Obernai is a town located in the historical region of ALSACE and it is the second most visited city of the region BAS-RHIN (Strasbourg being the most visited on). It is known for its characteristic half-timbered houses.
Obernai first appeared in written texts in 778 and at that time it depended on two abbeys: HOHENBOURG and NIEDERMUNSTER.
In the 11th century a castle was built there by the Honenstauffen.
In the 12th century the urban landscape was transformed:
The Romanesque church and the Rathsamhausen Court were build during its time of prosperity.
Obernai became an imperial city around 1280, the most privileged built a chapel whose bell tower served as a belfry. It was dedicated to the Virgin and was called the Kappeltum.
To keep up its prosperity and to resist the sieges of the Bishop’s armies , Obernai joined forces with the Decapolis in 1354 as the sixth imperial city belonging to the mutual aid pact of ten imperial cities. Four gates, a double moat and a powerful wall were built.
Obernai then depended directly on the emperor who promised to protect the city. Under the control of officials of the Empire, Obernai is directly in charge of with its own jurisdiction taxes and duties. In 1562, its apogee Ferdinand 1st visits Obernai in person.
The city became richer and richer, in particular due to the wealth tax, taxes on various sales such as salt, iron, toll wine, annual fairs,… Obernai absorbed the surrounding towns such as Urnheim, Finlay etc… Obernai also had its own hospital.
Despite its double enclosure containing 38 towers, 12 gates and an moat, Obernai could not resist the Mansfeld, Imperials and Swedes during the 30 Year’s War.
Obernai lost its political independence and became a French royal city as a result of the Treaty of Nijmegen. However, Obernai could regain prosperity during the 18th century.
Obernai has dark passages in its history: it was annexed by the Germans in 1871 and became French again in 1919, then was again occupied by the Germans during World War II.
In 1942, the Reich based an annex camp of the STRUTHOF as well as a school to form the female section of the SS (LA REICHSSCHULE) in Obernai. All this could only be accomplished through forced labour.