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Lauenburg/Elbe (About this sound listen ) is a town in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is situated at the northern bank of the river Elbe, east of Hamburg. It is the southernmost town of Schleswig-Holstein. Lauenburg belongs to the Kreis (district) of Herzogtum Lauenburg and had a population of 11,900 as of 2002. The town is also known in German as Lauenburg an der Elbe.



The town was founded in 1182 by Bernard of Ascania, the ancestor of the Dukes of Lauenburg. Between 1181 and 1182 he erected the Lowenborch, named after the Polabian name of Lave for the river Elbe (compare modern Czech Labe). Lowenborch became eponymous for the place.

Saxe-Lauenburg was a duchy until 1 July 1876, when it was incorporated into the Royal Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein. Lauenburg served as the ducal capital until 1616, when the castle burnt down. In 1619 the capital moved to Ratzeburg. The area of the duchy was roughly identical with that of today's district. In medieval times Lauenburg was a waypoint on the Old Salt Route, while today it is the southern terminus of the Elbe-Lübeck Canal.

Between 1945 and 1982 Lauenburg served as West German inner German border crossing for cars travelling along Bundesstraße 5 between the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany (till 1949, thereafter the East German Democratic Republic, or West Berlin and the British zone of occupation (till 1949) and thereafter the West German Federal Republic of Germany. The traffic was subject to the Interzonal traffic regulations, that between West Germany and West Berlin followed the special regulations of the Transit Agreement (1972).

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