Breslau - a Brief History


Breslau was originally known as Vratislavia, under which name it has recorded Polish references dating back to the year 1000. One of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Lower Silesia, it stands at the foot of the Sudety Mountains on both sides of the Odra River embracing 12 islands and 112 bridges.

Chronicled as a fortified settlement in 1017, it was established as an episcopal see during the 11th century,  With the division of the Polish crown into five provinces, the town became the capital of the Duchy of Silesia and the seat of the senior prince of the provincial dukes of the house of Piast.

The area attracted a large number of German settlers over the next century and in 1261 the town acquired its German name, Breslau. The city prospered, became a thriving mercantile centre, and joined the Hanseatic League, an association of merchants from northern Germany and the Baltic.

In 1335, upon the death of Henry VI, the last Wrocław Duke of the Piast dynasty, Breslau, and the entire province of Silesia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Bohemia. Through the accession of the Spanish prince Ferdinand I to the Bohemian throne in 1526, Breslau, Bohemia and Hungary became  Habsburg possessions.

Breslau was seized by Prussia in 1741 during the War of the Austrian Succession and was subsequently made the third capital city of the Prussian province of Lower Silesia, alongside Berlin and Konigsberg. In 1807 Breslau was taken over by Napoleon's Army and the demolition of the city's fortifications ordered by Jeróme Bonaparte. Apart from brief periods of military occupation, chiefly during the Napoleonic Wars, Breslau remained a part of Prussian Silesia until it was captured by Soviet troops in May 1945.

Breslau, which had  suffered extensive damage during World War II,  reverted to Poland by decision of the Potsdam Conference. Renamed Wroclaw, 800 years of German settlement came to an end as thousands were deported and replaced by Polish settlers. At its peak, Breslau was home to 30,000 Jewish inhabitants.

 

                  Market Square c 1895                  Market Square from  the opposite direction c 1895

                        Schweidnitzerstrasse (Ulica Swidnicka) c.1900              Kaiserbrücke mit Straßenbahn c 1910

                   Rathaus                        Kosciuszki Tauentzienstasse with Synagogue behind

                                                                                          Breslau Synagogue - completed c 1872

 

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Breslau - A Brief History

Without Regret by Ken Arkwright