Upper Harz

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Upper Harz
Clausthal 2012 - 028.JPG
Clausthal plateau in winter
Highest point
Peak Schalke
Elevation 762 m (2,500 ft)
Naturraumkarte Harz.png
Harz natural areas
State Lower Saxony, Germany
Range coordinates 51°49′N10°22′E / 51.817°N 10.367°E / 51.817; 10.367 Coordinates: 51°49′N10°22′E / 51.817°N 10.367°E / 51.817; 10.367
Parent range Harz
Age of rock Paleozoic (Devonian, Carboniferous)

The Upper Harz (German : Oberharz) refers to the northwestern and higher part of the Harz mountain range in Germany. The exact boundaries of this geographical region may be defined differently depending on the context. In its traditional sense, the term Upper Harz covers the area of the seven historical mining towns (Bergstädte) - Clausthal, Zellerfeld, Andreasberg, Altenau, Lautenthal, Wildemann and Grund - in the present-day German federal state of Lower Saxony. [1] Orographically, it comprises the Harz catchment areas of the Söse, Innerste and Grane, Oker and Abzucht mountain streams, all part of the larger Weser watershed.


Much of the Upper Harz area is up to 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. In a wider sense, it also comprises the adjacent High Harz (Hochharz) range in the east, climbing to over 1,100 m (3,600 ft) in the Brocken massif.


The region is centred on the geological structure of the region around the municipality of Clausthal-Zellerfeld, merged in 1924. From the Clausthal Kulmfaltenzone, it extends to the western and northern rim of the Harz and is bordered in the southeast by the Acker-Bruchberg ridge beyond the Söse valley.

The Upper Harz was, for centuries, dominated by the hugely profitable silver mining industry and is also distinguished by its own dialect (see below). The mining area of Sankt Andreasberg occupies a special place in this regard, because it is just east of the Bruchberg. The mines, more than anything else, have left a lasting impression on the region and left their traces in the towns and villages as well as the countryside (see e.g. Upper Harz Water Regale). Clausthal-Zellerfeld was known as "Capital of the Upper Harz" in the heyday of the mining industry. [2] It was also the administrative seat of the former Samtgemeinde ('collective municipality') of Oberharz.

The part of the mountain range lying west of the Brocken described in a geographical sense as the Upper Harz is divided from a miner's and ironworker's perspective into the Upper Harz (Oberharz), i.e. the plateau of Clausthal, with this town and Zellerfeld and the mining towns of Altenau, Lautenthal, Wildemann, Grund and Andreasberg, and the communion of the Lower Harz, i.e. the Rammelsberg near Goslar and the ironworks that process its ore, and which lie on the northern foothills of the mountains near Ocker, Langelsheim etc. […] The actual Upper Harz, now part of the Prussian state and forming the district (Bezirk) of the Clausthal Mining Department, is that region west of the Bruchberge with mineral lodes in Devonian and Carboniferous mountains, which are divided into specific groups or seams.

John Percy, Die Metallurgie [3]

Another division into Upper and Lower Harz is based on the function of the Harz as a natural watershed. On this basis "by taking the Brocken as the mid-point, the Upper Harz includes everything to the west of it; the Lower Harz everything lying to the east. […] All that drains from the western mountains belongs to the catchment area of the Weser, all that drains from those in the east, to that of the Elbe". [4] Heinrich Heine also used the Brocken as the dividing line in his book Die Harzreise ("The Harz Journey") in 1824 and remarked that the "Lower Harz, as the eastern side of the Brocken is called, as opposed to its western side, […] called the Upper Harz". [5] This definition extends the montane Upper Harz eastwards roughly to the state border with Saxony-Anhalt, so that e.g. Braunlage or Hohegeiß may also be counted as lying within the Upper Harz, as well as some high mountain ridges:

The Upper Harz includes the plateaus of Clausthal and Andreasberg, some 2,000 feet high, and the ridges and peaks of the so-called Ackerberg, Bruchberg and Brocken which are almost twice as high […]

Johann Georg Kohl, Deutsche Volksbilder und Naturansichten aus dem Harze. [6]

To the east it transitions to the less prominent Lower Harz which descends gently eastwards. The High Harz (Hochharz) refers to the only sparsely populated region around the Brocken (1,141 m), Bruchberg, Wurmberg, Torfhaus and Acker, which lie above 800 m. The High Harz therefore includes most of the Harz National Park.

