Neukirch (Kr. Breslau) was absorbed into the city of breslau before 1945.
Wrocław is the historical capital of Silesia, and today is the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. At various times it has been part of the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, the Austrian Empire, Prussia, and Germany; it has been part of Poland since 1945, as a result of border changes after World War II. Its population in 2011 is 631,235, making it the fourth largest city in Poland.
Wrocław was the host of EuroBasket 1963, FIBA EuroBasket 2009, and UEFA Euro 2012; it will host the 2014 FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship and, in 2017, the World Games, a competition in 37 non-olympic sport disciplines. The city has been selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2016.
The city of Wrocław originated as a Bohemian stronghold at the intersection of two trade routes, the Via Regia and the Amber Road. The name of 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 Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island, German: Dominsel).
During Wrocław's early history, its control changed hands between Bohemia (until 992, then 1038–1054), the Kingdom of Poland (992–1038 and 1054–1202), and, after the fragmentation of the Kingdom of Poland, the Piast-ruled duchy of Silesia. One of the most important events in those times was the foundation of the Diocese of Wrocław by the Polish Duke (from 1025 king) Bolesław the Brave in 1000. Along with the Bishoprics of Kraków and Kołobrzeg, Wrocław was placed under the Archbishopric of Gniezno in Greater Poland, founded by Otto III in 1000, during the Congress of Gniezno. In the years 1034-1038 was a pagan reaction.
The city became a commercial centre and expanded to Wyspa Piaskowa (Sand Island, German: Sandinsel), and then to the left bank of the River Oder. Around 1000, the town had about 1,000 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 River Oder, near the present seat of the University. While the city was Polish, there were also communities of Bohemians, Jews, Walloons and Germans.
After the Mongol invasion the town was partly populated by German settlers who, in the following centuries, would gradually become its dominant ethnic group; the city, however, retained its multi-ethnic character, a reflection of its position as an important trading city on the Via Regia and the Amber Road.
With the influx of settlers the town expanded and adopted German town law. The city council used Latin and German, and "Breslau", the Germanized name of the city, appeared for the first time in written records. The enlarged town covered around 60 hectares, and the new main market square, which was surrounded by timber frame houses, became the new centre of the town. The original foundation, Ostrów Tumski, became the religious center. Wrocław 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, but the right of the city council to govern independently increased.
In 1335, Breslau, together with almost all of Silesia, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Bohemia, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire. 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. However, from 1526 Silesia was ruled by the Catholic House of Habsburg. In 1618, Breslau supported the Bohemian Revolt out of fear of losing the right to freedom of religious expression. During the ensuing Thirty Years' War, the city was occupied by Saxon and Swedish troops, and lost 18,000 of 40,000 citizens to plague.
The Austrian 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 city'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.
The precise recordkeeping of births and deaths by the city of Breslau led to the use of their data for analysis of mortality, first by John Graunt, and then later by Edmond Halley. Halley's tables and analysis, published in 1693, are considered to be the first true actuarial tables, and thus the foundation of modern actuarial science.
During the Counter-Reformation, the intellectual life of the city – shaped by Protestantism and Humanism — flourished, even as the Protestant bourgeoisie lost its role to the Catholic orders as the patron of the arts. Breslau became the centre of German Baroque literature and was home to the First and Second Silesian school of poets.
The Kingdom of Prussia annexed Breslau and most of Silesia during the War of the Austrian Succession in the 1740s. After the Seven Years' War, Habsburg empress Maria Theresa ceded the territory in 1763.
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 secularised. The Protestant Viadrina University of Frankfurt (Oder) was relocated to Breslau in 1811, and united with the local Jesuit University to create the new Silesian Frederick-William University (Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität, now University of Wrocław). The city became the centre of the German Liberation movement against Napoleon, and the gathering place for volunteers from all over Germany, with the Iron Cross military decoration founded by Frederick William III of Prussia in early March 1813. The city was the centre of Prussian mobilisation for the campaign which ended at Leipzig.
On October 10, 1854, das Jüdisch-Theologisches Seminar (Fränckelscher Stiftung) opened. The institution was the first modern rabbinical seminary in Central Europe.
Napoleonic redevelopments increased prosperity in Silesia and Breslau. The levelled fortifications opened space for the city to grow beyond its old limits. Breslau became an important railway hub and industrial centre, notably of linen and cotton manufacture and metal industry. The reconstructed university served as a major centre of sciences, while the secularisation of life laid the base for a rich museum landscape. Johannes Brahms wrote his Academic Festival Overture to thank the university for an honorary doctorate awarded in 1881.
In 1821 (Arch)Diocese of Breslau was disentangled from the Polish ecclesiastical province (archbishopric) in Gniezno and made Breslau an exempt bishopric.
