|Motto: Neither rashly, nor timidly|
|- City||262 km2 (101.2 sq mi)|
|- City||460 276|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|- Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Postal code||80-008 to 80-958|
|Area code(s)||+48 58|
Danzig is an ancient German and former Hanseatic city on the Baltic coast, until 1919 the capital of West Prussia. In 1945 it was occupied by the forces of the Soviet Union and fell into the Soviet Zone of occupation. It was illegally awarded by them, against international law, as laid down by the League of Nations and the United Nations, to their puppet Communist State, Poland. Its original 98% German population of 407,000 were murdered and expelled by the Soviet and Polish communists, and replaced by Polish settlers. It remains under occupation.
In 1939 Danzig was one of the main reasons for the conflict between Germany and Poland. The Free City of Danzig wanted to reunite with Germany (from which it was detached by the western plutocratic Allies in 1919), the latter asking for at least an extra-territorial highway and railway line to travel over Pomerelia to Danzig and East Prussia from Germany. Poland flatly refused all German proposals or negotiations.
- 1 History
- 1.1 13th century
- 1.2 14th century
- 1.3 Hanseatic League
- 1.4 Defeat of the Teutonic Order
- 1.5 The Protectorate
- 1.6 Reformation
- 1.7 Post Reformation Wars
- 1.8 18th century
- 1.9 19th century
- 1.10 1900 - 1918
- 1.11 Free City
- 1.12 Westerplatte
- 1.13 Harbour activities
- 1.14 Gdynia
- 1.15 1933
- 1.16 War
- 1.17 Under Polish occupation
- 2 Famous people from Danzig
- 3 Main sights
- 4 Climate
- 5 Local transport
- 6 Politics and local government today
- 7 Education and science
- 8 Gallery
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
- 11 References
- See also West Prussia
Danzig is said to have been founded as a settlement in 50 B.C. by Goths. When in 997 St. Adalbert, Bishop of Prague travelled to Samland to convert the heathen Prussians, he boarded his ship at Danzig. In his biography, by the Roman Abbot Canalarius, it is mentioned as Gyddanyzc, "a modest settlement of Kashubian fishermen", the natives of Pomerelia (or Pomerellen) and originally, Danzig, Slavs who had migrated ("the most recent arrivals in the north") from the great European plain, an area named "Slavia" by the monk Adam of Bremen. The Kashubians are said by some authorities to be only half-Slav and speak a language of their own which is of Slavonic origin, but which cannot be considered a Polish dialect. When this area was part of modern Germany the officials distinguished between the Poles, the Germans, and the Kashubians. The meaning of the Kashubian settlement's name remains unknown, and whether it is of Germanic or Slavic origin is still a topic of controversy. By the 11th century, it had grown into a town with commercial relations to Germany, England, Bohemia and Hungary. The period between 1000-1140 saw constant warfare with Polish Dukes attempting to conquer neigbouring dukedoms, including Pomerelia and Danzig.
While Pomerelia, upon whose shore Danzig was located, was included in the ecclesiastical diocese of Wloclawek in 1148, it was not part of or politically subject to Poland. The first Christian Church in the district of the river Vistula, St. Catherines, was founded in Danzig circa 1180. A wooden church, it was replaced with a traditional Prussian red brick church during the years 1227-1239 by Swantopolk, Duke of Pomerelia (1222-1266). Swantopolk defended his rule victoriously against the Dukes from Poland who attempted to subject him, while Pope Gregory IX recognised his independence and threatened the Polish Dukes with heavy ecclesiastical penalties if they continued to wage war upon him. Tombs of the Dukes of Pomerelia can be found in the Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1170, near Langfuhr, outside Danzig. These Dukes appreciated the more advanced Teutonic civilisation and endeavored to attract German immigrants by founding convents and monasteries (i.e: in 1170 and 1209), endowing them with large tracts of lands and filling them with German nuns and monks. Duke Swantopolk granted his protection to Lubeck merchants who brought salt and cloth to Danzig, lowered the customs duties in their favour, and expressly prohibited the exercise of the right of salvage against them. The port rapidly grew with the influx of German immigrants. The oldest charter concerning Danzig dates from 1235 and is a draft plan for extending the protection of German law to the colony of German merchants which was here established at the mouth of the Vistula and which was to give birth to the Hanseatic city. In 1263 The Duke Swantopolk agreed with the Council of the City of Lubeck that Danzig would have the constitution of a German city, granting it the German law code of Lubeck, which had also been accorded to other German colonies in the East such as Elbing and Riga. (The Lubeck constitutions originated at Soest in Westphalia). Thus we see that Danzig was, from its origins, a German city. In 1271 Duke Mestwin expressly averred that his burghers were German (burgenses theutonici civitatis Gedanensis) as opposed to Prussians or Kashubians.
The 13th century was one of almost continual warfare in that region. Duke Conrad of Marsovia, his northern territories being constantly harrassed by Prussian tribesmen who looted, murdered and pillaged it, and against whom he seemed powerless (he had a failed crusade against them in 1222-3), appealed to the Teutonic Order for assistance: if they could conquer and subdue the heathen Prussians the Order could have their lands (not that they were Conrad's to give!) and Conrad's charter to the Order was sealed by him on the bridge at Kruszwica. In 1229 the first detachment of the Order's Knights arrived on the Vistula. In addition, in 1241 the Tartars invaded and devastated all of neighbouring Poland. Meanwhile, after Duke Swantopolk's death (1266), his sons fought each other bitterly. One, Wartislaw, calling himself 'Duke of Danzig', enjoyed the support of the Order. His brother, Duke Mestwin, however, offered Danzig to the Margrave of Brandenburg if he would support him! Brandenburg, welcoming the opportunity to extend its rule to the mouth of the Vistula, occupied Danzig in 1271. When Mestwin regretted his bargain, he obtained the help of Duke Boleslav of Great Poland, reconquered Danzig, punishing severely the good burghers and noblemen who had done homage to the Margrave. Upon his death in 1294 the first personal union took place between Pomerelia and the Duke of Poland under Mestwin's successor Przemyslav, Duke of Pomerelia (subsequently King of Poland). This was short-lived and upon his death two years later, the several contestants for the rule of Pomerelia called in their neighbours for assistance.