Upper Harz dialect

One feature of the Upper Harz is, or was, the Upper Harz dialect (Oberharzer Mundart). Unlike the Lower Saxon, Eastphalian and Thuringian dialects of its surround area, this is an Erzgebirgisch dialect that goes back to the settlement in the area of mining folk from the Ore Mountains of Saxony in the 16th century.

The Upper Harz dialect is restricted to only a few places and so forms something of a language island in the Harz. The best known are Altenau, Sankt Andreasberg, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Lautenthal and Hahnenklee. Today the dialect is rarely heard in everyday life in the Upper Harz. It is mainly members of the older generations that still speak it; as a result it is maintained in the newspapers. For example, there are occasionally articles published in the Upper Harz dialect in the local section of the Goslarsche Zeitung.

To illustrate the dialect here is the refrain of a Sankt Andreasberg folk song:

Eb de Sunne scheint, ebs stewert, schtarmt, ebs schneit,
bei Tag un Nacht ohmds oder frieh
wie hämisch klingst de doch
du ewerharzer Sproch
O Annerschbarrich wie bist de schien.

Customs and tradition

Upper Harz conflict

The town of Elbingerode and the municipalities of Brocken-Hochharz in the district of Harz decided to merge on 1 January 2010, as part of regional reforms in Saxony-Anhalt, into a new town with the name 'Oberharz am Brocken'. There were major protests against this name in the borough of Oberharz in Lower Saxony. The reasons were that, on the one hand, there was a significant risk of confusion by having two similar names, and on the other hand that the new region had never belonged to the Upper Harz, but was part of the Lower Harz. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Harz Low mountain range in northern Germany

The Harz is a highland area in northern Germany. It has the highest elevations for that region, and its rugged terrain extends across parts of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. The name Harz derives from the Middle High German word Hardt or Hart, Latinized as Hercynia. The Brocken is the highest summit in the Harz with an elevation of 1,141.1 metres (3,744 ft) above sea level. The Wurmberg is the highest peak located entirely within the state of Lower Saxony.

Goslar (district) District in Lower Saxony, Germany

Goslar is a district in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is bounded by the districts of Göttingen, Northeim, Hildesheim and Wolfenbüttel, the city of Salzgitter, and by the states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (Nordhausen).

Clausthal-Zellerfeld Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Clausthal-Zellerfeld is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located in the southwestern part of the Harz mountains. Its population is approximately 15,000. The City is the location of the Clausthal University of Technology. The health resort is located in the Upper Harz at an altitude between 390 and 821 m above sea level.

Braunlage Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Braunlage is a town and health resort in the Goslar district in Lower Saxony in Germany. Situated within the Harz mountain range, south of the Brocken massif, Braunlage's main business is tourism, particularly skiing. Nearby ski resorts include the Sonnenberg and the slopes on the Wurmberg.

Sankt Andreasberg Stadtteil of Braunlage in Lower Saxony, Germany

Sankt Andreasberg is a former town in the district of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany. Since 1 November 2011, it is part of the town Braunlage. It is situated in the Harz, approximately 7 km west of Braunlage proper, and 20 km east of Osterode am Harz.

Oberharz (Samtgemeinde) Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Oberharz is a former Samtgemeinde in the district of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It was situated in the western part of the Harz, approx. 15 km southwest of Goslar. Its seat was in the town Clausthal-Zellerfeld. It was disbanded in January 2015, when its member municipalities merged into the town Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Wildemann Stadtteil of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Lower Saxony, Germany

Wildemann is a town and a former municipality in the district of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It has been part of the town Clausthal-Zellerfeld since January 1 2015. It is situated in the west of the Harz, northwest of Clausthal-Zellerfeld. It was part of the former Samtgemeinde Oberharz.

Altenau, Lower Saxony Stadtteil of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Lower Saxony, Germany

Altenau is a town and a former municipality in the district of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany. Since 1 January 2015 it is part of the town Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Innerste River in Germany

The Innerste is a river in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is a right tributary of the Leine river and 101 km (63 mi) in length.

Mining community

A mining community, also known as a mining town or a mining camp, is a community that houses miners. Mining communities are usually created around a mine or a quarry.


