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Wroclaw n : a city in southwestern Poland on the Oder [syn: Breslau]
Wrocław (lang-de Breslau; lang-cz Vratislav; lang-lt Vroclavas; lang-la Vratislavia or Wratislavia; Hebrew: ורוצלב; Yiddish: ברעסלוי) is the chief city of the historical region of Lower Silesia in south-western Poland, situated on the Oder (lang-pl Odra) river. Before 1945 the city was part of Poland, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria, Prussia, Germany, until it finally returned to Poland. Since 1999 it has been the capital of Lower Silesian Voivodeship. 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. 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 14th 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 lang-en Wroclaw, , lang-it Breslavia, lang-la Vratislavia or Wratislavia, Hebrew: ורוצלב (Vrotsláv), lang-sk Vratislav or Vroclav, (Vrotslai), (Vrotslav), (Vrotslav); also Бреславль (Breslavl), Yiddish: ברעסלוי (Bréslaévy), or Vroclav and (Vrotslav). Names of Wrocław in other languages are also available.


The city of Wrocław originated as a stronghold situated at a long-existing trading route to Greater Moravia and Bohemia. The city was first recorded in the 10th century as Vratislavia, possibly derived from the name of the Bohemian duke Vratislav I who died in 921. The history of the city begins at the end of the 10th century under the Polish Piast dynasty. At that time the city bears the name of Vratislavia and is limited to district of Ostrów Tumski (the Cathedral Island).
In the year 1000 king Boleslaw I of Poland established the first bishopric of Silesia there. The city quickly became a commercial center and expanded rapidly to the neighbouring Wyspa Piaskowa (Sand Island), and then to the left bank of the Odra river. In 1163 it became the capital of the duchy of Silesia. By 1139 two more settlements were built. One belonged to Governor Piotr Włostowic (a.k.a Piotr Włast Dunin, Piotr Włost or Peter Wlast; ca. 1080–1153) and was situated near his residence on the Olbina by the St. Vincent's Benedictine Abbey. The other settlement was founded on the left bank of the Oder River, near the present seat of the university. It was located on the trade route that lead from Leipzig and Legnica) and followed through Opole, and Kraków to Kievan Rus'.
The city was devastated in 1241 during the Mongol invasion of Europe. The rebuilding included expansion of the Main Market Square (Rynek) and all surrounding areas. Decimated population was reinforced by many Germans who settled there. Soon the name Breslau appeared for the first time in written records. The new and rebuilt town adopted Magdeburg rights in 1262 and, at the end of the 13th century joined the Hanseatic League. The Polish ruling dynasty remained in control of the region.
In 1289-1292 the Přemyslid King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus II, became Duke of Silesia, then also King of Poland. With John of Luxemburg and his son, Emperor Charles IV (and king of Bohemia), Silesia was united with Bohemia, but retained its separate Ius indigenatus. The first illustration of the city was published in the Nuremberg Chronicle in 1493. Documents of that time referred to the town by many variants of the name including Wratislaw, Bresslau and Presslau.
During much of the Middle Ages Wrocław was ruled by its dukes of the Silesian Piast dynasty. Although the city was not part of the Duchy's principality, its bishop was known as the prince-bishop ever since Bishop Preczlaus of Pogarell (1341-1376) bought the Duchy of Grodków (Grottkau) from Duke Boleslaw of Brzeg (Brieg) and added it to the episcopal territory of Nysa (Neisse), after which the Bishops of Wrocław had the titles of Prince of Neisse and Dukes of Grottkau, taking precedence over the other Silesian rulers.
In 1335, it was incorporated with almost the entirety of Silesia into the Kingdom of Bohemia and was part of it until the 1740s; from 1526, it was ruled by the Empire's Habsburg dynasty. By this time the inhabitants of mixed Silesian, Bohemian, Moravian, and often of Polish ancestry, had become dominated by influx of German colonists and settlers throughout the centuries. The overwhelming majority of the population became lutheran during the Protestant Reformation as did most of Lower Silesia, but they were forcibly suppressed during the Catholic Reformation by Jesuits working with the support of the Habsburg rulers.
After the death of the last Silesian Piast ruler, Georg Wihelm of Liegnitz Brieg in 1675, the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria inherited the city of Breslau. They resorted to forceful conversion of the city back to Catholicism. During the War of the Austrian Succession in the 1740s, most of Silesia was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia's claims were derived from the agreement, rejected by the Habsburgs, between the Silesian Piast rulers of the duchy and the Hohenzollerns who secured the Prussian succession after the extinction of the Piasts.