Some stability returned in 1301 when Danzig was occupied in turn by the Teutonic Knights and formerly admitted to their territory in 1308. Contrary to the claims of Polish nationalist writers the Knights did not destroy the city, nor massacre the inhabitants, which the Keeper of the Danzig Archives in 1920, Dr.Kaufmann, called "a sinister legend invented by the enemies of the Order", and the city developed in a purely German direction. Their rule over Danzig continued until 1454, and their "great civilising accomplishments and marked advances in communications and agriculture, building roads and canals, the draining of land, and the construction of a modern port at Danzig" are on record. During this period numerous immigrants from western and central Germany continued to arrive and settle in the city, which around 1300 had a population of between 1500 and 2000. After 1350 immigration became increasingly heavy with as many as 300 people per annum being granted citizenship. The annual average for 1364-1399 was 175. Interestingly, a number of these immigrants were from Scotland, and Danzig's outer suburb of Alt Schottland reflected this. By the end of this century between 30 to 45 per cent of the city's inhabitants were between the ages of 20 and 40 years. To their energy was due the first period of Danzig's boom and prosperity when Danzig's trade, imports and exports, rapidly developed from places as far distant as Lemberg, the Carpathians, Lithuania, Poland, Bohemia, to England & Spain.
Although Danzig had participated in the affairs of the Hanseatic League as early as 1295, it was during the period Danzig was under the Teutonic Order she formed increasingly closer relations with the League, seeking its support in order to strengthen her position in relation to the Knights, and also against Poland. By the early 15th century friction had arisen between the Teutonic Knights and the Danzig burghers over the increasingly lucrative economic activities of the Order - often a source of keen competititon for the Danzig merchants. As a constituent city she formally joined the League in 1358 and first sent one of her city councillors to the Hanse meeting in Greifswald in 1361; after 1377 she was represented at all the League meetings. The League at this time played a dominant role in northern European trade. They were also a military power, with their own ships, and in 1370 conquered Copenhagen forcing the King of Denmark to grant them special concessions.
Defeat of the Teutonic Order
At the battle of Tannenburg in 1410 the united armies of Lithuania and Poland, aided by a Tartar army and Czech and other mercenaries, under the leadership of the Lithuanian Jagiello, now King of Poland, narrowly defeated the Teutonic Knights. Representations by Danzig's Burgomaster to the King were made and Jagiello, who arrogantly now considered himself the 'successor' to the Order, granted Danzig important privileges. However Danzig remained a possession of the Order. Realising that the Order was now in dire straits the burghers refused to furnish further soldiers for war with Poland, or to accept a proposed property tax designed to assist the Order pay its penal indemnities imposed under the Peace of Thorn of 1411. The city's fortifications were strengthened and at length hostilites broke out between the Knights and the city but which resulted in a victory for the Order. Relations again improved but not for long, and Danzig burghers took a decisive step to offer their homage instead to the King of Poland on March 6, 1452 in return for his protection (a Protectorate) against the Order and in return for the grant of more important privileges. Danzig thus sided with Poland during the thirteen years war against the Order until the imposed Second Peace of Thorn in 1466.
When Danzig linked in personal union with Casimir IV, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (and not with the Polish State) she did so upon her own conditions and for the sake of gains which had caused her to forsake the Teutonic Order. (Personal unions between countries were not unusual. The King of Scotland, James VI, linked England and Scotland in His personal union in 1603.) These had been economic wars for the Danzigers, not wars of race. Casimir early confirmed the rights of Danzig to make her own laws and to enjoy absolute freedom of international administration, much like the Imperial Free Cities in Germany. It enjoyed almost unrestricted sovereignty, exercising virtually independent control over its affairs. It conducted its own foreign relations and maintained its own legations abroad, controlled its secular and ecclesiastical administration, coined money and levied taxes, erected fortifications, raised troops, and kept a fleet under the Danzig flag. It was the sole administrator of harbour and shipping, exacting customs revenues and regulating exports and imports at will. Decrees of the Polish king and Diet required the full consent of the Danzig Council (Magistrat) and of a committee of burghers in order to attain the force of local law. The city's influence grew under this autonomous administration. Its national character remained German, and Danzig remained a member of the Hanseatic League. German remained the language of the Law Courts and the Government; the kings of Poland themselves corresponded with the inhabitants of Danzig in German or in Latin, but never in Polish. The rights which the Polish king possessed in Danzig were few in number and slight in importance. For Danzigers, this was a union of convenience. They had "exchanged the increasingly strict rule of the Teutonic Order for the loose union of the Polish kings. The goal of Danzig was always to control its Polish trade but to be ruled as little as possible by Polish kings." Danzig now developed into one of the largest commercial cities of Europe. The prosperity resulting from these extensive trading relations enable the burghers to finish tremendous buildings, most of which were begun under the rule of The Order. The Town Hall tower was considerably increased in height; Arthur's Court was rebuilt and St.Mary's Church was at last finished, being richly decorated by artists from the Rhine and the Danube.
