[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Świnoujście [ɕfʲinɔˈui̯ɕt͡ɕɛ] ( listen) (German: Swinemünde) is a city and seaport on the Baltic Sea and Szczecin Lagoon, located in the extreme north-west of Poland. It is situated mainly on the islands of Usedom and Wolin, but also occupies smaller islands, of which the largest is Karsibór island, once part of Usedom, now separated by a Piast canal (formerly the Kaiserfahrt) dug in the late 19th century to facilitate ship access to Szczecin (Stettin).
Since 1999 Świnoujście has been a city with the administrative rights of a county (powiat) (Polish: miasto na prawach powiatu), within West Pomeranian Voivodeship. It was previously part of Szczecin Voivodeship (1975–1998). The city lies in the geographic region of Pomerania and had a population of 41,100 in 2006.
The first human settlements, in areas that are now Świnoujście appeared 5 thousand years ago, as confirmed by archaeological findings. For a thousand years the estuary of the river was part of the state of the Świnoujście who were annexed by Polish ruler Mieszko I. In later centuries local Pomeranian princes ruled the area, and on both sides of the river they built fortified castles, which were destroyed several times by the Danish invasions in the twelfth century in 1170 and 1173.
During the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) the city became part of Sweden.
The river Świna (German: Swine) was formerly flanked by the fishing villages of Westswine and Ostswine. Towards the beginning of the 17th century it was made navigable for large ships. The Kingdom of Prussia gained the area in 1720 from Sweden, and included it in her Pomeranian province. Swinemünde was founded on the site of Westswine in 1748, fortified, and received town privileges from King Frederick II of Prussia in 1765. It served as the outer port of Stettin (Szczecin) and was administered within the Province of Pomerania. Swinemünde became part of the German Empire after the Kingdom of Prussia completed the unification of Germany in 1871.
The town had broad unpaved streets and one-story houses built in the Dutch style, which gave it an almost rustic appearance, although its industries, beyond some fishing, were entirely connected with its shipping. The river mouth, which was the entrance to the harbor, and which was regarded as the best on the Prussian Baltic coast, was then protected by two curving long breakwaters, and was strongly fortified. On the island of Wollin, on the other side of the narrow Swine, a great lighthouse was erected. In 1897 the canal of the Kaiserfahrt was opened to navigation, and this waterway between the Stettin harbour and the Baltic Sea was deepened between 1900–01. From then on Stettin could be reached directly by ships, and Swinemünde’s importance diminished somewhat.
On 12 March 1945 during World War II, refugee-crowded Swinemünde suffered heavy destruction by the USAAF, an estimated 5,000 to 23,000 were killed, most of whom are buried on the Golm War Cemetery west of the town. The unfinished German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin was scuttled in the harbor in an attempt to prevent its capture by the advancing Red Army (it was nevertheless refloated by the Soviets later). After the German forces defending the city were evacuated Soviet forces occupied the city on the night of 4–5 May 1945. The city was placed under Polish administration on 6 October 1945 and since then has remained part of Poland, which was officially affirmed by both countries in 1990 after the fall of the Iron Curtain. After the war ended it was officially renamed Świnoujście. Its German population was expelled and replaced with Poles, themselves refugees from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. In the winter of 1945, former victims of German concentration camps and repressions during the war, now members of the Polish Security Forces, acted in revenge against local Germans and killed 40 civilians. They were later sentenced for robbery by a Polish court. The Soviet military occupied part of the city until 1957 and the navy harbour until c. 1990.