Town hall of Świebodzin
|• Mayor||Dariusz Cezary Bekisz|
|• Total||10.54 km2 (4.07 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,100/km2 (5,300/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Postal code||66-200 do 66-201|
It was formerly part of the Zielona Góra Voivodeship (1975–1998), a reconfiguration of the old German state of Prussia, the eastern 40% of which was inherited by Poland in 1945, and led to the expulsion of its native German inhabitants and the repopulation of the city and the environment by Poles. Since the Local Government Reorganization Act of 1998, Świebodzin has been part of Lubusz Voivodeship.
Świebodzin is an important transportation hub, lying at the crossroads of the Polish national roads 2 and 3. The A2 motorway and S3 expressway cross near the town. Świebodzin is located 39 km (24 mi) northeast of Zielona Góra, one of the two voivodeship's capitals, 195 km (121 mi) northwest of Wrocław and 110 km (68 mi) west of Poznań; 70 km (43 mi) east of the German border and 130 km (81 mi) east of Berlin. The crowned statue of Christ in Świebodzin, completed in November 2010, is claimed to be the world's tallest statue of Jesus.
The town's name is derived from the Polish personal name Świeboda, related to swoboda meaning "freedom." The earliest historical records mentioning Sebusianis, Sipusius Silesius, Suebosian, Soebosian, Suebusianus for today's Świebodzin, dated from the beginning of the 14th century, when the area belonged to the Lower Silesian duchy of Głogów (German Glogau). The town sprang up at the intersection of the old trade routes linking Silesia with Pomerania and a branch of the route running from Lusatia to Poznań in Brandenburg and Western Prussia. Initially, the town was probably a defensive fortification, built on the western banks of Lake Zamecko at a slight elevation. The town wall was ringed by settlements, which were much later incorporated into the city itself.
In 1319 the Brandenburg margrave Waldemar of Ascania had conquered Świebodzin and the town of Sulechów to its south, but as he died in the same year the territory fell back to the Silesian Piasts, who in 1329 became vassals of Bohemia. When in 1476 Duke Henry XI of Głogów died without issue, fights over his succession broke out between Duke Jan II the Mad of Żagań and the Brandenburg Elector Albert III Achilles of Hohenzollern, who was able to acquire the northern part of the duchy with the towns of Krosno Odrzańskie and Sulechów, which were finally incorporated into the Neumark district of Brandenburg in 1537. The area of Świebodzin however remained a Bohemian fief, becoming an exclave of the Silesian crown land which in 1526 passed with the Bohemian kingdom to the Habsburg Monarchy.
Early Modern Period
Because of the town's location at an important crossroads, it developed economically, particularly in the areas of commerce and craft production. In the 15th century and particularly in the 16th century, Schwiebus was known for manufacturing beer and exporting cloth. It also developed various urban handicrafts and manufactured goods for local purposes (the weekly market). The salt, wool, grain, horse, and beef trades were also important. For a time the Schwiebus territory was granted by the emperor to Brandenburg-Prussia. Representatives of well-known Silesian families, including the von Knobelsdorffs, among others, held authority and power in the town as district starosts and castle commanders on behalf of the Habsburgs.
Because of its position near the Holy Roman Empire's border with the Kingdom of Poland, the town most likely had a population of mixed Polish and German descent at this time, but Germans were the majority by the early modern period. During the 16th and the first half of the 17th centuries, the town expanded economically, spatially, and demographically, in spite of local conflicts and the turbulent Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
After the victory of King Frederick II of Prussia in the First Silesian War (1740–1742), Schwiebus came under Prussian administration. In 1817 its territory was merged with the southern Züllichau region to form the Züllichau-Schwiebus District in the Province of Brandenburg. Schwiebus remained in this territorial form until 1945. Annexation by Prussia brought about a sharp economic crisis, as the tradesmen of Schwiebus were cut off from many of their traditional markets and outlets. The Prussian authorities also increased local taxes while limiting the town's autonomy. The period of revolutions and Napoleonic wars brought about a depression in the cloth trade and limited the economic prospects of the town.
The town's extended stagnation ended with the Stein-Hardenberg economic reforms and the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century. As a medium-sized town and hub of the local market, lying at the intersection of several routes of communication, including the new Frankfurt (Oder)-Poznań railway line, Schwiebus became a center of local industry (textile, machinery, and agricultural food processing). The town was modernized at this time with improved traffic arteries, renovation of the town hall, reconstruction of the church of St. Michael, and the construction of several new public service buildings (law courts, high school, gas works, and post office). Schwiebus contributed to and benefited from the economic expansion of the German Empire in the years before 1914.
A new period of economic stagnation began with the territorial changes in central Europe after Germany's defeat in World War I. In the interwar period, Schwiebus found itself in the eastern outskirts of Germany, twenty kilometers west of the newly imposed German-Polish border. During the 1920s, Weimar Germany experienced two major economic crises, the hyperinflation of the early 1920s and the Great Depression beginning in 1929. The citizens of Schwiebus suffered severe economic hardship during this time. As was the case elsewhere in Germany, many of the town's citizens were dissatisfied with their lot and turned to political extremism.
Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. Hitler quickly moved to consolidate and expand his power, adopting severe repressive measures against his political opposition and the German Jewish minority. However, Hitler remained popular with the public because he oversaw the German economic recovery of the 1930s. The new government sponsored many public works programs and a massive rearmament campaign which included the construction of an extensive fortified line of bunkers, Ostwall (today known as the Międzyrzecz Fortified Region) twenty kilometers north of Schwiebus.
