The Hambacher Fest was a German national democratic festival -- disguised as a non-political county fair -- that was celebrated from 27 May to 30 May 1832 at Hambach Castle near Neustadt an der Weinstraße (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany).
About 20-30,000 people from all ranks of society—workmen, students and members of parliament, as well as from different nations such as France and Russian Poland—paticipated. Amongst the Polish there were many who fled after the November Uprising (1830–1831) from Poland to Germany and further on to France.
The Palatinate on the west bank of the Rhine was at that time under the control of Bavaria, and the local population suffered from high taxes and censorship. The main demands of the meeting were liberty, civil rights and national unity. No consensus was reached in regard to actions, and a few uncoordinated violent acts were carried out by students later. Of the four main organizers of the meeting three (Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer and the attorneys Schüler and Geib) fled the country, a fourth (Johann G. A. Wirth) chose to stay and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The gathering had no immediate results, but is considered a milestone in German history because it was the first time that a republican movement had made its mark in the country. It was criticized as a missed opportunity, including by the poet Heinrich Heine. It also confirmed the establishment of the combination of black, red and gold as a symbol of a democratic movement for a united Germany. These colours, which were later used by democratic revolutionaries in the revolutions of 1848 in the German states, were adopted after 1918 by the Weimar Republic as the national colours of Germany, and are the colors of the modern flag of Germany.
The Hambach events prompted the legalist German national convention to issue its order of 28 June 1832 which completely suppressed freedom of speech. On the anniversary date in 1833, Bavarian military controlled the area and dispersed all attempts to hold another gathering.
- See Heine, Ludwig Börne: A Memorial, trans. J.L. Sammons (Camden House, 2006), pp. 69–72.
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