbey, as it was a residence and school for the widows and daughters of high nobility. A small settlement grew up around the abbey. The site of this monastery was to become the center of what is now Essen. In 971, the granddaughter of Emperor Otto, Mathilde I, became the abbess, and she reigned over the abbey for 40 years. She was just the first of the abbey's so-called princess-abbesses. Emperor Frederick II, in an official letter, called the abbess Elizabeth "Reichsf├╝rstin ," which means "Princess of the Empire," raising the abbey's status from important landowner to royal residence. In 1244, Essen got its town charter when the Archbishop came to the city and, along with the population of the town, built a city wall. In 1290, King Rudolph I promoted the abbesses to sovereignty over the city's population to demand self-administration and imperial immediacy, a political status under feudal law which declared freedom from the authority of the Emperor. Emperor Charles IV granted free imperial status to the city of Essen in 1377. But in 1372, a long struggle between the abbey and the city which continued until the abbey was dissolved in 1803. Numerous legal suits were filed with the Holy Roman Empire, one of which lasted nearly 200 years. In 1563, Essen city council, insisting that it was the sole legitimate ruler of Essen, introduced the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic abbey did not have troops to counter the development. With the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, the Catholic abbey and the Protestant city of Essen found themselves in opposition yet again. and in 1623, princess-abbess Maria Clara von Spaur Pflaum und Valor directed the Spanish Catholics in the city to begin a counter -Reformation. The counter-reformation was the Roman Catholic Church's answer to the Protestant Reformation In 1670, the final court decision regarding the longest-running court case was that Essen was to be "duly obedient in dos and don'ts" to the princess-abbesses. In 1802, Essen became part of Prussia. As steelworks, ironworks. and coal mines during the early 1800s helped to encourage Essen's quick rise from a small town to the largest industrial city in the Ruhr. The French occupied Essen from 1923 to 1925. It began in January of 1923, the French government accused Germany of defaulting on reparations. France teamed up with Belgium, and they took over Germany's most important industrial are, the Ruhr, which included Essen with the goal to make the Ruhr a satellite state of France. Essen and the other German cities in the Ruhr retaliated by passive resistance. The workers worked very slowly, made faulty goods on purpose, and refused to cooperate with the occupiers. In 1933, there were approximately 5,000 Jewish residents of Essen, making up less than 1% of the total population. Jewish businesses were "Aryanized - the term that refers to the forced expulsion of non-Aryans and the transfer of Jewish property to Aryans. All Jewish workers were fired, the man who invented stainless steel, Benno Schmidt. More than 700 men between the ages of 16 and 60 were arrested and deported to Dachau. By mid-May of 1939, only 1,636 Jews were left in Essen. Between 1941 and 1943, all but 39 who had not fled were deported to other concentration camps. During the Second World War, because it was a centre of the German war industry, Essen was a primary target designated for bombing by the British in a February 1942 bombing directive, and throughout 1943, Essen was a regular target, particularly during the Battle of the Ruhr. Between 1939 and 1945, the Royal Air Force dropped 36,429 long tons on the city. By the end of the war, Essen was all but destroyed.

 

 

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