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Danzig or Dantsic [in Polish, Gdansk], with 160,000 inhabitants in 1910, including a garrison of 6000 men, was the capital of the province of W. Prussia. A strong fortress, the headquarters of the 17th Army Corps, it was one of the most important commercial towns in the North, and a manufacturing place also, The chief imports were raw material for the industries of the Baltic coast and Russia; the chief exports were grain, lumber, and sugar. Danzig is the capital of West Prussia and had an extensive trade, especially in wheat, which is conveyed down the Vistula from Poland and other corn-producing countries and shipped hence to all parts of Europe.

It was a naval station with dockyard and contained gun and ammunition factories, iron foundries, sugar refineries, sawmills, shipbuilding yards, etc. Danzig, Prussia's second fortress in order of importance, lost much of its earlier value as German naval power gravitated towards the west.

Ships for the German Navy were built in the Imperial Dockyard at Danzig, and repairs of all kinds could be effected. Crane lifts 50 tons. Divers could be obtained in exceptional cases. At the private shipbuilding yards vessels of any size and kind could be built and repaired. Engines up to 1,000 indicated h. p. could be built and repaired ; 50 tons of iron can be melted and run at one time; 60-inch cylinders can be cast and bored; masts could be made and boats built. Moderate repairs to machinery could be carried out. At the Schichau Yard there are sheers to lift 100 tons; divers, could be hired. At the Klawitter Yard there were the following cranes: Floating, 60 tons ; electric, 20 tons ; and hand, 10 tons. Tugs were available.

The German Navy had three dockyards - at Wilhelmshaven, Kiel and Danzig. The last named was of minor importance around 1900, at least as a fitting-out yard. By 1910 the manufacture of arms and artillery is carried on to a great extent, and the imperial and private docks and shipbuilding establishments, notably the Schichau yard, turn out ships of the largest size. At least half the German U-boats in service in the Great War were built at the Kaiserliche Werft Danzig yard on the Mottlau. The sea defenses of Danzig were at Neufahrwassee, the deep-water port of the city, and distant from it about five miles. They were controlled by the army, but there were some very powerful guns of large caliber in the forts.

The history of the naval shipyard in Gdansk begins 1852 as Royal Gdansk shipyard in the Kingdom of Prussia. The German war of 1866 established the North German Confederation and led to the creation of the North German Federal Navy. The Navy was not only for the protection of shipping and the coast, but also if necessary the offensive offences against hostile forces, coasts and ports. War Minister von Roon operated a fleet founded on plan for the next ten years: 10 armored vessels, 20 corvettes, 22 coastal defence vessels, 8 Avisos, 3 carrier vessels and 7 Schoolships were to be built. The parliament approved the plan while, but German shipbuilding industry was insufficiently developed. This required buying ships and plans of appropriate vessels from abroad: from France the armored frigate SMS Friedrich Carl (6800 tons and 16 guns), in England the SMS Kronprinz (5600 tons and 16 guns) and SMS Knig Wilhelm (9800 tons and 23 guns) -- a giant of his time and the then largest ship, originally it was ordered by the Turks, but by those not diminished.

At the Gdansk naval shipyard, earlier the Covered corvette Arcona (launched 1857), Gazelle (1859), Vineta (1863), Hertha (1864), Elisabeth (1868), and the closed deck corvettes Nymph (1863), Medusa (1864), also the first Aviso Lorelei (1859), the Segelbrigg Undine (1869), the screws first class gunboats Meteor (1860), Cyklop (1860), Dolphin (1860), Basilisk (1862), lightning (1862), Dragon (1865) and Meteor (1865) were built, ran in 1871 the big gunboats albatross and Nautilus, and the Ariadne. The last and most beautiful wooden ship, the closed deck corvettes Freya, was built in Gdansk in 1874.

With the increase in iron shipbuilding the yard lost out to the iron works of the German Empire, which did not attach importance to the the proximity of the Prussian forests for timber. Instead, Kiel and Wilhelmshaven became the major naval shipyards, in 1874 one armoured frigate, Frederick the Great and Great Elector were delivered. In Gdansk (West Prussia) began its own German ship building, 1868 the armored corvette SMS Hansa (3696 tons and 8 cannons), the covered deck korvette SMS Ariadne and covered corvette SMS Elizabeth. SMS Hertha took the opportunity with the gunboat SMS flash accumulated a French corvette actively to help. Other ships visited East Asian and westindische stations and showed the new flag around the world. As of 1888 Danzig was only a provisional dockyard, and the leading principle in its organisation had been to create an establishment in which in peace ships of all sizes, from cruisers downwards, can be built, and in which, in war, the repairs necessary in a fleet just returned from a naval engagement can be executed. It had a floating dock with horizontal slips.

