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Wrocław ( ) is the chief city of the historical region of Silesia in south-western Polandmarker, situated on the Oder ( ) river. Over the centuries the city has been part of Poland, Bohemia, Austriamarker, Prussia, and Germanymarker. Wrocław is the capital of Lower Silesian Voivodeshipmarker. According to official population figures for 2006, its population is 635,280, making it the fourth largest city in Poland.


The city's name was first recorded in the year 1000 by Thietmar's Latin chronicle called Thietmari Merseburgensis episcopi Chronicon as Wrotizlawa. The first municipal seal stated Sigillum civitatis Wratislavie. A simplified name is given in 1175 as Wrezlaw, Prezla or Breslaw.The Czech spelling was used in Latin documents as Wratislavia or Vratislavia. At that time, Prezla was used in Middle High German, which became Preßlau. In the middle of the fourteenth century the Early New High German (and later New High German) form of the name Breslau began to replace its earlier versions.

The city is traditionally believed to be named after Wrocisław or Vratislav, often believed to be Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia. It is also possible that the city was named after the tribal duke of the Silesians or after an early ruler of the city called Vratislav.

The city's name in various foreign languages include in , , , or Wratislavia, Hebrew: ורוצלב (Vrotsláv), , , or Vroclav, (Urocłaŭ), (Vrotslav), (Vrotslav); also Бреславль (Breslavl), or Vroclav and (Vrotslav). Names of Wrocław in other languages are also available.


The city of Wrocław originated in Lower Silesia as a Bohemian stronghold at the intersection of two trade routes, the Via Regia and the Amber Road. The city was first recorded in the tenth century as Vratislavia, possibly derived from the name of a Bohemian duke Vratislav I. Its initial extent was limited to district of Ostrów Tumski (the Cathedral Island).

Middle Ages

During Wrocław's early history, its control changed hands between Bohemia (until 992, then 1038-1054), the Kingdom of Poland (992-1038 and 1054-1202), and, after the fragmentation of the Kingdom of Poland, the Piast-ruled duchy of Silesia. One of the most important events in those times was the foundation of the Diocese of Wrocław by the Polish Duke (from 1025 king) Bolesław the Brave in 1000, which, together with the Bishopric of Kraków and Kołobrzeg, was placed under the Archbishopric of Gniezno in Greater Poland, founded by Otto III in 1000. In the first half of the thirteenth century Wrocław even became the political center of the divided Polish kingdom.

The city became a commercial center and expanded to Wyspa Piaskowa (Sand Island), then to the left bank of the Oder River. Around 1000 the town had 1000 inhabitants. By 1139 a settlement belonging to Governor Piotr Włostowic (a.k.a Piotr Włast Dunin) was built, and another was founded on the left bank of the Oder River, near the present seat of the university. While the city was Polish, there were also communities of Bohemians, Jews, Walloons and Germans.

The city was devastated in 1241 during the Mongol invasion of Europe. The inhabitants burned the city to force the Mongols to a quick withdrawal.

Afterwards the town was repopulated by Germans (see: Ostsiedlung), who became the dominant ethnic group, though the city remained multi-ethnic as an important trading city on the Via Regia and Amber Road. "Breslau", the Germanised name of the city, appeared for the first time in written records. The city council used Latin and German languages.

After the Mongol invasion, Breslau was expanded by adopting German town law. The expanded town was around 60 hectares in size and the new Main Market Square (Rynek), which was covered with timber frame houses, became the new centre of the town. The original foundation, Ostrów Tumski, became the religious center. Breslau adopted Magdeburg rights in 1262 and, at the end of the thirteenth century joined the Hanseatic League. The Polish Piast dynasty remained in control of the region, but the city council's right to govern independently increased.

In 1335, Breslau was incorporated with almost all of Silesia into the Kingdom of Bohemia, then a part of Holy Roman Empire. Between 1342 and 1344, two fires destroyed large parts of the city.

Renaissance, Reformation and Counter-Reformation

The Protestant Reformation reached Breslau in 1518 and the city became Protestant. However from 1526 Silesia was ruled by the Catholic House of Habsburg. In 1618 Breslau supported the Bohemian Revolt in fear of losing the right to freedom of religious expression. In the following Thirty Years' War the city was occupied by Saxon and Swedish troops and lost 18,000 of 40,000 citizens to plague.

