European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The history of the city


Exerpts taken from a 'portrait of a city' can be read on the official website of Wroclaw 2016 at



Since the history of the city is multi layered, it might be best to begin with the enormous transition which took place in 1945 when after the destruction Breslau became Wroclaw.

Many witnesses made possible the reconstruction and restoration of especially buildings in the old town, in particular of the famous university building. A German soldier had made photos in colour to retain details as to the paintings on the wall and in the ceiling.

Even before the final end came for the Germans in the city, destruction had marked the city. The Germans decided to convert the city into a bastion - Festung - to fend off Russian troops. In so doing the Germans decided to destroy an inner part of the city to make room for an airstrip so that planes could land. It was destined to provide the city with supplies just as it became the method by which the Berlin blockade was overcome in the fifties.

However, it seems that the only plane attempting to land crashed so that this idea never worked. More difficult it must have been those for Germans whose houses were not only destroyed but who had been forced to join the work force to move the rubble of their own houses in order to build that airstrip.

This photo is a part of the exhibition to be found in the University of Wroclaw

The forces of destruction are tremendous but one of these forces may in retrospect be called a 'destructive vanity'. Simply said, there are as many forces wishing to build something as there are others which enjoy destroying things. Klaus Heinrich equated it even with the wish of the architect to see again the creative process experienced when drawing lines on the draft board to design a house. Once completely build, these lines disappear. A semi destruction will reveal them again.

In conjunction with Kids' Guernica, Adam Chmielewski pointed out not only did Picasso attend the First International Peace Conference here in Wroclaw in 1948, but also the person responsible for the destruction of Guernica, a man called von Richthofen and therefore related to the Red Baron, that famous German pilot who brought down so many planes, originated from this place.

One aspect of the destruction pertains to what was the hidden city or what was underground. Since the Germans used heavy explosives to destroy all tunnels and vaults underneath, it can be imagined that this secret part of the city cannot reveal itself very easily. As a topic it comes up in discussions whether or not it would be feasible for the city to have a Metro system. Naturally the river is one obstacle but then in Munich this was a similar case of having destroyed its underground system but then it was rebuild for the Olympics in 1972.

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