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Coordinates: 53°14′N 20°11′E / 53.233°N 20.183°E / 53.233; 20.183

Country  Poland
Voivodeship Warmian-Masurian
County Działdowo County
Gmina Działdowo (urban gmina)
Established 14th century
Town rights 1344
 • Mayor Bronisław Mazurkiewicz
 • Total 13.35 km2 (5.15 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Total 20,824
 • Density 1,600/km2 (4,000/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 13-200
Area code(s) +48 23
Car plates NDZ

Działdowo [d͡ʑau̯ˈdɔvɔ] (German: Soldau) is a town in north-central Poland with 24,830 inhabitants (2006), the capital of Działdowo County. Situated in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship (since 1999), Działdowo previously belonged to Ciechanów Voivodeship (1975–1998). The town is a major railroad junction, in Dzialdowo the strategic connection from Warsaw splits into two directions - towards Gdańsk and towards Olsztyn.


The first settlement in the vicinity was by a tribe of Old Prussians known as Sassen in German and Sasinowie in Polish. The Teutonic Knights conquered the region and built a castle named Soldau, a wing of which still remains. Grand Master Ludolf König granted the settlement near the castle Kulm law town privileges in 1344. It was then also known in Polish as Soldov. By 1920, the keep was stripped of all interior finishing, flooring, and stone carvings to the state of an empty shell. A major reconstruction is underway.

Within the Duchy of Prussia the settlement converted to Lutheranism during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, according to the choice of its Prince. The following communes belonged to the Evangelical parish of Soldau: Amalienhof, Borowo, Bursch, Cämmersdorf, Gajowken, Hohendorf, Kyschienen, Königshagen, Kurkau, Niederhof, Pierlawken, Pruschinowo, and Rudolfsfelde.

Within the Kingdom of Prussia and the later German Empire, the settlement developed into an important Prussian Eastern Railway junction in the second half of the 19th century. The town had Polish majority in 1825 with 1496 Poles and 386 Germans living within it[1] At the same time the Prussian authorities were hostile to the local population due to its Polish pro-independence activity during the November and January Uprisings in Congress Poland. During the January Uprising of 1863 an ammunition depot and contact point was secretly established by local people trying to help their fellow Poles in the struggle against the Russian Empire; it was located at the house of Doctor Russendorf.[2] Prussian authorities arrested several locals and harassed the local population which tried to form military units to aid the uprising.[3] The area remained Polish despite attempts at Germanisation. In 1815 79% of the local population were Poles, and only 21% Germans. In 1837 74% were Poles and 26% Germans. In the second half of the 19th century 87% of the district's population were Poles. With the increase of Germanisation efforts in 1910, the whole district population was divided among 57% Poles, 42% Germans and 1% Jews according to official German statistics.[3] In 1910 the town itself had 4,728 inhabitants, 3,589 of them Germans.[4] In 1912 the Germans introduced the terms "Masurs" and "Masurian language" instead of "Pole" and "Polish language" in the census in the area.[3]

It was part of the Landkreis Neidenburg district in East Prussia, and it was the southernmost town in the province.

The town was fought over in the early stages of World War I. It was briefly occupied by Russian troops, and won back by the Germans during the Battle of Tannenberg. The occupation of Soldau is described in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novel August 1914.

Despite the attempts of the local German populace, the German authorities within Działdowo and the German Government,[5] the town together with a few neighboring villages was transferred after World War I by the Treaty of Versailles from Weimar Germany to the Second Polish Republic on January 17, 1920 without a plebiscite, as the area provided the Prussian Eastern Railway connection between Warsaw and Danzig (Gdańsk). An offer by the Germans to build a new railroad if the town could join the plebiscite was rejected by Poland.[3] The rail connections to towns in Germany such as Deutsch Eylau, Osterode, and Neidenburg in East Prussia were broken after the border changes. After the town was ceded to Poland, a large number of the German inhabitants left the area. The candidate of the German Party, Ernst Barczewski, was elected to the Sejm with 74.6% of votes in 1920[6] and to the Polish Senate with 34.6% of votes for the Bloc of National Minorities in 1928.[7] In 1921, the Polish census gave the following data regarding the ethnic composition of the whole district: Poles, 15496; Germans, 8187; others, 44.[4]

During the Polish-Soviet War Działdowo was briefly occupied by the Red Army which was cheered as a liberator by the local populace, and the town hoisted the German flag again[8][9] but it was soon recovered by the Polish Army.

After the invasion of Poland that began World War II in 1939, the town was annexed back into the Neidenburg District by Nazi Germany. The German minority in the town formed Selbstschutz formations that captured and tortured Polish leaders and political and cultural elites before murdering them.[10] The Soldau concentration camp was built nearby, at which 13,000 out of 30,000 prisoners were murdered. Działdowo was heavily damaged during the fighting on the Eastern Front. The destroyed town was restored to Poland after the war. German-speakers remaining in the town were subsequently expelled westward after the war ended. With this expulsion, the Eastern Germans were subjected to violent deaths and repeated rapes, first by the advancing Soviet Army and latter by the Polish.

Notable residents

International relations

Działdowo is twinned with Hersfeld-Rotenburg, Germany.


  • Andreas Kossert [1], "Masuren -Ostpreussens vergessener Süden", 2006, p. 284

External links

  • Official town webpage (Polish)

Coordinates: 53°14′N 20°11′E / 53.233°N 20.183°E / 53.233; 20.183

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