The Austrian emperor brought in the Counter-Reformation by encouraging Catholic orders to settle in Breslau, starting in 1610 with the Minorites, followed by Jesuits, Capucins, Franciscans, and finally Ursulines in 1687. These orders erected buildings which shaped the city's appearance until 1945. At the end of the Thirty Years' War, however, Breslau was one of only a few Silesian cities to stay Protestant.

During the Counter-Reformation, the intellectual life of the city – shaped by Protestantism and Humanism – flourished, even as the Protestant bourgeoisie lost its role to the Catholic orders as the patron of the arts. Breslau became the center of German Baroque literature and was home to the First and Second Silesian school of poets.

The Kingdom of Prussiamarker annexed Breslau and most of Silesia during the War of the Austrian Succession in the 1740s. Habsburg empress Maria Theresa ceded the territory in 1763.

Napoleonic Wars

During the Napoleonic Wars, Breslau was occupied by an army of the Confederation of the Rhinemarker. The fortifications of the city were leveled and monasteries and cloisters were secularised. The Protestant Viadrina university of Frankfurt marker was relocated to Breslau in 1811, and united with the local Jesuit University to create the new Silesian Frederick-William University (Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität, now University of Wrocławmarker). The city became the center of the German Liberation movement against Napoleon, and the gathering place for volunteers from all over Germany, with the Iron Cross military decoration founded by Frederick William III of Prussia in early March 1813. The city was the centre of Prussian mobilization for the campaign which ended at Leipzigmarker.

Before and after World War I

Napoleonic redevelopmentsmarker increased prosperity in Silesia and Breslau. The levelled fortifications opened space for the city to grow beyond its old limits. Breslau became an important railway hub and industrial centre, notably of linen and cotton manufacture and metal industry. The new university served as a major centre of sciences, while the secularisation of life laid the base for a rich museum landscape. Johannes Brahms wrote his Academic Festival Overture to thank the university for an honorary doctorate awarded in 1881.

The Unification of Germany in 1871 turned Breslau into the sixth-largest city in the German Empiremarker. Its population more than tripled to over half a million between 1860 and 1910. The 1900 census listed 422,709 residents, among them 5,363 persons declaring to have competent knowledge in the Polish language only, and another 3,103 being also competent in Polish.Cf. Meyers Großes Konversationslexikon: 20 vols., 6th ed., Leipzig and Vienna: Bibliographisches Institut, 1903-1908, vol. 3: Bismarck-Archipel bis Chemnitz (1903), article: Breslau (Stadt), pp. 394-399, here p. 396. No ISBN In religious respect there were 58% Protestants, 37% Catholics and 5% Jews (counting 20,536 in the 1905 census).Cf. Meyers Großes Konversationslexikon: 20 vols., 6th ed., Leipzig and Vienna: Bibliographisches Institut, 1903-1908, vol. 3: Bismarck-Archipel bis Chemnitz (1903), article: Breslau (Stadt), pp. 394-399, here p. 396. No ISBN The 1905 census listed 470,904 residents, among them 6,020 persons declaring to have competent knowledge in the Polish language and 3,752 of other language affiliation - with the remaining residents speaking preferentially German. Important landmarks were inaugurated in 1910, the Kaiserbrücke (Kaiser bridge) and the Technische Hochschule (TH), which now houses the Wrocław University of Technologymarker.In 1913 the newly-built Centennial Hallmarker housed the "Ausstellung zur Jahrhundertfeier der Freiheitskriege", an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the historical German Wars of Liberation against Napoleon and the first award of the Iron Cross.

Following World War I, Breslau became the capital of the newly created Prussian Province of Lower Silesia in 1919. During the month of August 1920, at the time of Polish Silesian Uprising in Upper Silesia, the Polish consulate and school were demolished, while the Polish Library was burned down by a mob. The number of Poles in Breslau dropped from 2 percent before World War I to 0.5 percent after the reconstitution of Poland in 1918. Antisemitic riots occurred in 1923.

The city boundaries were expanded between 1925 and 1930 to include an area of 175 km² with a population of 600.000. In 1929 the Werkbund opened WuWa (German: Wohnungs- und Werkraumausstellung) in Breslau-Scheitnig, an international showcase of modern architecture by architects of the Silesian branch of the Werkbund. In June 1930 Breslau hosted the Deutsche Kampfspiele, a sporting event for German athletes after Germany was excluded from the Olympic Games after World War I.

