History of Szczecin

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Szczecin Coat of Arms.

History of Szczecin (German: Stettin) - in Poland.


Tacitus located the East Germanic tribe of the Rugians in the area around Szczecin, as did modern historians. The Rugians left during the Great Migrations in the 5th century AD.

Slavonic stronghold (~800-1164/81)[edit]

Another stronghold was built in the 8th century-first half of the 9th century at the ford of the Oder River, (at the same location where later was a ducal castle) and a few craftsmen, fishermen and traders settled in the vicinity. Later it became the main centre of a Western Slavic tribe of Ukrani (Wkrzanie) living in the fork of the Oder between the main branch and the Randow River. Several Triglav temples existed nearby.[1]

After the decline of Wolin in the 12th century, Stetinum became one of the most important and powerful cities of the Baltic Sea south coasts, having some 5,000 inhabitants. In a winter campaign of 1121–1122, the area was subjugated by Boleslaw III of Poland, who invited the Catholic bishop Otto of Bamberg to baptize the citizens (1124). Wartislaw I, Duke of Pomerania is recorded as the local duke during this time. Wartislaw managed to expand his duchy westward, thereby forming the territorial body of the later Duchy of Pomerania, and organized the second visit of Otto in 1128. At this time the first Christian church of St. Peter and Paul was erected. The duchy was for the centuries ruled by the House of Pomerania (the Griffins dynasty), of which Wartislaw I was the first historical ancestor. The town was made the capital of the duchy and did not lose this status even during the partitions of Pomerania, when the duchy of Pomerania comprised large portions of the its territory and always was seat of Pomeranian dukes.

Trading city and ducal capital in the Holy Roman Empire (1164/81-1630)[edit]

Historical affiliations
Grunwald Słupsk i Szczecin.svg Duchy of Pomerania 1121–1647

Flag of Sweden.svg Swedish Empire 1648–1720
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia 1720–1806
Flag of France (1794–1958).svg French occupation 1806–1813
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia 1806–1871
Flag of the German Empire.svg German Empire 1871–1918
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Weimar Republic 1918–1933
Flag of the German Reich (1935–1945).svg Nazi Germany 1933–1945
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936–1955).svg Soviet occupation 1945

Flag of Poland.svg Poland 1945–present

In the second half of the 12th century, a group of German tradesmen (from various parts of the Holy Roman Empire) settled in the city around St. Jacob's Church, which was founded by Beringer, a trader from Bamberg, and consecrated in 1187. In 1181 the dukes of Szczecin became vassals of the Holy Roman Empire. For centuries the dukes invited West and Central German settlers to colonize their land and to found towns and villages (see Ostsiedlung). Duke Barnim of Pomerania granted a local government charter to a local community in 1237, separating the Germans from the Slavic majority community settled around the St. Nicholas Church (in the neighborhoods of Chyzin, Uber-Wiken, and Unter-Wiken). Barnim granted Stettin Magdeburg rights in 1243 and the town joined the Hanseatic League in 1278. Around that time the major ethnic group of the city had become German, while the Slavic population decreased.[citation needed][dubious ]

Hanse Flag of Stettin.

From 1295–1464 Stettin was the capital of a splinter Pomeranian realm known as the Pomerania-Stettin. (Its Dukes were Otto I, Barnim III the Great, Casimir III, Swantibor I, Boguslaw VII, Otto II, Casimir V, Joachim I the Younger, Otto III.)

In the 13th and 14th centuries the town became the main Pomeranian centre of trade in grains, salt and herrings, receiving various trading privileges from their dukes (known as emporium rights). It was granted special rights and trading posts in Denmark, and belonged to the Hanseatic trading cities union. In 1390 trade privileges were granted to Stettin by the Polish king Władysław II Jagiełło who established new trade routes from Poland to the Pomeranian ports. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Stettin conducted several trade wars with the neighboring cities of Gartz, Greifenberg (Gryfino) and Stargard (Stargard Szczeciński) over a monopoly on grains export. The grain supplying area was not only Pomerania but also Brandenburg and Greater Poland — trade routes along the Oder and Warta rivers. The 16th century saw the decline of the city's trading position because of the competition of the nobility, as well as church institutions in the grains exports, a customs war with Frankfurt (Oder), and the fall of the herring market. Social and religious riots marked the introduction of the Protestant Reformation in 1534.

In 1570, the northern Seven Years' War was ended in Stettin by the Treaty of Stettin (1570).

By the 1630s the city and surrounding area that hadn't been already German had become completely Germanized.