In the early 16th century the Protestant Reformation arrived in Danzig, in spite of opposition by the king and the church of Poland, as in other German cities the local religious changes were closely associated with political and social progress. In 1526 King Sigismund occupied Danzig with an army estimated at 8000 men, opposed to both Lutheranism and new democratic changes in the city's administration. He executed the leaders of the new Protestant movement and forbade the teaching of the new religion as punishable by death and exiled its followers. The city was unable to do anything against such force but it marked a downturn in relations with Poland. In 1572 envoys of Danzig pointed out the established rights of the city to the new Polish king, Stephan Bathory, and demanded from the King that he confirm their ancient privileges before they did homage to him. He refused and in 1576 he advanced upon Danzig with some 17,000 men. The Danzigers burned down their suburbs to deny them to the approaching enemy. The Danzig troops put up a heroic fight against the odds for six months under siege by the Poles who bombarded them with cannons. Finally the siege was lifted and all of her established privileges were confirmed and the ban against Lutheranism lifted. Danzig had shown her independence. With her own strength she had preserved her freedom.
Post Reformation Wars
At the close of the 16th century Danzig was at the peak of her power and prosperity. But for the next 200 years eastern Europe was torn almost without interruption by wars between Poland and Sweden, Russia and Prussia, over the predominance of power in the Baltic Sea and the political hegemony in the lands along the Vistula. Danzig now suffered for the very reason that her geographical situation was so favourable and important in world commerce. Eventually Danzig was caught up, against her will, in these conflicts. In 1626 Sweden's King Gustavus Adolphus occupied Danzig in order to keep Poland away from the Baltic and to paralyse her. In 1630 Danzig concluded with Sweden the Treaty of Tiegenhof which affirmed her complete neutrality, without regard to the Polish Crown. After the Swedes were defeated the Russians occupied Danzig's hinterland and were slow to leave even after the Danzigers had gifted to Peter the Great 140,000 thaler. The Charter of 15 May 1697 gave Danzig the right of continuing her membership of the Hanseatic League, a right which the city had enjoyed, with the consent of the Teutonic Order, ever since the middle of the fourteenth century. She conducted her foreign affairs as she wished, without interference from the King of Poland despite the continuing Royal Decrees attempting to deprive the privileged patricians of their political and administrative independence.
In 1704 the Danzig Senate appealed to the King of Prussia for his protection, and on 26 August 1704 a treaty was concluded between them at Schoenhausen in West Prussia. The Prussian King stipulated for his part that Danzig must remain neutral in any conflict. Thus, in complete independence, Danzig sought safeguards against the dangers to which the increasing Polish anarchy had exposed her. Then, in 1709, the Black Plague arrived in Danzig killing 25,000 inhabitants.
Poland's endless aggressive warfare against her several neighbours led to anarchy and her rapid decline. In the struggle for the Polish Succession between Stanislav Leszczynski and August the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, supported the Pole in the expectation that he would become a weak king whose rule would affect Danzig more lightly than his opponent. The city had to submit to another siege, suffering the destruction of 1,800 houses by bombardment, and carry the cost amounting to millions of guilders. The days of Danzig as a prosperous city-state seemed over. The Hanseatic League was dissolved and the ports of Stettin and Konigsberg became stronger competitors. Russian ports, such as Libau, were also opening. In the century between 1650 and 1750 Danzig's population decreased from 77,000 to 46,000.
From 1772 to 1795 Poland was partitioned thrice by Russia, Prussia and Austria, finally being extinguished as a sovereign country. During these partitions, in 1793, Danzig became fully a part of Prussia. After 339 years Danzig had cut her nominal ties with the Polish Crown and returned to full Prussian sovereignty, and representatives of the city duly did homage to the King of Prussia. Danzig's trade in grain, timber and general produce increased rapidly after the union with Prussia and industry again flourished.
As Napoleon marched through Germany he too finally arrived at the gates of Danzig which he besieged for ten weeks, at the same time his troops were engaged in the siege of Kolberg against that town's famous heroic defence. He annexed parts of Germany, and Danzig, with a population of 80,000, was again declared, briefly, to be a free state under the Peace of Tilsit in 1807. After Napoleon's defeat the Russians laid siege to Danzig, causing great distress with famine, death, and typhus. By the end of 1812 the city had only 16,000 inhabitants. Ruined, the city and its metropolitan hinterlands rejoined Prussia in 1814. Things slowly improved in the 19th century with a dramatic increase in shipping. 3,200 ships visited Danzig in 1862 alone. Steamships began to make a difference, fewer of them with greater tonnages than sailing ships. The city was chosen as the site of the first Prussian naval shipyards, which in 1871 became the Imperial Navy Yard. From 1891 the city was the seat of the 17th Army Command, and others. Danzig became a city of civil servants also, as the capital of West Prussia.
1900 - 1918
Danzig was a beautiful city in a beautiful location. A British visitor wrote in 1912 "Let us look at the city from the heights of Oliva. Danzig lies before you like a paradise, Its bay is bright and blue as the Bay of Naples. The constant procession of ships, the rivers as they run through the meadows to the sea, the protecting wooded heights overlooking lovely valleys, charming villages and smiling lakes, the modern villas built after the art and style of old Danzig culstering around them, and the towers of the romantic town unite to form so varied a picture that any German must be stirred by it with deep and proud emotion." The city's language and pattern of life were German and the city was the capital of the province of West Prussia. A Polytechnical Institute had opened in 1904. Since 1891 the city had been the headquarters of the 17th Army Corps, and a war college had been established in 1894. The populance was by confession about two-thirds Protestant and by political persuasion National Liberal or, to a lesser extent, Conservative - but during The Great War and thereafter the Catholic Centre and Socialist parties were to grow rapidly. German national sentiment was universal. Danzig was middle-class and very provincial.