At 927 m above sea level (NN), the Bruchberg in the Upper Harz is the second highest mountain in Lower Saxony and the third highest in the Harz mountains in North Germany. It lies between Altenau and Torfhaus in the middle of the Harz National Park. The Bruchberg is more like a plateau and has no real summit. This plateau is partly covered with trees, but on the sunny southern slopes the trees have largely died as a result of bark beetle infestation. Following this insect destruction, a new natural forest, rich in its variety of species, is now growing in the heart of the Harz National Park.

The Langelsheim–Altenau (Oberharz) railway was a railway line, that ran through the Upper Harz in Central Germany. It was also called the Upper Harz Railway or Harz Railway. It was built in order to enable the Magdeburg-Halberstadt Railway Company to access the mines in the Harz mountains.

Dennert Fir Tree

The Dennert Fir Tree is a signboard that is used throughout the Harz mountains in Germany to provide information about mining and other points of interest in the area. The signboards mark locations, traces and monuments to mining, to the Upper Harz Water Regale, a medieval water management system, or even personalities in mining history in the Upper Harz mining area. They have since become used to document other notable sites within the Harz.

Lautenthal Formerly free mining town in Langelsheim, Germany

The formerly free mining town (Bergstadt) of Lautenthal in Germany is a state-recognised, climatic spa with around 1,570 inhabitants and has been part of the borough of Langelsheim since 1972.

Harzer Hexenstieg

The Harz Witches' Trail is a footpath, just under 100 km long, in Germany that runs from Osterode through the Harz mountains and over its highest peak, the Brocken, to Thale. It is a project by the Harz Transport Association and Harz Club and is part of the system of trails known as the Harzer Wandernadel.

Oberharz am Brocken Place in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Oberharz am Brocken is a town in the Harz District, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was formed on 1 January 2010 by the merger of the town of Elbingerode with the municipalities of the former Verwaltungsgemeinschaft Brocken-Hochharz.

Upper Harz Water Regale

The Upper Harz Water Regale is a system of dams, reservoirs, ditches and other structures, much of which was built from the 16th to 19th centuries to divert and store the water that drove the water wheels of the mines in the Upper Harz region of Germany. The term regale, here, refers to the granting of royal privileges or rights in this case to permit the use of water for mining operations in the Harz mountains of Germany.

Mining in the Upper Harz

Mining in the Upper Harz region of central Germany was a major industry for several centuries, especially for the production of silver, lead, copper, and, latterly, zinc as well. Great wealth was accumulated from the mining of silver from the 16th to the 19th centuries, as well as from important technical inventions. The centre of the mining industry was the group of seven Upper Harz mining towns of Clausthal, Zellerfeld, Sankt Andreasberg, Wildemann, Grund, Lautenthal und Altenau.

Harz granite

Harz granite is found in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. It may be divided into five types, all of which were widely used as natural stone: Knaupsholz granite, Birkenkopf granite, Wurmberg granite, Königskopf granite and Ilsestein granite. The first three granites were widely used in North Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and, later, also in East Germany. Knaupsholz granite was "for a long time one of the most important types of cut stone in the former GDR".

Harz (Landkreis Goslar) Uninhabited place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Harz is an unincorporated area in the German district of Goslar.


  1. Gustav Freitag; Julian Schmidt, eds. (1851), "10. Jahrgang, I. Semester, II Band", Die Grenzboten – Zeitschrift für Politik und Literatur (in German), Leipzig: Verlag Friedrich Ludwig Herbig
  2. Max Biffart (1860), Deutschland: Sein Volk und seine Sitten, in geographisch-ethnographischen Charakterbilder (in German), Stuttgart: Verlag Wilhelm Nitzschke
  3. John Percy (1863), F. Knapp (ed.), Die Metallurgie (in German), 1, Braunschweig: Verlag Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn
  4. Johann Samuel Ersch; Johann Gottfried Gruber, eds. (1826), "Section 2, Theil 3", Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (in German), Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus
  5. Heinrich Heine; Christian Liedkte (2008), Die Harzreise (in German) (1. ed.), Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, ISBN   978-3-455-40111-0
  6. Johann Geord Kohl (1866), Deutsche Volksbilder und Naturansichten aus dem Harze (in German), Hannover: Verlag Carl Rümpler
  7. Stellungnahme der Samtgemeinde Oberharz