The rearmament campaign was a necessary precondition for the wars Hitler planned to establish German dominance in Europe. World War II (1939–45) brought first hardship to Schwiebus and then total disaster. In early January 1945, the Soviet Red Army began its final advance through Poland into eastern Germany, reaching Schwiebus before the end of the month. By this time, many of its inhabitants had already fled, fearing the Soviet revenge for the atrocities perpetrated by the German occupation forces against the civilian population of the Soviet Union. The town was largely spared from destruction during the fighting, as the bulk of the Soviet forces passed to the north and south on their way to Berlin.
However, at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the leaders of the Allies, represented by Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union quietly decided that all German territory east of the Oder River would be transferred to Poland as compensation for eastern Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union. Poland was also given approval to deport the native Germans and replace them with new Polish settlers. At the mid-summer Potsdam Conference, taking place shortly after Germany's defeat, the leaders of the Allied Powers temporarily designated the Oder-Neisse line as the new border between Germany and Poland until a final peace treaty confirming the end of the war. They also consented to the expulsion of the entire native German population east of these two rivers. With the transfer of de facto sovereignty from Germany to Poland, German Schwiebus became Polish Świebodzin. From 1945 to 1947, the German population of the town was expelled westward, often by force. Thousands of Poles, including those expelled from Poland's eastern territories annexed by the Soviet Union, forced laborers liberated from Germany, and refugees from Poland's ruined cities, then settled in Świebodzin.
The early postwar years were difficult ones for the inhabitants of Świebodzin. Many of the Polish newcomers were poorly educated refugees from rural areas and lacked familiarity with the mercantile and industrial activities which had previously provided the town's economic foundation. Many of the surrounding towns and villages had been more severely damaged during the war and it took some years before the flow of trade recovered. Furthermore, the new Polish government adopted the communist economic system and enacted disruptive, sweeping social, economic, and political reforms. Świebodzin's economic recovery was also hampered by the Soviet policy of dismantling industrial facilities in conquered areas, and shipping components back to the Soviet Union. In this way, Świebodzin lost some of its prewar industries, particularly its breweries.
The economic situation slowly improved and the new Polish settlers adapted to postwar circumstances. Świebodzin expanded in the period under communist rule, and its population doubled. New neighborhoods were built to the south of the railway line, composed largely of pre-fabricated apartment buildings. The Communist Economic Planning Commissions chose to develop the electromechanical, furniture, and timber industries in Świebodzin. Products were exported throughout Poland and to the other states in the Soviet Bloc.
However, with the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the revolutions of 1989, Świebodzin once again experienced economic upheaval. With some difficulties, the local economy was adapted to the international market economy. New industries and businesses were established, but others were unable to compete in the new environment and went bankrupt. Many more goods became available in local shops, but at prices that many inhabitants could not afford. In recent years, a few foreign-owned discount supermarkets, pizzerias, hotels, and other businesses have been established in the town, taking advantage of the proximity of Poland's main east-west motorway. With the economic changes there have also been political changes. A series of non-communist local governments have been elected since 1989.
Attractions and sites of interest in Świebodzin
The center of Świebodzin still contains remnants of the town's past as a medieval walled settlement, including two nearly intact towers and fragments of the town’s defensive walls and bastions. The central market square is dominated by the town hall, built around 1550 in the renaissance style and rebuilt in the 19th century with the addition of its prominent clock tower. The town hall still contains its original gothic vaults in the rooms of the Regional Museum and basement cafe. There are two large churches in the town center, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel and the Church of the Mother of God. The Church of St. Michael was first built in the second half of the 15th Century, and its neo-gothic façade was added in the second half of the 19th century. The neo-gothic Church of the Mother of God was built during the Imperial German period as a Protestant Church but was reconsecrated as a Catholic Church after World War II.
In the summer of 2008, assembly of the Christ the King Statue, a giant statue of a crowned Jesus Christ, began on a hill on the outskirts of the town. Intended to serve as a future site of pilgrimage, the statue was completed in November 2010, and is claimed to be the world's largest statue of Jesus, although if the crown is excluded the Cristo de la Concordia in Bolivia is still taller. Construction was funded by donations from local people and as far away as Canada.
- Martin Agricola (1486–1556), composer
- Otto Feige, maybe identical with B. Traven (died 1969), writer of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
- Zdzisław Hoffmann (born 1959), first ever triple jump World Champion (1983).
- Zbigniew Kłosowski (1956–2004), Solidarity movement Leader
- Alfred Knispel (1898-1945), artist
- Werner Kolhörster (1887–1946), physicist
- Ruth Margarete Roellig (1878–1969), writer
- Piotr Rysiukiewicz (born 1974), sprinter
- Walter Warzecha (1891–1956), admiral and last commander of the Kriegsmarine
- Michael Witzel (born 1943), Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University
Twin towns — Sister cities
Świebodzin is twinned with:
- K. Rymut, Nazwy miast Polski, Ossolineum 1987, s. 242.
- Linde, Samuel Bogumił. "Slownik jẹzyka polskiego", Volume 5. 1812. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- Complete Works of Thomas Carlyle ... - Google Books. Books.google.com. 2005-11-08. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- "Giant Jesus statue completed in Polish town". Google. Associated Press. November 6, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
- "mwbib02.htm". People.fas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
- Official website (Polish)
- Historical artifacts from Świebodzin/Schwiebus (Polish)
- Regionalny Portal Informacyjny (Polish)
- Jewish Community in Świebodzin on Virtual Shtetl
- Map with Schwiebus as part of the German Empire
- GAZETA Świebodzińska (Polish)
- Gazeta Lokalna. Dwutygodnik Powiatu Świebodzińskiego