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Physical geography of the Altmark and neighboring regions
Location of Altmarkkreis Salzwedel (left) and the district of Stendal (right) in the north of Saxony-Anhalt (here as federal constituency 67 of the 2009 federal election)
Roland in Stendal

The Altmark is a region in the north of Saxony-Anhalt . The historic cultural landscape stretches from Drawehn in the west to the Elbe in the east, borders on the Magdeburg Börde in the south and on the Wendland in the north . The name Altmark first appeared in 1304 - Antiqua Marchia (Alte Mark) - and refers to its importance as the West Elbe starting point for the establishment of the Mark Brandenburg . Flowery characterizations such as “cradle of Brandenburg” or even “cradle of Prussia ” refer to this . As a whole, it has belonged to this margraviate and the Prussian state that emerged from it since the founding of the Mark Brandenburg. Today the Altmark is subdivided into the Altmarkkreis Salzwedel and the Landkreis Stendal . Only since the district of Stendal also included areas east of the Elbe, historically belonging to Jerichow and Prignitz , are occasionally included in the Altmark.

Natural structure

The sheaf in the northern Altmark
Hellberge near Klötze


The Altmark comprises the north of Saxony-Anhalt as part of the north German lowlands . Important bodies of water are the Jeetze and Milde-Biese-Aland rivers and the Arendsee . In the southeast the Altmark has a share in the Colbitz-Letzlinger Heide . The Altmark, as one of the oldest cultural landscapes in Germany, consists of agricultural , but also near-natural lowlands with forests and heather such as the Colbitz-Letzlinger Heide. In terms of natural space , it is bounded in the east and northeast by the Elbe valley lowlands and the Wische . In the south-west there is a very distinctive demarcation with the Drömling and the Ohriederung , while the transition in the west and north-west to the foreland of the Lüneburg Heath is hardly noticeable. The highest peaks are the Hellberge at almost 160 meters .

The ground cover is characterized by a strong interlocking of arable land and forests, with arable land predominating in most parts, but the forest between Arendsee and Osterburg . In the Colbitz-Letzlinger Heide, largely depopulated for military use, there are large contiguous forest areas.


The landscape was mainly formed in the penultimate ice age, the Saale Ice Age, and thus belongs to the old moraine region . Only small areas east of the Elbe were reached and shaped by the Weichselian inland ice . There are young, Vistula period terminal moraines (Kamern mountains). Large parts of the main area west of the Elbe, on the other hand, are occupied by flat to shallow undulating ground moraine areas . Large parts of the deep-lying ground moraines were buried by glacial valleys and form almost table-level areas, which today are mostly not very thick . Today's rather small rivers only imperfectly fill the extensive lowlands. Higher areas of the old ground moraines protrude as island-shaped plates from the lowlands (e.g. the Kalbe Werder). Starting from the Colbitz-Letzlinger Heide, a terminal moraine from the Saale period continues in a north-northwest direction. This is where the highest elevations of the Altmark are located. The Hellberge near Zichtau rise over 160 meters above sea level, the "Pistolsche Berg" near Bonese 121  m above sea level. NN . The Elbe lowlands are particularly deep in the east and northeast of the Altmark and the Jeetz lowlands north of Salzwedel . There the level of the earth's surface is below 20 meters above sea level. The Altmark was overprinted periglacial and warm-time in the outgoing Saale glacial, in the Eem warm period and in the Vistula ice age. In the post-glacial period there was extensive, but mostly thin, bog in the extensive lowlands.


Near-natural section of the Aland near Wanzer

Until the expansion of the Altmark to the east, the Elbe and Havel only touched the Altmark marginally, but now flow through the eastern Altmark. There are also many smaller rivers. The rivers and brooks of the Jeetze- Purnitz system in the west, the Milde-Biese-Aland system in the middle and the Uchte -Aland system in the east follow the general slope to the north and come from the first two peripheral areas of the Altmark southern ridge.

