General view


Coat of arms
Opole is located in Poland
Coordinates: 50°40′N 17°56′E / 50.667°N 17.933°E / 50.667; 17.933
Country  Poland
Voivodeship Opole
County city county
Town rights 1217
 – Mayor Ryszard Zembaczyński
 – City 96.2 km2 (37.1 sq mi)
Elevation 176 m (577 ft)
Population (2009)
 – City 125,992
 – Density 1,309.7/km2 (3,392.1/sq mi)
 – Metro 267,000
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 – Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 45-001 to 45-910
Area code(s) +48 077
Car plates OP
Website http://www.opole.pl

Opole [ɔˈpɔlɛ] ( listen) (German: Oppeln, Silesian German: Uppeln, Silesian: Uopole) is a city in southern Poland on the Oder River (Odra). It has a population of 125,992 (June 2009) and is the capital of the Upper Silesia, Opole Voivodeship and, also the seat of Opole County. Today, many German Upper Silesians and Poles of German ancestry live in the Opole region; in the city itself, Germans make up less than 3% of population.



Opole's history begins in the 8th century. It this time, according to the archeological excavations,[1] the first Slavic settlement was founded on the Ostrówek - the northern part of the Pasieka island in the middle of the Odra river. In the early 10th century it developed into one of the main gróds of the Slavic Opolanie. At the end of the century Silesia became part of Poland and was ruled by the Piast dynasty; the land of the pagan Opolanie was conquered by Duke Mieszko I in 992. From the 11th-12th centuries it was also a castellany. After the death of Duke Władysław II the Exile, Silesia was divided in 1163 between two Piast lines- the Wrocławska line in Lower Silesia and the Opolsko-Raciborska of Upper Silesia. Opole would became a duchy in 1172 and would share much in common with the Duchy of Racibórz, with which it was often combined. In 1281 Upper Silesia was divided further between the heirs of the dukes. The Duchy of Opole was temporarily reestablished in 1290.

In the early 13th century Duke Casimir I of Opole decided to move the settlement from the Pasieka island into the right shore of the Odra river (Since the 17th century it is the old Stream bed of Odra known as Młynówka). All of the inhabitants had to be moved in order to make place for the duke's new castle that was eventually built in the place of the old city.[2] Former inhabitants of Ostrówek together with German merchants that immigrated here from the West, received first town rights probably as early as around, 1217 though this date is disputed.[3] Opole received German town law in 1254, which was expanded with Neumarkt law in 1327 and Magdeburg rights in 1410. Opole developed during the rule of duke Bolko I of Opole. In this time the castle was finally completed and new buildings, including the city walls and the Holy Cross church, were constructed. Along with most of Silesia, in 1327 the Duchy of Opole came under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia, itself part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1521 the Duchy of Racibórz (Ratibor) was inherited by the Duchy of Opole, by then also known by its German equivalent - Oppeln. The second castle of Opole was probably founded in the 14th century by duke Władysław Opolczyk, though some sources claim that it was originally a wooden stronghold of Opole's castellan dating into 12th century.[4]

With the death of King Louis II of Bohemia at the Battle of Mohács, Silesia was inherited by Ferdinand I, placing Opole under the sovereignty of the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria. The Habsburgs took control of the region in 1532 after the last Piast duke of Opole - Jan II the Good died. In those days the city was still mainly Polish-speaking (around 63 %), with other nationalities represented mainly by Germans, Czechs and Jews. The last two dukes of Opole: Nicholas II of Niemodlin and Jan II the Good did not know German at all.[5]

Beginning in 1532 the Habsburgs pawned the duchy to different rulers including several monarchs of Poland (see Dukes of Opole). With the abdication of King John II Casimir of Poland as the last Duke of Opole in 1668, the region passed to the direct control of the Habsburgs. At the beginning of the 18th century the amount of Germans in Opole was estimated at around 20%.[6]

King Frederick II of Prussia conquered most of Silesia from Austria in 1740 during the Silesian Wars; Prussian control was confirmed in the Peace of Breslau in 1742. During the Prussian rule the ethnic structure of the city began to change. In the early 20th century the amount of Polish and bilingual citizens of Opole, according to the official German statistics, varied from 25 to 31%.[7] From 1816–1945 Opole was the capital of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln within Prussia. The city became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871.