Danzig's trade at the close of the 19th century was dramatically increasing due to the increasing prosperity and populations in the Prussian provinces of West Prussia and Silesia. In 1903 a new harbour was constructed, and 2,230 steamships and 315 sailing vessels had docked in 1910. The industrious Germans also introduced an extensive railway network which became of great importance to Danzig, making freight traffic independent of natural waterways. In 1912 almost 3,000 ships with a net tonnage of, 2,000,000 tons entered and left the port. In 1913 Danzig was fifth among German ports in the amount of goods handled, and fourteenth among the Baltic ports as measured by the tonnage of ships entering her harbour. More than two million tons of trade passed through the port in 1913 alone. The famous Schichau Shipyards (there was another smaller Schichau yard at Elbing) built large warships - the battleship SMS Silesia was ordered on June 11, 1904, the keel-laying ceremony took place on November 19, and the launch on May 28, 1906 in the presence of the Emperor - and commercial liners, including the sister ships named Columbus, launched in 1913 and 1922 respectively, both over 30,000 tons.
During The Great War the City of Danzig made a special presentation to the Crown Prince Wilhelm & Princess Cecilie of the materials (wood) for the construction and fine carvings for the grand staircase in their new palace of Cecilienhof at Potsdam. Danzig contributed her share to the war effort like any other part of Germany, but with the defeat of the Empire, Danzig felt it deeply.
At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and notwithstanding that as an independent state Poland played no part in The Great War, fanatical Polish nationalists arrived on the scene led by the exile Roman Dmowski. They dreamt of the resurrection of a fantasy Poland, which included Lithuania and numerous other lands which they had at various times conquered, often for short periods. Poland had been a country which for the past 1000 years had ever-changing borders. Upon what were these new borders to be based? The Poles in America disagreed as heartily among themselves as did those in Europe. However, the expat Poles had allies in the form of Colonel Edward House and his President, Woodrow Wilson. Britain’s Prime Minister David Lloyd George, in a speech in January 1918 stated that he supported "an independent Poland, comprising all those genuinely Polish elements." Then came Wilson’s infamous '14 Points', the 13th being "an independent Polish State should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputable Polish populations and which should have a free and secure access to the sea" notwithstanding that Poles were not seafarers and that historically Poland had never possessed a seaport in their own right. Moreover, the Allies at the same time were denying a "free and secure access to the sea" for both Austria and Hungary, something they had for 800 years at least, the Austrians being renowned seafarers. Many countries are landlocked and they all trade internationally. Poland had traditionally imported and exported through Danzig, Koenigsberg, Memel and Libau without hinderance. The conclusion of the 'American Inquiry on War Aims and Peace Terms' made early in January 1918, nevertheless concluded that "the subject of Poland is by far the most complex of all problems to be considered. The present distribution of Poles is such as to make their complete unification impossible. This is probably not within the bounds of practical politics."  David Hunter Miller, of the US State Department, later Technical Advisor at the Peace Conference, pointed out in a memorandum dated July 31, 1918, that Poland could be given territorial access to the sea through Polish territory extending along the Baltic, but not including the distinctly German port of Danzig.
In September 1918 Dmowski and the pianist Ignace Paderewski had a private meeting with President Wilson following which the President stated that he did not favour "the extreme Polish claims to Danzig" and that "the nationalistic desires of a particular people could not always be fully satisfied." Dmowski spoke for over five hours at the Peace Conference articulating all the old Polish fantasies, and arguing for a full restitution of Poland of "indisputably Polish territory" as it had [not] been in 1772, some 282,000 square miles which included Lithuania and Danzig (notwithstanding’s Danzig’s special autonomous status up to 1772). Harvard University’s "very pro-Polish" Professor Robert H. Lord, a 'specialist' in Polish history, and Chief of the Polish Division of the American Peace Commission, however, admitted that "Poles can scarcely have formed more than 50% of the population at most" in the territories of 1772. The British Foreign Office warned in December 1918 that "for the sake of Poland's own future we must firmly oppose exaggerated Polish claims." Dmowski continued with his efforts and on February 23, 1919 pro-Polish French Statesman Clemenceau made it clear that he wanted Danzig assigned to Poland. However Britain opposed this and Lloyd George’s attitude (prophetically) was now that Poland was "more a liability than an asset". The first report of the Polish Commission was completed on March 12, 1919 and submitted to the Supreme Council. It immediately ran into stormy weather. It recommended that Danzig should be given to Poland on the sole grounds that "Danzig was the natural port of Poland". Yet Danzig had never been Polish, apart from the Royal Protectorate at the city’s request, and its population was almost entirely German. This was clearly not what Wilson’s 13th point said. Moreover his 5th point stated: "strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined." Clearly this was being ignored. Professor Lord weighed in by saying that the mouth of Poland’s greatest river should be in their hands. Yet the mouth of the Rhine, Germany’s greatest river, is Rotterdam. Should Rotterdam be in German hands? Moreover, with railways there were any number of ports available to Poland, which had used German ports without hinderance for centuries.
Lloyd George raised multiple objections: "the Poles do not have high reputations as administrators.........in the Danzig district alone there are 412,000 Germans. Is it necessary to assign so much German territory and the port of Danzig to Poland? Is the Commission proposing to define the frontiers finally on ex-parte submissions alone? The other side has not been heard!" Lloyd George added that the Commission’s conclusions departed from the principles of Wilson’s 14 points and that Britain could not sign up to this. The Commission agreed to revisit the issue. However on April 5, Lloyd George and Wilson came to the conclusion that Danzig and its hinterlands should become a Free City. Wilson said that with regard to the former German railways, "so far as the independent Danzig was concerned the map could be drawn so that it would never be of much use to Germany." The American ‘experts’ drafted the Danzig articles which were accepted by the Supreme Council on April, 22. At no time were the population of Danzig and its environs consulted in any way on this issue by the so-called 'democratic' nations.
