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Chapter 1



kat001.jpg The Wyspianski theater and the city square [37 KB]
The Wyspianski theater and the city square

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Katowice in Polish Sources

by Joseph Chrust

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

Katowice is located in the southern part of Upper Silesia. Tributaries of three rivers, The Rawa, Klodnica, and Mleczna, flow on the outskirts of the city (165 Km sq). Present day Katowice is a conglomeration of approximately 70 small farming and industrial village communities. The history of many of these started at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries (Dab, Boguczice, Ligota, Rozdzan, Szopenice, Podlasie).

The village of Katowice (Katowice Villa Nova) had its beginnings at the end of the 16th century on the banks of the Rozdzanka (Rawa) river. The annexation of Silesia by Prussia in the middle of the 18th century started a slow migration of German artisans and merchants to the area which, until then, was inhabited primarily by a Polish population. With the development of industry and a railroad network in upper Silesia in the mid-19th century, the village of Katowice began to change into an industrial settlement. In 1865, with the support of the Prussian authorities who hoped that it would become a center of Germanization, Katowice, with a 50% Polish population, was granted municipal rights. This put into motion a rapid change in the status of the city, from a backwater district town to a district center. In time, Katowice became the administrative and economic center of the mining industry in Upper Silesia.

The German defeat in World War I created a chance for the return of Upper Silesia to Poland, but the Poles had to initiate and fight three insurrections, in 1919, 1920, and 1921, before that became a reality.

Important Dates:
1299First mention of the village Krasny Dab in official documents.
1360:First mention of the settlements of Boguczice, Ligota, Rozdzan.
1560:Establishment of a school in Boguczice.
1598:First mention of the new village (Villa Nova) Katowice.
1788:Opening of the first mine, “Karolina” in the jurisdiction of Walanowic.
1828:The village of Katowice contains 102 households.
1830:First school is established
1847:Arrival of the first passenger train.
1850:The village of Katowice is removed from the village jurisdiction of Boguczice.
1855:Opening of the first hotel (“Welt”).
1865:Municipal rights are granted (September 11).
1867:Poles constitute 50% of the city population.
1875:Katowice has 11,000 inhabitants.
1897:Granting of status of a district city .
1919:First Polish uprising (August 17).
1920:Second Polish uprising (August 17). Plebiscite in Upper Silesia and third uprising.
1922:Polish armed forces enter Katowice (June 20).

(Adapted from “Katowice” by Krystyna Walech-Szaraniec)

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German Katowice (1865-1922)

by Zygmunt Karski

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

Neither city inhabitants nor historians have ever been able to agree on the exact year of the founding of the city.

The first comprehensive writer about the city, Georg Hoffmann, imprinted a silver colored insignia bearing the date “1867”[1] onto the red binding of his book. It must be assumed that Hoffman accepted the granting of the municipal constitution in January 1867 and the beginning of the leadership of Dr. Von Fiehbahn with a council of six members in December 1866, as the official birthday of the city of Katowice.

Despite the fact that in 1911 the official authorities of the city, which was German at the time, had declared September 11, 1865, the date of the royal decree granting it municipal status, as the official date of its founding, over the years doubts were cast about the correctness of this date. Thus for example, in the first Polish chronicle of the city published 1926 the year “1866” appears under the symbol of the city.[2] In the body of the book (page 50), the author also argues (although with incorrect reasoning) that this is correct date for the founding of the city.

The current city symbol bears no date, although anniversary celebrations always cite the 1865 date, the chronicle writers apparently having accepted the granting of municipal rights by the King of Prussia who later became the German Kaiser Wilhelm I, as the birth date of the city.

The First Elections

The founding municipal charter, an exclusive administrative charter, was granted by command of Wilhelm, King of Prussia as a result of the economic development of the city, but it's realization was dependent on the activities of the city. The city needed above all capable representation in order for it to function.

The first municipal elections were held on March 5 and April 4, 1866 according to the three election method. Out of 342 eligible candidates, 266 were from the third class, 59 from the second, and 17 from the first. Katowice at that time had 4224 inhabitants and therefore 18 representatives[3] had to be elected. As expected, Dr. Richard Holtze, Advisor on Health, was elected Chairman of the election committee.

kat004.jpg Symbol of the city in 1866 [36 KB]
Symbol of the city in 1866

The City Council elected (in an unfortunate manner as it was later revealed) the first administration consisting of Diebel, head of the city of Krafitz, as the Mayor of Katowice, a Vice-Mayor, and four Councillors on May 14, 1866.

The problems that these gentlemen, responsible for the future of Katowice, faced were almost insoluble. The economic foundations of the city were in a terrible state. All the essential elements necessary for the smooth functioning of an administration were non existent. George Hoffman writes about these first days: “The police did not have proper equipment. The chairman of the Council, Mr. Trol, therefore provided them with an old desk, several inkstands, two trumpets for night watchmen, an old bookcase, and a nine draw filing cabinet.

It is no wonder then that the city was compelled to go into debt in order to save itself. In its very first year it was forced to borrow 19,000 thaler in order to survive.

The pioneering spirit of Dr. Holtze and his colleagues was however indefatigable as was his talent for novel solutions. Even though Katowice already had a functioning administration, it was Holtze who provided the driving energy for all the programs. He was not prejudiced on the basis of origin, nationality, or religion and he developed a relationship with anyone who might be of benefit to the city.[6]

Dr. Richard Holtze found that the German Jews, who came to Katowice in large numbers, were especially good allies.

kat005.jpg In the light of the results of the referendum on the 21st March 1920 in Katowice, it became part of Poland [30 KB]
In the light of the results of the referendum on the 21st March 1920 in Katowice,
it became part of Poland

  1. “Geschichte der Stadt Kattowitz” published in 1895 by the publishing house, G. Siwinna founded in 1867. Return
  2. Wl. Nalecz-Gostomski: “Dzieje i rozwoj Wielkich Katowic” Katowice, 1926. Return
  3. The private composition on the elected founders of the city is included in the monograph by Dr. Georg Hoffman: “Dr. Richard Holtze und die Städtischen Körperschaften” Return
  4. The house stood at 30 Industrial Street. The name was changed in the fall of 1868 to Grundmanstrasse (now the Third of May street).
  5. George Hoffman: “Geschichte der Stadt Kattowitz”, 1895 pp70/71.
  6. Polish chroniclers also comment on Holtze's unusual tolerance towards people of other faiths or nationalities. For example, Wl. Nalecz-Gostomski, in his book cited above, writes that “Holtze worked diligently for the economic development of Katowice… and as a result his name is written in 'gold letters' by the German inhabitants of Katowice … but nevertheless he cannot in any sense be accused of being a 'devourer of Poles' (Polakozerca) in the vulgar meaning of the word”. Return

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