Cathedral of Opole

After the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, a plebiscite was held on 20 March 1921 in Oppeln to determine if the city would be in the Weimar Republic or become part of the Second Polish Republic. 20,816 (94.7%) votes were cast for Germany, 1,098 (5.0%) for Poland, and 70 (0.3%) votes were declared invalid. Voter participation was 95.9%. Results of the plebiscite in the Opole-Land county were different, with 30% of population voting for Poland.

Oppeln was the administrative seat of the Province of Upper Silesia from 1919–1939. With the defeat of Poland in the Invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II in 1939, formerly Polish Eastern Upper Silesia was re-added to the Province of Upper Silesa and Oppeln lost its status as provincial capital to Katowice (renamed Kattowitz).

On 15 February 1941 and 26 February 1941, two deportation transports with 2,003 Jewish men, women and children on board left Vienna Aspang Station to Opole, By March 1941, 8,000 Jews were deported to the ghetto which had been set up in Opole. From May 1941, 800 men capable of work were deployed as forced labourers in Deblin. Liquidation of Opole ghetto began in the spring 1942. A transport to Belzec extermination camp left on 31 March 1942 and deportations to Sobibor followed in May and October 1942. Of the 2,003 Viennese Jews, twenty-eight are known to have survived. [Note: The deportation of Viennese Jews to Opole most likely is a reference to a historical event that happened in "the other Opole," a town by the same time in Lublin, in eastern Poland. Therefore, the facts in this paragraph may not be factual as they apply to the Opole this article refers to.]

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Oppeln was transferred from Germany to Poland according to the Potsdam Conference, and given its original Slavic name of Opole. Opole became part of the Katowice Voivodeship from 1946–1950, after which it became part of the Opole Voivodeship. Unlike other parts of the Recovered Territories, Opole and the surrounding region's autochthon population remained and was not forcibly expelled as elsewhere. Over 1 million Silesians who considered themselves Poles or were treated as such by the authorities due to their language and customs were allowed to stay after they were verified as Poles in a special verification process. It involved declaring Polish nationality and an oath of allegiance to the Polish nation.[8]

In the later years however many of them left to West Germany to flee the communist Eastern Bloc (see Emigration from Poland to Germany after World War II). Today Opole, along with the surrounding region, is known as a centre of the German minority in Poland that recruits mainly from the descendants of the positively verified autochthons. In the city itself however only 2,46% of the inhabitants declared German nationality according to the last national census of 2002.[9]

Historical population

Town hall of Opole
Year Population
1533 ¹ 1,420
1691 1,191
1700 1,150
1746 1,161
1750 2,450
1787 2,802
1800 3,073
1816 4,050
1819 4,896
1825 5,987
1834 6,496
Year Population
1850 8,280
1858 ² 8,877
1875 12,694
1890 19,000
1905 30,112
1910 ³ 33,907
1924 43,000
1932 45,532
1936 50,561
17 May 1939 50,540
24 March 1945 170
Year Population
July 1945 13,000
1946 40,000
1950 50,300
1956 56,400
1960 63,500
1965 70,000
1971 87,800
1973 92,600
31 December 1989 127,653
Census 1992 129,552
Census 2002 129,946
30 June 2004 125,992

¹ First census of the city

² 8,320 German nationality (93,7%) and 557 Polish nationality (6,3%)

³ 80% German-speaking, 16% Polish- or Slavic Silesian-speaking, and 4% German- and Polish-speaking

Opole - a view of the city centre

German minority

General view of Opole

Alongside German and Polish, many citizens of Opole-Oppeln before 1945 used a strongly German-influenced Silesian dialect known as Wasserpolnisch, or Wasserpolak. Because of this, the post-war Polish state administration after the annexation of Silesia in 1945 did not initiate a general expulsion of all former inhabitants of Opole, as was done in Lower Silesia, for instance, where the population almost exclusively spoke the German language. Because they were considered "autochthonous" (Polish), the Wasserpolak-speakers instead received the right to remain in their homeland after declaring themselves as Poles. Some German speakers took advantage of this decision, allowing them to remain in their Oppeln, even when they considered themselves to be of German nationality. The city surroundings currently contain the largest German and Upper Silesian minorities in Poland. However, in Opole it is only 2.46% German.[9] (See also Germans of Poland.)

