Łódź is Poland's third largest city with population of 753,192 in 2007 (lost its second rank to Krakow in 2007). It is located in the centre of the country and serves as the capital of the Łódź Voivodeship. The coat of arms is canting, i.e., it contains a boat, alluding to the city's name which literally means "a boat".
Łódź first appears in the written record in a 1332 document giving the village of Łodzia to the bishops of Włocławek. In 1423 King Władysław Jagiełło granted city rights to the village of Łódź. From then until the 18th century the town remained a small settlement on a trade route between Masovia and Silesia. In the 16th century the town had fewer than 800 inhabitants, mostly working on the nearby grain farms.
With the second partition of Poland in 1793, Łódź became part of the Kingdom of Prussia's province of South Prussia, and was known in German as Lodsch. In 1798 the Prussians nationalized the town, and it lost its status as a town of the bishops of Kuyavia. In 1806 Łódź joined the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw and in 1810 it had 190 inhabitants. In 1815 Congress of Vienna treaty it became part of Congress Poland, a client state of the Russian Empire.
A constant influx of workers, businessmen and craftsmen from all over Europe transformed Łódź into the main textile production centre of the Russian Empire. Three groups dominated the city's population and contributed the most to the city's development: Poles, Germans and Jews, which started to arrive since 1848. Many the Lodz craftspeople were weavers from Silesia.
In 1850, Russia abolished the customs barrier between Congress Poland and Russia proper; industry in Łódź could now develop freely with a huge Russian market not far away. Soon the city became the second-largest city of Congress Poland. In 1865 the first railroad line opened (to Koluszki, branch line of the Warsaw-Vienna Railway) opened, and soon the city had rail links with Warsaw and Białystok.
One of the most important industrialists of Lodz was Carl Wilhelm Scheibler (). In 1852 he came to Lodz and with Julius Schwarz together started buying property and building several factories. Scheibler later bought out Schwarz's share and thus became sole owner of a large business. After he died in 1881 his widow had a large Masoleum at the Lutheran cemetery erected in his honor.
In the 1823–1873 period, the city's population doubled every ten years. The years 1870–1890 marked the period of most intense industrial development in the city's history. Much of the industry had gone into Jewish business hands. Łódź soon became a major centre of the socialist movement. In 1892 a huge strike paralyzed most of the factories.
By 1897 the share of the German population had dropped from 80 to 40%. During the 1905 Revolution, in what became known as the June Days or Łódź insurrection, Tsarist police killed more than 300 workers.
Despite the air of impending crisis preceding World War I, the city grew constantly until 1914. By that year it had become one of the most densely-populated industrial cities in the world —. A major battle was fought near the city in late 1914, and as a result the city came under German occupation, but with Polish independence restored in November 1918 the local population liberated the city and disarmed the German troops. In the aftermath of World War I, Łódź lost approximately 40% of its inhabitants, mostly owing to draft, diseases and because a huge part of the German population was forced to move to Germany.
In 1922, Łódź became the capital of the Łódź Voivodeship, but the period of rapid growth had ceased. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Customs War with Germany closed western markets to Polish textiles while the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) and the Civil War in Russia (1918–1922) put an end to the most profitable trade with the East. The city became a scene of a series of huge workers' protests and riots in the interbellum. On 13 September 1925 a new airport, Lublinek Airport, started operations near the city of Łódź. In the interwar years Łódź continued to be a diverse city, with the 1931 Polish census showing that the total population of 604,470 included 315,622 (52.21%) Poles, 202,497 (33.49%) Jews and 86,351 (14.28%) Germans (determination based on the declaration of language used).
Also read Battle of Łódź (1939) Prelude.
During the Invasion of Poland the Polish forces of the Łódź Army of General Juliusz Rómmel defended Łódź against initial German attacks. However, the Wehrmacht captured the city on September 8. Despite plans for the city to become a Polish enclave, attached to the General Government, the Nazi hierarchy respected the wishes of the local governor of Reichsgau Wartheland, Arthur Greiser, and of many of the ethnic Germans living in the city, and annexed it to the Reich in November 1939. The city received the new name of Litzmannstadt after the German general Karl Litzmann, who captured the city during World War I. Nevertheless, many Łódź Germans refused to sign Volksliste and become Volksdeutsche, instead being deported to the General Government. Soon the Nazi authorities set up the Łódź Ghetto in the city and populated it with more than 200,000 Jews from the Łódź area. Only about 900 people survived the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944. Several concentration camps and death camps arose in the city's vicinity for the non-Jewish inhabitants of the regions, among them the infamous Radogoszcz prison and several minor camps for the Roma people and for Polish children.
By the end of World War II, Łódź had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants: 300,000 Polish Jews and approximately 120,000 other Poles. In January 1945 most of the German population fled the city for fear of the Red Army. The city also suffered tremendous losses due to the German policy of requisition of all factories and machines and transporting them to Germany. Thus despite relatively small losses due to aerial bombardment and the fighting, Łódź had lost most of its infrastructure.
The Soviet Red Army entered the city on January 18, 1945. According to Marshal Katukov, whose forces participated in the operation, the Germans retreated so suddenly that they had no time to evacuate or destroy the Łódź factories, as they did in other cities. In time, Łódź became part of the People's Republic of Poland.
Prior to World War II, the Jewish population of Łódź numbered about 233,000, accounting for one-third of the city’s population. The community was wiped out in the Holocaust.
