This article is about the North Rhine-Westphalia town. For other uses, see Kleve (disambiguation).
"Cleves" redirects here. For the duchy, see Duchy of Cleves. For Jülich-Cleves-Berg, see United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg.

Night view of Schwanenburg and Stiftkirche

Coat of arms

Coordinates: 51°47′15″N 6°8′7″E / 51.78750°N 6.13528°E / 51.78750; 6.13528Coordinates: 51°47′15″N 6°8′7″E / 51.78750°N 6.13528°E / 51.78750; 6.13528
Country Germany
State North Rhine-Westphalia
Admin. region Düsseldorf
District Kleve
  Mayor Sonja Northing (non-party)
  Total 97.79 km2 (37.76 sq mi)
Population (2015-12-31)[1]
  Total 49,729
  Density 510/km2 (1,300/sq mi)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes 47533
Dialling codes 0 28 21
Vehicle registration KLE
Website www.kleve.de

Cleves (German: Kleve; Dutch: Kleff, Kleef; French: Clèves; Latin: Clivia), is a town in the Lower Rhine region of northwestern Germany near the Dutch border and the River Rhine. From the 11th century onwards, Cleves was capital of a county and later a duchy. Today, Cleves is the capital of the district of Cleves in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The city is home to one of the campuses of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.

Division of the town

Cleves consists of 14 subdivisions:
Bimmen, Brienen, Donsbrüggen, Düffelward, Griethausen, Keeken, Kellen, Materborn, Reichswalde, Rindern, Salmorth, Schenkenschanz, Warbeyen and Wardhausen.


Mid 17th century Tiergarten Kleve (2006)
City and port of Kleve (c. 1895)

The native name Kleff probably derives from Middle Dutch clef, clif ‘cliff, bluff’, referring to the promontory on which the Schwanenburg castle was constructed. Since the city's coat of arms displays three clovers (German Klee, Low German Kliev), the city's name is sometimes linked by folk etymology to the clover, but the corresponding Dutch word is klever.[2] Notably, Kleve was spelled with a c throughout its history until spelling reforms introduced in the 1930s required that the name be spelled with a k. As of 2008, the CDU announced ambitions to return the name to its original spelling.

The Schwanenburg (English: Swan Castle), where the dukes of Cleves resided, was founded on a steep hill. It is located at the northern terminus of the Kermisdahl where it joins with the Spoykanal, which was previously an important transportation link to the Rhine. The old castle has a massive tower, the Schwanenturm 180 feet (55 m) high, that is associated in legend with the Knight of the Swan, immortalized in Richard Wagner's Lohengrin.

Medieval Kleve grew together from four parts the Castle Schwanenburg, the village below the castle, the first city of Kleve on the Heideberg Hill, and the Neustadt ("New City") from the 14th century. In 1242 Kleve received city rights. The Duchy of Cleves, which roughly covered today's districts of Kleve, Wesel and Duisburg, was united with the Duchy of Mark in 1368, was made a duchy itself in 1417, and then united with the neighboring duchies of Jülich and Berg in 1521, when John III, Duke of Cleves, married Mary, the heiress of Jülich-Berg-Ravenburg.

Kleve's most famous native is Anne of Cleves (1515–1557), daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and (briefly) wife of Henry VIII of England. Several local businesses are named after her, including the Anne von Kleve Galerie.

The local line became extinct in the male line in 1609, leading to a succession crisis in the duchies. After the Thirty Years' War, in 1648, the succession dispute was finally resolved with Cleves passing to the elector of Brandenburg, thus becoming an exclave of the territory of Prussia.

During the Thirty Years' War the city had been under the control of the Dutch Republic, which in 1647 had given Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen administrative control over the city. He approved a renovation of the Schwanenburg in the baroque style and commissioned the construction of extensive gardens that greatly influenced European landscape design of the 17th century. Significant amounts of his original plan for Kleve were put into effect and have been maintained to the present, a particularly well-loved example of which is the Forstgarten.

The mineral waters of Kleve and the wooded parkland surrounding it made it a fashionable spa in the 19th century. At this time, Kleve was named "Bad Cleve" (English "baths of cleves"). Kleve has long since lost its reputation as a fashionable getaway, though tourism remains a significant factor in the local economy.

During World War II Kleve was the site of one of the antennae stations that served the Knickebein radio targeting system. Luftwaffe bombers used signals from Kleve and from another station at Stolberg to determine the exact location and timing to drop their bomb loads on British targets.[3] The Knickebein system was eventually jammed by the British and was phased out and replaced by the higher frequency X-Gerat system using antennae located on the channel coast of France.

Kleve suffered heavy bombing during the Second World War, with over 90% of buildings in the city severely damaged, most the result of a 1945 raid requested by Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks during Operation Veritable. Horrocks later said that this (the decision to send in the bombers) had been "the most terrible decision I had ever taken in my life" and that he felt "physically sick" when he saw the bombers overhead. As a result, relatively little of the pre-1945 City remains, although many historic villas built by wealthy German vacationers from the Ruhrgebiet during the heyday of Bad Kleve still stand along the B9 near the Tiergarten. Many buildings were reconstructed, however, including most of the Schwanenburg and the Stiftskirche, the Catholic parish church. These landmarks, constructed on some of the highest land in the surrounding area, can be seen from many surrounding communities.

