The Brocken: Wikis


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The Brocken

The summit of the Brocken, showing the transmitters
Elevation 1,141 m (3,743 ft)
Prominence 856 m (2,808 ft)
Pronunciation [German: [ˈbʁɔkən]]
Map showing Location within Germany
The Brocken
Location within Germany
Location Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Range Harz
Coordinates 51°48′02″N 10°37′02″E / 51.80056°N 10.61722°E / 51.80056; 10.61722Coordinates: 51°48′02″N 10°37′02″E / 51.80056°N 10.61722°E / 51.80056; 10.61722

The Brocken, or Blocksberg, is the highest peak of the Harz mountain range and also the highest peak of Northern Germany; it is located near Schierke in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt between the rivers Weser and Elbe. Although its altitude of 1,141 meters (3,743 ft) is below alpine dimensions, its microclimate resembles that of mountains of about 2,000 m (6,562 ft). The peak above the tree line tends to have a snow cover from September to May, and mists and fogs shroud it up to 300 days of the year. The mean annual temperature is only 2.9 °C (37.2 °F). It is the easternmost mountain in Northern Germany; travelling East in a straight line, the next prominent elevation would be within the Ural Mountains.

The Brocken has always played a role in legends and has been connected with witches and devils; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took up the legends in his play Faust. The Brocken spectre is a common phenomenon on this misty mountain, where a climber's shadow cast upon fog creates eerie optical effects.

Today the Brocken is part of the Harz National Park and hosts a historic botanical garden of about 1,600 alpine mountain plants. A narrow gauge steam railway, the Brockenbahn (part of the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen), takes visitors from Wernigerode in the north and Nordhausen in the south via Schierke to the railway station at the top on 1,125 m (3,691 ft). Furthermore the mountain can be reached by numerous hiking trails.

FM-radio and television broadcasting make major use of the Brocken. The old TV tower, the Sender Brocken, is now used as hotel and restaurant. It also has an observation deck, open to all tourists.



The first denotion of a broke mountain is documented in a Saxon chronicle of the 13th century. A Brackenberg was mentioned by Count Henry the Younger of Stolberg in 1490. In a 1495 deed issued by the town of Osterwieck the Brocken is called by its Latin name mons ruptus meaning "broken mountain", which may refer to the process of erosion and the numerous rock formations. German: Brocken like Block literally means "large piece" probably relating to the prominent size of the mountain, while the name Blocksberg generally denoted a conventicle of witches.


Map of the Brocken, L.S. Bestehorn, 1732
(note the witches)
Brockenbahn steam engine at the summit

The first ascent of the Brocken is documented in 1572 by the physician and botanist Johannes Thal from Stolberg who in his book Sylva Hercynia described the flora of the mountain area. In 1736 Count Christian Ernst of Stolberg-Wernigerode had the Wolkenhäuschen ("Clouds Cabin") erected at the summit, a small refuge that is still preserved. He also had a mountain lodge built at the southern slope, named Heinrichshöhe after his son Heinrich Ernst, followed by a first inn at the Brocken peak in 1800.

Between 1821 and 1825 Carl Friedrich Gauss used the line-of-sight to the Inselsberg within the Thuringian Forest and the Hoher Hagen mountain near Göttingen for triangulation in the course of the geodesic survey of the Kingdom of Hanover. A measurement carried out by the military staff of Prussia in 1850 revealed the Brocken's current height of 1141.1 metres. After the first Brocken lodge had been destroyed by a fire, a new hotel opened in 1862. The Brockengarten botanical garden was laid out in 1890 in collaboration with the Göttingen University on an area of 8,600 m2 (92,569.6 sq ft) granted by Count Otto of Stolberg-Wernigerode. A first weather station was established in 1895 and 1899 saw the opening of the Brockenbahn.

20th century

In 1935 the Deutsche Reichspost started a mobile television broadcasting at the Brocken summit and one year later the world's first TV tower was built; carrying the first live television broadcast of the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The tower continued functioning until September 1939, when the authorities suspended broadcasting on the outbreak of World War II.

Allied forces bombed the Brocken on 17 April 1945, destroying the Brocken Hotel and the weather station, but not the television tower. American forces occupied the installation from 1945 to 1947, when they handed over the Brocken to the Soviet occupation zone. Before the Americans left the Brocken in 1947, they disabled the rebuilt weather station and the television tower.

