Postwar history of Wroclaw

Wrocław was a sad portrait of devastation and destruction after the war. The southern and western districts had been destroyed by 90 percent with the Old Town and city centre half destroyed. Of the 30,000 buildings that had existed before the war, 21,600 were left in ruin including 400 historic buildings. On the third day after Germany's capitulation the first stage of rebuilding began. Power stations, waterworks and gasworks were started up. Tramlines in the city and the main railway to the capital started running again.

From that time on Wrocław was once again a Polish city. Reconstruction of the city administration was entrusted to the Cracow Socialist Bolesław Drobner, who fulfilled the function of City President. In reality, however, Soviet headquarters wielded authority in Wroclaw. Simultaneously an alternative German administration still existed. In May 1946, the National City Council was appointed the sovereign authority in Wrocław, led by Edward Paszke.

Wrocław began to change with respect to its new nationality. The population from the borderlands of the Second Republic began flooding in from areas now within the borders of the Soviet Union. The displacement of the 150,000 Germans remaining in the city simultaneously commenced. Soviet soldiers stationed in Wrocław brought in their families. Jews again came flooding into the city. Greeks and Macedonians also appeared in the reonstructed quarters of the city.

A new chapter in Wrocław's cultural life opened. On 8 September 1945 the performance of "Halka" was held at the Opera House, and on 15 September the new academic year was inaugurated at the University and Polytechnic. Libraries and theatres were organized anew. An important event in the history of the city was the opening on 21 July of the Exhibition of the Recovered Territories (WZO) on the site of the former Jahrhunderthalle, renamed the Hala Ludowa or People's Hall, as well as the 'International Congress of Intellectuals in Defence of Peace' organized at the end of August at Wrocław Polytechnic. Almost 600 people from 45 countries participated in the gathering. Among others came: Ivo Andrić, Jorge Amado, Louis Aragon, John Brenal, Paul Eluard, Ilya Ehrenburg, Paul Hogarth, Julian Huxley, Frederic Joliot-Curie, György Lukacs, Pablo Picasso, Anna Seghers and Mikhail Sholokhov. Poland was represented by Maria Dąbrowska, Xawery Dunikowski, Ludwik Hirszfeld, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Zofia Nałkowska, Jan Parandowski, Antoni Słonimski and Julian Tuwim.

In the 1950s a regression took place in many areas of economic, political and social life. There was a shortage of manpower and resources to rebuild the city. Cultural and academic life came gradually to a standstill. Those who left the city at that time included: Stanisław Dygat, Anna Kowalska and Wojciech Żukrowski. The Concert Hall was closed and the Lower Silesian Music Society liquidated.

The first signs of a revival were visible in 1955. A relaxed atmosphere began to prevail and students ignored the party Union of Polish Youth. In the autumn of 1956 students refused to participate in its ideological and military lectures. A wave of mass speeches commenced.

In the 1960s construction work got off the ground. Monuments were restored and simultaneously new housing estates were extended and built. Estates were built in the areas of Borek, Gajowice, Gądów Mały, Kozanów, Popowice and Szczepin. Gas, water and thermal mains were built. Telecommunication lines were also built.

Cultural life slowly began to be reborn. From 1962, the Polish Radio broadcasting station, Feature Film Company and Television Wrocław all commenced activity. The Teatr Polski (Polish Theatre) and Teatr Współczesny (Contemporary Theatre) gained publicity during this time. Worldwide fame was gained by Henryk Tomaszewski's Pantomime Theatre and Jerzy Grotowski's experimental Laboratory Theatre. A number of festivals arose: the Polish Contemporary Art Festival, the Open Theatre Festival, the Polish Contemporary Music Festival, the Organ Music Days, Jazz on the Odra and the International Oratorio and Cantata Festival Wratislavia Cantans.

Social discontent however continually grew. In 1968 successive speeches took place. A demand for the democratization of life, artistic freedom and limited censorship was put forward. These actions ended in counter manoeuvres by the government in the form of arrests.

The next decade began with an improvement in social moods. Earnings rose, with more diversified products appearing in the shops. The town was extended and modern industrial plants were built. An attempt to introduce significant price increases led to a collapse of the economic situation in 1976. Protests of workers and the intelligentsia again took place. Opposition structures began to be built on this wave.

1980 brought change throughout the whole country. Many Wrocław production plants had already begun to strike in mid-July, the majority coming to a standstill at the end of August. Wrocław became one of the main centres of the "Solidarity" Movement. Władysław Frasyniuk and Karol Modzelewski operated here. Beside "Solidarity," other independent organizations arose with the aim of both compromise and circumvention the decisions of the Communist authorities. The most famous of them was the "Orange Alternative", under the leadership of "Major" Waldemar Frydrych.

The great event of the 1982-1989 period was the visit of Pope John Paul II. In July 1982 his arrival was celebrated with an open-air Mass to almost 700,000 faithful.

In June 1985 the Racławice Panorama was opened for visiting. In 1987, the Holy Father beatified Edith Stein (born in Wrocław) as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.