THE REGION WEST PALATINATE
The West Palatinate region is located in southwest Germany between the metropolitan regions of Rhein-Main and Rhein-Neckar, Saarland and France.
The West Palatinate region is made up of the cities of Kaiserslautern, Pirmasens and Zweibrücken as well as the counties of South-West Palatinate, Kusel, Donnersbergkreis and Kaiserslautern. Around 520,000 inhabitants live in an area larger than Saarland. By far the largest city and the regional center is Kaiserslautern with around 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Pirmasens (40,000 inhabitants) and Zweibrücken (34,000 inhabitants).
The regional specialty is the over 50,000 Americans living in the region, which are not included in the official population. They make the greater Kaiserslautern area (the Kaiserslautern Military Community KMC) the largest US community outside the United States and the most English-speaking region in Germany.
The three largest cities are also the most important economic and cultural centers in the region. In addition to the majority of the companies, the two universities as well as numerous institutes and administrative facilities are located here. Away from the cities you also come across “hidden champions” and important employers.
Apart from the three largest cities, the West Palatinate is otherwise more rural. Here the region impresses with its scenic beauty and closeness to nature. In the north and west of the region, forest and meadows alternate in hilly terrain. The Palatinate Forest dominates in the east with its almost unlimited expanse.
Compact regional history
The West Palatinate can look back on an eventful history. Numerous castles still testify to a time when the region was extremely competitive and a good defense was essential. The legacy of industrialization is still clearly visible, especially in the cities. The military stationed in the region for decades has also left its mark. In the past few years, positive impulses for a successful future have been set on brownfield sites and former barracks. We’ll give you a quick look back.
The first settlers
The West Palatinate has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age, burial mounds from the Bronze Age and Celtic fortifications from the Iron Age are visible evidence of this. One of the largest Celtic settlements north of the Alps was built on the Donnersberg. This was followed by around 500 years of Roman presence, documented to this day by the remains of Roman trails and settlements.
Of emperors and castles
The Middle Ages left many castles in the Palatinate. Construction activity peaked in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Lichtenberg castle near Kusel, the Berwartstein castle near Dahn and the remains of the imperial palace of the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in Kaiserslautern are some of many visible evidence of this era.
In times of war
During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the region was a theater of war several times. Large areas, countless places and numerous castles were destroyed. Forty years later, the Palatinate War of Succession (1688-1697) again destroyed large parts of the Palatinate. Escaping misery and hunger, the first people from the region emigrated to America in 1709.
Awakening through industrialization
In the second half of the 18th century – mainly supported by the flourishing iron production and processing (especially Gienanth) – industrialization got going and in the middle of the 19th century – among other things due to the construction of the railway connection from the Saar region to Ludwigshafen – clearly gained momentum. In Kaiserslautern, among other things, the worsted spinning mill and the Pfaff sewing machine factory were established, the Dingler works in Zweibrücken and the shoe industry in the South-west Palatinate around Pirmasens.
Under a changing flag
At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, the region was under French rule, went to Bavaria according to the resolutions of the Vienna Congress in 1816 and in addition was part of the newly founded German Empire since 1871. The West Palatinate has been part of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate since 1946.
The military visits friends
The period after the Second World War was marked by the presence of American, but also French and Canadian armed forces. After the end of the Cold War, it was significantly reduced. The greater Kaiserslautern area, with the Ramstein airfield, the Landstuhl military hospital and numerous depots and barracks, is still one of the most important locations for the US military and NATO in Europe.
Technology and change
In recent years, university locations, research institutes and technology-oriented companies have emerged on many areas that were previously used by the military, as well as the largest outlet center in Germany. The foundation for the successful economic future of the West Palatinate region was laid here. In the area of software development and artificial intelligence, the region is now the nationwide leader.