Since 1953 there has been a broadcasting facility for FM radio and television from regional broadcaster WDR near Kleve. It uses as aerial mast a 126.4 metre high guyed steel tube mast with a diameter of 1.6 metres, which is guyed 57 and 101.6 metres above ground. This mast replaced the old radio mast from the 1960s, which was used until 1993, additionally for transmissions in the medium wave range.

Important employers in the area associated with the Wirtschaftswunder after the war were the XOX Bisquitfabrik (XOX Cookie Factory) GmbH and the Van den Berg'schen Margerinewerke (Margarine Union), that manufactured cookies and margarine. Another important employer was the Elefanten-Kinderschuhfabrik (Elefant Children's Shoes Factory). All of these businesses have since closed. Retail has become an increasingly important industry, particularly after the institution of the euro. Local retailers are often visited by Dutch drawn by significantly lower prices. 1 out of every 2 euros spent in Kleve originate from The Netherlands. Many Dutch citizens also own homes in the area, attracted by significantly lower real estate prices. Sizeable Dutch communities exist in the area around Kranenburg to the west of Kleve. Most of them do not work in Germany, but commute from there to Nijmegen, situated directly across the border.


Historical population

Census data

According to the Statistical Yearbook of Cleves[4] as of 2013, 50,650 people resided in the city. The population density was 517.9 people per square kilometer. 86.7% of the residents had the German citizenship (including residents with dual citizenship) and 10.1% another EU citizenship (5.6% Dutch and 2.9% Polish).

In the city, in 2013, the population was distributed with 19.7% under the age of 21, 25.6% from 21 to 40, 29.7% from 41 to 60, 20.1% from 61 to 80, and 4.9% who were 81 years of age or older. For every 100 females, there were 96.7 males. For every 100 females age 21 and over, there were 93.9 males.

81.3 of the citizens lived in households without children under the age of 18, 9.2% with one child, 6.1% with two children, 1.7% with three children, and 0.1% with four children or more.


As the rest of the Lower Rhine region, Cleves is a predominantly Roman Catholic city.[5] The city is part of the Diocese of Münster. 61.1% of the residents are Roman Catholics, 14.4% Protestant, and 24.6 “Other”. The largest section of this group are residents without any religious affiliation, but there are also sizable Russian Orthodox and Muslim communities in Kleve.

The synagogue of Cleves was destroyed during Kristallnacht and is today commemorated on the Synagogenplatz (Synagogue square) on which the building´s outline can be seen. The fifty killed Jewish citizens of Cleves are remembered with signs that tell their names, and dates and places of death.[6]


City Council

Cleves' local politics were since the mid-19th century until 1933 dominated by the Catholic Centre Party. This situation continued with the Christian Democratic successor party CDU after World War II, in spite of resettled, mostly Protestant, displaced. Until 2004 the CDU controlled an absolute majority of the city council.

Today, Cleves is governed by a coalition of CDU and the Green Party. Since the last local elections on May, 25th 2014 the following parties are represented in Cleve´s city council. In addition to nationwide parties, Offene Klever (Open Cleves) has a number of seats.

Party % Seats
CDU (Christian Democrats) 39,52 17
SPD (Social Democrats) 28,96 13
Green Party 13,10 6
Open Cleves 11,00 5
FDP (Liberals) 7,42 3
Participation: 42,32 %

The next local elections are scheduled for 2020.


The mayor of Cleves is since September 2015 Sonja Northing (without party affiliation), who won the election with 64,5%. Her candidacy was supported by Social Democrats, Open Cleves and FDP. Northing´s opponents were Christian Democrat Udo Janßen (23,4 %) and the Green candidate Artur Leenders (12,1 %). The participation was 40,89 %. Northing is the first mayor of Cleves since World War II, who is not a CDU member.[7]

The next mayor elections are scheduled for 2020.

Language and dialect

The native language of Cleves and much of the Lower Rhine region is a Dutch dialect known as Cleverlander (Dutch: Kleverlands, German: Kleverländisch), most closely related to South Guelder, but the official language is German which is dominant among the younger generation. Because of its geographical location directly at the Dutch-German border, there is a strong overlap in culture and language. One example of this is Govert Flinck, who although born in Cleves, established himself as a Dutch artist.

Twin cities

Cleves is twinned with

Notable people


  1. "Amtliche Bevölkerungszahlen". Landesbetrieb Information und Technik NRW (in German). 18 July 2016.
  2. L. Grootaers & G.G. Kloeke, eds., Taalatlas van Noord- en Zuid-Nederland (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1939): .
  3. Most Secret War. R.v. jones
  4. "Statistisches Jahrbuch 2013" (PDF). Stadt Kleve. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  5. "Statistisches Jahrbuch 2013" (PDF). Stadt Kleve. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  6. "Sehenswürdigkeiten: Synagogenplatz". Stadt Kleve. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  7. Matthias Grass: Erdrutsch-Sieg für Sonja Northing, Rheinische Post Kleve, September, 14th 2015
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kleve.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kleve.
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