A special feature is the Arendsee in the north of the Altmark, which otherwise has only a few natural lakes. This was not formed by the Ice Age, but arose after the solution ( subrosion ) and the subsequent collapse of a salt dome in the underground. Smaller natural lakes like the Kamernsche See are mainly found along the Elbe and are mostly old courses of the river.

Soils and vegetation

Characteristic of the soils of the Altmark is a small-scale alternation of sandy and loamy soil-forming substrate types. So the productivity of the soil fluctuates between very fertile and extremely sterile. On the sand and inland dune areas there are mostly associations of Regosol and Podsol . Brown soils and Lessivés are predominantly found on the terminal moraine and ground moraine plates . In the lowlands, especially in the northeast of the Altmark, the Wipe be found congestion and ground moisture-influenced soils as Gleye but also small mighty Moore . The most fertile soils of the Altmark formed around blocks within a limited sand loess area .

On the moderately humid moraine plates, the dominant potentially natural vegetation is the oak and beech forest, while the pine grows on sandy locations . The current land use is varied and consists of around one third each of forests, meadows and arable land.


Evidence that there were early Neanderthals in the Altmark area is provided by Gerwisch's hand ax , which was discovered in 1957 near Gerwisch in the Jerichower Land district .

Early history to the late Middle Ages

Mark Brandenburg under the Ascanians (1320) with the Altmark west of the Mittelmark and the Neumark and southwest of the Uckermark
Longobard workshop in Zethlingen
Gardelegen Town Hall
Half-timbered houses in Salzwedel
Brick Gothic in Tangermünde

Significant traces of settlement can be found later than in the loess areas adjacent to the south, not until the Copper Age . The finds, including numerous large stone graves , are attributed to the funnel beaker culture, the regional variant of which is characterized by deep engraving ceramics .

The area belonged to the Jastorf culture during the pre-Roman Iron Age . At the end of the 2nd century AD, larger cemeteries were built in the Altmark, which may indicate a greater immigration of groups. In any case, the region seems to have been continuously populated by Elbe Germanic groups, among which the Lombards emerge. There are several references to this in local sources. From about 600 onwards, there was immigration from Saxony in the northwest and from Slavs in the east along the Jeetzel . The area was conquered by Charlemagne when the Saxons were subjugated and since then has been part of the Frankish , then the East Frankish Empire. Ecclesiastically it was under the dioceses of Verden and Halberstadt .

After the great Slav uprising of 983, the Saxons only controlled the western part of the Nordmark, which later became the Altmark. In 1056 this remnant of the Nordmark was transferred to the Count of Stade Udo I, whose descendants then called themselves Udonen . After their extinction, Emperor Lothar III enfeoffed. 1134 the Ascanian Albrecht I with the area that was now the starting point for the conquest of East Elbe areas. After Brandenburg was finally taken in 1157, the Nordmark became part of the Mark Brandenburg with Albrecht I as margrave. After the Ascanian line of Brandenburg died out, the Mark Brandenburg and thus the Altmark came under the rule of the Wittelsbachers and Luxembourgers from 1324, who were allowed to call themselves electors from 1356 and, with Emperor Charles IV, built Tangermünde into a secondary residence of Prague. 1415 began with Elector Friedrich I , after almost a century of unrest and turmoil in the Mark, the rule of the Hohenzollern over the Electorate of Brandenburg and the Altmark.

Modern times

The Altmark belonged to the Kurmark, which made up the largest part of the Mark Brandenburg. The Mark Brandenburg developed into the core province of the Prussian state that emerged in the 18th century . The Altmark was one of the four "provinces" of the Kurmark and was subdivided into six districts led by district administrators: the Stendal district , the Tangermünd district , the Arneburg district , the Seehausen district , the Arendsee district and the Salzwedel district . After the defeat of Prussia in the Napoleonic Wars in 1806, the Altmark became part of the Kingdom of Westphalia . After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, it was added to the Prussian province of Saxony and subdivided into the districts of Salzwedel , Gardelegen , Osterburg and Stendal .

In the spring of 1945 the Altmark became the end point of several evacuation transports and death marches from National Socialist concentration camps in northern and central Germany. Today the internationally recognized memorial Feldscheune Isenschnibbe Gardelegen in Gardelegen commemorates them .

