Lublin, known as the capital of eastern Poland, is the largest and most dynamically developing city east of the Vistula River, and an intersection of important international communication routes
In the past, Lublin played an important role in shaping the history of the Polish state. In the days of the glorious Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Lublin was an important administrative, commercial and cultural centre. After the defeat of the Central Powers during World War I, the People’s Government of the Republic of Poland was formed under the leadership of Ignacy Daszyński on the night of 6-7 November 1918 in this very city, which was one of the regional centres of power in Poland in 1918.
During the inter-war period, Lublin was constantly expanding. This time was marked with the erection of factories and public buildings, and the flourishing of Lublin’s culture. However, further development of the city was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. As the Germans’ intention to attack became more and more obvious, Lublin was intended to become the temporary seat of the President of the Republic of Poland, and the neighbouring towns the seats of individual ministries (which actually happened, because as early as 5 September 1939, ministries and, for a short time, the treasury were moved to the city).
The first air strike on the city took place on the morning of 2 September 1939. Lublin was soon flooded by a wave of refugees from various parts of Poland. In order to protect the inhabitants and fight the enemy, the “Lublin” Army was formed on 5 September. The pressure of the German war machine forced the Mayor of Lublin, Bolesław Liszkowski, to evacuate on 9 September 1939 and leave for Romania.
On 18 September, German troops entered Lublin, which marked the beginning of the bloody policy of occupation. Until July 1944, Lublin was a part of the General Government. The occupants had plans to Germanise Lublin and colonise the city with German settlers. For this reason, on 23 December 1939 ten leading representatives of the intelligentsia in Lublin were shot at the Jewish cemetery. Prisoners were murdered in the Gestapo prison in Lublin Castle and in the building known as “Under the Clock” [Pod Zegarem], or transported from the Castle to the Majdanek death camp. Approximately 40,000 Lublin Jews were killed by the Nazis in Operation Reinhard.
During the occupation, the Germans closed down the Catholic University of Lublin, schools and theatres, and stopped the publication of the Polish press.
As the war was coming to an end, the lower-ranking commanders of the Home Army decided – in July 1944 – to start fighting in the city. Unfortunately, as a result of the Red Army’s advance, on 25 July 1944 the city came under Soviet occupation. The “Red Bayonets” also brought the new communist rule. On 2 August, Lublin became the seat of the Polish Committee of National Liberation [Polish: Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego] which gave rise to the future communist government appointed by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Thus, a new chapter for the city and its inhabitants began.