The strong fortifications which, with ramparts, bastions and wet ditches, formerly entirely surrounded the city, were removed on the north and west sides in 1895-1896, the trenches filled in, and the area thus freed laid out on a spacious plan. One portion, acquired by the municipality, was turned into promenades and gardens, the Steffens Park, outside the Olivaer Tor, fifty acres in extent, occupying the north-western corner. The remainder of the massive defences remained as of 1910, with twenty bastions, in the hands of the military authorities; the works for laying the surrounding country under water on the eastern side had been modernized, and the western side defended by a cordon of forts crowning the hills and extending down to the port of Neufahrwasser.

Danzig lies 3 M. from the Baltic, near the influx of the united Mottlau and Radaune into the Vistula. The Mottlau flows through the town in two branches, and separates the Altstadt, Rechtstadt, and Vorstadt, the older parts of the town on the left bank (enumerated from N. to S.), from the modern Niederstadt and Langgarten on the right bank; between the branches is the Speicherinsel, with its large grain-elevators. The Radaune separates the Altstadt from the Rechtstadt.

Neufahrwasser, the outer harbor of Danzig, is formed by a canal and basin at the western mouth of the River Weichsel or Vistula, which runs through a low plain, covered with sand hills and lagoons. The channel for vessels to Danzig from Neufahrwasser is formed by the western branch of the Weichsel. About 1 mile above the Nenfahrwasser Hafen Canal the stream divides and forms two branches, with an island between them, named the Holm, the western semicircular branch being the proper bed of the river; the eastern branch, named the Kaiserhafen, was tolerably straight, and both branches meet again opposite the mouth of the Mottlau River, which flows through Danzig. As of 1910 the Kaiserhafen was dredged to an average depth of 24 feet, and is 104 yards wide in the northern and 202 yards in the southern part. On both sides were arrangements for loading and discharging, and in the southern part are dolphins for securing vessels. A railway crossed the Kaiserhafen to the Holm by means of a ferry.

Danzig first appears in history in 997, and about the year 1200 became capital of the duchy of Pomerelten. In 1308 it came into possession of the Teutonic Order. The German Rechtstadt was then added to the still half-Slavonic Altstadt. About the year 1358 the citizens of Danzig joined the Hanseatic League and took an active part in the wars of their allies against the Northern kingdoms and the pirates. Owing to its extensive trade, the wealth and population of the town increased rapidly, and it soon became one of the most important of mediaeval commercial cities. As the power of the Teutonic Order began to decline and that of the towns to increase, the latter entered into a confederation and threw off the yoke of the Order in 1466, after a desperate struggle.

Danzig, after having destroyed the castle of the Knights which adjoined the Altstadt, placed itself as a 'free city' under the protection of the kings of Poland. In this anomalous position it enjoyed extensive privileges, and saw its wealth steadily increase. When the Hanseatic League took part in the English "Wars of the Roses, the ships of Danzig frequently returned home laden with booty. The city embraced the Reformation at an early period, but continued its connection with Roman Catholic Poland.

The second partition of Poland in 1793 at length restored Danzig to German supremacy. In 1807 the Prussian Marshal Kalckreuth surrendered the town, after an obstinate resistance, to the French Marshal Lefebvre, who in consequence of this success was created 'Duke of Danzig'. Danzig remained in the possession of the French until 1814, when it was again assigned to Prussia.

Danzig originally owed its commercial importance to the fact that it was the shipping port for the corn grown in Poland and the adjacent regions of Russia and Prussia; but after 1890 this trade had been slipping away from her. On the other hand, her trade in timber and sugar has grown proportionally. Nevertheless energetic efforts were being made to check any loss of importance - first, in 1898, by a determined attempt to make Danzig an industrial center, manufacturing on a large scale; and secondly, by the construction and opening in 1899 of a free harbour at Neufahr- wasser at the mouth of the Vistula. The industries which it had been the principal aim to foster and further develop are shipbuilding (naval and marine), steel foundries and rolling mills, sugar refineries, flour and oil mills, and distilleries.

By 1910 Danzig almost alone of larger German cities still preserved its picturesque medieval aspect. The grand old patrician houses of the days of its Hanseatic glory, with their lofty and often elaborately ornamented gables and their balconied windows, are the delight of the visitor to the town. Only one ancient feature is rapidly disappearing - owing to the exigencies of street trafile - the stone terraces close to the entrance doors and abutting on the street.

The Free City of Danzig was placed under League of Nations mandateat the end of World War I. The Baltic port sat atop the strip of German lands ceded to Poland at the end of World War I, dubbed the "Polish corridor," because they divided East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Poland's refusal in 1939 to accede to Nazi Germany's demands to return this territory, along with Danzig, to Germany led to the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and sparked World War II. In 1940, a French politician wrote that the French didn't want to die for Danzig.

The Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and the U.S.S.R. agreed at the Berlin (Potsdam) Conference, August 1, 1945 that the area defined by a line running from the Baltic Sea immediately west of Swinemunde, and thence along the Oder River to the confluence of the western Neisse River and along the Western Neisse to the Czechoslovak frontier, including that portion of East Prussia not placed under the administration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in accordance with the understanding reached at this conference and including the area of the former free city of Danzig, shall be under the administration of the Polish State and for such purposes should not be considered as part of the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:40 ZULU