After Prussia was dissolved in 1947, the Altmark belonged to the state of Saxony-Anhalt, with the administrative reorganization in the GDR from 1952 to 1990 to the district of Magdeburg , and since then back to Saxony-Anhalt.

The district reform in Saxony-Anhalt in 1994 led to major changes in the demarcation of boundaries and to a change in the definition of the region. The former town of Oebisfelde and the patch of Calvörde decided to join the Ohrekreis . Since then, they have been oriented towards the Magdeburg region ( Elbe-Börde-Heide ). Historically, neither of these places belong to the Altmark. Until 1807, Oebisfelde was in the 3rd district of the Holzkreis of the Duchy of Magdeburg and was only incorporated into it with the formation of the Gardelegen district in 1815. Calvörde belonged to the Duchy / Land of Braunschweig until 1942 and was only then incorporated into the Province of Saxony, which later became the State of Saxony-Anhalt. In contrast, the East Elbe district of Havelberg - formed in 1952 from parts of the former Prussian district Jerichow II and the city of Havelberg from the former Prussian district Westprignitz - was assigned to the new greater Stendal district.

From 2002 to 2007 the Altmark was one of 18 regions of the federal model and demonstration project " Regions Active - Land Shapes Future ".

Historical research

Since 1838, since 1990 back into dedicated Salzwedel located Altmärkische association for patriotic history of the study of prehistory and history of the Altmark. Important local researchers in the 19th century were the high school professor Johann Friedrich Danneil (1783–1868) and the pharmacist Theodor Zechlin (1818–1895). In 1972 the teacher Hartmut Bock from Jübar founded the working group “Young Archaeologists of the Altmark e. V. ”, which has since followed the old models.

Cities and important places in the Altmark

Hanseatic cities

Coat of arms of the Hanseatic cities in the Altmark at the town hall of Gardelegen

The three largest and most important cities in the Altmark are Stendal , Gardelegen and Salzwedel . They belonged to four other cities in the Altmark ( Tangermünde , Osterburg , Seehausen and Werben ) of the Hanseatic League . The seven Altmark cities were rich, well-fortified trading cities between the 13th and 15th centuries and together they formed the Altmark City Association, with which they demonstrated unity at the Hanseatic Days. The end of the Hanseatic rulership in Altmark began after the bloody suppression of uprisings against the Bierziese introduced by the Elector in the spring of 1488. As a result of this defeat, the Altmark towns had to withdraw from all alliances, including the Hanseatic League, and lost numerous rights such as the right to mint coins . Only Stendal and Salzwedel remained members of the Hanseatic League until their expulsion in 1518. Since the 16th century, the seven Hanseatic cities developed very differently. Today they are all members of the Hanseatic League of Modern Times .

Rural and small towns

New castle in the Tangerhütte city park

In addition to the Hanseatic cities, there are six other cities in today's Altmark ( Arendsee , Arneburg , Bismark , Kalbe (Milde) , Klötze and Tangerhütte ), which, unlike the cities of the Altmark City Association, were not well-fortified and important trading cities in the late Middle Ages . They emerged from settlements or spots near castles that were built by the respective sovereigns to protect the borders. Arneburg is considered the oldest town in the Altmark. On the other hand, Klötze, an office of the Duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg until 1815, only received town charter in the 19th century, and Tangerhütte emerged from a village in the course of industrialization . The former town of Oebisfelde ( Börde district ) was historically part of the Altmark, but is now assigned to the Elbe-Börde-Heide region .

East Elbe cities

The Hanseatic city of Havelberg , historically a part of the Prignitz , located in the former Westprignitz district , has only been oriented towards Altmark since the Magdeburg district was founded in 1952. The few kilometers south of Havelberg lying town Sandau belonged to the founding of the circle Havelberg contrast to the district Jerichow II .