The city became one of the largest support bases of the Nazi, who in the 1932 elections received 43,5 % of Breslau's votes, their third-largest total in the entire country.

After Hitler's takeover of the German government in 1933, political enemies of the Nazis like Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, Jews, Poles and homosexuals were persecuted, and their institutions closed or destroyed, (see: Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau). Many of the city's 10,000 Jews as well as many other political enemies of the Third Reich were sent to concentration camps; those Jews who remained were killed during the Holocaust. A network of concentration camps and forced labour camps was established around Breslau, to serve industrial concerns, including FAMO, Junkers and Krupp. Tens of thousands were imprisoned there.

The last big event organized by the Nazi Sports Body called Deutsches Turn-und-Sportfest (Gym and Sports Festivities) took place in Breslau from 26 to 31 July 1938. The Sportsfest was held in Breslau to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the German Wars of Liberation against Napoleon's invasion.

World War II and afterwards

For most of World War II, the fighting did not affect Breslau. As the war lengthened, refugees from bombed-out German cities, and later refugees from farther east, swelled the population to nearly one million. In February 1945 the Sovietmarker Red Army approached the city. Gauleiter Karl Hanke declared the city a Festung (fortress) to be held at all costs. Hanke finally lifted a ban on the evacuation of women and children when it was almost too late. During his poorly organised evacuation in early March 1945, 18,000 people froze to death in icy snowstorms and -20°C weather. By the end of the Siege of Breslau, half the city had been destroyed. An estimated 40,000 civilians lay dead in the ruins of homes and factories. After a siege of nearly three months, "Fortress Breslau" surrendered on 7 May 1945, just before the end of the war.

Along with almost all of Lower Silesia, Breslau nominally became part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Conference. Most remaining native German inhabitants fled or were forcibly expelled from Wrocław between 1945 and 1949. Most of them arrived in one of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. A considerable German presence remained until the late 1950s; the city's last German school closed in 1963. The population was dramatically increased by government resettlement of Poles during postwar population transfers (75%) as well as during the forced deportations from Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union in the the east region.

Wrocław is now a unique European city of mixed heritage, with architecture influenced by Bohemian, Austrian, and Prussian traditions, such as Silesian Gothic and its Baroque style of court builders of Habsburg Austria (Fischer von Erlach). Wrocław has a number of notable buildings by German modernist architects including the famous Centennial Hallmarker (Hala Stulecia or Jahrhunderthalle) (1911–1913) designed by Max Berg.

In July 1997, the city was heavily affected by a flood of the Oder River, the worst flooding in post-war Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Around one third of the city's area stood under water. An earlier equally devastating flood of the river took place in 1903.


Wrocław is one of the warmest cities in Poland. Lying in the Lower-Silesian region, one of the warmest in Poland, the mean annual temperature is 9.1 °C. The coldest month is January (average temperature -0.4°C) and the warmest is July (average temperature 19.2°C). The longest season is summer, which lasts above 100 days. The highest temperature in Wrocław was recorded on 31 August 1994 (+37.9°C), the lowest was recorded on 11 February 1956 (-30.4°C).


Post-modernist Arkady Complex opened in spring 2007, housing offices, cinemas, shopping malls and even a sharks' aquarium
Aula Leopoldina
Grunwaldzki bridge

Wrocław is the capital city of Lower Silesian Voivodeshipmarker, a province (voivodeship) created in 1999. It was previously the seat of Wrocław Voivodeship. The city is a separate urban gmina and city county (powiat). It is also the seat of Wrocław County, which adjoins but does not include the city.

Wrocław is subdivided into five boroughs (dzielnicas):

Main sights


Wrocław is the third largest educational centre of Poland, with 135.000 students in 30 colleges which employ some 7.400 staff.

List of ten state-owned (public) colleges and universities:


Wrocław's major industries were traditionally the manufacture of railroad cars and electronics. In recent years the City Council has run an active policy to attract foreign investors from the high-tech sector. This resulted among others in the location of LG Electronics production cluster in Kobierzycemarker near Wrocław. After 1989 Wrocław became a significant financial centre and houses the headquarters of several nationwide financial institutions such as Bank Zachodni WBK, Lukas Bank, Getin Bank, and Europejski Fundusz Leasingowy. As of the end of 2008 Wrocław enjoyed a very low unemployment level of just 3.2% compared with the national level of 8.7%. In 2008 gross domestic product in Wrocław came to 27755 $ (in Polandmarker 17625 $).


