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Chelmno, panorama polnoc.jpg
Chełmno Old Town with the Renaissance Town Hall on the right
Chelmno flaga.svg
POL Chelmno COA.svg
Coat of arms
Poland adm location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 53°20′57″N18°25′23″E / 53.34917°N 18.42306°E / 53.34917; 18.42306 Coordinates: 53°20′57″N18°25′23″E / 53.34917°N 18.42306°E / 53.34917; 18.42306
CountryFlag of Poland.svg  Poland
Voivodeship Kuyavian-Pomeranian
County Chełmno County
Gmina Chełmno (urban gmina)
  Total13.56 km2 (5.24 sq mi)
75 m (246 ft)
  Density1,500/km2 (3,900/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code

Chełmno ( [ˈxɛu̯mnɔ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); older English: Culm; German : Loudspeaker.svg Kulm  ) is a town in northern Poland near the Vistula river with 20,000 inhabitants and the historical capital of Chełmno Land. Situated in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999, Chełmno was previously in Toruń Voivodeship (1975–1998).



The city's name Chełmno comes from chelm, the old Polish word for hill. [1] [2] After the arrival of the Teutonic Knights in 1232 the Latin name Colmen was used. During the Middle Ages, the Germanized name Culm was used in official documents regarding the town, as the city was a member of the Hanseatic League and part of the State of the Teutonic Order. [3] Chełmno came under Prussian jurisdiction in 1772 and, as part of a larger Germanization effort, the city was officially renamed Kulm. [4] During the Nazi occupation in World War II, the town was again renamed from Chełmno to Kulm.


Medieval town walls with the Powder Tower Mury obronne Chelmna.JPG
Medieval town walls with the Powder Tower

The first written mention of Chełmno is known from a document allegedly issued in 1065 by Duke Boleslaus of Poland for the Benedictine monastery in Mogilno. In 1226 Duke Konrad I of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to Chełmno Land. In 1233 Kulm was granted city rights known as "Kulm law" (renewed in 1251), the model system for over 200 Polish towns. The town grew prosperous as a member of the mercantile Hanseatic League. Kulm and Chełmno Land were part of the Teutonic Knights' state until 1454. In 1440, the town was one of the founding members of the Prussian Confederation, which opposed Teutonic rule, [5] and upon the request of which King Casimir IV Jagiellon reincorporated the territory to the Kingdom of Poland in 1454. In May 1454 the town pledged allegiance to the Polish King in Toruń. [6] After the end of the Thirteen Years' War, the Teutonic Knights renounced claims to the town, and recognized it as part of Poland. It was made the capital of Chełmno Voivodeship.

In 1772, following the First Partition of Poland, the city was taken over by the Kingdom of Prussia. Between 1807 and 1815 Chełmno was part of the Polish Duchy of Warsaw, being reannexed by Prussia at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

As Kulm, it had been a garrison town. In 1776 Frederick the Great founded here a cadet school which was to serve in Germanising Polish areas and nobility [7] In 1890 the garrison included 561 military staff. [8] On 1 October 1890 the cadet school was moved to Koszalin (then Köslin) in Farther Pomerania. [9] Also as part of Anti-Polish policies, the Prussians abolished the local Polish academy, and closed down Catholic monasteries. [10] Poles were subjected to various repressions, local Polish newspapers were confiscated. [10]

Renown Polish surgeon Ludwik Rydygier opened his private clinic in the town in 1878, where he conducted pioneering surgical operations, including the first in Poland and second in the world surgical removal of the pylorus in a patient suffering from stomach cancer in 1880 and the first in the world peptic ulcer resection in 1881. [11] Rydygier sold the clinic to one of his employees, Leon Polewski, in 1887, due to harassment from the Prussian authorities. [11]

On January 22, 1920 Polish troops were greeted by a large crowd of residents and Chełmno was reintegrated with Poland, which regained independence after World War I. [10]

When World War II broke out in 1939, Nazi German authorities murdered 5,000 Polish civilians upon taking control of the territory. [12] The atrocities took place in Klamry, Małe Czyste, Podwiesk, Plutowo, Dąbrowa Chełmińska, and Wielkie Łunawy, while many other Poles were executed in forests. [12] The rest of the Polish population was expelled to the General Government in line with the German policy of Lebensraum. Polish Secret State resistance groups such as Polska Żyje ("Poland Lives"), Rota, Grunwald, and Szare Szeregi were also active in the area. The area was administered as part of Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and served as the seat of the district/county (kreis) of Kulm.