Spots and larger towns

Apenburg castle complex

Particularly in the western Altmark, where far fewer settlements received town charter than on the eastern border along the Elbe, some villages developed into larger localities of regional importance ( Beetzendorf and Mieste ) or spots ( Apenburg and Diesdorf ). Mostly they were the ancestral seat of a noble family with a castle complex or arose as a settlement around a monastery . The most important place in the east of the region without city rights is Schönhausen .


Typical Altmark village view in Schernikau

There are both street villages and clustered villages in the Altmark with multi-sided courtyards , the residential building with the eaves facing the street. Many villages have Romanesque village churches with carefully executed brick or field stone masonry. In some of these churches the tower is Romanesque and the nave is from a later period. The Romanesque churches are usually not vaulted, only in the tower are barrel vaulted rooms.

There are also settlements in the Elbe lowlands in which the farms are spaced along a country road.

Economy and tourism

The Altmark is mainly characterized by agriculture . Due to the high proportion of grassland , cattle breeding plays a particularly important role. The use and refinement of biomass, for example into biogas , is becoming increasingly important ; numerous biogas plants have been built in the region in recent years. Since 2009 the Altmark has been one of 25 bioenergy regions nationwide . The Altmark is an important location for the wood processing industry. For example, on the site of the Stendal nuclear power plant planned in GDR times near Arneburg , today's Altmark industrial and commercial park , a paper factory and one of the most modern pulp mills in Europe as well as a plant for the production of chipboard in Nettgau .

Another important branch of the economy is the food industry . Vehicle construction is also developing positively in the field of suppliers for the automotive industry .

Natural gas has been produced in Altmark since 1969 . This is located in several deposits that extend over an area of ​​about 2000 square kilometers and are about 3500 meters below the surface of the earth. The Altmark natural gas deposit was the second largest in Western and Central Europe, but is almost exhausted. In 1983, the maximum delivery volume was reached with 12.5 billion cubic meters. The largest deposit was near Peckensen . By 2010, 209 billion cubic meters of natural gas had been extracted. Of the 450 wells that were formerly wells, around 130 were still in operation in 2010. In 1998 the dismantling of the facilities began. In particular, large amounts of toxic drilling mud must be disposed of. A compression plant for storing CO 2 in exhausted natural gas fields was built near Maxdorf , but its operation was discontinued in 2012. There is resistance to CO 2 storage in the population .

The Altmark has established itself as a destination for tourists. The area around the Arendsee is a traditional region for tourism . Riding and cycling tourism ( Elbe cycle path , Altmark circuit ), for which the flat region of the Altmark is predestined, is becoming increasingly important. Numerous supraregional routes such as the Romanesque Road , the German Half-timbered Road , the Jakobsweg or the Green Belt lead through the region.



East Low German , a branch of the Low German language , is occasionally spoken in the villages of the Altmark . Johann Friedrich Danneil described the peculiarities of this dialect variant in his work Dictionary of Altmark-Low German Dialect , published in 1859 .


Döbbelin Castle with gate entrance
Hämerten village church
Nikolaikirche in Osterburg

Many of the large churches in the cities of the Altmark are attributed to the brick Gothic. There are almost 400 stone churches in the villages, usually from the 12th and 13th centuries. Century; There are numerous half-timbered churches on the eastern edge of the Drömling . The number of listed secular buildings is also high. In Tangermünde you can find entire streets of houses that were built immediately after the fire in 1617. The village church of Osterwohle is a prime example of Mannerism . Langenapel was expanded into a "socialist model village" in the course of collectivization after 1952. In a number of villages, manor houses and, in some cases, castle buildings have been preserved.

to eat and drink

The Altmark cuisine is mainly characterized by hearty, down-to-earth dishes, but with the Salzwedeler Baumkuchen it also has an exclusive specialty with a national appeal.


  • Garley was the oldest active beer brand in the world until it closed in 2012 . The beer was brewed in Gardelegen from 1314.
  • The "Tangermünder Kuhschwanzbier" is a Tangermünde specialty, but is now brewed in Neuendorf in the western Altmark.