Under Swedish rule within the Holy Roman Empire (1630-1720)[edit]

Stettin Matthäus Merian Map 1652.
Siege of Stettin during Scanian War

During the Thirty Years' War, Stettin refused to accept German imperial armies, instead the Pomeranian dukes allied with Sweden. After the Treaty of Stettin (1630) manifested Swedish occupation, Stettin was fortified by the Swedish Empire. After the death of the last Pomeranian duke, Boguslaw XIV, Stettin was awarded to Sweden with the western part of the duchy in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), but remained part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Swedish-Brandenburgian border was settled in the Treaty of Stettin (1653). The King of Sweden became Duke of Pomerania and as such held a seat in the German imperial diet (the Reichstag). The city was cut off from its main trading area, and was besieged in several wars with Brandenburg which shattered the city's economy, which fell in prolonged economic decline.[citation needed]

Taking of Stettin by French troops 1806

Major Prussian-German port (1720-1918)[edit]

In 1713, Stettin was occupied by the Kingdom of Prussia; the Prussian Army entered the city as neutrals to watch the ceasefire and refused to leave. In 1720 the city was officially awarded by Sweden to Prussia. In the following years Stettin became the capital of the Prussian Province of Pomerania, and the main port of the Prussian state. From 1740 onwards, the Oder waterway to the Baltic Sea and the new Pomeranian port of Swinemünde (Świnoujście) were constructed.

Port of Stettin 1900.

In the following years, large groups of French Huguenots settled in Stettin, bringing new developments into the city crafts and factories. The population increased from 6000 in 1720 to 21,000 in 1816, and 58,000 in 1861. The 19th century was an age of large territorial expansion for the city, especially after 1873, when the old fortress was abolished. In 1821, the crafts corporations were abolished, and in steam transport on the Oder began, allowing further development of trade. The port was developing quickly, specialising in exports of agricultural products and coal from the Province of Silesia. Economic development and rapid population growth brought many ethnic Poles from Pomerania and Greater Poland looking for new career opportunities in the Stettin industry. More than 95% of the population consisted of Germans. In 1843, Stettin was connected by the first railway line to the Prussian capital Berlin, and in 1848 by the second railway to Posen (Poznań). New branches of industry were developed, including shipbuilding (at the AG Vulcan Stettin and Oderwerke shipyards) and ironworks using Swedish ores. Before World War I, there were 3,000 Polish inhabitants in the city,[2] including some wealthy industralists and merchants. Among them was Kazimierz Pruszak, director of the Gollnow industrial works, who predicted eventual "return of Szczecin to Poland".[2] The population grew to 236,000 in 1910 and 382,000 in 1939.

Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany (1918-1945)[edit]

After World War I, the economy of Stettin declined again because the seaport was separated from its natural agricultural supply areas in Posen with the creation of the Second Polish Republic.

During World War II, Stettin was a major centre of weapons industry (including the car production Stoewer). 65% of Stettin's buildings and almost all of the city centre, seaport, and industry were destroyed during the Allied air raids in 1944, and heavy fighting between the German and Soviet armies (26 April 1945).

Polish diaspora[edit]

In the interwar period Polish presence fell to 2,000 people.[2] Between 1925 and 1939 a Polish Consulate existed, which initiated the foundation of a Polish school, where Polish was taught, and a scouts team.[3] The Polish minority remained active despite repressions,[2][4] a number of Poles were members of Union of Poles in Germany.[2]

Repressions against Poles intensified especially after Adolf Hitler came to power led to closing of the school.[2] Members of Polish community who took part in cultural and political activities were persecuted and even murdered. In 1938 the head of Stettin's Union of Poles unit Stanisław Borkowski was imprisoned in Oranienburg.[2] In 1939 all Polish organisations in Stettin were disbanded by German authorities. During the war, some teachers from the Golisz and Omieczyński schools were executed.[2]

The activities of the Polish pre-war organizations were exaggerated after World War II for propaganda purposes.[5][further explanation needed]

Taking over by Polish People's Republic[edit]

Stettin in 1945.

After World War II, the Allies moved the Polish-German border to the west of the Oder-Neisse line. Most of Pomerania, including Stettin and the Oder mouth, was eventually given to Poland. The German inhabitants of Stettin first fled from the city and it was virtually deserted after being captured by Soviet army on 26 April 1945.

On 28 April 1945 Piotr Zaremba, nominated by Polish authorities as mayor of Szczecin and Pomerania[clarification needed], came to the city. In early May the Soviet authorities appointed the German Communists Erich Spiegel and Erich Wiesner as mayors.[6] and forced Zaremba to leave the city twice[7] According to Zaremba initially about 6,500 Germans remained in the city.[8] The German population returned, as it was undecided if the city would be in Poland or in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Eventually Szczecin was handed over to Polish authorities on 5 July 1945.

