Helmstedt is a city located at the eastern edge of the German state of Lower Saxony. It is the capital of the District of Helmstedt. Helmstedt has 26,000 inhabitants (2004). In former times the city was also called Helmstädt.
Helmstedt developed in the vicinity of the Benedictine St. Ludger's Abbey that was founded around 800 by Saint Liudger as a mission station. Helmstedt was first mentioned in 952; it became a city in 1247. It belonged to the Abbacy of Werden until 1490, when it was bought by the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg. From 1576 to 1810, the University of Helmstedt was located here.
From the late 1940s to 1990, the town was the site of a major border crossing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The main rail and autobahn route between West Germany and Berlin, across the GDR, began at the Helmstedt–Marienborn border crossing, also known as Checkpoint Alpha. Official military traffic from NATO countries to West Berlin was only allowed to use this route.