Borek, Brzeg County • Borkowice, Brzeg County • Brzeg (disambiguation) • Brzeg County • Brzeg Dolny • Brzeg Głogowski • Brzeg, Poddębice County • Brzeg, Tomaszów Mazowiecki County • Brzezina, Brzeg County • Bąków, Brzeg County • Błażejowice, Brzeg County • Chróścina, Brzeg County • Duchy of Brzeg • Gmina Brzeg Dolny • Golczowice, Brzeg County • Jasiona, Brzeg County • KS Cukierki Odra Brzeg • Kopalina, Brzeg County • Krzyżowice, Brzeg County • Lipowa, Brzeg County • Ludwik II of Brzeg • Pisarzowice, Brzeg County • Principality of Brzeg • Roszkowice, Brzeg County • Sośnica-Brzeg, Subcarpathian Voivodeship • Starowice, Brzeg County • Zwanowice, Brzeg County • Żelazna, Brzeg County
|Gmina||Brzeg (urban gmina)|
|• Mayor||Wojciech Huczyński|
|• Total||14.7 km2 (5.7 sq mi)|
|• Density||2,600/km2 (6,700/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Brzeg [bʐɛk] ( listen) (German: Brieg ( listen)) is a town in southwestern Poland with 38,496 inhabitants (2004), situated in Silesia in the Opole Voivodeship on the left bank of the Oder. It is the capital of Brzeg County.
Brzeg was in earlier documents referred to as Civitas Altae Ripae, meaning "city at high banks" of the Oder (Odra) river; its name is derived from the Polish Brzeg (shore).
The city received municipal rights in 1250 from the Wrocław Duke Henry III the White, and was fortified in 1297. From 1311-1675 Brzeg was the capital of a Lower Silesian duchy (Duchy of Brzeg) ruled by the Piast dynasty, a branch of the dukes of Lower Silesia, one of whom built a castle in 1341. Much of Silesia was part of the Kingdom of Bohemia during the Middle Ages. The town was burned by the Hussites in 1428 and soon afterwards rebuilt.
In 1595 Brieg was again fortified by Joachim Frederick of Brieg and Liegnitz. In the Thirty Years' War it suffered greatly; in the War of Austrian Succession it was heavily bombarded by the Prussian forces; and in 1807 it was captured by the French and Bavarians. When Bohemia fell to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526, the town fell under the overlordship of the Habsburgs in their roles of Kings of Bohemia, although it was still ruled locally by the Silesian Piasts. Upon the extinction of the last duke George William of Legnica in 1675, Brieg came under the direct rule of the Habsburgs.
In 1537 the duke Frederick II of Liegnitz concluded a treaty with Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, whereby the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg would inherit the duchy upon the extinction of the Silesian Piasts. On the death of George William the last duke in 1675, however, Austria refused to acknowledge the validity of the treaty and annexed the duchies and Frederick the Great of the Kingdom of Prussia used this treaty to justify his claim at the invasion of Silesia during the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740. Brieg and most of Silesia were annexed by Prussia after that state's victory. Its fortifications were destroyed by the French in 1807. The city of Brieg became part of Imperial Germany in 1871. During the Second World War, 60% of the city was destroyed and many Germans died during the severe winter of 1945 as they were trying to escape from advancing Russian troops. Its German population was violently expelled first by Hitler's Army that moved its own population further into Germany and declared Brieg "Festung Brieg" and later on by Soviets and Poles after they captured the city. After the war, the Potsdam Conference put Silesia, and thus the town, under Polish administration. Subsequently, Brzeg and Lower Silesia were repopulated by Poles whom Soviets expelled from the eastern part of prewar Poland.
As the town was situated on the commercial route to Wrotizla, in which a colony of Jews had long resided, Jews settled there about 1324. The Jewish community of Brieg had its separate place of worship from early times. In 1358 Jews lent money to local noblemen and the duke of Brieg, Ludwig I, who granted the Jews freedom of movement in the duchy in that year. In the 14th century the Jews of Brieg were persecuted on account of their usurious practices; one outbreak of such violence occurred in 1362. In 1392 it was claimed that all debts of the duke had been discharged by the payments to a Jew of Brieg (Jacob, the son of Moses), of a certificate of indebtedness. In 1398 the Brieg Jews bought a letter of protection from the duke, whereby they were guaranteed the peaceful possession of their privileges. But in 1401 they were driven from the city, except Jacob and Seman von Reichenbach, who had received a patent of protection from the duke's council for six years from May 1, 1399. In 1423, duke Ludwig II granted the Jews rights of residence on payment of an annual tax of 20 gulden, but they were expelled from the duchies of Brieg and Liegnitz in 1453 as a result of the inflammatory preachings of the Franciscan John Capistrano. Solomo, a capitalist, lent large sums of money to royal houses in the 15th century. In the 16th century, one of the local Jews served as a physician to the duke of Brieg.
With the decline of Breslau as a trade center, the Jews of Brieg became little more than an isolated community; and in modern times they shared the lot of the other Silesian Jews. They carried on insignificant trade operations as a rule. The conquest of Silesia by Frederick the Great brought but slight change in their condition.
A synagogue was built in Brieg in 1799, and a rabbi was first appointed in 1816. The Jewish population numbered 156 in 1785; 376 in 1843; 282 in 1913; 255 in 1933; and 123 in 1939. In the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938 the interior of the synagogue was completely demolished and the Torah scrolls publicly burned; numerous shops were ransacked. The community was not reestablished after the Holocaust.
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