Szczecin is the capital city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. In the vicinity of the Baltic Sea, it is the country's seventh-largest city and the largest seaport in Poland. As of June 2011 the population was 407,811.
Szczecin is located on the Oder River, south of the Szczecin Lagoon and the Bay of Pomerania. The city is situated along the southwestern shore of Dąbie Lake, on both sides of the Oder and on several large islands between the western and eastern branches of the river.
In a campaign in the winter of 1121–1122, Bolesław III Wrymouth, the Duke of Poland, gained control of the region as well the city of Szczecin and its stronghold. The inhabitants were converted to Christianity by two missions of bishop Otto of Bamberg in 1124 and 1128. At this time, the first Christian church of St. Peter and Paul was erected. Polish minted coins were commonly used in trade in this period. The population of the city at that time is estimated to be at around 5,000-9,000 people.
Polish rule ended with Boleslaw's death in 1138. During the Wendish Crusade in 1147, a contingent led by the German margrave Albert the Bear, an enemy of Slavic presence in the region, papal legat, bishop Anselm of Havelberg and Konrad of Meißen besieged the town. There, a Polish contingent supplied by Mieszko III the Old joined the crusaders. However the citizens had placed crosses around the fortifications, indicating they already had been Christianized. Ratibor I, Duke of Pomerania, negotiated the disbandement of the crusading forces.
While not as heavily affected by medieval witchhunts as other regions of the empire, there are reports of the burning of three women and one man convicted of witchcraft in 1538.
In 1570, during the reign of Pomeranian duke Johann Friedrich, a congress was held at Stettin ending the Northern Seven Years' War. During the war, Stettin had tended to side with Denmark, while Stralsund tended toward Sweden - as a whole, the Duchy of Pomerania however tried to maintain neutrality. Nevertheless, a Landtag that had met in Stettin in 1563 introduced a sixfold rise of real estate taxes to finance the raising of a mercenary army for the duchy's defense. Johann Friedrich also succeeded in elevating Stettin to one of only three places allowed to coin money in the Upper Saxon Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, the other two places were Leipzig and Berlin. Bogislaw XIV, who resided in Stettin since 1620, became the sole, and Griffin duke when Philipp Julius died in 1625. Before the Thirty Years' War reached Pomerania, the city as all of the duchy declined economically due to the sinking importance of the Hanseatic League and a conflict between Stettin and Frankfurt (Oder).
The Prussian administration deprived Stettin of her administrative autonomy rights, abolished guild privileges as well as its status as a staple town, and subsidized manufacturers. Also, colonists were settled in the city, primarily Hugenots
On 15 October 1939, neighbouring municipalities were amalgamated into Stettin, creating Groß-Stettin with about 380,000 inhabitants in 1940. The city had become the third-largest German city by area, after Berlin and Hamburg.
As the war started, the number of non-Germans in the city increased as slave workers were brought in. The first transports came in 1939 from Bydgoszcz, Toruń and Łódż. They were mainly used in a synthetic silk factory near Szczecin. The next wave of slave workers was brought in 1940, in addition to PoWs who were used for work in the agricultural industry. According to German police reports from 1940, 15,000 Polish slave workers lived within the city.
During the war, 135 forced labour camps for slave workers were established in the city. Most of the 25,000 slave workers were Poles, but Czechs, Italians, Frenchmen and Belgians, as well as Dutch citizens, were also enslaved in the camps.
In February 1940, the Jews of Stettin were deported to the Lublin reservation. International press reports emerged, describing how the Nazis forced Jews, regardless of age, condition and gender, to sign away all property and loaded them on to trains headed to the camp, escorted by members of the SA and SS. Due to publicity given to the event, German institutions ordered such future actions to be made in a way unlikely to attract public notice.
Allied air raids in 1944 and heavy fighting between the German and Soviet armies destroyed 65% of Stettin's buildings and almost all of the city centre, the seaport and local industries. Polish Home Army intelligence assisted in pinpointing targets for Allied bombing in the area of Stettin. The city itself was covered by Home Army's structure "Bałtyk" and Polish resistance infiltrated Stettin's naval yards. Other activities of the resistance consisted of smuggling people to Sweden.
Monument to the workers
killed during the 1970 anti-communist
protests, known as the
"Angel of Freedom"
The 1962 Szczecin military parade led to a road traffic accident in which a tank of the Polish People's Army crushed bystanders, killing seven children and injuring many more. The resultant panic in the crowd led to further injuries in the rush to escape. The incident was covered up for many years by the Polish communist authorities.
