German names for Central European towns

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This article deals with the historic German language names of towns and cities in Central Europe.

Many place names in Central Europe, mostly in the former German Empire and Austria-Hungary, but now located in non-German-speaking countries, have traditionally had equivalents in the German language. Many of them have been used for centuries by the German presence in the area, while some others were simply German transliterations of local names or names invented in the 19th or 20th centuries.

The earlier was the case with towns inhabited by Germans since the early Middle Ages until the end of Second World War, for instance Breslau, Eger, Hermannstadt or Stettin. The latter was the case of, for instance, Polish towns annexed by Prussia or Austria after the Partitions of Poland, like Chodziesen, Jarotschin or Hohensalza or in annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina.[citation needed]

In some cases, especially in Eastern Central Europe, towns or cities were inhabited by significant numbers of members of two or more ethnics groups, including Germans. As long as the places were part of Germany or Austria-Hungary, these German names were used invariably in German — and usually in English and most other languages too — while the local Slavic, Magyar, or Romanian inhabitants used their own names for the places in question.

After World War II, when the German population of this region was largely expelled, the German names were replaced by names in the local language, often to conceal the German settlement history. In the particular case of Poland, a commission was tasked with forming new Polish names for places that had -- absent a Polish population before 1945 -- no established Polish names. German names of major cities like Danzig, Königsberg or Breslau are still recognizable and frequently used in Germany (Danzig about half the time; Breslau somewhat less). In only a few cases, the use of the German name persists invariably, i.e. in the case of capital cities like Prague or Warsaw, which are almost exclusively referred to by their German names (Prag, Warschau), just as they have separate names in English and other languages.

In marked difference to the situation in Eastern Europe, formerly German-settled regions in France, notably, Alsace have largely kept the original German town names and toponyms, with only the spelling adapted to allow French-speaker to pronounce the names.

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