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Bëtowò  (Kashubian)
Bytów (Bëtowò) - (194730).jpg
Zamek w Bytowie (2018).jpg
Old Town (top) and Bytów Castle (bottom)
Flag of Bytów
Coat of arms of Bytów
Coat of arms
Bytów is located in Pomeranian Voivodeship
Bytów is located in Poland
Coordinates: 54°8′N 17°30′E / 54.133°N 17.500°E / 54.133; 17.500
Country Poland
Voivodeship Pomeranian
CountyBytów County
GminaGmina Bytów
First mentioned12th century
Town rights1346
 • MayorRyszard Sylka
 • Total8.72 km2 (3.37 sq mi)
 • Total16,715
 • Density1,900/km2 (5,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Area code(s)+48 59
Car platesGBY

Bytów (Polish: [ˈbɨtuf] (About this soundlisten); Kashubian: Bëtowò; German: Bütow [ˈbyːtoː]) is a town in the Gdańsk Pomerania region of northern Poland with 16,888 inhabitants (2004). In the Słupsk Voivodeship (1975–1998), it was the capital of Bytów County in the Pomeranian Voivodeship (since 1999).

The origins of Bytów can be traced back to the early Middle Ages when a fortified stronghold once stood near the town. In 1346 as Bütow it obtained Chełmno town rights from the Teutonic Order, which controlled it since 1329. During the Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466), the town was the sight of heavy fighting and changed hands over time. Eventually, King Casimir IV Jagiellon granted the town to Eric II, Duke of Pomerania, as a perpetual fiefdom.[1] After the Partitions of Poland, Bytów became part of German Prussia and remained in Germany until the end of World War II. At the final stages of the war, Bytów was the center of heavy artillery shelling initiated by the Red Army; as a result over 55% of buildings were destroyed.[1]

Throughout its whole history, Bytów was known to be a multicultural town inhabited by Kashubians, Poles, Slovincians, Germans and Jews. Since 2000 a bugle call is played during important events which taking place in the area. Bytów is a popular tourist destination in the region of Pomerania and is famous for its medieval Teutonic Castle built in the late 14th century.


Bytów Castle, built in 1399–1405

According to the city's official webpage the name Bytów comes from the founder of the settlement named "Byt".[2] A settlement was first mentioned by the name of Butow in 1321.

Bytów passed to the Teutonic Knights in 1329.[3] From 1335 comes the oldest mention of a Catholic parish, which, however, could have existed since the 12th or 13th century.[3] In 1346 it was granted town rights. The castle seen today was built by the Knights between 1399 and 1405 at the site of the older castle, to protect their western border.[4] It has been the seat of an administrator of the State of the Teutonic Knights.

This castle was captured by Poland after the Battle of Grunwald (1410), and king Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland gave it to Bogislaw VIII, Duke of Pomerania, for all of his lifetime as payment for support obtained from him against the Teutonic Knights. In the Peace of Thorn (1411) Bogislaw had to return the castle to the Knights. The town did not join the Prussian Confederation's revolt against the Teutonic Knights.[citation needed]

The town alternated between Poland and the monastic state during the Polish-Teutonic Wars, and returned to Polish control after the Second Peace of Thorn (1466). Poland gave Bytów as lien to the Dukes of Pomerania. Since 1526 the Pomerania dukes held it as an inheritable lien.

Saint George church, built in the 17th century

In 1627 during the Thirty Years' War, the town was rebuilt after being destroyed by a fire. When the Pomeranian dukes died out in 1637 Bytów ceased to be a Polish fief and became directly ruled by Poland,[3] administratively part of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.[5] Then the local nobility obtained equal rights with the nobility of the entire Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[3] Bytów was overshadowed by Lębork, which developed faster and became the seat of local starosts.[6] In 1651 there was a dispute between the city authorities and the starost Jakub Wejher, regarding overdue taxes.[6] To gain an ally against Sweden during the Deluge, in 1657 King John II Casimir of Poland gave the Lauenburg and Bütow Land to Margrave Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia as a hereditary fief in the Treaty of Bydgoszcz.[5] Although Poland still retained sovereignty, the town was administered by Brandenburg and, after 1701, by the Kingdom of Prussia. Brandenburg imposed higher taxes to pay off its debts after the Thirty Years' War.[7] During the 18th century, the town suffered from fires and plague.

