Łódź (also written as Lodz) is the third-largest city in Poland and a former industrial centre. Located in the central part of the country, it has a population of 696,503 (2016).
It is the capital of Łódź Voivodeship, and is approximately 135 kilometres south-west of Warsaw. The city's coat of arms is an example of canting: depicting a boat. It alludes to the city's name which translates literally as "boat."
Łódź first appears in the written record in a 1332 document giving the village of Łodzia to the bishops of Włocławek. In 1423 King Władysław II Jagiełło officially granted city rights to the village of Łódź.
From then until the 18th century the town remained a small settlement on a trade route between the provinces of Masovia and Silesia. In the 16th century the town had fewer than 800 inhabitants, mostly working on the surrounding grain farms.
With the second partition of Poland in 1793, Łódź became part of the Kingdom of Prussia's province of South Prussia, and was known in German as Lodsch. In 1798 the Prussians nationalised the town, and it lost its status as a town of the bishops of Kuyavia. In 1806 Łódź joined the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw and in 1810 it had approximately 190 inhabitants. After the 1815 Congress of Vienna treaty it became part of the Congress Kingdom of Poland, a client state of the Russian Empire.
In the 1815 treaty, it was planned to renew the dilapidated town and with the 1816 decree by the Czar a number of German immigrants received territory deeds for them to clear the land and to build factories and housing.
In 1820 Stanisław Staszic aided in changing the small town into a modern industrial centre. The immigrants came to the Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana, the city's nickname) from all over Europe. Mostly they arrived from Southern Germany, Silesia and Bohemia, but also from countries as far away as Portugal, England, France and Ireland. The first cotton mill opened in 1825, and 14 years later the very first steam-powered factory in both Poland and the Russian Empire commenced operations.
A constant influx of workers, businessmen and craftsmen from all over Europe transformed Łódź into the main textile production centre of the Russian Empire spanning from East-Central Europe all the way to Alaska. Three groups dominated the city's population and contributed the most to the city's development: Poles, Germans and Jews, who started to arrive since 1848. Many of the Łódź craftspeople were weavers from Upper and Lower Silesia.
In 1850, Russia abolished the customs barrier between Congress Poland and Russia proper and therefore industry in Łódź could now develop freely with a huge Russian market not far away. Eventually the city became the second-largest city of Congress Poland. In 1865 the first railroad line opened (to Koluszki, branch line of the Warsaw–Vienna railway), and soon the city had rail links with Warsaw and Białystok.
Between 1823 and 1873, the city's population doubled every ten years. The years 1870–1890 marked the period of most intense industrial development in the city's modern history.
Many of the industrialists were of Jewish ethnicity. Łódź also soon became a major centre of the socialist movement. In 1892 a huge strike paralyzed most of the factories and manufacturing plants. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 315,000, Jews constituted 99,000 (around 31% percent). During the 1905 Revolution, in what became known as the June Days or Łódź insurrection, Tsarist police killed hundreds of workers.
By 1913, the Poles constituted almost half of the population (49.7%), the German minority had fallen to 14.8%, and the Jews made up 34%, out of some 506,000 inhabitants.
Despite the air of impending crisis preceding World War I, the city grew constantly until 1914. By that year it had become one of the most densely populated as well as one of the most polluted industrial cities in the world—13,280 inhabitants per square kilometre (34,400/sq mi). A major battle was fought near the city in late 1914, and as a result the city came under German occupation after 6 December but with Polish independence restored in November 1918 the local population liberated the city and disarmed the German troops. In the aftermath of World War I, Łódź lost approximately 40% of its inhabitants, mostly owing to draft, diseases, pollution and primarily because of the mass expulsion of the city's German population back to Germany.
In 1922, following the establishment of the Second Polish Republic, Łódź became the capital of the Łódź Voivodeship, but the period of rapid growth had ceased. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Customs war with Germany closed western markets to Polish textiles while the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) and the Civil War in Russia (1918–1922) put an end to the most profitable trade with the East. The city became a scene of a series of huge workers' protests and riots in the interbellum.On 13 September 1925 a new airport, Lublinek Airport, began operations on the outskirts of the city.
In the interwar years Łódź continued to be a diverse and multicultural city, with the 1931 Polish census showing that the total population of roughly 604,000 included 375,000 (59%) Poles, 192,000 (32%) Jews and 54,000 (9%) Germans (determined from the main language used). By 1939, the Jewish minority had grown to well over 200,000.