In early 1945, Łódź had fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. However the number began to grow as refugees from Warsaw and territories annexed by the Soviet Union immigrated. Until 1948 the city served as a de facto capital of Poland, since events during and after the Warsaw uprising had thoroughly destroyed Warsaw, and most of the government and country administration resided in Łódź. Some planned moving the capital there permanently, however this idea did not gain popular support and in 1948 the reconstruction of Warsaw began. Under the Polish Communist regime many of the industrialist families lost their wealth when the authorities nationalised private companies. Once again the city became a major centre of industry. After the period of economic transition during the 1990s most enterprises were again privatised. In 2002 the city came to national attention due to the "Skin Hunters" scandal: doctors and paramedics in one of the city's hospitals were caught murdering patients and selling their details to funeral homes for them to contact the relatives. Four men have been convicted but others are still under investigation. A film was made of the events in 2003.
Three major novels depict the development of industrial Łódź. Władysław Reymont's Ziemia Obiecana (The Promised Land) (1898), Joseph Roth's Hotel Savoy (1924) and Israel Joshua Singer's Di Brider Ashkenazi (The Brothers Ashkenazi) (1937). Roth's novel depicts the city on the eve of a workers' riot in 1919. Reymont's novel was made into a film by Andrzej Wajda in 1975: see The Promised Land. In the 1990 film Europa Europa, Solomon Perel's family flees pre-WWII Berlin and settles in Łódź; later, disguised as a Hitler Youth cadet, Perel attempts visit the Łódź ghetto to search for his family. Łódź is the first city destroyed by a nuclear attack from the USSR in John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy. Łódź also plays a major part in the WorldWar and Colonization sagas by Harry Turtledove. Scenes of David Lynch's 2006 film Inland Empire were shot in Łódź.
Many tourists in Łódź visit Piotrkowska Street, which stretches north to south for a little over five kilometres, making it the longest commercial street in the world. Recently renovated, it has many beautiful buildings dating back to the 19th century, in the Art Nouveau architectural style. Although Łódź does not have any hills nor any large body of water, one can still get close to nature in one of the city's many parks, most notably Łagiewniki (the largest city park in Europe), Zdrowie, and Poniatowski. Łódź Zoo, and Łódź Botanical Gardens also offer pleasant opportunities for leisure. Łódź has one of the best museums of modern art in Poland, Muzeum Sztuki on Więckowskiego Street, which displays art by all important contemporary Polish artists. Despite insufficient exhibition space (many very impressive paintings and sculptures lie in storage in the basement), there are plans to move the museum to a larger space in the near future.
Old postindustrial buildings are now being restored, among them a factory built by Izrael Poznanski, one of Europe's largest textile factories.
Before 1990, Łódź's economy focused on the textile industry, which in the nineteenth century had developed in the city owing to the favourable chemical composition of its water. As a result, Łódź grew from a population of 13,000 in 1840 to over 500,000 in 1913. By just before World War I Łódź had become one of the most densely populated industrial cities in the world, with . The textile industry declined dramatically in 1990 and 1991, and no major textile company survives in Łódź today. However, countless small companies still provide a significant output of textiles, mostly for export to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
The city benefits from its central location in Poland. A number of firms have located their logistics centers in the vicinity. Two planned motorways, A1 spanning from the north to the south of Poland, and A2 going from the east to the west will intersect northeast of the city. When these motorways are completed around 2010, the advantages due to the city's central location should increase even further. Work has also began on upgrading the railway connection with Warsaw, which at present is completely inadequate as it takes almost 2 hours to make the journey by train. In the next few years much of the track will be modified to handle trains moving at , cutting the travel time to about 75 minutes.
The Leon Schiller's National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź (Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, Telewizyjna i Teatralna im. Leona Schillera w Łodzi) is the most notable academy for future actors, directors, photographers, camera operators and TV staff in Poland. It was founded on March 8, 1948 and was initially planned to be moved to Warsaw as soon as the city was rebuilt following the Warsaw Uprising. However, in the end the school remained in Łódź and today is one of the best-known institutions of higher education in that town.
At the end of the Second World War Łódź remained the only large Polish town besides Kraków which war had not destroyed. The creation of the National Film School gave the town a role of greater importance from a cultural viewpoint, which before the war had belonged exclusively to Warsaw and Kraków. Early students of the School include the directors Andrzej Munk, Andrzej Wajda, Kazimierz Karabasz (one of the founders of the so called Black Series of Polish Documentary) and Janusz Morgenstern, who at the end of the Fifties became famous as one of the founders of the Polish Film School of Cinematography.
Immediately after the war, Jerzy Bossak, Wanda Jakubowska, Stanisław Wohl, Antoni Bohdziewicz and Jerzy Toeplitz worked as the first teachers. The internationally renowned film director Roman Polański was among the many talented students who attended the School in the 1950s. Łódź's cinematic involvement and its Hollywood-style star walk on Piotrkowska Street have earned it the nickname "Holly-Łódź". The school is also associated with the Camerimage Film Festival, which occurs annually in late November and early December. Founded in Toruń in 1993, the festival was specifically organised to focus on the art of cinematography and is well-attended every year by world-renowned cinematographers, many of whom also participate in seminars, workshops, retrospectives and Q&A sessions. Because of both subject matter and attendee composition, it is considered a key event for industry exhibitors, who often make European debuts of their products here.
Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Łódź constituency:
Members of Parliament (Senat) elected from Łódź constituency:
Łódź belongs also to the Eurocities network.