The Unification of Germany in 1871 turned Breslau into the sixth-largest city in the German Empire. Its population more than tripled to over half a million between 1860 and 1910. The 1900 census listed 422,709 residents. Important landmarks were inaugurated in 1910, the Kaiserbrücke (Kaiser bridge) and the Technische Hochschule (TH), which now houses the Wrocław University of Technology.
The 1900 census listed 5,363 people (just over 1% of the population) as Polish speakers, and another 3,103 (0.7% of the population) as speaking both German and Polish. The population was 58% Protestant, 37% Catholic (including at least 2% Polish) and 5% Jewish (totaling 20,536 in the 1905 census). The Jewish community of Breslau was among the most important in Germany, producing several distinguished artists and scientists.
In 1913, the newly-built Centennial Hall housed the "Ausstellung zur Jahrhundertfeier der Freiheitskriege", an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the historical German Wars of Liberation against Napoleon and the first award of the Iron Cross.
After the First World War the Polish community began holding masses in Polish in the Church of Saint Ann, and, as of 1921, at St. Martin's; a Polish consulate was opened on the Main Square, and a Polish School was founded by Helena Adamczewska.
In August 1920, during the Polish Silesian Uprising in Upper Silesia, the Polish Consulate and School were destroyed, while the Polish Library was burned down by a mob. The number of Poles as a percentage of the total population fell to just 0.5% after the reconstitution of Poland in 1918, when many returned home. Antisemitic riots occurred in 1923.
The city boundaries were expanded between 1925 and 1930 to include an area of with a population of 600,000. In 1929, the Werkbund opened WuWa (German: Wohnungs- und Werkraumausstellung) in Breslau-Scheitnig, an 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 number of Jews remaining in Breslau fell from 23,240 in 1925 to 10,659 in 1933.
Rise of Nazis
Known as a stronghold of left wing liberalism during the German Empire, Breslau eventually became one of the strongest support bases of the Nazis, who in the 1932 elections received 44% of the city's vote, their third-highest total in all Germany.
After Hitler's in 1933, political enemies of the Nazis were persecuted, and their institutions closed or destroyed; the Gestapo began actions against Polish and Jewish students (see: Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau), Communists, Social Democrats, and trade unionists. Arrests were made for speaking Polish in public, and in 1938 the Nazi-controlled police destroyed the Polish cultural centre. Many of the city's 10,000 Jews, as well as many others seen as 'undesirable' by the Third Reich, were sent to concentration camps; those Jews who remained were killed during the Holocaust. 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.
The last big event organised by the Nazi Sports Body, called Deutsches Turn-und-Sportfest (Gym and Sports Festivities), took place in Breslau from 26 to 31 July 1938. The Sportsfest was held to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the German Wars of Liberation against Napoleon's invasion.
World War II and afterwards
For most of World War II, the fighting did not affect Breslau. In 1941 the remnants of the pre-war Polish minority in the city, as well as Polish slave labourers, organised a resistance group called Olimp. As the war continued, refugees from bombed-out German cities, and later refugees from farther east, swelled the population to nearly one million, including 51,000 forced labourers in 1944, and 9,876 Allied PoWs. At the end of 1944 an additional 30,000-60,000 Poles were moved into the city after Nazis crushed the Warsaw Uprising 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 January 1945, 18,000 people froze to death in icy snowstorms and weather. By the end of the Siege of Breslau, half the city had been destroyed. An estimated 40,000 civilians lay dead in the ruins of homes and factories. After a siege of nearly three months, Hanke surrendered on 6 May 1945, days before the end of the war. In August the Soviets placed the city under the control of German anti-fascists.
Along with almost all of Lower Silesia, however, the city became part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Conference. The Polish name of Wrocław was declared official. There had been discussion among the Western Allies to place the southern Polish-German boundary on the Glatzer Neisse, which meant post-war Germany would have been allowed to retain approximately half of Silesia, including Breslau. However, the Soviets insisted the border be drawn at the Lusatian Neisse farther west.
In August 1945 the city had a German population of 189,500, and a Polish population of 17,000; that was soon to change. Almost all of the German inhabitants fled or were forcibly expelled between 1945 and 1949 and were settled in Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. A small German minority remains in the city, although the city's last German school was closed in 1963. The Polish population was dramatically increased by the resettlement of Poles during postwar population transfers (75%) as well as during the forced deportations from Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union in the east region, many of whom came from Lviv (Lwów).
Wrocław is now a unique European city of mixed heritage, with architecture influenced by Bohemian, and Prussian traditions, such as Silesian Gothic and its Baroque style of court builders of Habsburg Austria (Fischer von Erlach). Wrocław has a number of notable buildings by German modernist architects including the famous Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia or Jahrhunderthalle) (1911–1913) designed by Max Berg.