History of the City

Added: 17.05.2011 / print / pdf

Settlements in the vicinity of Gliwice appeared as early as in late Paleolith (ca. 9-8 thousand years B.C.), which can be confirmed with e.g. excavations in Ligota Zabrska, Sośnica, Szobiszowice, Wójtowa Wieś and Dzierżno; however the documented history of the town and settlements which presently belong to its territory begin in the 13th century. At that time in the place where Gliwice is located today there was a trade settlement functioning on the trade route Wrocław – Kraków, which before 1276 was granted with municipal rights from Władysław, the Prince of Opole. Apart from trade, Gliwice citizens were engaged in craftsmanship, e.g. production and sales of beer and hop. The medieval town was surrounded with earthen embankments and a moat fed from the Ostropka river. Their former course is indicated by the today streets of Dolnych Wałów and Górnych Wałów. Around 1431 fortifications were built with two gates: the Bytom (White) Gate and the Racibórz (Black) Gate. Since 1281 Gliwice and its surroundings constituted a part of the Piast Duchy of Bytom, and in the period 1322-1342 the town was even the capital of the sovereign Gliwice Duchy, governed by Prince Ziemowit (Siemowit).

After the death of the last Bytom Piast in 1354 the Bytom Duchy, and Gliwice with it, was divided between the Cieszyn and Oleśnica Princes. In the period 1429-1431 for a short time the town was a seat of a troop of Hussites, commanded by Michał Korybutowicz. Since 1526 together with the whole Silesia, Gliwice found itself under the imperial sceptre of the Habsburgs. In 1558 Emperor Ferdinand leased it together with the castle property to Friedrich von Zettritz (Cetrycz). Soon after that, during the Thirty Years’ War, Gliwice was besieged and conquered several times (e.g. in 1623 it was plundered by the Lisowczycy troops, in 1626 the town defended itself against the Danish army of Ernest Mansfeld, and in 1645 it was conquered by the Swedish troops under general Torstenson). In 1683 King John III Sobieski stopped in Gliwice for w while on his way to Vienna.

In the 17th and 18th century, from the city of a typically trade and craftsmanship nature, making a living on the production and sales of beer, Gliwice transformed into a centre of cloth manufacture, which declined after the Silesian wars between Prussia and Austria. As a result of these wars, in 1741 Gliwice with a large part of Upper Silesia was incorporated to Prussia, to the established Toszek-Gliwice county.

At the end of the 18th century industry started to develop in Gliwice. At that time the director of the State Mining Authority in Wrocław was count Friedrich Wilhelm Reden (1752-1815), called “the father of the Upper Silesian industry”. Upon his initiative the Gliwice Steelworks (and more precisely the Royal Cast Iron Foundry – Königliche Eisengießerei in Gleiwitz) were launched, closely bound with the Royal Coal Mine “Queen Luise” in Zabrze and the Kłodnica Canal as the route of transport of raw materials and products.

When the Upper Silesian Railways reached Gliwice in 1845, next steelworks, mechanical, machine and chemical plants were coming into being in Gliwice. In 1848 a Wrocław-based mercantile family Caro began the construction of “Hermina” Steelworks in Łabędy, and twenty years later Salomon Huldschinsky constructed a pipe rolling mill in Gliwice. In 1852 Wilhelm Hagenscheidt constructed the Wire and Nail Factory; boiler factories “Leinveber und Co.” and “Oberschlesische Kesselwerke B. Meyer”, Adolf Henning’s machine factory, the glassworks in Nowa Wieś, the chemical plant “Gleiwitzer Chemische Fabrik Dr. Hiller”, the fireclay plant “Stettiner Chamotte Fabrik AG” were operating in the city, as well as numerous brickworks, sawmills, mills, food industry plants. In 1901 the “Gliwice” Mine was established (the first output in 1913), and in 1917 the first coal was extracted in the “Sośnica” Mine.
Simultaneously the city started to develop civilisationally. In the early 19th century the moats were covered, the municipal embankments were levelled and the fortifications were demolished. New streets and quarters came into being to the north and west from the medieval city centre. In 1816 the first grammar school and numerous primary schools were established. In 1826 the first printing office opened, and next the first bank (1851) and gas plant (1854). In 1894 Gliwice (together with Bytom) as the first city in Upper Silesia was equipped with a municipal railway – trams (initially these were steam traction trams, and since 1898 – electric trams). In connection with the electrification of the industrial part of Upper Silesia, progressing after the year 1897 (opening of the power plant in Zabrze), in 1897 the company of OEW (Oberschlesische Elektrizitäts Werke) was established. In 1901 water was supplied to the city from the water intake “Zawada’, and in 1906 the sewage system was installed. At the end of the 19th century several banks operated in Gliwice. The city enjoyed a buoyant social and cultural life. German (Philomaths 1866, Masonic Lodge 1887, Upper Silesian Museum Society 1905) and Polish (“Sokół” Gymnastics Society, St. Aloysius Society 1896, “Harmonia” Polish Society 1898) associations operated simultaneously. German press (most of all “Der Oberschlesische Wanderer” since 1828, “Die Gegenwart” since 1848, “Die Oberschlesische Volksstimme” since 1875) and Polish press (“Opiekun Katolicki” since 1898, “Głos Śląski” since 1903) was published. In 1899 the “Viktoria” municipal theatre was founded, and in 1905 – a museum.

After the plebiscite and the division of Upper Silesia in 1922 the city remained in Germany. At the end of the 1920s an idea of creating an Upper Silesian tricity comprising Bytom, Gliwice and Zabrze emerged; however, due to the global economic crisis it was never implemented. Despite the crisis, in the 1930s Gliwice developed to the extent never observed before. The construction of an airport, the modernisation and reconstruction of the railway hub, the commenced construction of the Gliwice Canal and the motorway, changed the image of the city.

On the eve of the outbreak of the World War II, a group of officers from a special SS troop commanded by lieutenant Naujocks, pretending to be Silesian insurgents, took control of the broadcasting unit of the Gliwice radio station at Tarnogórska street. This act was to constitute one of the pretexts justifying the declaration of the World War II by Hitler and it went down in history as the so-called “Gliwice provocation”.

During the World War II the whole economy was oriented towards military production. Men were called to arms, therefore at each major factory there were labour camps, and there were 4 branches of the camp Auschwitz III Monowice in the city and around it. It should be mentioned that as early as in 1939 in the nearby Nieborowice a transit camp for Polish soldiers, Silesian insurgents and activists of Polish organisations was established. The soviet army took over the city on 24 January 1945 and after the decision of the Potsdam conference Gliwice found itself within the Polish territory.

The Gliwice of today is one of the most buoyantly developing centres in the Upper Silesian conurbation, the Silesian “technopolis” (since 2005 Gliwice has been the member of the World Technopolis Association, an organisation of cities with industrial traditions, administering dynamic academic and scientific centres). The development of the city is based on new technologies (I3D, Flytronic), automotive industry (the General Motors plant) and logistics (Segro Business Park Gliwice, Tulipan Park Gliwice, Diamond Business Park Gliwice and Panattoni Park Gliwice). Since 1945 Gliwice has also been an important scientific centre, with the Silesian University of Technology, one of the largest technical universities in Poland, as its flagship. In the city there also operate the Gliwice School of Entrepreneurship and the Teachers Training College, as well as numerous specialist research institutes, research units of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Institute of Theoretical and Applied Informatics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Chemical Engineering and Centre of Polymer and Carbon Materials).

Edward Wieczorek