Modern history

After the demise of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Prussia, and the city, became a part of the German Confederation. In 1811 the Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität (Wrocław University) was re-established. In 1813 King Frederick William III of Prussia gave a speech in Breslau signalling Prussia's intent to join the Russian Empire against Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars. When the Prussian-led German Empire was created in 1871 during the process of Germany's unification, Breslau became the empire's sixth-largest city and a major industrial centre, notably of linen and cotton manufacture; its population more than tripled to over half a million between 1860 and 1910.
Due to increased ethnic tensions, in August 1920 during the pro-Polish Silesian Uprising, Germans devastated the local Polish school and the Polish library. In 1923 the city was a scene of antisemitic riots. In 1933 the Gestapo began actions against Polish and Jewish students who were issued special segregationist ID documents like those of Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other people deemed threats to the state. Notably, people were even arrested and beaten for using Polish in public. In 1938 the Polish cultural centre (the Polish House) in Breslau was destroyed by the police, and many of the city's 10,000 Jews were deported to pre-war concentration camps; those who remained were killed during the Nazi genocide of World War II. Most of the Polish elites also left during 1920s and 1930s while Polish leaders who remained were sent to German concentration camps.
Throughout most of World War II Breslau was not close to the fighting. The city became haven for refugees, swelling in population to nearly one million.
In February 1945 the Soviet Red Army approached the city. Nazi Gauleiter Karl Hanke declared the city Festung Breslau (fortress). Concentration camp prisoners were forced to help build new fortifications. In one area, the workers were ordered to construct a military airfield intended for use in resupplying the fortress, while the entire residential district along the Kaiserstraße (now Plac Grunwaldzki) was razed. The authorities threatened to shoot anyone who refused to do their assigned labour. Eyewitnesses estimated that some 13,000 died under enemy fire on the airfield alone. In the end, one of the very few planes that used it was that of the fleeing Gauleiter Hanke.
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, around 18,000 people froze to death, mostly children and babies, in icy snowstorms and -20°C weather. Some 200,000 civilians, less than a third of the pre-war population, remained in the city, because the railway connections to the west were damaged or overloaded.
By the end of the Battle of Breslau (1945), two-thirds of the city had been destroyed as a consequence of German resistance to Red Army attacks. 40,000 inhabitants including forced labourers lay dead in the ruins of homes and factories. After a siege of nearly three months, "Fortress Breslau" surrendered on May 7 1945. It was one of the last major cities in Nazi Germany to fall.
Along with almost all of Lower Silesia, post-war Wrocław became part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Conference. Most remaining German inhabitants fled or were expelled to one of the two post-war German states between 1945 and 1949. However, as was the case with other Lower Silesian cities, a considerable German presence remained in Wrocław until the late 1950s; the city's last German school closed in 1963.
The population of Wrocław was soon increased by resettlement of Poles forming part of postwar repatriation of Poles (1944–1946) (75%) as well as the forced deportations from Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union in the east (25%) including from cities such as Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), Stanisławów (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine), Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), and Grodno (now Hrodna, Belarus).
Gradually parts of the old city and most monumental buildings were restored, with special attention given to symbols of Polish history and religion including Gothic churches. Buildings damaged during the war were dismantled together with some already reconstructed houses, which were taken down in the 1950s during the Polish government's campaign called “bricks for Warsaw”, providing much needed reconstruction material for the leveled out Old Town of the Polish capital. During the reconstruction of the city some left-over buildings from Germanisation period were removed from the landscape of the city while the Jewish cemetery was preserved.
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 still has a number of buildings by eminent German modernist architects (Hans Poelzig, Max Berg), famous Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia or Jahrhunderthalle) by Berg (1911–1913) being one of its finest examples.
In July 1997, the city suffered a flood of the Oder River, the worst flooding in post-war Poland. Nearly the entire city stood under water leaving only a small part unaffected. An earlier equally devastating flood of the river took place in 1903.

Historical populations


Wrocław is the capital city of Lower Silesian Voivodeship, 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

Economy and transport

Wrocław's major industries were traditionally the manufacture of railroad cars and electronics. The city is served by Wrocław International Airport and a river port.

