A city in the south-west of Poland, the historic capital of Silesia, situated on the banks of the Oder and its four tributaries. With more than 100 bridges, it is often called the Venice of the North. It is the fourth-largest city in the country in terms of population (640,000 residents). From 1741 until 1945 (until the end of World War II) it was part of Germany, and its history is characterised by the presence of several different cultures (Polish, Czech, Austrian, German and Jewish), which are still reflected in the city’s architecture, academia, literature, art and music.
Pursuant to the Yalta agreement, after World War II, all the city’s German inhabitants were expelled. Their abandoned apartments and houses were resettled by Poles who in their turn had been expelled from their homes in the country’s former eastern borderlands, which were annexed after the war by the Soviet Union.
For the subsequent decades Wrocław stood as a symbol of the Cold War and the division of Europe. Since the fall of Communism, it has been a city of vibrant dialogue between the Polish and German cultures and at once, since its reconstruction following the wartime devastation, one of Poland’s most attractive tourist cities. Many people consider its Market Square more beautiful even than that of Krakow.
Wrocław was the birthplace of Edith Stein (Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), an eminent philosopher. She came from a devoutly religious Jewish family and went through a stage of atheism before experiencing the grace of faith and conversion, being baptised and entering a Carmelite convent, taking the name of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was murdered in the gas chamber in Auschwitz-Birkenau. John Paul II proclaimed Edith Stein a saint and one of the patrons of Europe.
Also born in Wrocław was another victim of the concentration camps, the Protestant theologian and symbol of the Christian resistance to Nazism Dietrich Bonhoeffer.