1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Danzig
DANZIG, or Dantsic, Polish Gdansk, a strong maritime fortress and seaport of Germany, capital of the province of West Prussia, on the left bank of the western arm of the Vistula, 4 m. S. of its entrance, at Neufahrwasser, into the Baltic, 253 m. N.E. from Berlin by rail. Pop. (1885) 114,805; (1905) 159,088. The city is traversed by two branches of the Mottlau, a small tributary of the Vistula, dredged to a depth of 15 ft., thus enabling large vessels to reach the wharves of the inner town. 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, has been 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 remain, with twenty bastions, in the hands of the military authorities; the works for laying the surrounding country under water on the eastern side have been modernized, and the western side defended by a cordon of forts crowning the hills and extending down to the port of Neufahrwasser.
Danzig almost alone of larger German cities still preserves 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 traffic—the stone terraces close to the entrance doors and abutting on the street. Of its old gates the Hohe Tor, modelled after a Roman triumphal arch, is a remarkable monumental erection of the 16th century. From it runs the Lange Gasse, the main street, to the Lange Markt. On this square stands the Artus or Junker-hof (the merchant princes of the middle ages were in Germany styled Junker, squire), containing a hall richly decorated with wood carving and pictures, once used as a banqueting-room and now serving as the exchange. There are twelve Protestant and seven Roman Catholic churches and two synagogues. Of these the most important is St Mary's, begun in 1343 and completed in 1503, one of the largest Protestant churches in existence. It possesses a famous painting of the Last Judgment, formerly attributed to Jan van Eyck, but probably by Memlinc. Among other ancient buildings of note are the beautiful Gothic town hall, surmounted by a graceful spire, the armoury (Zeughaus) and the Franciscan monastery, restored in 1871, and now housing the municipal picture gallery and a collection of antiquities. Of modern structures, the government offices, the house of the provincial diet, the post office and the palace of the commander of the 17th army corps, which has its headquarters in Danzig, are the most noteworthy.
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. The town is famous for its amber, beer, brandy and liqueurs, and its transit trade makes it one of the most important commercial cities of northern Europe. 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 for some few years past this trade has been slipping away from her. On the other hand, her trade in timber and sugar has grown proportionally. Nevertheless energetic efforts are being made to check any loss of importance—first, in 1898, by a determined attempt to make Danzig an industrial centre, manufacturing on a large scale; and secondly, by the construction and opening in 1899 of a free harbour at Neufahrwasser at the mouth of the Vistula. The industries which it has 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.
History.—The origin of Danzig is unknown, but it is mentioned in 997 as an important town. At different times it was held by Pomerania, Poland, Brandenburg and Denmark, and in 1308 it fell into the hands of the Teutonic knights, under whose rule it long prospered. It was one of the four chief towns of the Hanseatic League. In 1455, when the Teutonic Order had become thoroughly corrupt, Danzig shook off its yoke and submitted to the king of Poland, to whom it was formally ceded, along with the whole of West Prussia, at the peace of Thorn. Although nominally subject to Poland, and represented in the Polish diets and at the election of Polish kings, it enjoyed the rights of a free city, and governed a considerable territory with more than thirty villages. It suffered severely through various wars of the 17th and 18th centuries, and in 1734, having declared in favour of Stanislus Leszczynski, was besieged and taken by the Russians and Saxons. At the first partition of Poland, in 1772, Danzig was separated from that kingdom; and in 1793 it came into the possession of Prussia. In 1807, during the war between France and Prussia, it was bombarded and captured by Marshal Lefebvre, who was rewarded with the title of duke of Danzig; and at the peace of Tilsit Napoleon declared it a free town, under the protection of France, Prussia and Saxony, restoring to it its ancient territory. A French governor, however, remained in it, and by compelling it to submit to the continental system almost ruined its trade. It was given back to Prussia in 1814.
See J. C. Schultz, Danzig and seine Bauwerke (Berlin, 1873); Wistulanus, Geschichte der Stadt Danzig (Danzig, 1891); Défense de Dantzig en 1813; documents militaires du lieutenant-général Campredon, pub. by Auriel (Paris, 1888); Daniel, Deutschland (Leipzig, 1895).