In 1773 in the First Partition of Poland the town was wholly incorporated in the Prussian Province of Pomerania. In the 18th century attempts began at Germanisation of the indigenous Polish-Kashubian population by introducing German into schools.[7] It remained a center of Polish resistance against Germanisation and was a Polish-Kashubian printing center.[8] From 1846–1945, Bütow was the seat of the Landkreis Bütow district in Prussia. The town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. Polish minority remained active in the city, and in 1910 a Polish Bank Ludowy was founded here.[9]

After the end of World War I and the re-establishment of independent Poland, the Treaty of Versailles kept the town in the Weimar Republic in 1919.[10][11] There was an economic decline, many Germans emigrated to western Germany, and the population was slowly decreasing. In the interbellum numerous Polish organizations, including the Union of Poles in Germany, operated in the town.[8] Poles were subjected to repressions. The hero of the local Polish population was a local Polish teacher, Jan Bauer, who was arrested by the Germans in 1929.[12]

During World War II the Polish population was subject to deportations and executions, two of its leaders, Jan Rekowski-Styp [pl] and Józef Rekowski [pl] were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps,[12] however, the town remained a local center of the Polish resistance movement (Kashubian Griffin).[8] It was captured by the Soviet Red Army on 8 March 1945. Some inhabitants had fled before the Soviet advance. In April 1945, it was put under Polish administration, confirmed after the end of the war by the Potsdam Conference and the Polish name Bytów was restored. Those German inhabitants, which had remained in the town or had returned to it short after the war, were later on expelled.[13] The indigenous Polish-Kashubian population was joined by Poles displaced from former eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union and from the rest of Kashubia.

Bytów became the seat of a powiat (1946–1975, 1999-) within Poland.

Kashubian Emigration to America[edit]

During the Kashubian diaspora, many families from Bytów such as the Brezas and the Pehlers emigrated to the area of Winona, Minnesota in the United States, beginning in 1859.[14] The Prussian policy was to force the Kashubians out to make room for German settlers. Some Kashubians moved across the Mississippi River to Pine Creek, Wisconsin in the early 1860s.[15] Many found jobs in the lumber mills during the lumber boom of the late 1800s occurring in the region.[16]


Up to the end of World War II most inhabitants of the town were Protestants.

Number of inhabitants by year
Year Number
1782 990
1794 1,085
1812 1,217
1816 1,395
1831 2,062
1852 3,509
1861 4,247
1875 5,820
1900 6,487
1925 8,890
1960 8,600
1970 10,700
1975 12,500
1980 13,300
2011 20,943

The above table is based on primary, possibly biased, sources.[17][18]


Courtyard of the Bytów Castle


Polish football club Bytovia Bytów is based in Bytów.

Notable residents[edit]

Natalia Szroeder, 2016

International relations[edit]

Bytów is twinned with:[19]

One regular activity is the exchange of high school students between Bytow and Winona, .[21]

Municipality of Bytów[edit]

Sołectwos in the urban-rural commune (gmina) of Bytów include: Dąbie, Gostkowo, Grzmiąca, Mądrzechowo, Mokrzyn, Niezabyszewo, Płotowo, Pomysk Mały Pomysk Wielki, Rekowo, Rzepnica, Sierżno, Świątkowo, Udorpie, Ząbinowice.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Local history - Information about the town - Bytów - Virtual Shtetl". Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  2. ^ [1] Bytów Official Site
  3. ^ a b c d "Historia". Urząd Miejski w Bytowie (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  4. ^ Werner Buchholz: Deutsche Geschichte im Osten Europas – Pommern. Siedler, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-88680-780-0, p, 187.
  5. ^ a b Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom I, Warsaw, 1880, p. 520 (in Polish)
  6. ^ a b "1637-1658". Historia Bytowa w pigułce (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  7. ^ a b "1658-1918". Historia Bytowa w pigułce (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Bytów". Encyklopedia PWN (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  9. ^ Historia Polski, Volume 3, Part 2 Instytut Historii (Polska Akademia Nauk), page 143 Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1984
  10. ^ Helena Lehr, Edmund Jan Osmańczyk, Polacy spod znaku Rodła, Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, 1972, p. 230 (in Polish)
  11. ^ Stanisław Gierszewski, Słownik biograficzny Pomorza Nadwiślańskiego, Gdańskie Towarzystwo Naukowe, 1997, p. 291 (in Polish)
  12. ^ a b c "Postaci historyczne". Urząd Miejski w Bytowie (in Polish). Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  13. ^ Sokollek (1997), pp. 286 ff.
  14. ^ "First Settlement in Winona: 1859 –". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Foundation of Pine Creek –". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  16. ^ "About Bytów -". Archived from the original on 9 February 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  17. ^ Kratz (1865), p. 52
  18. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. 6th edition, vol. 3, Leipzig and Vienna 1906, p. 661 (in German).
  19. ^ a b c d e f "Miasta Partnerskie". Bytów City Council Official Site (in Polish). Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Bytów Official Site". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  21. ^, Nathan Hansen. "Students from Polish sister city getting taste of America". Retrieved 27 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°8′N 17°30′E / 54.133°N 17.500°E / 54.133; 17.500