As early as 1906, the Prussian State Railroad decided to electrify the long-distance line Magdeburg – Dessau – Leipzig – Halle, and in 1911, the decision was taken to electrify the Silesian mountain railroad between Görlitz and the Waldenburg coalfields. In July of 1912, the railroad management in Halle ordered new electric locomotives for operation in larger production runs, among them 18 B-B coupled units for freight service as road numbers EG 511-528 (later the class E 71). A subsequent order of nine additional locomotives followed the next year (road numbers EG 529-537). Road numbers EG 511 and 512 were put into operation in the spring of 1914 and road number EG 513 did not follow until the summer of 1915. The outbreak of World War I delayed additional construction of the units ordered. AEG did not deliver the rest, road numbers EG 514-537, until between 1920 and 1921. The DRG designated only road numbers EG 511 and 513-537 as road numbers E 71 11 and 13-37 in the fall of 1926, since road number EG 512 had to be retired in the same year after a serious accident.
The E 71 showed a thoroughly modern design for the times: Its drive system was done with traction motors mounted half high in each truck, which were connected to the driving wheels using intermediate gears and slotted coupling rods. The two close-coupled trucks had the box-style superstructure supported using friction bearing plates and pivots with both cabs as well as a rounded hood section at both ends. The motor voltage was regulated by electro-pneumatic contactors in eleven continuous speed levels. Starting in 1923, all of these locomotives were based in Halle, but the class E 71 units soon no longer fulfilled the requirements due to increasing trainloads. The delivery of the new class E 75 starting in 1931 meant that the class E 71 units were no longer needed except for a few units. By 1932, the latter found a new home at Basle (road numbers E 71 11, 13, 14, 17, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 31, 32, 33, and 35). There they replaced the old Baden electric locomotives on the Wiesen and Wehratal Line and were quickly designated affectionately "Flat Irons" due to their appearance. These locomotives were equipped with improved traction motor cooling, electric train heating, as well as BBC safety running circuits to enable their use in Baden for passenger service with the maximum speed increased to 65 km/h / 41 mph.
Between 1930 and 1946, road numbers E 71 11, 15-17, 20, 21, 23-25, 27, and 33-37 succumbed to retirement. After the founding of the DB in 1949 only nine units at Basle were still running (road numbers E 71 13, 14, 18, 19, 22, 26, 28, 29, and 32) on the Wiesen and Wehratal Line. Increasingly difficult spare parts procurement led starting in 1957 to replacement of these elderly units by the class E 32. Road numbers E 71 14, 18, 19, 22, and 26 were put into storage on June 2, 1957. The last four units were retired between November of 1957 and December of 1958. These road numbers have been preserved: E 71 19 (DB Museum Koblenz), E 71 28 (German Technology Museum Berlin) und E 71 30 (Dresden Transportation Museum).