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Template:Infobox river The River Elbe (Czech Labe Template:Audio, Sorbian/Lusatian Łobjo, German Elbe) is one of the major waterways of Central Europe. It originates in the North West Czech Republic before traversing much of Germany and finally flowing into the North Sea. Its total length has been given as 1091 kilometers or 678 miles.



The Elbe rises at an elevation of about 1400 m (4593 ft) in the Reisengeberge on the north west borders of the Czech Republic. Of the numerous small streams whose waters compose the infant river, the most important is the Bílé Labe, or White Elbe. After plunging down the 60 m of the Labský vodopád, the latter stream unites with the steep torrential Malé Labe, and thereafter the united stream of the Elbe pursues a southerly course, emerging from the mountain glens at and continuing on to Pardubice, where it turns sharply to the west. At Kolín some 43 km (27 miles) further on, it bends gradually towards the north-west. Image:River Elbe WEB.jpgImage:Elbe 1.jpg Image:Elbe watershed 7.png Image:Lauf der Elbe.png At the village of Káraný, a little above Brandýs nad Labem it picks up the Jizera and at Mělník its stream is more than doubled in volume by the Vltava, or Moldau, a river which winds northwards through Bohemia. Some distance lower down, at Litoměřice, the waters of the Elbe are tinted by the reddish Ohře. Thus augmented, and swollen into a stream 140 m (459 ft) wide, the Elbe carves a path through the basaltic mass of the České Středohoří, churning its way through a deep, narrow rocky gorge. Shortly after crossing the Czech-German frontier, and passing through the sandstone defiles, the stream assumes a north-westerly direction, which on the whole it preserves right to the North Sea.

The river rolls through Dresden and finally, beyond Meissen, enters on its long journey across the North German Plain passing along the former border of East Germany, touching Torgau, Wittenberg, Magdeburg, Wittenberge, and Hamburg on the way, and taking on the waters of the Mulde and Saale from the west, and those of the Schwarze Elster, Havel and Elde from the east. Soon the Elbe reaches Hamburg, and then passes through Holstein until it flows into the North Sea at Cuxhaven. Near its mouth it passes Glückstadt, Brunsbüttel and the entrance to the Kiel Canal.

The Elbe is about 1,091 km (678 miles) long.


The Elbe has been navigable by commercial vessels since 1842, and provides important trade links as far inland as Prague. The river is linked by canals to the industrial areas of Germany and to Berlin. The Elbe-Lübeck Canal links the Elbe to the Baltic Sea, as does the Kiel Canal, whose western entrance is near the mouth of the Elbe.

Before Germany was reunited, waterway transport in Western Germany was hindered by the fact that inland navigation to Hamburg had to pass through the German Democratic Republic. The Elbe Seitenkanal (Elbe Lateral Canal) was built between the Mittellandkanal and the lower Elbe to restore this connection. When the two nations were reunited, works began to improve and restore the original links: the Elbe Canal Bridge near Magdeburg now allows large barges to cross the Elbe without having to enter the river. The often low water levels of the Elbe do not hinder navigation to Berlin any longer. (Source: NoorderSoft Waterways Database)


Its name means 'river' (cf. Scandinavian älv).


The Elbe has long been an important delineator of European geography. The Romans knew the river as the Albis; however, they only attempted once to move the Eastern border of their empire forward from the Rhine to the Elbe, and this attempt failed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, after which they never seriously tried again. In the Middle Ages it formed the eastern limit of the Empire of Charlemagne. The river's navigable sections were also essential to the success of the Hanseatic League and much trade was carried on its waters.

In 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close, Nazi Germany was caught between the armies of the western Allies advancing from the west and the Soviet Union advancing from the east. On April 25, these two forces linked up near Torgau, on the Elbe. The event was marked as Elbe Day. After the war, the Elbe formed part of the border between East and West Germany.

In April, 1970, when the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg was being transferred to the East German government, the remains of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels and the Goebbels' six children were reportedly exhumed, thoroughly cremated, and the ashes finally dumped unceremoniously into the Elbe.

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