Pszczyna (German: Pleß) is a town in southern Poland with 25,415 inhabitants (2010) within the immediate gmina. There are 50,121 inhabitants in the powiat, which includes the towns of Pszczyna, Brzeźce (1041), Czarków (1852), Ćwiklice (2569), Jankowice (2591), Łąka (2729), Piasek (3252), Poręba (924), Rudołtowice (1111), Studzionka (2176), Studzienice (1612), Wisła Mała (1323) and Wisła Wielka (2114). Pszczyna is the capital of Pszczyna County in the Silesian Voivodship. It had been a part of Katowice Voivodship (1975–1998) until administrative reform in 1998.
The origins of the name Pszczyna are explained in different ways by several historians. Ezechiel Zivier (1868–1925) hypothesized that the land was first owned by Pleszko (alternatively Leszko, or possibly Leszek, Duke of Racibórz). Polish scholar Aleksander Brückner in turn, explained the name based on its old spelling Plszczyna, from the ancient Polish word pło or pleso meaning a lake or a place by the lake – thus suggesting that the name Plszczyna as well as its German equivalent Pleß had similar background. The version by Brückner, suggesting a lakeside rich with marshlands, based on a Proto-Slavic word plszczyna, is generally accepted in literature. Yet another version belongs to Prof. Jan Miodek from Wrocław University, who derived the name from the nearby Blszczyna river.
Pszczyna is situated on sandy plains ascending into the east. The land is slightly hilly, but with no large relative elevations. The highest points are less than 260 m (850 ft) above sea level.
As Pszczyna is in a moderate climatic zone, the climate is directly influenced by a clash of oceanic and continental air masses. While the former usually takes the upper hand, the temperature does not vary widely. Severe or long winters are rare. The warm tropical air coming through the Moravian Gate (a depression between the Sudetes and Carpathian mountains) contributes to this.
The average annual temperature is 7–8 °C (45–46 °F). The hottest month is July (15 °C (59 °F) average) and the coldest is January (−1 °C (30 °F) average).
R. Gumiński researched the climate in the land around Pszczyna. He defined three distinguished sub-climatic provinces – the western "podsudecka", the eastern "tarnowska", and the northern "kielecko-czestochowska". The eastern part offers the most favorable environment for plants and vegetation, with over 220 days of growing season and 770 mm (30 in) of precipitation. Pszczyna gets the least rainfall in winter months and the highest level in July. Snowfall begins in the middle of November, lingers for 50–70 days, and generally does not exceed a depth of 15 cm (5.9 in).
Slight westerly winds are dominant, averaging 2–3 km/h (1.2–1.9 mph). The period of windless weather appears interestingly regularly, caused by the cover of, and the dry down-slope foehn winds arriving from, the Beskid Śląski mountain range.
Goczałkowice Reservoir, by far the largest reservoir in southern Poland, gives the climate in Pszczyna an even more distinctive imprint by moderating winters and summers.
The total area of 174 km2 (67 sq mi) includes 95 km2 (37 sq mi) of farmland (68 km2 (26 sq mi) of arable land, 1.5 km2 (0.58 sq mi) of orchards, 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi) of meadows, 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) of pasture) and 51 km2 (20 sq mi) of forest grounds (50 km2 (19 sq mi) of forests, 1.6 km2 (0.62 sq mi) of tree-planted and shrub-planted land).
Middle Ages and early modern
The first reference in sources is from 1303, but the town was likely founded a century before. However, the main trading route between Kievan Rus and the Moravian Gate ran through Pszczyna from the early Middle Ages, and the small settlement seems to have been providing protective measures for merchants on the ford (surrounded by marshlands) of the small Pszczynka river.
Pszczyna was taken over repeatedly throughout history. Remarkably, the land of Pszczyna was historically a part of Małopolska. It was Duke Kazimierz II the Just who ceded lands to Mieszko Plątonogi, his counterpart from the Duchy of Opolsko-Raciborskie, in 1181.
From that moment on, Pszczyna has been integral part of Silesia. Mieszko Plątonogi was succeeded by other dukes from the lineage of Opolsko-Raciborskie: Kazimierz, Mieszko II, his brother Władyslaw, his two sons—Casimir of Bytom and Bolko I, and finally Leszek, who was the last to preserve independence. In 1327, he was forced to acknowledge sovereignty of John, King of Bohemia. After Leszek died childless in 1336, his lands passed down to his brother-in-law, Nicholas II, Duke of Opava (Mikołaj II), of the Czech royal family of Premyslid.
Mikołaj II, his son John I, Duke of Opava-Ratibor, and his grandson John II, Duke of Opava-Ratibor (Jan II Żelazny) ruled the land for seven decades. In 1407, John II separated the area that is modern-day Pszczyna from his duchy as wittum for his new wife Helena of Lithuania (Helena Korybutówna, niece of Władysław Jagiełło, the king of Poland) (along with the amts of Bieruń and Mikołów). The boundaries outlined by John II survived well into the 20th century. The contemporary land of Pszczyna is only about half the size it was during the Middle Ages.
