Holungen is a Thuringian municipality in the Eichsfeld in Germany. It lies approximately 35 km (22 miles) from the university town of Göttingen. With a population of around 1,000, it is one of the medium-sized municipalities in the district.
Holungen lies 350 m above sea level. It is well protected from the easterly winds and other external influences by mountains. Its soil is formed from crystalline rocks, made of minerals such as quartz, feldspar and mica. The erosion of rocks forms sandy soil from quartz, and clay and loam from potash/feldspar-based rocks.
In 1247, the Thuringian landgrave Heinrich Raspe died, bringing conflict back to the area. From 1236 to 1247, he was Landesherr (manorial lord) of part of the march of Tu-der-stede, modern-day Duderstadt. He was also brother-in-law to Elisabeth of Hungary. In 1246 he was elected counter-king to Conrad IV, son of Frederick II. Although his forces defeated Conrad’s at the battle of Nidda, he died shortly afterwards, and after his death fighting broke out over the order of succession for the title Landgrave of Thuringia, during which Holungen was devastated. Many inhabitants fled to Duderstadt. Some evidence for this comes from deeds dating to 1266 and 1299. The documents of 1266 also give us the first mention of Holungen, under the name “Haldrungen”. Between 1350 and 1370, the village was rebuilt again and belonged to the county of Lohra. In 1370, Holungen became a part of the county of Honstein and in 1431, it became by exchange the monastery village of the monastery at Gerode. In 1525, Holungen was destroyed during the course of the Peasants’ War (German: Deutscher Bauernkrieg).
Prussian rule lasted only for four years and ten weeks, up to the years 1806 and 1807, when Prussia was nearly completely destroyed. In addition, half of its constituent states, as well as its status as a great power, were taken from it. In 1806, Prussia lost the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, with the result that, in December that year, Napoleon took possession of the two Eichsfeld districts, including Holungen. Frederick William III fled with his wife and the princes to Memel. The French required masses of supplies, which the Holungers had to furnish. In 1807, Eichsfeld became part of the Kingdom of Westphalia with its capital at Kassel. On 1st January 1808 the Napoleonic Code came into effect. Young men had to serve in the French army. During this period, many troops marched through Eichsfeld and settled in Holungen. After the struggle for liberty, Eichsfeld was returned to Prussia. ‘Ordered’ laws were created, and Worbis received their own city and regional courts. Holungen was assigned to the judicial office (Gerichtsamt) at Gerode. At that time Holungen had 650 inhabitants. In 1841, Holungen received its first Kaplan, literally “Chaplain”, a term used in German to mean a Roman-Catholic priest in the first few years after his ordination. Since 28th January 1844, full Mass has been held every Sunday and Saint’s Day.
In 1848, the year of many attempted revolutions in large parts of Europe, violence in the district of Worbis was widespread, leading to the formation of Bürgerwehren (vigilante militia groups), under the control of the mayor in each village. The vigilantes were equipped with pikes, sabres and rifles. One year later the setting up of the Grundbuchamt (lit. land register office) in the district court of Worbis was completed. Cholera came to Worbis district in 1850. Most deaths occurred in neighbouring Weißenborn, Holungen was only minimally affected. In September 1855, the king visited many places in the district. During the wars of independence, the Eichsfeld had suffered much, leading to crop failures and widespread illness. Holungen received money from the king for the reconstruction of several burned-down houses. On 2nd February 1861, King Frederick William IV died, and his brother William I took his place. In the same year, the shooting club was formed, and the Chaussee (main road) was extended over the Graseforst. The Holungers were dissatisfied with this extension, since they had supported a different route, one which would have been more favourable for the area but had been dropped. In February 1865, this led to a big court case, which the Holungers lost. The Chaussee led from Worbis over the Sonnenstein to Gerode and was half-an-hour further away than the old road, which almost completely cut Holungen off from long-distance traffic.
On 1st April 1876, rector Friedrich Polak from Nordhausen was appointed out as the school inspector. Holungen received a second teacher and a new school was built. In March 1871 land plots on all the farmland were remeasured. Due to the differing altitudes it was possible that there were differences in the measurements, but in 232 cases the permissible difference was exceeded. In 100 cases it amounted to even twice the limit. The owners gave the land over to the Separationsverfahren (roughly, the process of crop rotation) and “had it given back afterwards” (uncertain literal translation of “und ließen es sich hinterher zurückgeben” from German original), as a result of which the total area of farmland was reduced. In 1906, it became apparent that roughly 90 acres / 36 hectares (180 Äcker) of Holungen, which were actually registered in the land registry, were missing. In 1925, the land was recorded twice, one for the forest treasury and the other for the municipality of Weißenborn. Holungen objected, but without any success.
