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Searching for German Breslau


Inscription of a carpet shop („Teppiche“)
that reappears under post-war paint,
corner ul. Kotłarska/ul. Szewska

Until 1945 Wrocław/Breslau was a German-speaking city. After the war many inscriptions in German language were erased. The new regime wanted to extinct the German past. Using the German name „Breslau“ was forbidden in the socialist era.
Nowadays, however, my German-speaking Polish friends happily use the name Breslau when they talk about their city in German. I was informed that the name of the city is and has always been „Breslau“ in German and „Wrocław“ in Polish through all eras, while the original name was „Wratislawia“ which is actually Czech. There has not been a renaming after World War II, but the different names are simply translations. Modern Poles find it silly if modern Germans say „Wrocław“ instead of „Breslau“ – even worse if said Germans are not even able to pronounce it correctly. Okay, since then I have not been hesitating any more to use the German names when I’m discussing places in my language.

Traces of German Breslau can be found all over the city. There are of course the big sights like the churches with their many grave monuments, epitaphs and inscriptions, there are the historical objects on display in the museums, there is the old Jewish cemetery. Then there are the hidden, forgotten or reappearing little items with inscriptions in German language. Wrocław belongs to Poland and is a Polish city now, but history cannot simply be erased.

Manhole cover from the pre-war era on a shaft for district heating. As far as I know, this is the only preserved one that still says „Breslau“. The location is plac Legionów close to the corner with ul. Kościuszki.

Erased German inscriptions on tombstones at St Barbara church

Inscription and portrait busts on a neoclassical house in ul. św. Mikolaja, commemorating the founders of the pharmacy at the Hospital of the Holy Spirit

Acknowledgement: I owe the major part of this wisdom to Stefan - thank you for the special tour!!!

Traces of World War II


Scars on a factory building in ul. Sienkiewicza

I do not count myself among the so-called „history buffs“ who believe in „military glory“ and regard World War II sites like a theme park or the setting of some movie plot. We are discussing reality here!

It is hard to imagine from a modern point of view what went on in Breslau during those last weeks of the war when the city was declared a Fortress and systematically destroyed, and when, a bit later, the remaining German population was expelled and forced to leave the city within a few hours.

Unexploded shell stuck in the wall
of the cathedral's southern spire

The attack of the Sowiet army came from the south and west, not from the eastern side as expected. The southern and western quarters of the city are destroyed almost completely. In the north and east you will find older qaurters with a notable amount of pre-war architecture, often in bad shape but still there.
Wrocław is full of remains from the war. Traces can be found all over the city if you know where to look and what to look for. 70 years later there are still occasional ruins. Air shelters are said to be underneath many squares and buildings - in some places their ventilation shafts remain visible. The most spectacular „souvenir“ is probably the unexploded bomb which is stuck in the spire of the cathedral.
Noticing these remainders, and realizing how many there are, is quite scary...

Air shaft of a bomb shelter in a backyard behind plac Kościuszko
Bomb shelter in the basement of a building on Ostrów Tumski, original grid with German inscription „Luftschutz“

The proud Palais Hatzfeld - or what is left of it

Soviet Military Cemetery



The Soviet military cemetery on the southern edge of the city is a remain of the fights around „Fortress Breslau“ in spring 1945, at the very end of World War II.
650 soldiers of the Red Army are buried here, among them five „heroes of the Soviet Union“. Young men who had had dreams and plans for their lives and lost it all in a bloody war for the sake of some ideology. When will mankind ever learn?
The graveyard is well taken care of, according to what my guide told me it must have recently been refurbished and the tombstones renewed.
Location: in the angle between Aleja Karkonoska and Ulica Wyscigowa
Access: is free and open, at least during the daytime


Dolnośląski Urząd Wojewódzki: A Nazi Building


One piece of Nazi architecture is preserved in Wrocław’s cityscape, and in a rather prominent position. The large building on the Oder bank next to Most Grunwaldzki is one of the rare relics of the Nazi era.
The sheer size and the porticus in the middle of the facade with its simple shape and square pillars are typical elements of NS architecture, which often has a touch of monstrosity. The slight curve of the concave facade, which follows the bend of the river bank behind the building, is the one extra feature that makes the architectural design interesting.
The building is now the seat of Dolnośląski Urząd Wojewódzki, the administration of the district of Lower Silesia, of which Wrocław is the capital.


Fountain of Memories: Monument to the Expellees


The fountain is meant as a monument to the expellees and refugees at the end of World War II - the German population of Wrocław and Silesia who were forced to leave their homes and the country within a few days or even hours. Slowly slowly in Poland there is more open-mindedness and understanding to the fact that this chapter of history involved injustice, violence and suffering, too. The monument is nevertheless rather hidden, not clearly labelled, and probably hardly ever noticed by passers-by.


It consists of a small basins with four little fountains that are turned on and off automatically every 30 seconds or so. In the water there are two oversized key rings with thrown away keys. The bundle reminds of the few personal items that the expelled were able and allowed to take with them. I am not exactly sure what to think of the inscription, „Panta rhei“, all is in flow.
Location: off ul. Czysta (not in plac Czysty as stated in some guidebooks but round the corner) in front of a small office building.


Posted by Kathrin_E 01:36 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw breslau

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Most fascinating. I love your searching for historical traces of the many regimes that have governed Breslau over the last 100 or so years.

My great great grandfather, Dr Nathan Ginsberg, was born in Breslau at the beginning of the 19th century. He studied at the university, and later moved to Beuthen (Bytom)


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