In 1433, Pszczyna was attacked by the Hussites, who laid siege to the castle but were eventually repulsed. Helena outlived John II, and reigned until 1449. The land was inherited by her son, Nicholas V and then his widow, Barbara Rockenberg, the daughter of wealthy merchant from Kraków. She was expelled by her stepson, John IV, who assumed power in the years 1462-1465. His rights were disputed, on the other side, by his brother, Wenceslaus III. Aggressive politics ran Wenceslaus III into conflict with the King of Hungary, Maciej Korwin (Matthias Corvinus or Matthias I), who overran the land and held the duke in captivity until his death). Casimir II, Duke of Cieszyn, the last of Piast dynasty bloodline, bought the land in 1480, and in turn sold it to Hungarian magnate Aleksy Thurzo in 1517, who came from Hungarian noble family of Thurzo. Two years later, Luis II, King of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia instituted the "Free State of Pszczyna", with its owner responding not to him, but directly to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The new state was expanded to enclose fifty villages and four towns (including Bieruń, Mysłowice, and Mikołów), and was sworn allegiance from another 27 vassal villages.
The Thurzo family were in close relations with Polish King Zygmunt Stary, thus not surprisingly Bona Sforza stayed for a night on her way to the marriage in Kraków with Zygmunt Stary (1518).Thurzo's possessions were dissolved over time (stripped of Mysłowice in 1536) and eventually, the land of Pszczyna was purchased by Balthasar von Promnitz (pl), bishop of Wrocław under special regulation that no land shall be divided.
Late Modern and contemporary
The Promnitz family had ruled for over two centuries. Pszczyna was ravaged and pillaged during the Thirty Years' War and again 100 years later when the hostilities had broken once more. The Kingdom of Prussia had clashed with Habsburg Empire for Silesia and victorious Frederic The Great, the king of Prussia, seizes Silesia under the agreement from 1742 concluding the war in a favor of the Prussians. And again during the Seven Years' War. Shortly afterwards, the last Promnitz gave the land to his nephew, Frederic Erdmann, who had to obtain permission from Frederic The Great himself. Erdmann had crossed him before serving in the French army against the Prussian, therefore only intercession of the most powerful women at that time, "Catherine The Great", who happens to be also Erdmann's cousin that finally prompted Frederic The Great to grant the rights for Pszczyna.
The next landowners of Erdmann's line, the Anhalts, had governed up to the half of the 19th century, when the rights changed again the owners in the person of Jan Henryk X from the powerful Hochberg family having had under control the extensive lands around present-day Wałbrzych. The Hochbergs had reached a great prominence and wealth in the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, over 80 percent of population admitted to speaking Polish language. When the global conflict erupted, the Hochbergs lent the estate for the military purpose. Actually, chief of staff hold his headquarters in the castle of Pszczyna.
When trumpets of war faded away, the status of the Upper Silesia was about to be decided. In the emerging conflict newly established the Polish State and The Weimer Republic (Germany) struggled for absorbing that wealth region. Jan Henryk XV Hochberg favored independence movement for Silesian Republic by the diplomatic means or alternatively, less ambitious plan, merely for Upper Silesia. The latter was supported by Związek Górnośląski (pl) (1919–1924) financed by him. In the event both plans had failed, Hochberg would welcome Pszczyna joining Germany. With the outbreak of The Silesian Uprising, Hochberg sided firmly with the German cause and afforded the land to German paramilitary organizations, even for prison, where Polish prisoners were kept. Jan Henryk XV himself supplied units on his expense, commanded by his son, Jan Henryk XVII in a bitter fight for Góra Świętej Anny. Earlier that year (1921) the plebiscite was hold that was to determine the future of that region. In Pszczyna county 53 thousand voted for Poland and only 18 thousand for Germany. In contrast, voting solely in Pszczyna town gave victory to Germany. In the view of voting results and in consequence of The Third Silesian Uprising, the land of Pszczyna was granted to Poland. On 29 of May 1922 Polish army officially claimed the city for Poland. The first mayor of city became Jand Figna.
World War 2
1939 Defensive War saw a warfare also in the surroundings of Pszczyna, witness now by leftovers of concrete strongholds. In that area Battle of Pszczyna took place. German forces had breached main Polish defensive lines protecting Silesia. Germans murdered 14 Poles (14 September), they were buried in the forest of Pszczyna. At the turn of January and February 1945 war storm came through Pszczyna with no serious damage to the city. Unfortunately, beautiful wooden church of Saint Jadwiga burned in 1939. Tragic events took place in January 1945, when Nazis evacuated prisoners of Auschwitz Birkenau and in the event killed many of them, even at the streets of Pszczyna. The city was finally liberated on 10 February 1945
Pszczyna has never totally experienced rapid industrialization which occurred in the rest of the Upper Silesia. The ELWO factory has been expanded, a new creamery and mill were founded.