Pastries and confectionery

  • The Salzwedeler Baumkuchen is a tubular cake that is baked in layers on a roller rotating in front of an open fire and then covered with a sugar or chocolate coating.
  • The Tangermünder food bar is a confectionery well known in the region.
Tangermünde feeding rod

More dishes



Transport links

Trunk roads

To this day (2015) there is no federal motorway running through the Altmark . However, the northern extension of the A 14 from Magdeburg via Stendal and Wittenberge towards Schwerin is in the planning process . There is a controversial debate about the new building.

Several federal highways lead through the Altmark.

Railway lines

Railway network in the Altmark. Most of the routes have now been closed.

Several railway lines run through the Altmark. The first three routes listed are of supraregional importance and are operated in passenger and freight traffic, the fourth in passenger traffic, the fifth only in freight traffic (as of 2010).

In the past, the Altmark was served by a dense network of small and branch lines, which were mainly used to transport agricultural products. These included the networks of the Altmärkische Kleinbahn , the Salzwedeler Kleinbahnen and the Stendaler Kleinbahn , but also the Oebisfelde – Salzwedel line , on which trains ran until 2002, and the Salzwedel – Geestgottberg line , which was operated until 2004.


Shipping takes place on the Elbe and in the southwest of the Altmark on the Mittelland Canal .

Military facilities

The Bundeswehr maintains the Altmark military training area in the Altmark , including the "training town" Schnöggersburg . Garrison town is Gardelegen .


"From this flat country here,
from the Altmark homeland,
which is also mine,
the strength and the impetus for the formation of
the Brandenburg state
and Prussia and finally
for the rebirth of the German Empire emanated."

- Otto von Bismarck : Stendal, July 12, 1894

See also

Portal: Altmark  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Altmark


  • Peter P. Rohrlach: Historical local dictionary for the Altmark . 1st edition. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2018, ISBN 978-3-8305-2235-5 .
  • Thomas Hartwig: All Altmarkkirchen from A to Z. Elbe-Havel-Verlag, Havelberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-9814039-5-4 .
  • Bernd Siegmund, Thomas Grundner: The Altmark. Hinstorff, Rostock 2010, ISBN 978-3-356-01074-9 .
  • Lieselott Enders : The Altmark. History of a Kurmark landscape in the early modern period (late 15th to early 19th century) . Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-8305-1504-3 .
  • Donald Lyko, Frank Mühlenberg: towers, gates, proud citizens. The Altmark Hanseatic League. Stendal, Salzwedel, Gardelegen, Tangermünde, Havelberg, Seehausen, Osterburg, Werben. AWA, Stendal 2008, ISBN 978-3-00-024392-9 .
  • Lutz Partenheimer : The emergence of the Mark Brandenburg. With a Latin-German source attachment . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-17106-3 .
  • Hartmut Bock , Barbara Fritsch, Lothar Mittag, Johannes Müller, Harald Meller, Juraj Lipták: Large stone graves in the Altmark. Theiss, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-8062-2091-9 .
  • Fritz Täger: The Altmark. Sachsenverlag, Dresden 1960, without ISBN.
  • Wilhelm Zahn : Local history of the Altmark . Edited by Martin Ehlies based on the bequests of the author. 2nd Edition. Verlag Salzwedeler Wochenblatt, Graphische Anstalt, GmbH, Salzwedel 1928.
  • Anton Friedrich Büsching : New description of the earth. Volume 9, Schaffhausen 1771, pp. 1874-1886.

Web links

Commons : Altmark  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: The folk tales of the Altmark  - sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Altmark  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikivoyage: Altmark  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  2. Handbook of Historic Places in Germany. Province of Saxony, 2nd edition Stuttgart 1987, p. 68 (Calvörde) and p. 352 (Oebisfelde)
  4. a b c Altmark-Gas: The long cleaning up. Altmark Zeitung March 31, 2010, accessed September 6, 2015
  5. Out for the planned CO 2 injection near Maxdorf. Volksstimme of November 21, 2012, accessed on September 6, 2015
  6. Fracking and CO 2 injection: BI remains vigilant. Altmark Zeitung November 24, 2012, accessed September 6, 2015
  7. Digitized version , accessed on June 1, 2016