Pszczyna [ˈpʂt͡ʂɨna] (English: Pless, German: Pleß) is a town in
Poland with 25,415 inhabitants (2010) within the immediate
gmina. There are 33,654 inhabitants within the area of the town and
Pszczyna County of which
Pszczyna is the capital. The town
is in the Silesian Voivodeship. It was a part of Katowice Voivodeship
from 1975 until administrative reform in 1998.
Middle Ages and early modern
2.2 Late Modern period
2.3 World War II
2.4 After 1945
3.1 Jews in Pszczyna
3.2 Protestants in Pszczyna
4.3 Land use
5 International relations
5.1 Twin towns — Sister cities
7 See also
10 External links
There are several different theories about the origins of the name
"Pszczyna". 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
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.
Middle Ages and early modern
The oldest settlement evolved around a small gord and wooden church in
what was later known as Stara Wieś. The modern town (around Market
Square) was probably founded in the second half of the 13th century.
The first reference in sources to the place dates from 1303. The main
trading route between
Kievan Rus and the
Moravian Gate ran through
Pszczyna in the early Middle Ages, and the small settlement probably
provided protective measures for merchants on the ford (surrounded by
marshlands) of the small Pszczynka river.
The land around
Pszczyna was historically part of Lesser Poland.
Casimir II the Just
Casimir II the Just ceded the land to Mieszko Plątonogi, another
Piast dynasty duke, from the Duchy of Opole and Racibórz, about 1177.
Mieszko Plątonogi was succeeded by other dukes from the lineage of
Opole-Racibor: Casimir I of Opole, Mieszko II, his brother Władysław
Opolski, his two sons—
Casimir of Bytom and Bolko I, and finally
Leszek, who was the last to preserve the Duchy's 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
Nicholas II, Duke of Opava
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 a wittum for his new wife, Helena of
Lithuania (Helena Korybutówna, niece of Władysław II Jagiełło,
the king of Poland). 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.
Pless Castle originally from the 13th century, rebuilt in a
Renaissance style in the 17th century
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 a 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, Duke of Rybnik. Aggressive
policies caused a conflict between Wenceslaus III and the King of
Hungary, Maciej Korwin (
Matthias Corvinus or Matthias I). Matthias
overran the land and held the duke in captivity until his death.
Casimir II, Duke of Cieszyn, the last of the
Piast dynasty bloodline,
bought the land in 1480, and in turn sold it to Hungarian magnate
Aleksy Thurzo in 1517. Two years later, Luis II, King of Hungary,
Croatia instituted the "Free State of Pszczyna", with its
owner responsible 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 by another 27 vassal villages.
The Thurzo family were in close relations with Polish King Sigismund I
the Old. Queen
Bona Sforza stayed for a night on her way her the
Kraków with Sigismund (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, bishop
of Wrocław, under a special regulation that the land shall be further
Late Modern period
Market Square – Rynek
Pszczyna was ravaged and pillaged during the Thirty Years' War. During
the War of Austrian succession,
The Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia clashed with
Habsburg Empire for Silesia and Frederick The Great, the king of
Prussia, seized Silesia under the agreement of 1742. The town was
pillaged again during the Seven Years' War. Shortly afterwards, the
last Promnitz gave the land to his nephew, Frederic Erdmann.
The next landowners of Erdmann's line, the Anhalts, had governed up to
the half of the 19th century, when the rights changed again to the
person of Hans Heinrich X from the powerful Hochberg family who held
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
spoke Polish language. When
World War I
World War I erupted, the Hochbergs lent
the estate to the German state for the military purpose. The German
chief of staff held his headquarters in the castle of Pszczyna, that
was often visited by Kaiser
Wilhelm II himself.
After the war ended, in the emerging conflict between the newly
Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic and the
Weimer Republic (Germany)
struggled for control over the region. Prince Hans Heinrich XV
(Polish: Jan Henryk XV) favored an independence movement for a
Silesian Republic or at least Upper Silesia. The latter was supported
by Związek Górnośląski (1919–1924) which was financed by him.
With the outbreak of the Silesian Uprising, the Hochbergs sided firmly
with the German cause and afforded the land to German paramilitary
organizations, even for a prison for the Poles. Hans Heinrich XV
himself supplied units at his own expense, commanded by his son, Hans
Heinrich XVII in a bitter fight for Góra Świętej Anny. Earlier that
year (1921) a plebiscite was held to determine the future of the
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
the Second Polish Republic. On May 29, 1922, the newly established
Polish army in the west officially claimed the city for Poland. The
first mayor of city became politician and diplomat Jan Figna.
World War II
Historical train station after renovation
During the 1939 Defensive War, fighting occurred in the surroundings
of Pszczyna, which can be seen by observing the leftovers of concrete
strongholds around the town. In that area, the
Battle of Pszczyna
Battle of Pszczyna took
place, where German forces breached main Polish defensive lines
protecting the Silesian area. The Nazi Germans murdered 14 Poles
suspected of spying on September 14, and they were buried in the
nearby forest in an unmarked mass grave.