The city witnessed anti-communist revolts in 1970. In 1980, one of the four agreements, known as the August Agreements, which led to the first legalization of Solidarity, was signed in Szczecin. Pope John Paul II visited the city on 11 June 1987. The introduction of martial law in December 1981 met with a strike by the dockworkers of Szczecin shipyard, joined by other factories and workplaces in a general strike. All these were suppressed by the authorities. Another wave of strikes in Szczecin broke out in 1988 and 1989, which eventually led to the Round Table Agreement and first semi free elections in Poland.
Since 1999 Szczecin has been the capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship.
- The Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle, was built by the citizens of the city and modeled after the Church of St. Mary in Lübeck. It is the largest church in Pomerania and for many years after the reformation was part of the Pomeranian Evangelical Church. The church was established in 1187 and the Romanesque-style building was completed in the 14th century. One of its two towers collapsed during a storm in 1456 and destroyed part of the church. Reconstruction lasted until 1503 and the entire church was remodeled based on a single-tower hall church design. Air raids on the night of 16 August 1944 during World War II resulted in collapse of the spire added in 1901 and extensive damage to other parts of the building. The north wall, all altars and artworks inside were destroyed by the bombs and ensuing fire. Following the war, government officials were reluctant to allow reconstruction of the church however, a heritage conservator pointed out that demolition of the remaining structure would be more costly than rebuilding it. In 1971, work began on the church and continued for three years. The north wall was reconstructed in a modern style which did not harmonize with the rest of the building and the tower was stabilized, but the spire was not rebuilt. Instead, the tower was capped with a short hip roof or pyramid roof resulting in a height of 60 meters (196 feet). In 2006, another renovation commenced which saw new heating systems and flooring installed. Organs, to replace those removed before the World War II bombing and never recovered, were constructed and the tower was strengthened so it could support a redesigned spire. In 2010, a new, neo-baroque Flèche has been constructed.
- Old City Town Hall the present day shingle-roofed Town Hall in the Old City district was built for the municipal government in the 15th century. At the time, it was considered the new Town Hall, erected at the site of the one built in the previous century. In 1968, the building was brought back to its original look. With care and skill were restored, among others, Gothic ornaments of the interior walls. A sumptuously adorned elevation was to raise the prestige of the city officials. Since 1869, the building houses a popular restaurant and tavern.
- National Museum, Szczecin established on 1 August 1945. The main part of an exhibition is placed in Landed Gentry House (Pałac Sejmu Stanów Pomorskich, Landeshaus), Staromłyńska 27 Street. The four other parts are:
The Main Building of Muzeum Narodowe w Szczecinie, Wały Chrobrego 3 Street
The Szczecin's History Museum, Old City Town Hall in Szczecin, Księcia Mściwoja II Street
The Old Art Galery of Muzeum Narodowe w Szczecinie, Staromłyńska 27 Street
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Staromłyńska 1 Street
The Narrow Gauge Railway Exhibition in Gryfice
- Szczecin Bismarck tower construction began relatively late, in 1913, and it was only finished in 1921. The total construction cost of the 25-metre-tall tower was approximately 200,000 German Papiermarks. The tower is located on top of a small hill and is surrounded by a small wood, although the surrounding area is now generally industrial. It is approximately 6 km from the city centre, close to a tram terminus. Although one can visit the tower, the main entry way is fully sealed off, as are all windows, making entry impossible. It is also in need of restoration.
- The Ducal Castle was the seat of the dukes of Pomerania-Stettin of the House of Pomerania (Griffins), who ruled the Duchy of Pomerania from 1121 to 1637. Barnim the Great of Pomerania-Stettin erected the castle within Szczecin's walls against the will of the burghers in 1346. An older Pomeranian burgh had been leveled in 1249. In 1490 the castle was partially reconstructed for Bogusław X's wedding with Anna Jagiellonka (daughter of king Casimir IV Jagiellon). Between 1573−1582 the castle was rebuilt again, this time in the mannerist style for duke John Frederick by Italian stonemasons according to design by Wilhelm Zachariasz Italus. Two new wings were added to close the courtyard before the medieval southern and eastern wings. The main gate was adorned with ducal crest, the eastern wing was enhanced and the northern wing was intended for chapel.