In June 1890, a Church-building Society was founded in Holungen, and one year later the building of the church began. The stones were supplied from the nearby quarry at Wehnberg. A teacher from Holungen began rehearsals of stageplays with the young people from the village and put on performances in neighbouring villages to support the construction of the church. On 20th June 1893, Holungen was consecrated by suffragan bishop (Weihbischof) Dr. Augustinus Gockel. One year later, the registry office was moved from Bischofferode to Holungen. In 1895, the road to Bischofferode was built, with Holungen receiving support from the Landesbauinspektion (roughly State Construction Inspectorate) at Mühlhausen. In 1896, Holungen received a new church organ. One year later, the church tower was hit by lightning, and repairs were still under way when the new church bell was installed, the old bell having cracked during ringing. In 1899, the Holunger Gesangsverein, a singing association, was created. 1908 saw opening of Potash Shaft 1 at the Thomas Müntzer potash mine.
In the Second World War, men from Holungen fought in Poland, France and the Soviet Union, among other places. In total, 47 men from Holungen died during the Second World War. The village itself only felt the effects of the war just before its end. An aerial mine was dropped nearby, and several aircraft shot down by the Luftwaffe. Holungen remained entirely untouched by enemy air attacks. Several inhabitants had to pay fines for not fully blacking out their windows. In spring 1945, German troops were being pushed back, and on 14th March Holungen found itself billeting many soldiers from both Flak and Infantry units, bringing the parish into the war zone. At around 11 o’clock on the night of 9th to 10th April combat erupted. Flak cannon fired at enemy aircraft during a three-hour period, although there were fairly long pauses during that time. Both the inhabitants and buildings of Holungen remained undamaged.
On 11th April the American advance reached Holungen, the German troops having fled the previous day. When the news of the American approach became known, the mayor and the parish vicar went out to meet the approaching troops. As the first vehicles neared them, the two men went up to the Americans and asked them to spare Holungen. They explained that there were no more German soldiers left in the village, and that Holungen would offer no resistance. The inhabitants had hoisted a white flag with a red cross atop the church tower.
American troop movements continued through the area until 18th April, with the tank columns taking the first three days to pass through. The inhabitants could only use the main street between noon and 1 p.m. each day, and all the streets in the village were torn up by tank tracks. On 4th July 1945, Russian soldiers arrived in Holungen, the village lying only 10 km (6 miles) from the border with the British occupation zone (see this page about the GDR for a map of the zones). On 20th August the majority of the Russian troops withdrew and only a small garrison remained.
In the GDR period, the potash mine, now known as the “Thomas Müntzer” mine, was the largest employer in the region. From 1955 to 1961 the number of employees rose from 25 to nearly 300. Even in 1939, the mine had been the main potash source for the German war effort and was considered to be “Rüstungsindustriestufe SS” (“Armaments Industry - SS level”). It was the only mine delivering 98 to 99% by weight potassium chloride at the highest purity grade. These salts were used to produce explosives and other compounds important for the war effort. In 1977, the potassium salt was granted the “K1 price supplement” due to its consistent quality, receiving the “Q” quality mark two years later. From 1985 onwards the mine was the sole supplier of car seat position adjusters for the Wartburg. The mine also produced skylights and artificial fertiliser. In 1993, the mining company was closed. The closing of mine shafts resulted in nationwide attention for the potash miners, who took part in a lot of industrial action (Hunger strikes and a march to Berlin) under the slogan “Bischofferode ist überall” (“Bischofferode is everywhere”). Mining was of great importance for the neighbouring villages and created over 1,000 jobs. The economy of the region was slow to recover from this shock. Even though the mine was better-known in connection with Bischofferode, a large part of the operation was located in Holungen.
In Holungen after the “Wende” (Reunification), several streets were renovated. Many households got a telephone connection, mains gas, etc. In 1995 the second Eichfeld “Trachtenfest” (festival at which traditional costume is worn) was celebrated in Holungen. This festival resulted in various improvements to the village, for example the square around the pond and the fire station was redesigned.
The Sports Association has had some success at faustball, the women’s team having been GDR Champions twice, although faustball is no longer played in Holungen. The men’s football team plays in Thüringen 2. Kreisklassen (Kreis Eichsfeld), Staffel 1 (Thuringia 2nd District classification (Eichsfeld district), group 1). Here, too, past youth teams have had some success (District Champions, District Cup Winners, District Indoor Football Champions). Thanks to several year groups being under-represented in the village, Holungen is currently arranging Spielgemeinschaften (joint teams) with other villages (JSG Bodetal: Bode Valley Youth Joint Team).
In 1864 the Holungen Shooting Club was founded, although after the two World Wars a refounding wasn’t permitted. In spite of this, Holungen still has its shooting range. A similar situation holds for the amateur dramatics group, which had been known throughout the region - despite putting on a few performances after Reunification, it eventually folded.