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|województwo: Pomorskie||voivodship: Pomerania|
|miasto na prawach powiatu: Gdańsk||city: Gdańsk|
Gdańsk (German: Danzig) is situated at the river Motława (Mottlau) near its mouth into the river Martwą Wisła (Dead Vistula, Tote Weichsel) and the Gdańsk Bay (Zatoka Gdańska, Danziger Bucht) of the Baltic Sea. The earliest mention of Gyddanze is found in a document of AD 997; the harbour was first mentioned in the 12th century. In 1236 Gdańsk obtained the status of a town with a town charter based on that of Lübeck. From 1308 until 1454 Gdańsk was ruled by the Teutonic Knights who had their main seat at Marienburg (Malbork). During that period Gdańsk became an official member of the Hanse federation of trading towns in 1358. In 1454 the citizens of Gdańsk expelled the Teutonic Knights and took shelter under the Polish Crown; Gdańsk obtained the status of a free and privileged town within the Polish Kingdom. Because almost all the goods that were imported into, or exported from, Poland were shipped through Gdańsk, the town soon became one of the richest trading towns in Europe. In 1793 (2nd Partition of Poland) Prussia annexed Gdańsk. After a short period of French rule during the times of the Napoleonic wars, Gdańsk became part of Prussia again. After World War I Gdańsk obtained the status of a free town under the League of Nations (see map of Poland 1918/23). World War II began here on 1 September 1939, 4:45am, when the German warship 'Schleswig-Holstein' opened fire onto the Polish ammunition depot at the Westerplatte near Gdańsk. Near the end of the war in 1945 Gdańsk was destroyed by about 95% within just 2 weeks. After the war Gdańsk became part of Poland. The historic parts of the old town were carefully reconstructed during the following decades.
The Żuraw (Crane) [left] is the landmark of Gdańsk and probably the most often photographed building of the city. The combination of a city gate and crane was built between 1442 and 1444 in place of an older, similar construction of the 14th century. The brick towers flanking the wooden construction date back to the Middle Ages. The crane was the largest harbour crane of its time and could lift loads of up to 4 tons. Two treadmills, wheels with a diameter of 5 m each, were put into motion by prisoners. The crane was completely destroyed in 1945 but was carefully restored in 19551962. Today it houses the Maritime Museum of Gdańsk, the largest of its kind in Poland.
Among the many famous sons of Gdańsk are:
The astronomer Johannes HEVELIUS (16111687).
Gabriel Daniel FAHRENHEIT (16861736), inventor of the temperature scale today known as the Fahrenheit scale.
The philosopher Arthur SCHOPENHAUER (17881860).
The German writer and poet Günter GRASS (b.1927), honorary citizen of Gdańsk 1993, Nobel Laureate for Literature 1999.
Lech WAŁÊSA (b.1943), electrician at the Lenin shipyards of Gdańsk, founder of the trade union Solidarność,
Nobel Laureate for Peace 1983, President of Poland 19901995.