A strong protest was registered in the German Comments on the Allied Terms of Peace arguing that Danzig was a "purely German city" and that "even the Poles do not seriously deny it has always been German in character". The Germans demanded that Danzig and its environs remain within the German State. In addition the Germans offered to grant Poland extensive rights in Memel, Konigsberg, Stettin and Danzig and to conclude a special agreement concerning Poland’s use of [German] railroads leading to these ports. Furthermore, the German Government was prepared to place at the disposal of the Poles for free use and for free transit all navigable waterways leading from Poland, Lithuania, and Livonia through Prussia to the Baltic. This was flatly rejected by the Allied Powers. In the Treaty of Versailles, Section xi on the 'Free City of Danzig' it becomes clear that it was going to be hamstrung and oppressed by Poland, whose special privileges over the harbour and docks, including full control of "the whole [former German] railway system", and the conduct of the Free City's foreign relations, made a mockery of sovereignty. Worse, under the Convention of Paris, the enforced Treaty between Poland and the Free City of November 9 1920, went even further in its five chapters and 40 articles. The also imposed Constitution of the Free City was the final humiliation and ran to 116 Articles. A High Commissioner for the League of Nations was appointed as a de facto head of state. In order to reinforce the will of the Allied powers in this matter British and American Marines landed at Danzig in May 1919.
From early on, Polish writers, 'historians' and 'jurists' provided vast energies producing books on Danzig's status from a Polish nationalist perspective, all arguing that it had no sovereign rights. Indeed Professors Julian Makowski in the Treaty Section of the Polish Foreign Office, and Ludwik Ehrlich at the John Casimir University of Lemberg (Lvov), both insisted it was an autonomous territory under the sovereignty of Poland. This was not the view of the League, of the World Court, or of International Law. As a result of these bogus claims, from Danzig's foundation Poland began constant beligerent and disruptive actions against the Free City, and these continued until September 1939, the history of which can be found greatly detailed in John Brown Mason's excellent record of this period, as well as in the numerous volumes, in three series, of Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939, published by His Majesty's Stationary Office.
By resolution the Conference of Ambassadors to the League of Nations declared the Free City of Danzig established as of November 15, 1920, its area being 754 square miles. Despite no longer being part of Germany Danzig was told she had to take on a share of the German Government's debt and to shoulder a part of the reparations paid to the Allies, amounting to actual payments by the city of $1,800,000. Other expenses were added to this by the Allies. Danzig entered into serious financial uncertainty.
An example of just one of the many contentious issues at Danzig was the resolution of the League of Nations Council of 17 November 1920, that the Free City could not serve as a military or naval base, erect fortifications, or authorise the manufacture or storage of munitions or war materials on its territory. Poland, however, had taken illegal possession of the Westerplatte, a peninsular 3 miles from the city centre, in Danzig's outer harbour on 31 October 1925, and proceeded to erect a fortification with bunkers and use it as a base for munitions. This was a huge provocation. Danzig protested, especially about the infringement of their sovereign and customs rights. In response the Polish Government opposed the Free City's objections and asked for the matter to go to the World Court. They were supported by the pro-Polish French Minister, Briand. At the League of Nations Britain's Sir John Simon was uncompromising in his condemnation, calling on Poland to "withdraw her forces from the Westerplatte". In addition, Poland made "persistent efforts" to have a naval presence at Danzig despite its demilitarised status. The Westerplatte matter returned to the League's Council where it dragged on for years. In 1927 Sir Austen Chamberlain remarked that "this was the seventeenth session on which the Council had brought before it the Westerplatte affair." The League's Council, despite their efforts, fudged the matter, and permitted the Poles to continue unloading their munitions. The period 1928-33 was quiet, but in March 1933 the question of Polish military "guards" (called by the Danzigers, a 'garrison') at the munitions depot again erupted. Poland argued that she reserved the right to increase this force at any time she deemed necessary, and on 5 March 1933 Poland announced a "provisional reinforcement" of her armed guard at Westerplatte of 100 men with machine guns. The League of Nations High Commissioner at Danzig sent a strong protest to the Polish government stating that they had violated League Council Resolutions. It was then discovered that "considerably more that one hundred men" had actually arrived at the Westerplatte and that they had more than machine-guns. The Danzig Senate now made a strong protest also, calling the reinforcement "provocative". The Polish Diplomatic Representative at Danzig replied that the reinforcement at Westerplatte was "purely provisional", adding that the Polish Government did not like the language used in the Senate's Note saying it was "offensive". On this occasion the League ruled against Poland, supported by Great Britain, and the "guard" was reduced to its normal strength ten days after the increase.
Harbour traffic at Danzig increased tremendously after 1921 and by 1925 was 90% over 1912. This was largely because it was the only port to which the new Poland had free access but also because the other new State of Czecho-Slovakia used it in preference to the now Italian and Serbian (formerly Austro-Hungarian) Adriatic ports. By 1928 the number of ships had increased to 7,000 with a tonnage of 8,000,000. From 1926 to 1933 she stood second only to Hamburg in the Baltic. In real terms, however, most of these goods were only in transit and their customs receipts were controlled by Poland. Danzig steadily lost financial ground, its harbour having become a mere port of transit.
