Katowice History, Poland
Katowice is a relatively new city judging after Polish standards. Although archeologists have found traces of human settlements dating back to the 13th century, the official birth date of Katowice is 1598. That year, Reverend Kazimierski made a visit to a small parish called ‘Bogucice’. Back then, Katowice (that wasn’t even called this way) was mainly known for its smithies. No one knows exactly how Katowice ended up with its current name: the most probable explanation is that is took its name from some early settler or blacksmith.
Katowice History – Katowice under Prussian Rule
One of the most important events in Katowice history took place in the mid 19th century, when a railway connecting to Myslowice made its way through this farmers and smiths settlement. By this time, Katowice was already Prussian territory, and the ethnic structure of the town, affected by German migration, started to change. By 1865 Katowice was granted municipal rights, under the Germanized name “Kattowitz”. Katowice’s economy was given a boost across the 19th century, when the Silesian coal started to be exploited. Concomitantly with the construction of steel factories and coal mines, Katowice underwent a process of cultural awakening: most theaters, institutions, libraries, schools and churches date back to the second half of the 19th century.
Katowice History – Katowice across the 20th Century
Immediately after World War I, Katowice was returned to the Poles, and became o part of the Second Polish Republic. However, as capital of the Silesian Viovodship, Katowice had all the privileges of an autonomous region. The ethnic structure began to change again, especially due to the arrival of a numerous Jewish community. Between the wars, Katowice went through the fastest economic growth in history: in just a few years, the city became the strongest economic centre in the country (by 1926, it already had its own airport). The German occupation during World War 2 represented the most violent period in the Katowice history: Polish language was banned, synagogues and cultural institutions burned down and the citizens who were not obeying were guillotined in public. When Poland became a socialist country, Katowice’s heavy industry was forced to develop even more. Now, at the beginning of a new century, the city administration is making serious efforts to re-invent Katowice, by attracting foreign investors and promoting a sustainable development. Although Warsaw or Krakow may be more famous or more culturally active than Katowice, its huge economic potential is the guarantee of a glorious future.
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