Herzogenaurach, a charming town in Middle Franconia, Germany has a rich history as a significant medieval center and it also takes pride in its more recent status as a site of a United States Army base.
The historic center is known primarily for its half-timber homes and numerous medieval structures which have been in continuous use for centuries. Written records for Herzogenaurach date back to the 11th Century, and two towers from the Middle Ages still stand, the Fehnturm and Türmersturm. Many historic half-timbered houses have been well preserved, the oldest dating back to the middle of the 15th Century. Typically, wealthy inhabitants built their homes entirely of stone, but for the majority of Herzogenaurach residents, housing constructed with walls of timber filled in with clay was a more economical approach. A more extravagant building still stands within the city, a Baroque castle built in 1720 at the request of the Prince-Bishop.
Herzogenaurach, with its long tradition as a fervently Catholic town, proudly features St. Magdalena, an historic church containing a Baroque altar and painted wooden vaults described as some of the most impressive in all of Franconia. Catholic holidays and festivals are held with great flair and spectacle. During the festivals, statues of various saints are marched through the streets to commemorate feast days and other religious holidays. These events typically draw attendees and spectators from across the region.
Herzogenaurach served a more recent historic role as home to a Deutsche Luftwaffe air base before and during World War II, and as an American military base immediately following the war until 1992. Many U.S. military bases sprung up across Bavaria and the whole of West Germany during the second half of the 20th Century. Herzogenaurach stood out, however, as having a very active and progressive German-American Club. As a consequence, the town celebrates cultural events significant for both countries, such as Fourth of July cook-outs and Oktoberfest festivities.
The city is home to two of the world’s largest sportswear companies, Adidas and Puma. Brothers Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf (Rudi) Dassler began manufacturing athletic shoes in the 1920s, even equipping several athletes in the 1928 and 1936 Olympic games. Following a falling out in 1948, the brothers ended their collaboration and created their own companies. Adi formed Adidas while Rudi initiated Puma. Both companies still maintain their headquarters in Herzogenaurach as well as large factory outlet stores. Locals, regional residents, and tourists travel to these outlets to shop for sportswear items at discounted prices.
In addition to the draw of historic structures and the shopping centers of Adidas and Puma, many visitors from across Bavaria come to Herzogenaurach for recreation activities. One of the many attractions is Atlantis, a water park frequented by children and adults alike. Waterslides and wave pools draw hundreds of visitors during the warmer months, while sauna facilities and thermal pools are popular during the bleak German winter. Herzogenaurach also boasts a golf course (considered a luxury by many Germans), tennis courts, and many other outdoor sporting opportunities.
Herzogenaurach, like many towns in the Franconia region, is a charming, well preserved hamlet. But its significance today is clearly centered on its recent service as a military base and the birthplace of two huge sporting goods companies. Visitors to Herzogenaurach are routinely impressed with the seamless melding of a multi-layered historical past and its forward-looking present.