During the invasion of Poland, the Polish forces of General Juliusz Rómmel's Łódź Army defended the city against initial German attacks. The Wehrmacht nevertheless captured the city on 8 September. Despite plans for the city to become a Polish enclave attached to the General Government, the Nazi hierarchy respected the wishes of many ethnically German residents and of the Reichsgau Wartheland governor Arthur Greiser by annexing the city to the Reich in November 1939. Many Germans in the city, however, refused to sign the Volksliste and become Volksdeutsche; they were deported by the General Government. The city was given the new name of "Litzmannstadt" after Karl Litzmann, the German general who had captured it during World War I.
The Nazi authorities soon established the Łódź Ghetto in the city and populated it with more than 200,000 Jews from the Łódź area. As Jews were deported from Litzmannstadt for extermination, others were brought in. Several concentration camps and death camps arose in the city's vicinity for the non-Jewish inhabitants of the regions, among them the infamous Radogoszcz prison and several minor camps for the Romani people and for Polish children. Due to the value of the goods that the ghetto population produced for the German military and various civilian contractors, it was the last major ghetto to be liquidated, in August 1944.
While occupied, thousands of new ethnic German Volksdeutsche came to Łódź from all across Europe, many of whom were repatriated from Russia during the time of Hitler's alliance with the Soviet Union before Operation "Barbarossa". In January 1945, most of the German population fled the city for fear of the Red Army. The city also suffered tremendous losses due to the German policy of requisition of all factories and machines and transporting them to Germany. Thus, despite relatively small losses due to fighting and aerial bombardment, Łódź was deprived of most of its industrial infrastructure.
Prior to World War II, Łódź's Jewish community numbered around 233,000 and accounted for one-third of the city's total population. The community was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust. By the end of the war, the city and its environs had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants, including approximately 300,000 Polish Jews and 120,000 Poles.
On 1 August 1944 the Warsaw Uprising erupted, and the fate of the remaining inhabitants of the Łódź Ghetto was sealed. During the last phase of its existence, some 25,000 inmates were murdered at Chełmno; their bodies burned immediately after death. As the front approached, German officials decided to deport the remaining Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau aboard Holocaust trains. A handful of people were left alive in the ghetto to clean it up. Others remained in hiding with the Polish rescuers. Of the 223,000 Jews in Łódź before the invasion, only 10,000 survived the Holocaust in other places.
The Soviet Red Army entered the city on 18 January 1945. According to Marshal Katukov, whose forces participated in the operation, the Germans retreated so suddenly that they had no time to evacuate or destroy any of the factories, as they had in other cities. Łódź subsequently became part of the People's Republic of Poland.
At the end of the Second World War Łódź remained the only large Polish city besides Kraków which war had not destroyed.
Łódź had fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. However the number began to grow as refugees from Warsaw and territories annexed by the Soviet Union migrated.
Until 1948 the city served as a de facto capital of Poland, since events during and after the Warsaw Uprising had thoroughly destroyed Warsaw, and most of the government and country administration resided in Łódź. Some planned moving the capital there permanently; however, this idea did not gain popular support and in 1948 the reconstruction of Warsaw began.
Under the Polish Communist regime many of the rich industrialist and business magnate families lost their wealth when the authorities nationalised private companies. Once again the city became a major centre of industry. A number of extensive panel block housing estates (including Retkinia, Teofilów, Widzew, Radogoszcz and Chojny) were constructed between 1960 and 1990, covering an area of almost 30 square kilometres (12 sq mi) and accommodating a large part of the city’s population. In mid-1981 Łódź became famous for its massive, 50,000-person hunger demonstration of local mothers and their children.
In 1988 the population of the city peaked to 854,261, gradually dropping ever since. After the period of economic transition during the 1990s, most enterprises were again privatised.
Before 1990, Łódź's economy heavily focused on the textile industry, which in the nineteenth century had developed in the city owing to the favourable chemical composition of its water. Because of the growth in this industry, the city has sometimes been called the "Polish Manchester". As a result, Łódź grew from a population of 13,000 in 1840 to over 500,000 in 1913.
The textile industry declined dramatically in 1990 and 1991, and no major textile company survives in Łódź today. However, countless small companies still provide a significant output of textiles.
The city benefits from its central location in Poland. A number of firms have located their logistics centres in the vicinity. Two motorways, A1 spanning from the north to the south of Poland, and A2 going from the east to the west, intersect northeast of the city.
Recent years has seen many foreign companies opening and establishing their offices in Łódź.
Łódź is a thriving center of academic life. Currently Łódź hosts three major state-owned universities, six higher education establishments operating for more than a half of the century, and a number of smaller schools of higher education.
The city is internationally known for its National Film School, a cradle for the most renowned Polish actors and directors, including Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski.