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The first documented reference to Uelzen (as Wiltzun) dates from the year 854. The town was founded by Slavs and later colonised by German settlers during the Ostsiedlung in medieval times. In 1180, a Cistercian monastery was built on an island of the River Aller, which is today part of central Uelzen. In 1236/37 this became a daughter house of Riddagshausen Abbey near Brunswick; it remained under its jurisdiction until 1552 when it passed into secular hands as "Amt Neuhaus". From 1370 to 1404 there were regular witch trials against alleged witches in Uelzen and surrounding villages: at least one woman died as a result (the so-called "Uelzer Hexe"). During World War II, more than 50% of buildings were destroyed or severely damaged due to Allied air raids targeting military facilities such as train stations and munitions factories nearby.