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
  • TietoEnator, 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
  • MSI (Micro Star International) Polska Sp. z o. o.

Professional sports

The Wrocław area has many popular professional sports teams. The most popular sport today is probably basketball, thanks to Śląsk Wrocław, the award-winning men's basketball team (former Polish champions, 2nd-place in 2004). Some matches of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine are scheduled to take place in Wrocław.

Men's sports

Women's sports

Prominent residents

Including some who were not born in Wrocław/Breslau

Nobel laureates

listed by year of award

Twin towns and partnerships

Twin towns: Partnership:

General References

  • Encyklopedia Wrocławia. Wrocław 2001
  • Wrocław jego dzieje i kultura. Warszawa 1978
  • G. Scheuermann. Das Breslau-Lexikon. Dülmen 1994
  • K.Maleczyński, M.Morelowski, A.Ptaszycka, Wrocław. Rozwój urbanistyczny. Warszawa 1956
  • W.Długoborski, J.Gierowski, K.Maleczyński, Dzieje Wrocławia do roku 1807., Warszawa 1958
  • Microcosm, Portrait of a Central European City, by Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse (Jonathan Cape, 2002) ISBN 0224062433 (ISBN 8324001727 – Polish translation)
  • Gregor Thum: Die Fremde Stadt Breslau 1945. Siedler, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-88680-795-9 (Frankfurt (Oder), Univ., Diss., 2002)
  • Till van Rahden, Juden und andere Breslauer: Die Beziehungen zwischen Juden, Protestanten und Katholiken in einer deutschen Großstadt von 1860 bis 1925, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000. ISBN 3-525-35732-X
  • Codex Diplomaticus Silesiae, Erster Theil: Breslauer Urkundenbuch. Breslau 1870
wroclaw in Afrikaans: Wrocław
wroclaw in Arabic: فروتزواف
wroclaw in Belarusian: Горад Вроцлаў
wroclaw in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Уроцлаў
wroclaw in Breton: Wrocław
wroclaw in Bulgarian: Вроцлав
wroclaw in Catalan: Wrocław
wroclaw in Czech: Vratislav (město)
wroclaw in Danish: Wrocław
wroclaw in German: Breslau
wroclaw in Lower Sorbian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Estonian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Modern Greek (1453-): Βρότσλαβ
wroclaw in Spanish: Breslavia
wroclaw in Esperanto: Vroclavo
wroclaw in Basque: Wroclaw
wroclaw in French: Wrocław
wroclaw in Western Frisian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Galician: Wrocław
wroclaw in Korean: 브로츠와프
wroclaw in Croatian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Ido: Wrocław
wroclaw in Indonesian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Icelandic: Wrocław
wroclaw in Italian: Breslavia
wroclaw in Hebrew: ורוצלב
wroclaw in Javanese: Wrocław
wroclaw in Georgian: ვროცლავი
wroclaw in Kashubian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Latin: Vratislavia
wroclaw in Latvian: Vroclava
wroclaw in Lithuanian: Vroclavas
wroclaw in Hungarian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Malay (macrolanguage): Wrocław
wroclaw in Nauru: Wrocław
wroclaw in Dutch: Wrocław
wroclaw in Japanese: ヴロツワフ
wroclaw in Norwegian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Norwegian Nynorsk: Wrocław
wroclaw in Occitan (post 1500): Wrocław
wroclaw in Low German: Breslau
wroclaw in Polish: Wrocław
wroclaw in Portuguese: Wrocław
wroclaw in Romanian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Quechua: Wrocław
wroclaw in Russian: Вроцлав
wroclaw in Simple English: Wrocław
wroclaw in Slovak: Vroclav
wroclaw in Slovenian: Wrocław
wroclaw in Serbian: Вроцлав
wroclaw in Finnish: Wrocław
wroclaw in Silesian: Wrocuaw
wroclaw in Swedish: Wrocław
wroclaw in Vietnamese: Wrocław
wroclaw in Turkish: Wroclaw
wroclaw in Ukrainian: Вроцлав
wroclaw in Volapük: Wrocław
wroclaw in Yiddish: ברעסלוי
wroclaw in Samogitian: Vruoclavs
wroclaw in Chinese: 弗罗茨瓦夫
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