Płock (pronounced ) is a city on the Vistula river in central Poland. It is located in the Masovian Voivodeship (since 1999), having previously been the capital of the Płock Voivodeship (1975–1998). According to the data provided by GUS on 30 June 2009 there were 126,675 inhabitants in the city. Its full ceremonial name is the Princely Capital City of Płock or the Ducal Capital City of Płock (Stołeczne Książęce Miasto Płock) included in the preamble to the City Statute. It is used in ceremonial documents as well as for preserving an old tradition.
Płock is now a capital of the powiat (county) in the west of the Mazovian Voivodeship. From 1079 - 1138 it was the first historical capital of Poland. Its cathedral has the sarcophagi of the Polish monarchy. It is the cultural, academic, scientific, administrative and transportation center of the west and north Masovian region.
The first Jewish settlers came to the city in the 14th century, responding to the extension of rights by the Polish kings. They built a community and constituted a large portion of the population through the 19th century, sometimes more than 40%. Jews contributed to expansion of trades and crafts, and helped the process of industrialization. In 1939, they made up 26% of the city's population. After the 1939 invasion of Poland, the German Nazis established a Jewish ghetto in Płock in 1940. They deported many of the Jews to other areas but exterminated most of them in the Holocaust. By the war's end, only 300 Jewish residents were known to have survived, of more than 10,000 in the region.
The area was long inhabited by the pagan peoples. In the 10th century, a fortified location was established high of the Vistula River's bank. This location was at a junction of shipping and routes and was strategic for centuries. Its location was a great asset. In 1009 a Benedictine monastery was established here. It became a center of science and art for the area. In 1075, a diocese seat was created here for the Christian church. Płock was the capital city during the reign of the Polish monarchs Władysław I Herman and Bolesław III Krzywousty (1079–1138). It was also a seat of several of the Dukes of Masovia.
During the rule of the first monarchs of the Piast dynasty, even prior to the Baptism of Poland, Płock served as one of the monarchial seats, including that of Prince Mieszko I and King Bolesław I Chrobry. The king built the original fortifications on Tumskie Hill, overlooking the Vistula River. From 1037–1047, Płock was capital of the independent Mazovian state of Masław. Płock has been the residence of many Mazovian princes.
From 1079 to 1138, the city was the capital of Poland, then earning its title as the Ducal Capital City of Płock. It served as the medieval capital during the reigns of the Polish monarchs Władysław I Herman and Bolesław III Krzywousty.
The city suffered major losses in population due to plague, fire, and warfare, with wars between Sweden and Poland in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At that time, the Swedes destroyed much of the city, but the people rebuilt and recovered. In the late 18th century, it took down the old city walls, and made a New Town, filled with many German migrants.
In the 19th century, the city was included within the region controlled by the Russian Empire, when Poland was divided among it, Prussia, and Austro-Hungary. It was a seat of provincial government and an active center; its economy was closely tied to major grain trade. It laid out a new city plan in the early 19th century, as new residents continued to arrive. Many of its finest buildings were constructed in this period in the Classical style. It had a scientific society before mid-century, and in the late 19th century began to industrialize.
Germany attacked Poland in 1939, and began to take over its government. It impressed people as forced laborers for German factories, treating them harshly. During the German occupation of Poland (1941 to 1945), after the Soviets and Germans were at war, the city was named Schröttersburg, after the former Prussian Upper President Friedrich Leopold von Schrötter.