The number of inhabitants:

  • 1939: 382,000,
  • 1945: 260,000 (German population partially expelled, war losses),
  • 1950: 180,000. (German population entirely expelled and replaced by Polish immigrants)

Polish authorities were led by Piotr Zaremba. Many Germans had to work in the Soviet military bases that were outside Polish jurisdiction. In the 1950s most of the pre-war inhabitants were expelled from the city, although there was a significant German minority for the next 10 years.

Voivodeship capital in Poland (after 1945)[edit]

Monument to Polish Endeavor in Szczecin.

In 1945 there was already a small Polish community consisting of the few Szczecin citizens from before of World War II and the Polish forced workers during World War II, who survived the war. The city was settled with the new inhabitants from every region of Poland, mainly from Pomerania (Bydgoszcz Voivodeship) and Greater Poland (Poznań Voivodeship), but also including those who lost their homes in the eastern Polish territories that were given to the Soviet Union, especially the city of Wilno. This settlement process was coordinated by the city of Poznań and Stettin was renamed Szczecin.

Old and new settlers did a great effort to raise the Szczecin from ruins, rebuild, reconstruct and extend the city's industry, residential areas but also the cultural heritage (e.g. the Pomeranian Dukes' Castle in Szczecin), and it was still harder to do this under the communist regime. Szczecin became a major industrial centre of and a principal seaport not only for Poland (especially the Silesian coal) but also for Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

Szczecin together with Gdańsk (Danzig), Gdynia and Upper Silesia was the main centre of the democratic anti-communist movements in first in March 1968 and December 1970. The protesters attacked and burned the Polish United Workers' Party regional headquarters and the Soviet consulate in Szczecin. The bloody riots were pacified by the secret police and the armed forces; see: Coastal cities events. After 10 years in August 1980 the protesters locked themselves in their factories to avoid the bloody riots. The strike was led by Marian Jurczyk, leader of the Szczecin Shipyard workers and it proved successful with the outbreak of the Solidarity movement.

From 1946 to 1998 Szczecin was the capital of the Szczecin Voivodeship, but the region's boundaries were redrawn in the administrative reorganizations in 1950 and 1975. Boundaries of the Szczecin City were extended by joining with Dąbie in 1948. Since 1999 it is the capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship. Communist-dominated municipal administration was replaced by a local government in 1990, and the direct election of the city president (mayor) was introduced in 2006.


Before World War II the population of Stettin was predominantly composed of Protestants. Since the end of the war the majority of the population is composed of Catholics.

Number of inhabitants in years
Number of inhabitants in years
Year Inhabitants Notes
1720 6,081[9]
1740 12,360[9]
1756 13,533[9]
1763 12,483[9]
1782 15,372 no Jews[9]
1794 16,700 no Jews[9]
1812 21,255 incl. 476 Catholics and five Jews.[9]
1816 21,528 incl. 742 Catholics and 74 Jews.[9]
1831 27,399 incl. 840 Catholics and 250 Jews.[9]
1852 48,028 incl. 724 Catholics, 901 Jews and two Mennonites.[9]
1861 58,487 incl. 1,065 Catholics, 1,438 Jews, six Mennonites, 305 German Catholics and three other citizens.[9]
1905 224,119 together with the military, incl. 209,152 Protestants,
8,635 Catholics and 3,010 Jews.[10]
1933 269,557
1939 382,000
1945 260,000 after expulsion of Germans and war losses[clarification needed]
1960 269,000
1975 369,700
2000 415,748
2009 408,427

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kowalska, Anna B; Łosiński (2004). "Szczecin: origins and history of the early medieval town". In Urbanczyk, Przemysław. Polish lands at the turn of the first and second millennium. Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences. pp. 75–88. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Tadeusz Białecki, "Historia Szczecina" Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1992 Wrocław; pgs. 9, 20-55, 92-95, 258-260, 300-306
  3. ^ Musekamp, Jan (2010). Zwischen Stettin und Szczecin (in German). Deutsches Polen-Institut. p. 72. ISBN 978-3-447-06273-2. 
  4. ^ Polonia szczecińska 1890-1939 Anna Poniatowska Bogusław Drewniak, Poznań 1961
  5. ^ Musekamp, Jan: Zwischen Stettin und Szczecin, p. 74, with reference to: Edward Wlodarczyk: "Próba krytycznego spojrzenia na dzieje Polonii Szczecińskiej do 1939 roku" in Pomerania Ethnica, Szczecin 1998 Quote: "..und so musste die Bedeutung der erwähnten Organisationen im Sinne der Propaganda übertrieben werden."
  6. ^ Grete Grewolls: Wer war wer in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? Ein Personenlexikon. Edition Temmen, Bremen 1995, ISBN 3-86108-282-9, pg. 467.
  7. ^ Szczecin.pl Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Zaremba in the Märkische Oderzeitung(in German)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kratz (1865), pg. 405
  10. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. 6th edition, vol. 19, Leipzig and Vienna 1909, p. 9.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]