Wrocław, Ger. Breslau, city (1993 est. pop. 644,000), capital of Dolnośląskie prov., SW Poland, on the Oder (Odra) River. A railway center and river port, the city is also an industrial center with manufactures of heavy machinery, electronics, computers, iron goods, textiles, copper, and food products. Wrocław probably was a Slavic settlement when it was made (c.1000) an episcopal see subordinate to the archbishop of Gniezno. It became (1163) the capital of the duchy of Silesia, ruled by a branch of the Polish Piast dynasty. Sacked by the Mongols in 1241, the city was rebuilt by German settlers and developed as a trade center. Passing (1335) to Bohemia, it became a member (1368-1474) of the Hanseatic League. It was ceded to the Hapsburgs in 1526 and to Prussia in 1742. The city grew considerably in the 19th cent., both in commercial and industrial importance, and was the site of two large semiannual trade fairs. Its university was founded in 1811, when it absorbed the university formerly at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. Wrocław was badly damaged during a Soviet siege in World War II. After 1945 the German inhabitants were expelled and replaced by Poles. Historic buildings include a 13th-century cathedral, several Gothic churches, and a Gothic town hall that houses a historical museum.

Wrocław (Breslau; Vratislav; Vratislavia or Wratislavia; Yiddish: ברעסלוי) is the chief city of the historical region of Lower Silesia in south-western Poland, situated on the Oder (Odra) river. Over the centuries the city has been part of Poland, Bohemia, Austria, Prussia, and Germany. In 1945, the Potsdam Agreement returned the city to Poland after many centuries. 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 Wroclaw, Boroszló, Breslavia, Vratislavia or Wratislavia, Hebrew: ורוצלב (Vrotsláv), Vratislav or Vroclav, Уроцлаў (Vrotslai), Βρότσλαβ (Vrotslav), Вроцлав (Vrotslav); also Бреславль (Breslavl), Вроцлав or Vroclav and Вроцлав (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 10th 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 (till 992 and than 1038-1050), Kingdom of Poland (992-1138), and an (Piast) duchy of Silesia - part of the divided Kingdom of Poland. In the first half of the 13th century Wrocław even became the center of the divided state.

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, Walloonsand 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.

The population was replenished by Germans who settled there and became the dominant ethnic group, though the city remained multi-ethnic. Breslau, the Germanised name of the city, appeared for the first time in written records, and the city council used only Latin and Germanfrom the beginning.

Breslau was expanded by adopting a German town law. The expanded town was around 60 hectares and the new Main Market Square (Rynek), which was covered with timber framed houses, became the new center of the town. The original foundation, Ostrów Tumski, became the religious center. Breslau adopted Magdeburg rights in 1262 and, at the end of the 13th century joined the Hanseatic League. The Polish Piast dynasty remained in control of the region, however the self-administration rights of the city council increased.

In 1335, Breslau was incorporated with almost all of Silesia into the Kingdom of Bohemia. 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. 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 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 Breslau'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 as the patron of the arts to the Catholic orders. Breslau became the center of German Baroque literature and was home to the First and Second Silesian school of poets.

The age of Enlightment

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

Before and after World War I

During the Napoleonic Wars Breslau was occupied by an army of the Confederation of the Rhine. The fortifications of the city were leveled and monasteries and cloisters were secularized. The Protestant Viadrina university of Frankfurt (Oder) was relocated to Breslau in 1811, and united with the local Jesuit University to create the new Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität (Wrocław University). The city became the center of the Liberation movement against Napoleon Bonaparte; volunteers from all over Germany gathered there.

Prussian reforms increased prosperity in Silesia and Breslau. The leveled fortifications opened space for Breslau to grow beyond her old borders. Breslau became an important railway hub and industrial centre, notably of linen and cotton manufacture and metal industry. The unified university resulted in the city becoming a major Prussian center of sciences, and the secularization laid the base for a rich museum landscape.

German unification in 1871 left Breslau the sixth-largest city in the German Empire. Its population more than tripled to over half a million between 1860 and 1910. The 1905 census lists 470,904 residents, including 20,536 Jews, 6,020 Poles and 3,752 others. In 1919, Breslau became the capital of the newly created Province of Lower Silesia. Due to increased ethnic tensions, in August 1920 during the pro-Polish Silesian Uprising in neighbouring Upper Silesia, local Polish institutions were devastated. The number of Poles in Breslau dropped from 2 percent before World War I to 0.5 percent after the reconstitution of Poland. 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, a 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 Nazis, who in the 1932 elections received 43,5 % of Breslau's votes, their third largest total in the entire country.

After Hitler's Putsch, the Gestapo began actions against Polish and Jewish students, Communists, Social Democrats, and trade unionists. Arrests were even made for using Polish in public. In 1938 the police destroyed Polish cultural centre. Many of the city's 10,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps; those who remained were killed during the Nazi Holocaust. Most of the Polish elites also left during 1920s and 1930s; leaders who remained were sent to camps. 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.

World War II and afterwards

For most of World War II the fighting was not close to Breslau. Refugees swelled the population to nearly one million.

In February 1945 the Soviet 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. 40,000 inhabitants lay dead in the ruins of homes and factories. After a siege of nearly three months, "Fortress Breslau" surrendered on May 7 1945, just before the end of the war.

After World War II Wrocław became part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Conference. Most remaining German inhabitants fled or were expelled. The population of Wrocław was increased by resettlement of Poles.

Wrocław is now a European city with a Polish population and a mixed architectural heritage, influenced by Bohemian, Austrian, and Prussian traditions, as well as a number of buildings by eminent German modernist architects.

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 has been historically considered one of the warmest cities in Poland. Lying in the Lower-Silesian region, one of the warmest in Poland, the mean annual temperature is 8.5 °C.


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


Today's Wrocław has ten state-run universities, including:

as well as numerous private institutions of higher education

Historic institutions

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
  • Swiftway / Eureka Solutions sp. z o.o., Wrocław
  • MSI (Micro Star International) Polska Sp. z o. o.
  • Cargill Poland


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 (Kresy) 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 Ukrainian (see Ukrainian minority in Poland) and Lemko descent.

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

Twin towns and partnerships

Twin towns:


See also

History of Wrocław
List of notable people from Breslau
List of notable people from Wrocław
Lower Silesia (region)
Lower Silesian Voivodeship (modern)
Province of Lower Silesia (historic 1919 - 1945)
Province of Silesia (historic, 1815 - 1919)


Further reading

English language

Polish language

  • Długoborski, Wacław; Józef Gierowski, Karol Maleczyński (1958). Dzieje Wrocławia do roku 1807. Warszawa: PWN.
  • Harasimowicz, Jan; Włodzimierz Suleja (eds.) (2001). Encyklopedia Wrocławia. Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie.
  • Maleczyński, Karol; Marian Morelowski, Anna Ptaszycka (1956). Wrocław. Rozwój urbanistyczny. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Budownictwo i Architektura.
  • Kulak, Teresa (2006). Wrocław. Przewodnik historyczny (A to Polska właśnie). Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie.
  • Świechowski, Zygmunt (ed.) (1978). Wrocław, jego dzieje i kultura. Warszawa: Arkady.
  • Orzechowicz, Marian (1960). Szkice z dziejów polonii wrocławskiej. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy imienia Ossolinskick-Wydawnictwo, 1960.

German language

External links

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