Lodz History Facts and Timeline
(Lodz, Western Mazovia, Poland)
Poland's important and sizeable city of Lodz, is situated smack in the centre of the country's territory. Although the city has been in existence since the 14th century, nothing of importance happened in the history of Lodz until the arrival of the 19th century.
It saw plenty of action during the World Wars and is now primarily an industrial city, known locally as the Polish Manchester
- an indication of its overall character.
Along the Trade Route
The earliest written records of Lodz to appear in the city's history come from a 1332 document in which the village was granted to the bishops of Wloclawek. Nearly a century later, the Polish king Wladyslaw II Jagiello awarded Lodz the status of city and all the rights that went with it. This tiny city remained a sleepy outpost on a major trade route between Silesia and Masovia, right up until the 18th century.
The Textile Capital
Things picked up for Lodz at the beginning of the 1800s, when the Congress of Vienna (1815) decreed that it should belong to Congress Poland, which was in turn part of the Russian Empire. The Russian Czar gave German emigrants land rights to clear idle fields, build factories and essentially create a new city.
Textiles began to play a huge role in the history of Lodz around this time, when immigrants began arriving from all over Europe from 1820 onwards, looking for hope in the 'Promised Land', as Lodz was affectionately called at the time. In 1825, the city's earliest cotton mill began operations, while the next decade saw the very first factory in Poland
to be powered entirely by steam. At that time, approximately four-fifths of the city's entire population was German.
A Diverse City of Workers
The textile boom created three major groups of people in the city - Germans, Jews and Poles. The city was Russia's main centre for textile production and large numbers of the industrialists were Jewish. Many of the city's grand mansions and buildings went up during this era of Lodz history. During the 1800s, the population of the city doubled every decade, and by the end of the century the city had emerged as a primary source of the burgeoning socialist movement.
Due to the prominent German population in Lodz, the city was something of a puzzle for the Nazis when WWII broke out. The Wehrmacht (German forces) captured the city in 1939, but annexed it to the German Reich instead of occupying it. However, the large Jewish population created a problem and the Nazis rounded up close to a quarter of a million Jews, moving them to the Lodz Ghetto.
In January 1945, the Nazis fled Lodz as the Red Army of Russia advanced. The Germans took everything of value, leaving the city with virtually no infrastructure. Luckily, the Germans were in such a hurry that they didn't blow up the city's factories, churches and other buildings, and so most of the city's post-war cityscape looks much as it did before the war. The local Jewish population, which made up roughly a third of the residents of Lodz, were not so fortunate. The entire community of Jews had sadly been exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps.
For a few years after WWII, the city was the capital of Poland, since Warsaw
had been almost completely destroyed. The new Polish Communist Party nationalised the factories, and Lodz once again became a busy and important industrial city.
Events such as the 1981 Summer Hunger Demonstrations, involving some 50,000 mothers from Lodz protesting against food shortages, suggested that things were not all good in the city. In the 1990s, the factories returned to private ownership and the city has been trudging forward ever since.