Historische Rheinbrücke

Throughout its history, Kehl's fortunes have been shaped by its important strategic position on the Rhine. The first official records referring to Kehl date to 1038, and make mention of a fishing village with a church. In 1678, Kehl, which had gained in importance due to its defensive value during the Thirty Years' War, was conquered by Louis XIV. The French king proceeded to build the fortress of Kehl in 1681 in order to secure his hold on Strasbourg. After the treaty of Ryswick, the fortress became German. Less than two decades later, in 1698, German emperor Leopold I ceded the defensive structure to Louis William, or “Louis the Turk,” Margrave of Baden-Baden. From this point onwards, the fortress of Kehl would remain, with few interruptions, under local control.

Rhein historisch

With the unification of the margraviate of Baden-Durlach and of Baden-Baden in 1771, Kehl became a center for commerce, before obtaining the rank of city in 1774. This newfound economic prosperity came to a brutal end with the beginning of the War of Coalitions in 1792. For two decades, the city was a tête de pont, was disputed, and changed nationality several times. The Treaty of Paris of 1814 once again made Kehl a part of Baden, while also requiring the demolition of the fortress of Kehl. In 1815, the city began the long and arduous process of reconstruction.

Reconstruction was managed primarily by public works managers Weinbrenner and Tulla. At Tulla's instigation, the Rhine and the Kinzig were straightened, fostering economic development. Industrial production increased significantly with the construction of the Kehl-Appenweier rail line in 1844, linking Kehl to the Baden rail network, as well as with the construction of the railway bridge over the Rhine in 1861. During the Franco-German War of 1870, Kehl was the only German city to be damaged, putting an end to the previous period of economic prosperity.

Luftbild Kehl

The period from 1870 to the breakout of the First World War would see a number of key projects for the reconstruction and development of the city. The building of a cellulose plant in 1883 by the Trick family created a significant number of jobs. Large public works projects like the construction of the bridge over the Rhine (1897), replacing the former pontoon bridge of 1816, and the creation of the inland port of Kehl (1897-1900) endowed Kehl with modern infrastucture. Local administration was improved with the consolidation, in 1910, of the city of Kehl and the village of Kehl, both politically independent municipalities, forming one political unit with 8,885 inhabitants.

After the German defeat in the First World War, Kehl was under French military occupation from 1919 to 1930, a situation which seriously impacted the cultural and social life of Kehl's inhabitants and created serious economic difficulties. During the Second World War, the city was once again hard hit. Two evacuations, one in 1939 and another in 1940, scattered Kehl's population all over Baden, from the Rhine all the way to Lake Constance. In 1945, the city was once again placed under French military control. The Treaty of Washington of 1949 prevented Kehl from being annexed by France and created a plan to progressively transfer the city and its port to Germany by 1953. After its return to Germany, the city began to rebuild from the considerable damage still evident from the war.

In 1972, territorial reforms took place which enlarged the munipality of Kehl by incorporating the city's surrounding villages. As a result, Kehl became the administrative center of a rural district (Große Kreisstadt). Today the inhabitants of Kehl number 35,000. Our city has been able to take full advantage of its quality infrastructure – Kehl has become a commercial and industrial center and represents a vital economic hub for southern Germany thanks to both its port and its strategic position along major thoroughfares.


With numerous cultural and social institutions, including the Kehl School for Public Administration, Kehl has been able to extend its influence beyond the regional level. Since 1993, the city has served as headquarters for several Franco-German and European institutions. In 1997, Kehl was selected to organize the Landesgartenschau, a regional horticultural exhibition, which it hosted in 2004 in cooperation with the city of Strasbourg. The Festival of the Two Riverbanks represented the first time this exhibition took place in two different countries. The Garten der zwei Ufer (Garden of the Two Riverbanks), united by the Mimram footbridge, is the result of the cooperation of the two cities and covers almost a quarter of a square mile. Today the Rhine, once a natural border between Kehl and Strasbourg, is the central element in a shared garden.


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