The Statesman’s Yearbook Online

edited by Dr Barry Turner

CITY PROFILE: FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Image courtesy of wikipedia

 

INTRODUCTION

Frankfurt am Main, on the River Main, is the largest city in the Land of Hesse and the fifth largest in Germany. It was effectively the national capital in the 19th century and is now one of Germany's most important centres of industry and commerce.

KEY HISTORICAL EVENTS

The name Frankfurt, which derives from 'ford or crossing of the Franks', probably originated around 500 AD. Although the first written mention of the city dates from the late 8th century, there is also evidence of pre-Roman and Roman habitation.

It was in Frankfurt in 1152 that Frederick Barbarossa was elected ruler of Germany. In the mid-14th century Frankfurt was assigned the place of coronation for the Holy Roman Emperors, a privilege it retained until 1806.

A Free City from the late-14th century, in 1806, on the orders of Napoleon, Frankfurt became the administrative capital of the Confederation of the Rhine. Four years later it was the seat of government of the newly designated Grand Duchy of Frankfurt. Napoleon lost power in 1815, and Frankfurt temporarily reverted to free city status.

A year later the German Bundestag sat in Frankfurt, and continued to do so for the next 50 years. As such, it was Germany's capital city. After the Seven Weeks War in 1866 between Prussia and Austria, Prussia annexed the city.

Germany unification brought with it rapid industrial and commercial expansion. The construction of a canal network in the late 19th century increased its importance as an inland shipping port.

Frankfurt was badly hit by allied bombing in World War II and, although key historical landmarks remain, many others have been restored and rebuilt. Its status as a financial centre has led to imposing architecture.

TERRITORY AND POPULATION

Frankfurt is located on both sides of the River Main in the south-west part of Germany. The city centre is on the north side of the river. The area is 248.3 sq. km with 2,737 inhabitants per sq. km. The city has grown from a population of 229,279 at the census of 1895 to 631,287 in 1980 and 679, 571 in 2009. Foreigners accounted for 24.3% of the population in 2009.

Frankfurt is divided into 46 districts (Stadtteile) that are combined into 16 boroughs (Ortsbezirke), which each have a district committee and chairperson.

SOCIAL STATISTICS

In 2009 there were 7,082 births, 5,768 deaths, 2,678 marriages, 1,666 divorces and 178 civil unions.

GOVERNMENT

Current leader: Petra Roth

Position: Lord Mayor

Born in Bremen in 1944, Petra Roth began her political career when she moved to Frankfurt in 1972 and joined the Christian Democratic Union. Having served on the City Council and as a member of the State Parliament of Hesse, Roth was the first Frankfurt Mayor to be directly elected and took office on 5 July 1995. She was re-elected in 2001 and 2007. In 2009 she was elected President of the German Association of Cities.

Roth is member of the board of Frankfurt International Airport and represents Frankfurt in a variety of international institutions. As well as receiving the Legion d'honneur for boosting Franco-German co-operation, in 2005 she was honoured with the Doctor philosophiae honoris causa of Tel Aviv University for her role in the relations between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv (one of Frankfurt's twin towns).

RECENT ELECTIONS

Elections to the assembly of the City Council were held on 27 March 2011. The Christian Democratic Union received 30·5% of the valid votes, the Greens 25·8%, the Social Democratic Party 21·3%, the Left 5·4%, Free Democrats 3·9%, Free Voters 3·8% and Pirate Party 2·0%. Ten other parties received less than 1·5%.

ECONOMY

Frankfurt is the largest financial centre in continental Europe. Also referred to as 'Bankfurt' or 'Mainhattan', it has 267 credit institutions, over half of which are foreign banks. The city is home to the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank and Germany's largest (and the world's fifth largest) stock exchange (established in 1585). Up to 75,000 people are employed in financial and insurance activities. Approximately a quarter of foreign direct investment in Germany flows into the Frankfurt region. In 2009 it was ranked third in a study of Europe's favourite cities to do business in, behind only London and Paris.

Frankfurt is the largest trade fair location in Europe and the third largest in the world. Its first organized trade fairs were held in the 13th century and today it hosts internationally important fairs for numerous industries including the motor, computer and book trades. In 2009 the city was host to 31 trade fairs and exhibitions, with 38,600 exhibitors and some 2.2 million visitors.

Manufactures include machinery, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, printing materials, leather goods and foodstuffs (including quality sausages - hence 'frankfurter').

TRANSPORT

The city's airport, Flughafen Rhein-Main, is one of Europe's busiest with the second highest freight and passenger turnover after London Heathrow. The main station, the Hauptbahnhof, handles more trains than any other station in Germany. Frankfurt is linked to other German cities by Autobahnen (motorways) and local transport within the city is provided by the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses and StraBenbahn (trams).

CULTURE

Festivals

Museumsuferfest (Aug.), is one of the biggest cultural festivals in Germany; Dippemess (Easter and Sept.) is Frankfurt's oldest folk festival; and Waldchestag (four days after Pentecost) takes place in Frankfurt's city forest.

Museums

Museumsufer, a stretch of the south bank of the River Main between Eiserner Steg and the Friedensbrücke, is home to seven museums. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie is one of Germany's most important art collections. Museum für Kunsthandwerk (Museum of Applied Arts) contains art works dating from the Neolithic period. The MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst is one of the world's leading museums for contemporary art.

Deutsches Filmmuseum (German Museum of Cinema) incorporates an exhibition of cinematic artefacts from the earliest days of motion pictures, as well as a cinema showing films and newsreels.

Deutsches Architektur-Museum (German Architecture Museum) has a collection of architects' plans, models and examples of European architecture.

Places of Interest

The Römerberg is the old central square of Frankfurt. Since the old town was almost entirely destroyed during World War II, most of the buildings that originally date from the 14th and 15th centuries have been sympathetically rebuilt or restored. Buildings here include the Haus zum Römer (the old Town Hall), and the Dom (Bartholomäuskirche), a Gothic church with a museum attached. The Paulskirche (St Paul's Church), opposite the Römerberg, served as the meeting place for Germany's first Democratic National Assembly after the 1848-49 revolution.

Frankfurt has a zoo on the eastern side of town, famous for its rare species and giant aviary.

Also popular is Goethe Haus, the birthplace of the writer Goethe, and the Museum für Post und Kommunikation (Museum of Post and Communications), which traces the history of German travel and communication with interactive video displays.

Media

The city has two important daily newspapers, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (founded in 1949, with over 380,000 copies daily) and the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau (1945, 181,000 copies).

Frankfurt is home to the German headquarters of the news agency Reuters.

FURTHER READING

Holtfrerich, Carl-Ludwig, Frankfurt as a Financial Centre: From medieval trade fair to European banking centre (Beck, 1999)

Weidhaas, Peter, History of the Frankfurt Book Fair (Dundurn, 2007)

Wynne, George G., Frankfurt through the Centuries (Kramer, 1975)

Official website: www.frankfurt.de


The Frankfurt Opera House


The Römerberg Plaza


City Skyline