On 25 January 1945 German forces set fire to several buildings in the city, including a hospital, a railway terminal, and a brewery, while retreating (see scorched earth).


Convent of the Sisters of Charity in Chelmno Zespol klasztorny Siostr Milosierdzia w Chelmnie...JPG
Convent of the Sisters of Charity in Chełmno
Church of the Assumption in Chelmno Kosciol farny widoczna wieza z ktorej mozna podziwiac panorame miasta.JPG
Church of the Assumption in Chełmno

Since its founding, the city had a mixed population of Poles and Germans, with the former making ⅔ of its population in the second half of the 19th century. [4]

Number of inhabitants in years
18435,000 [13]
18909,762incl. 3,450 Protestants and 470 Jews. [8]
190011,079together with the garrison, incl. 3,530 Protestants and 339 Jews. [9]
192111,700incl. 1,060 Germans. [14]
196918,000 [15]

Main sights

Chełmno has a well-preserved medieval center, with five Gothic churches and a beautiful Renaissance town hall in the middle of the market square.

The Old Town is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments ( Pomnik historii ), as designated 20 April 2005, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

Town Hall in Chelmno Chelmno ratusz.jpg
Town Hall in Chełmno

Chełmno gives its name to the protected area called Chełmno Landscape Park, which stretches along the right bank of the Vistula.

Notable residents

Statue of Ludwik Rydygier in Chelmno, the first surgeon in the world to carry out a peptic ulcer resection. Ludwik Rydygier monument.jpg
Statue of Ludwik Rydygier in Chełmno, the first surgeon in the world to carry out a peptic ulcer resection.

See also

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  1. Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernici: Nauki humanistyczo-społeczne, Issues 22-28 Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika, 1967, page 6
  2. Słownik etymologiczny nazw geograficznych Polski Maria Malec Wydawn. Naukowe PWN, 2002, page 56
  3. Heinrich Gottfried Philipp Gengler: Regesten und Urkunden zur Verfassungs- und Rechtsgeschichte der deutschen Städte im Mittelalter, Erlangen 1863, pp. 679-680.
  4. 1 2 Blitzkrieg w Polsce wrzesien 1939 Richard Hargreaves, page 29, Bellona Warsaw 2009
  5. Karol Górski, Związek Pruski i poddanie się Prus Polsce: zbiór tekstów źródłowych, Instytut Zachodni, Poznań, 1949, p. 11 (in Polish)
  6. Górski, p. 76
  7. Polacy i Niemcy wobec siebie Stanisław Salmonowicz, Ośrodek Badań Naukowych im. W. Kętrzyńskiego, 1993
  8. 1 2 Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon. 14th edition, vol. 4, Berlin and Vienna 1892, p. 624-625 (in German).
  9. 1 2 Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. 6th edition, vol. 11, Leipzig and Vienna 1908, p. 785-786 (in German).
  10. 1 2 3 "Chełmno w dniu odzyskania niepodległości 22 stycznia 1920 roku". (in Polish). Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  11. 1 2 Stanisław Marian Brzozowski. "Ludwik Rydygier". Internetowy Polski Słownik Biograficzny (in Polish). Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  12. 1 2 Institute of National Remembrance data, based on Leszczynski, Kazimierz "Eksterminacja ludności w Polsce w czasie okupacji niemieckiej 1939-1945", Warsaw, 1962
  13. Universal-Lexikon der Gegenwart und Vergangenheit (H. A. Pierer, ed.). 2nd edition, vol. 17, Altenburg 1843, p. 51 (in German).
  14. Der Große Brockhaus. 15th edition, vol. 4, Leipzig 1929, p. 297-298 (in German).
  15. Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon. 9th edition, vol. 6, Mannheim/Vienna/Zürich 1972, p. 122 (in German).