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Hettstedt is situated at an elevation of 200 m on the river Wipper at the northeastern edge of the Mansfeld basin, about 40 km northwest of Halle and about 50 km south of Saxony-Anhalt's capital, Magdeburg. The municipality has a population of about 15,400 (2006).
The earliest written mention of Heiczstete is found in a document of 1046, a deed of donation issued by Emperor Heinrich III for the bishopric of Meißen. According to a popular legend, deposits of copper and silver were discovered here in 1199, which initiated a first flourishing period of the settlement. In 1334 Hettstedt was chartered as a town. In 1394 the lord of Halberstadt pawned the town to the counts of Mansfeld. In 1439 the town was besieged by the counts and thereafter was incoporated into their county. In the 16th century the economic situation deteriorated considerably after the imports of silver from the Spanish colonies in South America caused a deterioration of the silver prices. In 1573 the town had to be handed back under the overlordship of Saxony, although mining still remained under control of the counts of Mansfeld. During the Thirty Years' War (16181648) the population was reduced to about one third of the original number, and only about 11 houses remained habitable. In the 17th century mining activities were again taken up, although this time mining for copper was more profitable. After the death of the last count of Mansfeld-Vorderort-Bornstedt the mines in 1790 came under control of Prussia, while Saxony regained control over the town of Hettstedt. After the introduction of steam engines in 1785 the mining activities were expanded considerably. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna (1815) the town became part of Prussia (province Saxony). During the followig century, Hettstedt became a centre of heavy industry. After the Great Depression of 1929 copper mining was no longer profitable but was kept up with state subsidies during the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and even in the German Democratic Republic. In 1950 the neighbouring communities of Burgörner and Molmeck were incorporated into the municipality. In 1952 Hettstedt became the administrative seat of the newly formed district Hettstedt. Between 1951 and 1969 the ore deposits were practicably exhausted and the mining activities were relocated to Sangerhausen, while the heavy industry remained in Hettstedt. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, state subsidies were discontinued and mining was stopped. Asmost of the industrial facilities were also mostly outdated, most of the factories were closed. Since then, Hettstedt is notorious for still having one of the highest unemployment rates in Germany. In 1994 the districts Mansfeld and Eisleben were merged to become the district Mansfelder Land which itself was merged in 2007 with the district Sangerhausen to become the present district Mansfeld-Südharz.
The picture on glass no.2429 shows a view of the