Wrocław has easy access to the A4 motorway, which allows for quick connection with Upper Silesia, Krakówmarker and finally Ukrainemarker to the east and Dresdenmarker and Berlinmarker to the west. Now an A8 motorway (Wrocław ring road) and S8 express road are being built, which will connect Wrocław and Warsawmarker.The city is served by Wrocław International Airportmarker and a river port.Public transport in Wrocław consists of many lines of buses and over 20 lines of trams, operated by [ MPK (Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne/ The Municipal Transport Company). Today, a fast tram line is being built, which will connect the eastern part of city with a stadium and airport.


Like all of Poland, Wrocław's population is predominantly Roman Catholic; the city is the seat of an Archdiocese. However, post-war resettlements from Poland's ethnically and religiously more diverse former eastern territories ( ) and the eastern parts of post-1945 Poland (see Operation Wisła) account for a comparatively large portion of Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christians of mostly Ukrainianmarker (see Ukrainian minority in Poland) and Lemko descent.Wrocław is also unique for its "Dzielnica Czterech Świątyń" (Borough of Four Temples)- a part of Stare Miasto where a Synagogue, Lutheran Church, Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church stand side by side.

Professional sports

The Wrocław area has many popular professional sports teams. The most popular sport today is football, thanks to Śląsk Wrocław. In the second place is basketball. The award-winning men's basketball team (former Polish champions, second-place in 2004). The group D matches of Eurobasket 2009 are scheduled to take place in Wrocław in September 2009. Some matches of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship in Polandmarker and Ukrainemarker are scheduled to take place in Wrocław.

Men's sports

Women's sports

Major corporations

  • Whirlpool Polar
  • Volvo Polska sp. z o.o., Wrocław
  • WABCO Polska, Wrocław
  • Siemens, Wrocław
  • Nokia Siemens Networks Sp z o.o
  • Hewlett Packard, Wrocław
  • Google, Wrocław
  • Grupa Lukas, Wrocław
  • AB SA, Wrocław
  • Polifarb Cieszyn-Wrocław SA, Wrocław
  • KOGENERACJA S.A., Wrocław
  • Impel SA, Wrocław
  • Europejski Fundusz Leasingowy SA, Wrocław
  • Telefonia Dialog SA, Wrocław
  • Tieto, Wrocław
  • Wrozamet SA, Wrocław
  • American Restaurants sp. z o.o., Wrocław
  • Hutmen SA, Wrocław
  • Fortum Wrocław S.A., Wrocław
  • SAP Polska
  • Hologram Industries Polska
  • Zender sp. z o.o., Wrocław
  • Swiftway / Eureka Solutions sp. z o.o., Wrocław
  • MSI (Micro Star International) Polska Sp. z o. o.
  • Cargill Poland
  • DeLaval Operations Poland Sp. z o. o.
  • UPM Raflatac
  • Kinnarps Poland Sp z.o.o

Twin towns and partnerships

Wrocław is twinned with:


Famous people

See also


  1. Weczerka, p. 39
  2. Norman Davies "Mikrokosmos" page 110-115
  3. Weczerka, p. 41
  4. Thum, p. 316
  5. Norman Davies "Mikrokosmos" page 110
  6. Piotr Górecki, "A local society in transition: the Henryków book and related documents", PIMS, 2007, pgs. 27 and 62, [1]
  7. Harasimowicz, p. 466f
  8. Davies, Moorhouse, p. 396; van Rahden, Juden, p. 323-26
  9. Norman Davies "Mikrokosmos" page 369
  10. Davies, Moorhouse, p. 395
  11. Kulak, p. 252
  12. name="Microcosm_395"
  13. Roger Moorhouse: see article "Concentration Camps in and around Breslau 1940-1945"
  14. Breslau bonczek sportfest
  15. History of Wrocław
  16. Festung Breslau (Breslau Fortress) siege by the Soviet Army - photo gallery
  17. 1997 great flood of Oder River - photo gallery
  18. 1903 great flood of the Oder river - photo gallery
  19. Fitch Rating Report on Wrocław dated July 2008, p.3
  20. Fitch Rating Report for Wrocław dated September 2008, p.3

Further reading

English language

  • Till van Rahden, Jews and Other Germans: Civil Society, Religious Diversity, and Urban Politics in Breslau, 1860–1925, Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.

Polish language

German language

External links

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