A Concise History of Fortress-Castle Klempenow

Fortress-Castle Klempenow was built by the first German nobility to occupy our region. By the early 13th century, settlers had dug in around fortifications located at the convergence of the Peene and Tollensee river basins, now Demmin. Most of these pioneers belonged to the retinue of Wartislaus III, Duke of Pomerania, who rigorously but humanely managed this outpost of German civilization along the Tollensee-Peene plain. Many of these homesteaders came from the Altmark, Holstein, Lower Saxony, and the foothills of the Herz mountains. Documents show that by 1254, the House of Heydebeck, aristocracy from Lower Saxony, were firmly established in the area. The Demminer garrison was then extended to a small outpost located at Klempenow, an alluvial island at the convergence of the rivers Landgraben and Tollensee. Records describe this fortress as consisting of an enclosed courtyard with surrounding bulwark and battlements.

The confederation of our region within the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was sealed in 1331 by a proclamation of Pope John XII chartering Castle Klempenow and adjoining lands to the Duke of Pomerania. The House of Heydebreck, as detailed in genealogical records, were to retain control over Klempenow until the 16th century.

Instability among the regional powers (Brandenburg, Denmark, Sweden, and to the East, Pomerania, Poland, and Russia) at the close of the 14th century threatened to plunge the region into social and political chaos. Exploiting these conditions, the Heydebrecks of Klempenow-- Joachim I and his son Heinrich IV renowned among them-- were rumored to have led daring raids throughout the territory to increase their wealth and power. Contemporary documents show that Heinrich was so well respected, so audacious and cunning, that, from 1434 until 1451, he was simultaneously retained as Counselor to the Pomeranian Court.

It is assumed that under Heinrich IV's command, the Castle's fortifications were substantially modified and strengthened commensurate with contemporary military demands. A large rampant was added to the Northern battlements which, however, did not harmonize with the siege tower. A few years later these reinforcements were refined using the brick building methods ("Backsteinarchitektur") unique to Northern Germany, so that now a functional and aesthetic unity is established between the tower and its surrounding ramparts. Other structures were built at this time to buttress the fortress' breastwork, some still visible today.

Castle Klempenow's military significance as a strategic fulcrum along the Landgraben-Peene-Tollense plain made certain that it would be furiously contested in all the era's clashes. In 1470, Emperor Friedrich III granted Kurfürst (Elector Prince of the Holy Roman Empire) Albrecht of Brandenburg the territory of Pomerania along with the city of Stettin and adjoining lands. The Treaty of Prenzlau, wrenched from the weakened Pomeranian Duke in 1472, awarded Kurfürst Albrecht of Brandenburg Klempenow as well. Duke Boleslaw X (1472-1523), however, resisted these imperial dictates, rejected feudal vassalage to Brandenburg, and secured for Pomerania "Reichsunmittelbarkeit", the status of a self-governing territory within the Empire. In 1494 (two years after Columbus "discovered" America), perhaps as thanksgiving for Pomerania's liberation from feudal subjugation, Bishop Benedicto of Cammin consecrated a small church in Klempenow called "The Chapel of the Five Sacred Wounds".

Then came the Black Death, the great European plague. In terror and despair, the masses turned to God, to new and renewed devotions and liturgies. The Protestant Reformation, introduced through BUGGENHAGEN around 1530, took sway. The consequent civil and religious conflicts heralded the devastation known as the Thirty Years War b. In 1631 the Castle was seized by Sweden. A year later, on the battlefield of Lützen, the King of Sweden, Gustav Adolf, awarded Klempenow as a fiefdom to his "Generalfeldmarschall" (General of the Army) Dodo of Knyphausen, who nevertheless lost the subsequent Battle of Neubrandenburg to Tilly, Gustav Adolf's arch foe. All civil records of Klempenow's fate during this catastrophic period are lost.

With Dodo dawned in Castle Klempenow a splendid era presided over by three generations of the Knyphausen family. Abundant witnesses describe a luxurious lifestyle wherein Lord Dodo, Anna von Schade, Enno Adam, Occa Riperda, and the Count of Mellin set the tone of Dodo's court. Among his most frequent guests were Her Majesty Christine, Queen of Sweden, and her entourage. The wealth and glitter of this interval prompted the first radical restructuring of the fortress: The siege tower was renovated and converted into living quarters; modern windows were cut and innovative vaults were built; new buildings were added and old structures reinforced.

The end of the 17th century saw Klempenow jostled among major regional powers, but by the outbreak of the Northern War (1700-21), the Castle was securely in the hands of the Swedish crown. This conflict, however, marked the end of Swedish hegemony in Klempenow: With the Treaty of Stockholm (1720), the territory surrounding Klempenow became a province of Prussia, and Klempenow the seat of local government. Again during the next conflagration, the Seven Years War (1755-62), the Castle is bitterly contested, but thereafter little is heard of Klempenow as a citadel of strategic significance.

Now begins the era of aristocratic landowners and government officials who take residence within the Castle. Despite the war's attrition, Klempenow remained the deposit of civil records and retained both its brewery and distillery-a rare privilege. Documents attest to a long list of landlords and magistrates stemming from the most eminent families of the realm: Berlin, Bruhn, Fleischmann, Wüstenberg, to name but a few. It was then that the Castle became known as "White Klempenow" because of its whitewashed tower which can be seen shimmering in the sun for miles around.

As Napoleon's forces occupied the area in 1812, prominent citizens took refuge in Klempenow, among them Ernst Moritz Arndt, poet*, politician, and patriot (the University at Greifswald, founded in 1456, is named in his honor). With the territorial redistricting following the Napoleonic wars (1818), Klempenow fell under the jurisdiction of Demmin.

In 1831 Cholera ravaged the land. This, and deteriorating living conditions, triggered a wave of immigration across Germany to America, Australia, and South Africa. Within Klempenow and the Castle complex itself, life assumed a middle class ambience which, alas, was sparsely documented.

The turn of the century (1900) marked another architectural upheaval for the Castle: A major building buttressing the North-West corner of the fortress was deemed unsafe and guttered. The space was filled by a travel lodge which still stands.

At the end of World War II, the Castle was commandeered by the Commander of Soviet Occupation Forces. Starting in 1947, refugees and displaced people from the East were resettled in Klempenow. Up to fourteen families-- kith and kin-- found emergency shelter within the Castle walls. After the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was set up, Klempenow's residents took it upon themselves to convert the Castle complex into industrial and housing quarters consistent with the proletarian standards of the GDR.

Following national reunification, a core of dedicated private citizens, determined to preserve and restore the Castle, formed KULTUR-TRANSIT-96, e.V. After detailed negotiation with the Treuhand (Trust Agency) and exhaustive preparation, KULTUR-TRANSIT-96 leased the Castle from the local authority in 1991. Respecting Klempenow's historical, cultural, and social heritage, KULTUR-TRANSIT-96 has restored the Castle's integrity and assumed responsibility for revitalizing Castle Klempenow's cultural, social, and artistic significance.
*"O Gottes Geist und Christi Geist,
der uns den Weg zum Leben weist,
der uns die dunkle Erdennacht
durch seine Lichter helle macht;
du Hauch, der durch das Weltall weht
als Gottes stille Majestät,
du aller Lichter reinstes Licht,
erleucht uns Herz und Angesicht!"
            Ernst Moritz Arndt (Bg 234,1,2)