Notes on German Culture, Old Germany...lost territory, prussia

The city of Breslau in Silesia has a long German history, but it is no longer part of Germany

This is an artist’s rendering of Breslau’s Old City Hall, from an early 20th century series of prints used by the Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd) ship company, operating out of Bremen, Germany. The city of Breslau in Silesia has a long German history, but it is no longer part of Germany. It’s the same fate that befell East Prussia. The United States, Britain and Russia decreed in 1945 that the eastern parts of Germany… despite being German for 700 years… should become Russian, Polish and Lithuanian.

Breslau City Hall, circa 1920s
Travel advertisement circa 1930

After the 1245 A.D. Mongol invasion the town of Breslau was partly populated by German settlers who would gradually become its dominant ethnic group. The city council used Latin and German, and “Breslau”, the Germanized name of the city, appeared for the first time in written records. In 1335, Breslau, together with almost all of Silesia, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Bohemia, then a part of the German Holy Roman Empire, and from 1526 to 1742, Silesia was ruled by the Austrian House of Habsburg. After 1742, Silesia was ruled by Frederick the Great of the Prussian House of Hohenzollern.

In the Napoleonic Era, Breslau became the center of the German Liberation movement against Napoleon… the gathering place for volunteers from all over Germany in early March 1813 and the Prussian mobilization site for the campaign which ended at the victorious Battle of Leipzig. 

Schlesien Trachten, the local traditional clothing for women in Silesia….German postage 1935

The Unification of Germany in 1871 turned Breslau into the sixth-largest city in the German Empire.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial in Breslau
The Kaiser Bridge in Breslau
Breslau, Dombrücke (Cathedral Bridge) 1933
Breslau City Hall in the 1930s

In August of 1945 the German population that was still alive after intensive fighting to hold the city faced a terrible future… they became forced labor in Russian camps or killed, or were forcibly expelled to the Soviet zone of occupied Germany. The province of Silesia was removed from Germany and repopulated with Poles who lost their homes due to Russia’s seizure of eastern Poland.

Breslau was renamed Wroclaw and is one of the largest cities in Poland. With its 12 islands and 120 bridges, the city on the river Oder is often dubbed the “Venice of Poland.” 

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