Łódź (commonly rendered Lodz) (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 135 kilometres (84 mi) 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.
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 andBohemia, 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 the population was 80% Germans 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.
By 1897, the share of the German population had dropped from 80 to 40%. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 315,000, Jews constituted 99,000 (around 31% percent).
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—13,280 inhabitants per square kilometre (34,400 /sq mi). 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.
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, started operations near the city of Łódź. In the interwar years Łódź continued to be a diverse city, with the 1931 Polish census showing that the total population of 604,470 included 315,622 (52.21%) Poles, 202,497 (33.49%) Jews and 86,351 (14.28%) Germans (determination based on the declaration of language used).
Also read Battle of Łódź (1939) Prelude.
World War 2
During the Invasion of Poland the Polish forces of the Łódź Army of General Juliusz Rómmel defended Łódź against initial German attacks. However, the Wehrmacht captured the city on 8 September. Despite plans for the city to become a Polish exclave, attached to the General Government, the Nazi hierarchy respected the wishes of the local governor of Reichsgau Wartheland, Arthur Greiser, and of many of the ethnic Germans living in the city, and annexed it to the Reich in November 1939. The city received the new name of Litzmannstadt after the German general Karl Litzmann, who captured the city during World War I. Nevertheless, many Łódź Germans refused to sign Volksliste and become Volksdeutsche, instead being deported to the General Government.
Soon the Nazi authorities set up 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. 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” (destroyed); approximately 900 people survived the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944. 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.
By the end of World War II, Łódź had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants: 300,000 Polish Jews and approximately 120,000 other Poles. In their place were thousands of new German residents, many of whom were Volksdeutschwho had been repatriated from Russia during the time of Hitler’s alliance with the Soviet Union. 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 aerial bombardment and the fighting, Łódź had lost most of its infrastructure.
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 the Łódź factories, as they did in other cities. In time, Łódź became part of the 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. In 2002 the city came to national attention due to the “Skin Hunters” scandal: doctors and paramedics in one of the city’s hospitals were caught murdering patients and selling their details to funeral homes for them to contact the relatives. Four men have been convicted but others are still under investigation. A film was made of the events in 2003.