Łódź (; , Lodzh; or ) is the third-largest city in Poland. Located in the central part of the country, it had a population of 742,387 in December 2009. It is the capital of Łódź Voivodeship, and is approximately south-west of Warsaw. The city's coat of arms is an example of canting: depicting a boat, it alludes to the city's name which translates literally as "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 nationalised 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 the 1815 Congress of Vienna treaty it became part of Congress Poland, a client state of the Russian Empire.
Century of partitions: 1815 Congress of Vienna
In the 1815 treaty, it was planned to renew the dilapidated town and with the 1816 decree by the Czar a number of German immigrants received territory deeds for them to clear the land and to build factories and housing. In 1820 Stanisław Staszic aided in changing the small town into a modern industrial centre. The immigrants came to the Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana, the city's nickname) from all over Europe. Mostly they arrived from Southern Germany, Silesia and Bohemia, but also from countries as far away as Portugal, England, France and Ireland. The first cotton mill opened in 1825, and 14 years later the first steam-powered factory in both Poland and Russia commenced operations. In 1839, 78% of the population was German, and German schools and churches were established.
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, who started to arrive since 1848. Many of the Łódź 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), and soon the city had rail links with Warsaw and Białystok.
One of the most important industrialists of Łódź was Karl Wilhelm Scheibler. In 1852 he came to Łódź 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 and other members of the family decided to pay homage to his memory by erecting a chapel, intended as a mausoleum with family crypt, in the Lutheran part of the Łódź cemetery in ulica Ogrodowa (later known as The Old Cemetery).
In the 1823–1873, 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. Many of the industrialists were Jewish. Łódź soon became a major centre of the socialist movement. In 1892 a huge strike paralysed most of the factories. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 315,000, Jews constituted 99,000 (around 31% percent). During the 1905 Revolution, in what became known as the June Days or Łódź insurrection, Tsarist police killed hundreds of workers. By 1913, the Poles constituted almost half of the population (49.7%), the German minority had fallen to 14.8%, and the Jews made up 34%, out of some 506,000 inhabitants.
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 after 6 December 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.
Restored Poland: After the First World War
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, began operations on the outskirts of the city. In the interwar years Łódź continued to be a diverse and multicultural city, with the 1931 Polish census showing that the total population of roughly 604,000 included 375,000 (59%) Poles, 192,000 (32%) Jews and 54,000 (9%) Germans (determined from the main language used). By 1939, the Jewish minority had grown to well over 200,000.
Occupation by Nazi Germany
During the invasion of Poland, the Polish forces of General Juliusz Rómmel's Łódź Army defended the city against initial German attacks. The Wehrmacht nevertheless captured the city on 8 September. Despite plans for the city to become a Polish enclave attached to the General Government, the Nazi hierarchy respected the wishes of many ethnic German residents and the Reichsgau Wartheland governor Arthur Greiser by annexing the city to the Reich in November 1939. Many Germans in the city, however, refused to sign the Volksliste and become Volksdeutsche; they were deported to the General Government. The city was given the new name of "Litzmannstadt" after Karl Litzmann, the German general who had captured it during World War I.
The Nazi authorities soon established the Łódź Ghetto in the city and populated it with more than 200,000 Jews from the Łódź area. As Jews were deported from Litzmannstadt for extermination, others were brought in. 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 Romani people and for Polish children. Due to the value of the goods that the ghetto population produced for the German military and various civilian contractors, it was the last major ghetto to be liquidated, in August 1944.
While occupied, thousands of new ethnic German Volksdeutsche came to Łódź from all across Europe, many of whom were repatriated from Russia during the time of Hitler's alliance with the Soviet Union before Operation "Barbarossa". 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 fighting and aerial bombardment, Łódź was deprived of most of its infrastructure.
Prior to World War II, Łódź's Jewish community numbered around 233,000 and accounted for one-third of the city's total population. The community was wiped out in the Holocaust. By the end of the war, the city and its environs had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants, including approximately 300,000 Polish Jews and 120,000 other Poles.
The Soviet Red Army entered the city on 18 January 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 factories, as they had in other cities.
Łódź subsequently became part of the People's Republic of Poland.
After World War II: People's Republic of Poland
At the end of World War II, 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. In mid-1981 Łódź became famous for its massive, 50,000 hunger demonstration of local mothers and their children (see: Summer 1981 hunger demonstrations in Poland). After the period of economic transition during the 1990s, most enterprises were again privatised.