Main sights

Green Bridge.

Opole hosts the annual National Festival of Polish Song. The city is also known for its 10th century Church of St. Adalbert and the 14th century Church of the Holy Cross. There is a zoo, the Ogród Zoologiczny w Opolu.

Structures and buildings

  • Piast tower on the island (only part that remained of Piast castle)
  • a 14th century Franciscan church, a Piast mausoleum
  • a 19th century Town Hall
  • the Church of our Lady of Sorrows and St. Adalbert (Kościół Matki Boskiej Bolesnej i św. Wojciecha)
  • the 14th century Holy Cross Cathedral (Bazylika katedralna Podwyższenia Krzyża Świętego)
  • The art nouveau Penny Bridge (Most Groszowy), currently named Green Bridge (Zielony Mostek)
  • Opole Main Station, an eclectic building from early 20th century.


  • Diocesan Museum (Muzeum Diecezjalne)
  • Opole Regional Museum (Muzeum Śląska Opolskiego)
  • Opole Village Museum (Muzeum Wsi Opolskiej)


The building of Collegium Maius of Opole University


Opole Główne Railway Station

Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Opole constituency

Famous residents

Burgher houses near the Main Market
see also: Dukes of Opole


  • Solaris Center
  • CH Karolinka
  • Galeria Tesco
  • Galeria Turawa
  • Galeria Opolanin
  • Galeria Piastowska
  • Galeria Centrum
  • CH Real
  • CH Kaskada

International relations

Signs showing direction of twin cities

Twin towns - Sister cities

Opole is twinned with:[10]



This article incorporates information from the revision as of June 4, 2006 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
  1. ^ B. Gediga, Początki i rozwój wczesnośredniowiecznego ośrodka miejskiego na Ostrówku w Opolu, Slavia Antiqua t. 16, Wrocław 1970.
  2. ^ W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, p. 57.
  3. ^ This opinion is shared i.e. by W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, p. 57 and G. A. Stenzel, Geschichte Schlesiens, T1. 1, Breslau 1853, p. 41. The opposite opinion is presented i.e. by K. Buczek, Targi i miasta na prawie polskim (okres wczesnośredniowieczny), Wrocław 1964, p. 114.
  4. ^ W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, pp. 58-60.
  5. ^ W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, p.78.
  6. ^ W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, p.159.
  7. ^ W. Dziewulski, F. Hawranek, Opole - Monografia miasta, Instytut Śląski Opole 1975, p. 263-268".
  8. ^ (English)The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. p.28
  9. ^ a b German minority in Poland on the Ministry of Interior and Administration webpage
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Opole Official Website - Twin Towns". Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Flag of Poland.svg (in English and Polish) © 2007-2009 Urząd Miasta Opola. http://www.opole.pl/miasto/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=20&Itemid=108. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  11. ^ "Офіційний сайт міста Івано-Франківська" (in Ukrainian). mvk.if.ua. http://www.mvk.if.ua/news/4114/. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "Kragujevac City Partners". © 2008 Information service of Kragujevac City. http://www.kragujevac.rs/en/city_partners.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-27. [dead link]

External links

Coordinates: 50°40′N 17°56′E / 50.667°N 17.933°E / 50.667; 17.933

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  • Opole — Original name in latin Opole Name in other language Gorad Apole, Opole, Opoli, Opol Opol Oppein, Oppeln, Uopole, abwlwsky, ao bo lai, awpwl, awpwlh, opolle, opore, xx pxle, ple, Горад Аполе, Ополе State code PL Continent/City Europe/Warsaw… …   Cities with a population over 1000 database

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  • Opole — or German Oppeln geographical name city SW Poland on the Oder population 127,653 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Opole — ► Voivodato del SO de Polonia, junto a la República Checa; 8 535 km2 y 1 018 600 h. Cap., la c. homónima (128 400 h). Agricultura. Bovinos y ovinos. Ind. diversa …   Enciclopedia Universal

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