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Opole ( , Silesian: Uopole) is a city in southern Polandmarker on the Oder River (Odra). It has a population of 129,553 and is the capital of the Opole Voivodeshipmarker, and also the seat of Opole Countymarker. It is the historical capital of Upper Silesia. Today, many German Upper Silesians and Poles of Germanmarker ancestry live in the Opole region, in the city itself, Germans make less than 3% of population.


Opole developed since the 10th century as the regional capital of the Slavic Opolanie. Their first settlements were on the Wyspa Pasieka island in the middle of the Odra. At the end of the century Silesia became part of Poland and was ruled by the Piast dynasty; the land of the pagan Opolanie was conquered by Duke Bolesław I in 1012/1013. From the 11th-12th centuries it was also a castellany. After the death of Duke Władysław II the Exile, Silesia was divided in 1163 between two Piast lines- the Wrocławskamarker line in Lower Silesia and the Opolsko-Raciborskamarker of Upper Silesia. Opole would became a duchy in 1172 and would share much in common with the Duchy of Racibórz, with which it was often combined. In 1281 Upper Silesia was divided further between the heirs of the dukes, and the Duchy of Opole was temporarily reestablished in 1290.

While German merchants had earlier established a colony in Opole at the crossing of the Oder, German peasants began arriving in 1217. Opole received German town law in 1254, which was expanded with Neumarkt law in 1327 and Magdeburg rights in 1410. Along with most of Silesia, in 1327 the Duchy of Opole came under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia, itself part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1521 the Duchy of Racibórzmarker (Ratibor) was inherited by the Duchy of Opole, by then already known by the German name Oppeln. With the death of King Louis II of Bohemia at the Battle of Mohácsmarker, Silesia was inherited by Ferdinand I, placing Oppeln under the sovereignty of the Habsburg Monarchy of Austriamarker. The Habsburgs took control of the region in 1532 after the line of local Piast dukes died out. Beginning in 1532 the Habsburgs pawned the duchy to different rulers (see Dukes of Opole). With the abdication of King John II Casimir of Poland as the last Duke of Opole in 1668, the region passed to the direct control of the Habsburgs.

King Frederick II of Prussiamarker conquered most of Silesia from Austria in 1740 during the Silesian Wars; Prussian control was confirmed in the Peace of Breslau in 1742. From 1816–1945 Opole was the capital of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln within Prussia. The city became part of the German Empiremarker during the unification of Germany in 1871.
Cathedral of Opole
After the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, a plebiscite was held on 20 March 1921 in Oppeln to determine if the city would be in the Weimar Republicmarker or become part of the Second Polish Republicmarker. 20,816 (94.7%) votes were cast for Germany, 1,098 (5.0%) for Poland, and 70 (0.3%) votes were declared invalid. Voter participation was 95.9%. However, at the time the voting population consisted only of ethnic Germans. Results of the plebiscite in the Opole-Land county were different, with 30% of population voting for Poland.

Oppeln was the administrative seat of the Province of Upper Silesia from 1919–1939. With the defeat of Poland in the Invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II in 1939, formerly Polish Eastern Upper Silesia was readded to the Province of Upper Silesa and Oppeln lost its status as provincial capital to Katowice (renamed Kattowitz again).

On February 15, 1941, and February 26, 1941, two deportation transports with 2,003 Jewish men, women and children on board left Viennamarker Aspang Station to Opole, By March 1941, 8,000 Jews were deported to the ghetto which had been set up in Opole. From May 1941, 800 men capable of work were deployed as forced labourers in Deblin. Liquidation of Opole ghetto began in the spring 1942. A transport to Belzec extermination campmarker left on March 31, 1942, and deportations to Sobibor followed in May and October 1942. Of the 2,003 Viennese Jews, twenty-eight are known to have survived.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Oppeln was transferred from Germany to Poland according to the Potsdam Conference, and given its original Slavic name of Opole. Opole became part of the Katowice Voivodeship from 1946–1950, after which it became part of the Opole Voivodeshipmarker. Unlike other parts of historical eastern Germany ceded to remapped Poland, Opole and the surrounding region's German population remained and was not forcibly expelled as elsewhere, even though many ethnic Germans with right to German citizenship left to West Germanymarker to flee the communist Eastern Bloc. Today Opole, along with the surrounding region, is known as a centre of the German-speaking Silesian minority in Poland. Though in the city itself only 2,46% of the inhabitants declared German nationality according to the last national census of 2002 .

Historical population

Town hall of Opole
Year Population
1533 ¹ 1,420
1691 1,191
1700 1,150
1746 1,161
1750 2,450
1787 2,802
1800 3,073
1816 4,050
1819 4,896
1825 5,987
1834 6,496
Year Population
1850 8,280
1858 ² 8,877
1875 12,694
1890 19,000
1905 30,112
1910 ³ 33,907
1924 43,000
1932 45,532
1936 50,561
17 May 1939 50,540
24 March 1945 170
Year Population
July 1945 13,000
1946 40,000
1950 50,300
1956 56,400
1960 63,500
1965 70,000
1971 87,800
1973 92,600
December 31, 1989 127,653
Census 1992 129,552
Census 2002 129,946
31 December 2004 128,864
¹ First census of the city

² 8,320 German nationality (93,7%) and 557 Polish nationality (6,3%)

³ 80% German-speaking, 16% Polish- or Slavic Silesian-speaking, and 4% German- and Polish-speaking

Opole - a view of the city centre

German minority

General view of Opole
Alongside German, many citizens of Opole-Oppeln before 1945 used a strongly German-influenced Silesian dialect known as Upper Silesian, Wasserpolnisch, or Wasserpolak. Because of this, the Soviet puppet-state administration after the annexation of Silesia in 1945 did not initiate a general expulsion of German-speakers in Opole, as was done in Lower Silesia, for instance, where the population exclusively spoke the German language. Because they were considered "autochthonous" (Polish), the Wasserpolak-speakers instead received the right to remain in their homeland. Many German-speakers took advantage of this decision, allowing them to remain in their Oppeln, even when they considered themselves to be of German nationality. The city surroundings currently contain the largest German and Upper Silesian minorities in Poland. Though in Opole there is less than 3% of Germans. (See also Germans of Poland.)

Main sights

Green Bridge.
Opole hosts the annual National Festival of Polish Song. The city is also known for its 10th century Church of St. Adalbert and the 14th century Church of the Holy Cross. There is a zoo, the Ogród Zoologiczny w Opolu.

Structures and buildings



The building of Collegium Maius of Opole University


Opole Główne Railway Station
Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Opole constituency

Famous residents

Apartment buildings along the marketplace
see also: Dukes of Opole-Oppeln


International relations

Signs showing direction of twin cities

Twin towns - Sister cities

Opole is twinned with:


File:Opole (js).jpg|Piast tower, built under Bolko I of Opole, circa 1300File:PL Opole Franciszkanie.jpg|The Church of the Holy TrinityFile:Muzeum Wsi Opolskiej - chata 01.jpg|Traditional Opole house at Muzeum Wsi OpolskiejFile:PL Opole Mlynowka.jpg|The Młynówka channelFile:Oppeln - Altstadt.jpg|Old town


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