Bydgoszcz is a city located in northern Poland, on the Brda and Vistula rivers. With a city population of 363,926 (March 2011), and an urban agglomeration with more than 470,000 inhabitants, Bydgoszcz is the 8th-largest city in Poland. It has been the seat of Bydgoszcz County and the co-capital, with Toruń, of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999. Prior to this, between 1947 and 1998, it was the capital of the Bydgoszcz Voivodeship, and before that, of the Pomeranian Voivodeship between 1945 and 1947.
Bydgoszcz is part of the metroplex Bydgoszcz-Toruń, which totals over 850,000 inhabitants. Bydgoszcz is the seat of Kazimierz Wielki University, University of Technology and Life Sciences and a conservatory, as well as a Collegium Medicum of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. Bydgoszcz hosts the Filharmonia Pomorska concert hall, the Opera Nova opera house, and the Bydgoszcz Ignacy Jan Paderewski Airport. Due to its location between the Vistula and Odra rivers, and the water course of the Bydgoszcz Canal, the city forms part of a water system connected via the Noteć, Warta, Odra, and Elbe with the Rhine and Rotterdam.
During the early Slavic times a fishing settlement called Bydgozcya ("Bydgostia" in Latin), became a stronghold on the Vistula trade routes. In the 13th century it was the site of a castellany, mentioned in 1238. The city was occupied by the Teutonic Knights in 1331, and incorporated into the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. The city was relinquished by the Knights in 1343 with their signing of the Treaty of Kalisz along with Dobrzyń and the remainder of Kuyavia.
King Casimir III of Poland, granted Bydgoszcz city rights (charter) on April 19, 1346. The city increasingly saw an influx of Jews after that date. In the 15th and 16th centuries Bydgoszcz was a significant site for wheat trading.
During 1629, near to the end of the Polish-Swedish War of 1626–29, the town was conquered by Swedish troops led by king Gustav II Adolph of Sweden personally. During the events of war the town suffered demolitions. The town was conquered a second and third time by Sweden in 1656 and 1657 during the Second Northern War. On the latter occasion the castle was destroyed completely and has since then remained a ruin. After the war only 94 houses were inhabited, 103 stood empty and 35 were burned down. Also the suburbs had been damaged considerably.
The Treaty of Bydgoszcz agreed in 1657 by King John II Casimir Vasa of Poland and Elector Frederick William II of Brandenburg-Prussia created a military alliance between Poland and Prussia while marking the withdrawal of Prussia from its alliance with Sweden.
Bydgoszcz was in 1772 annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in the First Partition of Poland, renamed Bromberg, and incorporated into the Netze District in West Prussia. Around 1772 the town was seriously depressed and semi-derilect due to previous sieges and fires. Under Frederick the Great the town was rebuilt, notably with his construction of a canal from Bromberg to Nakel (Nakło) which connected the north-flowing Vistula River via the Brda to the west-flowing Netze, which in turn flowed to the Oder via the Warta, to which the city's revival as a centre of commercial importance is owed. The arrival of the railways contributed to the growth and importance of the city. By 1900 the city's population was 52,000 and it was the seat of government for the district. Polish historiographers refer to this period as the Drang nach Osten (German for "push eastward").
In 1807, after the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon, and the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit, Bromberg became part of his new Duchy of Warsaw. With his defeat it returned to Prussian rule in 1815 as part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Poznań (the Province of Posen after 1848) and the capital of the Bromberg region. In 1871 the entire province was incorporated into the German Empire. In 1910 the city had 57,700 inhabitants of which 84 percent were Germans and 16 percent Poles.
In 1919 Bromberg was assigned to Poland by the Paris Peace Conference and the Versailles Treaty. It belonged to the Poznań Voivodeship. The local populace were required to acquire Polish citizenship or leave the country. This led to a steady and significant decline of ethnic Germans, whose number within the town decreased from 74,292 in 1910 to 11,016 in 1926 and from 31,212 to 13,281 within the district. In 1938 it was made part of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.
From 1939–45 during World War II, Bydgoszcz was occupied by Nazi Germany, in the Invasion of Poland and annexed to the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia as the seat of the district or county (kreis) of Bromberg . On September 3, 1939, shortly after the war started, the Bromberg Bloody Sunday incident occurred; the incident was used in Nazi propaganda and as an excuse for reprisals against the Polish population, following the occupation of the city by the Wehrmacht on September 9.
The history of Jews in Bydgoszcz ended up with the catastrophe of World War II and the German invasion of Poland. The city's Jewish citizens were sent to German death camps and/or murdered in the town itself. Bromberg was the site of Bromberg-Ost, a women's subcamp of Stutthof. A deportation camp was situated in Smukała village, now part of Bydgoszcz. According to Nowa encyklopedia powszechna PWN, 37,000 citizens of the city, Polish and Jewish, died during the war.
In 1945 Bydgoszcz was liberated from the German occupation by the Red Army. In the same year it was made the seat of the Pomeranian Voivodship, the northern part of which was soon separated to form Gdańsk Voivodship. The remaining part of the Pomeranian Voivodship was renamed Bydgoszcz Voivodeship in the year 1950.