Polish representatives at the Peace Conference had argued that Danzig was vital to Poland because of its harbour and access to the sea. Yet, for political reasons the Poles almost immediately began construction, using a Franco-Polish consortium, of an entirely new port at the small fishing village of Gdynia at enormous expense, some $28,000,000 US dollars between 1920 and 1935. Danzig protested to the League that this was a blatant violation of treaty obligations to make use of the port of Danzig. The Poles pressed on with French loans to enable them to construct new railway connexions with Gdynia, again at enormous cost, with the formerly German Upper Silesian coalfields. By 1926 there was lively traffic in the harbour and by 1930 it was well-established, with a new-town population of 30,000.(By 1939 this was 100,000). Each year from 1924 shipping was being diverted by Poland, and Danzig lost traffic to Gdynia causing grave anxieties. By 1933 Gdynia's annual traffic surpassed that of Danzig. Poland had ignored her legal obligations. The League of Nations set up a Commission of Experts to consider the matter, and found that Poland was not entitled to benefit Gdynia to the injury of Danzig. Despite promises, Poland simply ignored the League.  Using her economic and other rights Poland "threatened economic disaster for the old Hanseatic city."
With the election of the National Socialist Party to power in Germany in the January 1933 General Election, Albert Forster became that party's representative in Danzig. On May 28, 1933 elections were held in Danzig and the National Socialists obtained a majority of the votes. In November 1933 Arthur Greiser, also a party member, was elected President of the Danzig Senate. Although the National Socialist Party did not achieve a two thirds majority in the Senate in 1934 (but it can be assumed that the National Socialists, who obtained a majority of the votes on May 28, 1933, were still in the majority in 1934), other developments eventually increased the National Socialist's political influence in Danzig: the Communist Party was banned in May 1934, the left-wing Social Democrats were banned in October 1936, and in October 1937 the Catholic Centre Party in Danzig was dissolved, effectively leaving the Free City, politically, in the hands of the National Socialist Party.. In the meantime, international powers were also at work: On 18 February 1937, Professor Carl Burckhardt, a Swiss national, was appointed as High Commissioner for a three year term, and in June 1937, Greiser was at Geneva calling for an end of League of Nations control of Danzig (to no avail).
Although the Poles demanded 'import' duties on anything landed at Danzig from Germany proper as well as abroad, which was being sent on to East Prussia etc., from 1933-38 the volume of shipping traffic was claimed by Britannica to have progressivly increased, and in this period the city also obtained a number of shipbuilding orders from Germany. In 1937 the population of the Free City was 407,000.
Anti-Polish feeling in Danzig of the inter-war period was fuelled in the later part of the 1930s by almost daily clashes of one sort or another, and by the chauvinism of the Poles created by Britain's 'blank cheque' of assistance on March 31, 1939. The British Ambassador in Berlin reported to Viscount Halifax on 26th May that year that, following the shooting in the back of an innocent German motorist (who died) at a Polish Customs post in Danzig, "the latest of these incidents, the firing at Liessau (Danzig territory) by Polish customs officials at the driver of a German lorry proceeding from East Prussia through the Corridor to Germany have become ever more pressing as to how long undisciplined and excited Polish officials should be allowed to shoot at harmless Germans........the Polish Government has violated agreements which formed an important pre-requisite for the maintenance of normal relations between Poland and Germany." In view of increasing calls in Danzig for reunion with Germany, in April 1939 Hitler proposed a compromise to Poland that Danzig should remain a Free City, not under the League of Nations but within Germany, much as Hamburg had been anciently, and with all the existing concessions terms and conditions for Poland remaining in place. This was rejected by Poland and subsequent discussions failed due to Polish intransigence. The British Ambassador in Warsaw reported to London on August 9 that Poland's Marshal Smigly-Rydz had made a speech in which he said they would fight for [sovereignty over] Danzig. In response to Count Ciano's concerns that "Poland should make concessions to Germany to avoid war" the Polish Ambassador in Rome replied that Poland would "fight to the last man" for their perceived 'rights'. The League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig, Dr.Burckhardt, said that he was treated as an irrelevance by the Poles whereas the German Government, and Hitler, continued to respect his position. Burckhardt told Hitler on August 11, that "I am fully convinced that every problem can be solved by negotiation, that the Western Powers are always ready to talk.....[and that] London and Paris continually exercise a moderating influence in Warsaw. Mr.Shepherd, British Consul at Danzig, telegraphed Viscount Halifax, August 31, 1939: "Several trains in both directions between Danzig and East Prussia have been stopped by the Poles where the line enters the Corridor and the Danzig Senate have protested. …..There is no doubt that Danzig is suffering heavy losses by diminution of traffic etc.....every additional day of these conditions will strengthen the German argument that Danzig should be less exposed to Polish pressure and should enjoy Reich protection and assistance."
The following day, September 1st, Danzig's Gauleiter Albert Forster, announced by radio: "Men & women of Danzig: The hour for which you have been longing for 20 years has come. Today Danzig has returned to the German State." Forster telegraphed to Hitler that he had that day signed the constitutional law concerning the reunion of Danzig with Germany. Dr.Burckhardt, the High Commissioner, was told his functions had terminated and he left for Kovno. The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, which had arrived at Danzig on a goodwill visit late in August, is said to have fired the first shots of World War Two when it opened fire on the illegal Polish fortress of Westerplatte on Danzig harbour on this day. Germany invaded Poland on the same day. Danzig endured many horrors during World War II, including British RAF terror bombings & destruction - on July 11, 1942 twenty-four British Lancaster bombers (of half of those launched for this mission) bombed the German submarine yards at Danzig, being the longest mission by British bombers to date, shipping disasters, and a heroic defence of German Army Group North against the besieging Soviet army, with the city finally falling on March 30, 1945. The Communists went through the military hospital shooting patients dead in their beds.
