Honorary citizens of Wrocław – who they were and where they are buried

Honorary citizenship of the city of Wrocław has been awarded by the Wrocław City Council since 1993 in the form of the title Civitate Wratislaviensi Donatus. According to the tradition of awarding these distinctions, they are bestowed to living people, but in 2010 it was allowed to honour deceased people in this way. Nearly half of the people honoured so far are no longer alive, as are most of those who became honorary citizens during the Polish People’s Republic.

Honour is a payback which should neither be counted on nor expected

Thomas Hobbes, 1642

Honorary citizenship of Wrocław in the form of the title Civitate Wratislaviensi Donatus was established after local government was restored in Poland in 1990. In this way, the Wrocław city authorities returned to the tradition which had existed in the city in the years 1870-1945 and during the Polish People’s Republic.

In total, 31 people were honoured in this way between 1870 and 1945. Lord mayors of Wrocław, as well as local scholars and artists, had a real connection with Wrocław and made great contributions to the Silesian metropolis, others were honoured only for political reasons. Political considerations played a decisive role in awarding titles during Nazi Germany, when the titles went mostly to the people later stripped of them by the judgements of the International Tribunal in Nuremberg.

During the Polish People’s Republic, the tradition of granting honorary citizenship was brought back. However, no attention was paid to its continuity, as the titles were given only occasionally – in the years 1945-1979 they were bestowed on 7 people. The opinion and will of the residents were not taken into account either, because the decision was still political. However, since the history of the city is a certain continuity, we provide their names below.

After the restoration of autonomy in Poland, due to the changing historical contexts and the complicated history of the city, it was decided to change the form and procedure of awarding this distinction. Although the Wrocław City Council has the deciding vote, every resident has the right to nominate their candidate. The group of over 30 people honoured since 1993 includes the people who played an important role in social, cultural and economic life – both of the city and country. Most of them are people of international recognition, prestige and merit. The titles of Civitate Wratislaviensi Donatus are awarded annually during the ceremonial session of Wrocław City Council on 24 June, on the occasion of Wrocław Day, which was established on the day of commemoration of the patron of Wrocław cathedral, the Archdiocese of Wrocław, and to some extent – also the patron of the city, St. John the Baptist.

Written and edited by: Kamilla Jasińska
Translated by: Fabryka Tłumaczeń