After the incorporation of several suburban villages in December 1993 and again in October 2003, Wittstock became the 6th largest town in Germany by area. However, the former independent districts Herzsprung and Königsberg, which were forced to be integrated in 2003, regained their independence in 2004, claiming that the compulsive integration was void because of a clerical error. Both districts were still under the overview of the department of Wittstock. Since 2005, Herzsprung and Königsberg are parts of the commune Heiligengrabe, so the size of the town decreased.
The current districts of Wittstock/Dosse:
Freyenstein with commune part Neu Cölln
Groß Haßlow with commune parts Klein Haßlow and Randow
Niemerlang with commune parts Tetschendorf and Ackerfelde
Development of Population since 1875 within the Current Boundaries (Blue Line: Population; Dotted Line: Comparison to Population Development of Brandenburg state; Grey Background: Time of Nazi rule; Red Background: Time of Communist rule)
Recent Population Development (Blue Line) and Forecasts
Population development within the current boundaries
Wittstock resulted from a Slavic settlement and was first mentioned in the deed of formation for the Bishopric of Havelberg in 946. The name is possibly derived from vysoka ("high-lying") in the language of the local Polabian tribes, it was later Germanized into Wiztok (1271), Witzstock (1284) and Witstock (1441), adapted folk-etymologically to Low Germanwitt ("white") and stock ("rootstock").
Obtaining the Stendal town charter on 13 September 1248 from the hands of the Havelberg Prince-bishop Henry I, it is one of the oldest towns of Brandenburg. In 1251, Wittstock received an imprint of the town seal, which was one of the oldest in Brandenburg, too. Wittstock Castle, which had been built from 1244 onwards onto a Slavic foundation, served as the residence of the Havelberg Prince-bishops from 1271; it is therefore also designated Old Bishop Castle (Alte Bischofsburg). The Havelberg eraa ended with the Protestant Reformation and the death of the last Catholic Prince-bishop Busso von Alvensleben at Wittstock Castle in 1548.
The town's main historic monument is the Brick Gothic St Mary's Church, dating back to c. 1240. Significantly enlarged as a hall church in the late 13th century and repleted with a carved altar by Claus Berg, it was used as a cathedral by the Havelberg bishops.
The Bishop's Castle was greatly restored in the 1990s and today houses a Thirty Years' War museum. Much of the elaborate late medieval defences still surround the old centre, including a 13th-century gate tower, the Daberburg bergfried north of the town, and a 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) long city wall. The wall's height, originally 11 metres (36 ft), today is about 4 to 7 metres.