Under Polish occupation
At the Yalta Conference (Feb 4 – 11, 1945) Stalin, Roosevelt & Churchill had decided that self-determination was dead. The new Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive some territorial compensation in the west from Germany, to be decided upon, despite the fact that Poland had largely brought the war upon themselves and had been utterly defeated. Churchill objected "against the excessive amount of territory being demanded by the Poles", which sounded like a repetition of 1919. However since late 1944 the Soviet Army had been raping children as young as six and women up into their eighties, committing horrific atrocities, and butchering their way forward. Civilians began to flee west from this. In addition, deportations of civilians were started by the Soviets in January 1945, before Yalta, from all districts occupied by the Red Army. Able-bodied men were shipped to Russia to be worked to death, most never to be seen again. At the end of 1944 there were 420,000 people in Danzig. By April-May 1945 that was reduced to 200,000. The Polish communists & militias who accompanied the Soviets were equally evil, even more feared by the civilians than the Soviets. They were evicting German civilians everywhere with the usual barbarism and placing them in vast penal, labour and transit camps. The long marches to these camps and the ill-treatment afforded these civilians resulted in many deaths. The aged died of hardship and privation in the camps.
At the Potsdam Conference the occupation zones of Germany were agreed upon and the territories to the east of the Oder & Neisse would fall into a Soviet Zone of occupation until the German frontiers were finally settled in a future Peace Treaty. However the Soviets had already handed to the Communist Poles the "administration" of extensive territories before Potsdam, notably in Danzig Boleslav Bierut announced in the press on February 5, 1945 as 'Premier' of the Polish Provisional (Communist) Government, that Poland had taken over the civil administration in the territories of the Reich, east of the Oder and Neisse. Yet Danzig and Breslau, for instance, were still in German hands at that point.
On the day Danzig fell to the Soviet forces, the Polish Provisional Government issued an arbitrary Decree incorporating the Free City into the Polish State and placed it under Polish Jurisdiction. This was a violation of International Law. On April 8, 1945 a protest was lodged by the USA government in Moscow. It was ignored. In April 1945 the Red Army in Danzig was in a large measure relieved by the vicious Polish Militia. The same month the first Poles from the east of Poland were settled in Danzig, a 'replacement population'. In Polish propaganda, reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘’1984’’, Danzig became one of their "regained territories". In May further Polish Decrees were issued. Before Potsdam the Communist Polish authorities were already driving civilians from their homes. Internment was a fatal catastrophe for German children as the Poles resorted in the summer of 1945 to rigorously separating them from their mothers. Almost all infants died. Bigger children lived in huts separated from their surviving parents and were later found and assisted by the International Red Cross. The German population of Danzig was subjected to this treatment. In June 1945 public notices were erected telling the German population to leave the city and the Militias began bodily removing people from their homes by force. These expellees were then subject to a system of plundering and robbing. The majority of Germans who had remained in Danzig after its capture and who had not already been put into Polish camps or deported for forced labour to Russia, were expelled as early as the summer of 1945.
Many children had lost their parents during the war and had been placed in orphanages in Danzig. The London Times reporter filed a report on this: "I have visited this morning a hospital here where more than sixty women and children who were summarily evicted from a hospital and an orphanage in Danzig last month were, without food or water or even straw to lie on, dispatched in cattle trucks to Germany. When the train arrived in Berlin of the eighty-three persons crammed into two of the trucks 20 were dead. A woman recovering from typhoid recounted how she watched her husband being beaten to death by Poles and how she had been driven from her farm near Danzig. Three orphans I saw aged between eight and twelve are still skeletons after ten days treatment. None of them weighed more than three stone. Another small boy turned out of Danzig had a postcard attached to him stating his soldier father was long since missing and that his mother and two sisters had died of hunger."
On October 18, 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower telegraphed Washington DC: "Polish administration and methods are causing a mass exodus westward of German inhabitants who are being ordered out of their homes and told to evacuate the 'New Poland'. Many unable to move are placed in camps on meagre rations and under poor sanitary conditions. Death and disease rates in these camps are extremely high. The methods being used by the Poles definitely do not conform to the Potsdam Agreement" which had said that any resettlements had to be "humane".
Danzig was repopulated by the Communist Government of Poland. The empty houses were stolen by Poles for their own use and the city was renamed "Gdansk" a corruption of the original Kashubian name. It remains under occupation to this day.
Famous people from Danzig
- Christoph Maucher, renowned mid-17th century Baroque sculptor, in 1688 under patronage of the Elector Frederick III.
- Daniel Chodowiecki, 18th century draughtsman, engraver and painter. Born in Danzig he made his name in Berlin.
- Count Nikita Panine, advisor to Empress Catherine 'The Great', was born in Danzig.
- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosopher, was born in Danzig.
- Willi Jentzsch (1886-1936) was a German teacher, school administrator and politician. He served as Chairman of the Danziger Beamtenbund (Danzig Federation of Civil Servants) and was elected as one of the eleven Senators of the Free City of Danzig 1926-1927. On 1 November 1927, he was appointed Rector of the renowned Gymnasium St.Johann in Danzig's Fleischergasse. In March 1936, he became school director, and thus head of all elementary schools in the city-state, but died that year in Danzig.
- Günter Wilhelm Grass, (born 16 October 1927 - died 2015), novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, sculptor and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature was born and grew up in Danzig, being expelled in 1945.