Between the end of January and beginning of February 1945, the war
storm came through
Pszczyna with no serious damage to the city.
Unfortunately, the wooden historic church of Saint Jadwiga burned down
in 1939. In January 1945, Nazis evacuated prisoners of
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. During this evacuation, many
inhabitants were killed, some even in the streets. The city was
liberated on February 10, 1945.
Unlike the rest of Upper Silesia,
Pszczyna never experienced rapid
industrialization. The ELWO factory was expanded and a new creamery
and mill were founded. This, however, helped to preserve the historic
old town and the palace located in the city center.
Pszczyna had a population of 25,415.
Jews in Pszczyna
Inscription from the Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish community was small before the edict of 1780 granting Jews
the right to settle in Silesian towns to the east of river Oder. By
1787, the Jewish population had grown to 85 people. Regulations passed
Frederick William III
Frederick William III in 1812 proclaimed Jews to be full citizens
of the state. As their numbers grew, Jews called for a synagogue to
perform their religious duties. A wooden synagogue was built in 1834
and, eventually, a bricked structure in 1852. The synagogue has
survived into the 21st century but, of the interior nothing of
historical value remains: during World War II it was used as a cinema.
The community's educational needs were also met with the establishment
of a cheder (Jewish school) in 1812. From 1820, Jews were allowed to
attend to Protestant and Catholic schools. A new, joint Protestant and
Jewish school was established in 1873 and became a municipal school in
The Jewish community reached its highest peak in 1885, numbering 341
members. Markus Brann, Jewish theologian and historian and future
lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, was active in
Pszczyna during that period. The number of Jews had dropped
Poland took control of the city in 1922, as most of
the Jews identifying themselves as Germans had left for Germany.
Only scarce evidence of the town's former Jewish presence has been
left – the cemetery, the former residence of the Jewish community
and the synagogue. The cemetery in Pszczyna,on Katowicka Street, was
founded in 1814. The last reported burial took place in 1937. During
World War II the cemetery was not destroyed. 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 had been vandalized. Nineteen tombstones, some of
which date back to the early 19th century, were damaged in the old
part of the cemetery. The local community contributed to the
restoration of 150 graves of historical value.
Protestants in Pszczyna
Lutheranism was introduced to
Pszczyna in 1568 by Duke Karol Promnitz.
In a course of next 20 years, Lutheranism spread among the local
population. A Protestant minister came to the county in 1569, followed
by opening of the first Protestant school. During the
counter-reformation in 1649 celebrations of Protestant religious
service were confined to the Castle of Pszczyna.
From 1709 on Erdmann Promnitz received permission for building a
Protestant church. Along with church, a Protestant school had been
reintroduced. The church burned down in 1905 and was rebuilt two years
later. It is still in operation and serves as the central point for
the Protestant community, which numbers 1500 members.
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 metres (850 feet) above sea level.
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
Moravian Gate (a depression between the
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.
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
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 square kilometres (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).
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Poland
Twin towns — Sister cities
Pszczyna is twinned with:
Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
Klein Rönnau, Germany
Holešov, Czech Republic
Memorial to Daisy in Pszczyna
Prince Hans Heinrich XV
See also: Category:People from
Pszczyna and Category:People from
Hans Heinrich XV
Hans Heinrich XV (1861–1938),
Prince of Pless
Prince of Pless and local businessman
Georg Philipp Telemann, a Baroque composer, once a kapellmeister in
Frederick Ferdinand, Duke of Anhalt-Köthen
Frederick Ferdinand, Duke of Anhalt-Köthen (1769–1830), Prussian
Louis, Prince of Anhalt-Pless (1783–1841)
August Kiß (1802–1865), sculptor
Wilhelm Engerth (1814–1884), architect
Max Friedländer (1829–1872), Jewish journalist
Karl Hoefer (1862–1939), Prussian general
Daisy, Princess of Pless
Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873–1943)
Bruno Chrobek (1895–1942)
Otto Lasch (1893–1971),
Johnny Friedlaender (1912–1992), Jewish artist
Alicja Janosz (born 1985), the winner of the 2002 Polish Idol contest,
was born in Pszczyna.
(in Polish) (in English) (in German) Official Website
(in Polish) (in English)
Pszczyna Information Office
(in Polish) Name of town derived from the word "plszczyna", describing
^ Orlik, Zygmunt J. (2000). Szkice z dziejów Starej Wsi. Pszczyna:
ITKM. pp. 15–16. ISBN 83-7216-174-7.
^ "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.
Pszczyna in figures". 2003. Archived from the original on
2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pszczyna.
Tourist Information Centre website
Jewish Community in
Pszczyna on Virtual Shtetl
Coordinates: 49°58′N 18°57′E / 49.967°N 18.950°E /
Town and seat