Originally named Fußballverein Werder, using a German word meaning "river peninsula" to reflect the riverside pitch that was their first home, the club played its first match on 10 September 1899, a 1-0 win over local rivals ASC 1898 Bremen. They acheived their first significant successes under the Third Reich, winning division titles in 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1942.
They enjoyed intermittent success in the post-war years, winning the German Cup in 1961 and the league title in 1965. After a subsequent decline, including relegation for the 1980-81 season, the club returned to glory in the late '80s and early '90s, winning the Bundesliga title in 1988 and 1993, the German Cup in 1991, and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1992. They most recently won the league in 2004 and the German Cup in 2009.
In addition to their successes on the pitch, Werder has helped transform the nature of the game (for better or worse) from amateur to professional, including being the first club to charge for admission and the first to hire a professional manager.