- Lech Wałęsa (born 29 September 1943 in West Prussia) who co-founded Solidarity, the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union in Danzig. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
The city contains ancient buildings, many surviving from the time Danzig was in the Hanseatic League. Most tourist attractions are located along or near Ulica Długa (Langgasse) and Długi Targ (Langemarkt), now a pedestrian thoroughfare surrounded by buildings reconstructed mainly during the 17th century and flanked at both ends by elaborate city gates.
Sites of interest include:
- Upland Gate (Brama Wyżynna)
- Torture House (Katownia)
- Prison Tower (Wieża więzienna)
- Golden Gate (Złota Brama)
- Langgasse (Ulica Długa)
- Uphagen House (Dom Uphagena)
- Main Rathaus (Ratusz Głównego Miasta) erected in the 14th century.
- Langemarkt (Długi Targ)
- Artushof (Dwór Artusa), or Junkerhof, erected in 1479-81.
- Neptune Fountain (Fontanna Neptuna), cast at Augsburg in 1663.
- Golden House (Złota kamienica)
- Green Gate (Zielona Brama)
Danzig has a number of historical churches:
- St. Bridget
- St. Catherine's, erected circa 1150 and extended in the 15th century.
- St. John's, completed in 1465.
- St. Mary's Church (Bazylika Mariacka), founded in 1343 and increased in size between 1402 and 1502, is the largest brick church in the world. Prior to 1945 it contained many treasures.
- St Nicholas' Church
- Church of the Holy Trinity
The National Museum contains a number of important artworks, including Hans Memling's The Last Judgment
The museum ship SS Sołdek is anchored on the Motława River and was the first ship built in post-war Poland.
In the 16th century, Danzig hosted Shakespearean theatre on foreign tours, and the Danzig Research Society founded in 1743 was one of the first of its kind. Currently, there is a Foundation Theatrum Gedanensis aimed at rebuilding the Shakespeare theatre at its historical site. It is expected that Danzig will have a permanent English-language theatre, as at present it is only an annual Shakespeare Festival.
Danzig enjoys a temperate climate, with cloudy, cold winters, and mild summers with frequent showers and thunderstorms. Average temperatures range from -1.0 to and rainfall varies from 31.0 mm/month to 84.0 mm/month. In general it is a maritime climate and therefore damp, variable and mild.
The seasons are clearly differentiated. Spring starts in March and is initially cold and windy, later becoming pleasantly warm and often very sunny. Summer, which begins in June, is predominantly warm but hot at times (with temperature reaching as high as 30-35C at least once per year) with plenty of sunshine interspersed with heavy rain. The average annual hours of sunshine for Danzig are 1600, similar to other Northern cities. July and August are the hottest months. Autumn comes in September and is at first warm and usually sunny, turning cold, damp and foggy in November. Winter lasts from December to March and includes periods of snow. January and February are the coldest months with the temperature sometimes dropping as low as -15 °C.
The industrial sections of the city are dominated by shipbuilding, petrochemical and chemical industries, and food processing. The share of high-tech sectors such as electronics, telecommunications, IT engineering, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals is on the rise. Amber processing has also been an important part of the local economy for centuries, as the majority of the world's amber deposits lie along the Baltic coast.
Train transportation provides connections with all major Polish cities, and with the neighbouring Kashubian Lakes region. 95% of these railways networks were built by Germany before the occupation. The A1 motorway connects the port and city of Danzig with the southern border of Poland.
Danzig is the starting point of the EuroVelo 9 cycling route which continues southward through Poland, then into the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovenia before ending at the Adriatic Sea in Pola, Croatia.
Politics and local government today
Danzig today is the capital of the so-called province called the Pomeranian Voivodeship. The Polish Gdańsk Voivodeship was extended in 1999 to include most of the former Free City area, the former Słupsk (Stolp) Voivodeship, the western part of Elbląg (Elbing) Voivodeship and Chojnice county from Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) Voivodeship to form the new Pomeranian Voivodeship, and is one of the major centers of economic and administrative life in those provinces occupied by Poland. Many agencies of the state and local government levels have their main offices here: the Provincial Administration Office, the Provincial Government, the Ministerial Agency of the State Treasury, the Agency for Consumer and Competition Protection, the National Insurance regional office, the Court of Appeals, and the High Administrative Court.
Since the occupation commenced, Poland has continued to settle people in Danzig and its environs and the added areas, presumably thinking that they will never be moved on, even though they had expelled the original almost half a million inhabitants. The inclusion of more distant surrounding areas mean that the population of the old city and its environs is difficult to calculate. The new area's population has risen in recent decades from 1,333,800 (1980) to 2,198,000 (2000), although it is said that by 1998 almost half of the inhabitants of the new region live in the old city.
Education and science
There are 14 higher schools including 3 universities with a total of 60,436 students, including 10,439 graduates as of 2001.
- University of Danzig (Uniwersytet Gdański)
- Danzig University of Technology (Politechnika Gdańska)
- Danzig Medical University (Gdański Uniwersytet Medyczny)
- Academy of Physical Education and Sport of Danzig (Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego i Sportu im. Jędrzeja Śniadeckiego)
- Musical Academy (Akademia Muzyczna im. Stanisława Moniuszki)
- Arts Academy (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych)
Scientific and regional organizations
- Danzig Scientific Society
- Baltic Institute (Instytut Bałtycki), established 1925 in Thorn, relocated c1946 to Danzig.
- TNOiK – Towarzystwo Naukowe Organizacji i Kierowania (Scientific Society for Organization and Management) O/Gdańsk
- IBNGR – Instytut Badań nad Gospodarką Rynkową (The Danzig Institute for Market Economics)
Twin towns and sister cities
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