Pszczyna has population of 26 677 inhabitants (2004)
|Mieszkańcy||2 267||2 063||5 190||7 200||15 340||17 994||26 677|
Jews in Pszczyna
Jewish community was small before the edict of 1780 granting Jews the right to settle in Silesian towns to the east of river Oder. As of 1787, Jewish population had grown to 85 people. The next step came with regulations passed by Frederick William III in 1812, proclaiming Jews the full state citizens. In the due course of time, as they numbers were growing, Jews called for synagogue to perform their religious duty. It was answered, first with wooden (1834) and eventually bricked structure (1852). The synagogue has survived into the 21st century, however was readjusted so seriously to performing different duty (cinema in The World War 2) that represents no historical value now.
In parallel, educational needs were met with chadar school in 1812. From 1820 on Jews were permitted to Protestant and Catholic schools. New, joint Protestant and Jewish school was raised in 1873, reformed into municipal school in 1893. The Jewish community reached the highest peak in 1885 numbering 341 members. Markus Brann, Jewish theologian and historian and future lecturer at The Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau, was active that period in Pszczyna. The number of Jews had dropped significantly with Poland taking control over the city in 1922, as most of the Jews identifying themselves Germans left city for Germany. Nowadays, only scarce evidences of Jewish presence have been left in the town - cemetery, the former residence of Jewish community and synagogue.
The Jewish cemetery in Pszczyna (Katowicka Street) was founded in 1814. The last reported burial took place in 1937. During World War II the cemetery was not destroyed. Among the people buried within its limits there are: rabbi David Rau, the activist Abraham Muhr and members of famous Jewish families: the Schindlers, Simons, Skutsches, Friedlaenders, Freys and others. The oldest tombstone was discovered in June 2009. It belongs to Gitel Gutmann, who died on 10 September 1814. The Cemetery is in the permanent custody of Sławomir Pastuszka, who provides information both on the cemetery and on the local Jewish community. On May 8, 2012 it was reported that the Jewish cemetery was vandalized. Nineteen tombstones, some of which date back to the early 19th century, were damaged in the old part of the cemetery. On the other hand, the local community contributed a great deal to the restoration of 150 graves recognized by the historical value.
Protestants in Pszczyna
Lutheranism was introduced to Pszczyna in 1568 by duke Karol Promnitz. In a course of next 20 years, Lutheranism was embraced by the local population of surrounding lands. A Protestant minister came to a land in 1569, event followed by opening of the first Protestant school. The counter-reformation set an imprint on the Protestant community as their rights were gradually eradicated (as of 1649 celebration of religious service are confined to the Castle of Pszczyna. Additionally, the Protestant school had been closed in 1661). From 1709 on Erdmann Promnitz had been trying to receive permission for building a Protestant church. He succeeded many years later, when Frederick II Wilhelm gave him an acceptance. Along with church, a Protestant school had been reintroduced into Pszczyna. Nevertheless the church burned down in 1905, it was rebuilt two years later and has served its purpose up to now being the central point for the Protestant community numbering 1500 members.
In contrast to the most industrialized part of the Silesian Voivodeship, Pszczyna and nearby area is known to be green ecological region. In order to remain that state, it has been invested in the sewage plant placed in 'Wisła Wielka' along with sewage system for a few villages, all to keep main reservoir of drinking water for Upper Silesia, The Reservoir of Goczałkowice, clean and ready to supply south part of that region.
- Georg Philipp Telemann, a Baroque composer, once a kapellmeister in the city
- Frederick Ferdinand, Duke of Anhalt-Köthen (1769–1830), Prussian general
- Louis, Prince of Anhalt-Pless (1783–1841)
- August Kiß (1802–1865), sculptor
- Wilhelm Engerth (1814–1884), architect
- Max Friedländer (1829–1872), Jewish journalist
- Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873–1943)
- Bruno Chrobek (1895–1942) Wehrmacht general
- Otto Lasch (1893–1971), Wehrmacht general
- Johnny Friedlaender (1912–1992), Jewish artist
- Alicja Janosz (born 1985), the winner of the 2002 Polish Idol contest, was born in Pszczyna.
- Karl Hoefer (1862–1939), Prussian general
- Przemysław Pitry
- Tomasz Tomczykiewicz
- Joanna Worek
- (Polish) (English) (German) Official Website
- (Polish) (English) Pszczyna Information Office
- (Polish) Pszczyna Muzeum
- (Polish) Name of town derived from the word "plszczyna", describing the area.
- "Pszczyna in figures". 2003. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- "THE JEWISH CEMETERY IN PSZCZYNA (KATOWICKA STREET)". Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- "A DEFACED JEWISH CEMETERY IN PSZCZYNA". Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Retrieved 31 July 2012.