Situated at the inner German border, the Brocken from 1957 constituted a security zone. After the construction of the Berlin Wall began on 13 August 1961, East German authorities designated it as a military high-grade security zone and turned it into a fortress. Due to its high altitude the station also served to spy on communication signals from the surrounding area. Border troops took up quarters at the Brocken railway station, and the Soviet Red Army used a large portion of territory. Between 1973 to 1976 a new modern television tower was built for the second channel of the GDR-TV. Today it is used by the public Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) TV network.

The Stasi (East German secret police) used the old tower until 1985, when they moved to a new building – now a museum. To seal the area, the entire Brocken plateau was then surrounded by a concrete wall, built from 2,318 sections, each one 2.4 tons in weight and 3.60 metres high. The whole area was not publicly accessible until December 3, 1989. The wall has since been dismantled, as have the Russian barracks and the domes of their listening posts. Today the old tower beside the lodge again is home to a weather station of the Deutscher Wetterdienst.

As a protected area since 1939 and due to the decades of restricted access the unique climate of the Brocken provided outstanding conditions. The massif is partly still covered with primary forest extremely rare in Germany. It provides perfect conditions for endangered and nearly extinct species like the Eurasian Lynx, Wildcats and Capercaillies. The Brocken was therefore declared part of a national park in 1990.

Literary mentions

Walpurgis' Night, engraving after an illustration by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, 1829
  • Goethe described the Brocken in his Faust, first published in 1808, as the center of revelry for witches on Walpurgisnacht (April 30; the eve of St Walpurga's Day).
Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.

Goethe may have gained inspiration from two rock formations on the mountain's summit, the Teufelskanzel (Devil's Pulpit) and the Hexenaltar (Witches' Altar).

  • Another famous visitor on the Brocken, author Heinrich Heine, wrote the book Harzreise ("A Harz Journey") published in 1826. He says:
The mountain somehow appears so Germanically stoical, so understanding, so tolerant, just because it affords a view so high and wide and clear. And should such mountain open its giant eyes, it may well see more than we, who like dwarfs just trample on it, staring from stupid eyes.

The summit register entry Many stones, tired bones, prospect: none, Heinrich Heine ("Viele Steine, müde Beine, Aussicht keine, Heinrich Heine") is a popular, though unsourced phrase related to the weary ascent and the mostly foggy conditions.

The Brocken in popular culture

  • The early occult rock band Coven (band)'s debut album's first track, entitled "Black Sabbath", starts with the line "They journeyed far to Brocken Mountain pinnacle"
  • The progressive metal band Fates Warning titled their debut album Night on Bröcken (note the "Heavy metal umlaut"). The title track reelects the Witches Sabbath on Walpurgis Night. The title of the band's second album -- The Spectre Within -- probably takes its inspiration from the Brocken Spectre, but the content does not allude to it directly.
  • There is a german Depressive Black Metal-band called Brocken Moon.
  • The song "Born in a Burial Gown" by Cradle of Filth (from the album Bitter Suites to Succubi) contains an allusion to the Brocken's history as a witches' gathering-place.
  • The band Black Sabbath wrote a song called "Walpurgis", which talked about witches gathering to perform paganistic rituals. Later, the lyrics were changed, and the title became "War Pigs". The lyrics talk about the generals of war, and their evils. An example of the original song can be found on the Ozzy Osbourne album The Ozzman Cometh.
  • The indie rock band Liars' album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned is a concept album loosely based on the tales of the gatherings of witches on The Brocken as well as witch trials.
  • The novel Cloud Castles by Michael Scott Rohan features the Brocken as the home and body of Chernobog
  • The Japanese manga and anime wrestling series Kinnikuman feature 2 German wrestlers with the name Brocken. The first one, Brockenman, is a brutal Nazi who dreams of world domination. His son, Brocken Jr., is also a Nazi but never portrays any Nazi beliefs and is considered a "good guy."
  • Japanese manga and anime Patlabor includes a combat suit named the Type-7 'Brocken', manufactured by the Shaft Corporation, ostensibly used by NATO.
  • In SNK's videogame World Heroes 2 there is also a German cyborg named Brocken. He might be based on Brocken and Brocken Jr. from Kinnikuman, above, and probably be a Nazi as well.[citation needed]
  • Japanese manga and anime fictional robot story Mazinger Z has a villain named Count Brocken He was a German (or as least German-theme) cyborg whose head was severed from his body during a car accident, and he carried it around with him.
  • Bibi Blocksberg, a German audio drama for children about a witch, refers to an alternate name for the Brocken (Blocksberg).

See also

External links

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