Nowy Sącz (known also by other names) is a town in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship in southern Poland. It is the district capital of Nowy Sącz County, but is not included within the powiat.
The town has been known in German as Neu Sandez and in Hungarian as Újszandec. Its Yiddish names include צאנז (Tsanz) and נײ-סאנץ (Nay-Sants). Other Polish noun forms:Nowego Sącza: “of Nowy Sącz”, Nowym Sączu: “in Nowy Sącz”; adjective forms: nowosądeck-i/a/iego/iej/ie/ich and for the region sądeck-i/a/iego/iej/ie/ich.
Nowy Sącz is at the confluence of the Kamienica River into the Dunajec, about 20 km north of the Slovak border, in the Sądecka Valley (Kotlina Sądecka) at an altitude of 381m. It is surrounded by ranges of the eastern Outer Western Carpathian Mountains: Beskid Sądecki to the south, Beskid Wyspowy to the west, Beskid Niski to the southeast, and the foothills ofPogórze Rożnowskie to the north. The geological basis is Carpathian flysh – an undifferentiated grey-banded sandstone – with alluvial sediment from the Dunajec, Poprad, and Kamienica rivers in the valley basin. The climate is temperate, with an average annual rainfall of about 700 millimetres.
Nowy Sącz is the governmental seat of powiat nowosądecki (county or governmental district) part of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Województwo Małopolskie since 1999. Between 1975 and 1998 it was the provincial seat of Nowy Sącz Voivodeship. Before that and during the Second Polish Republic Nowy Sącz was a county seat in the Kraków Voivodeship. In 1951 it became a town with the rights of a county. It is the historic and tourist center of Sądecczyzna, the Sądecki district.
Nowy Sącz was founded on November 8, 1292 by the Bohemian king Wenceslaus II, on the site of a village named Kamienica. An ancient trade route called the Amber Route passed through the town, connecting the Mediterranean with the Baltic. It benefited at that time from its proximity on the trade route to Hungary due to privileges granted by King Władysław the Short, and later his son, Kazimierz the Great, for supporting him during a rebellion in 1311. In the 15th century it produced steel and woolen products, and nearly rivaled Kraków in visual arts. In 1611 a great fire destroyed much of the town, and the 17th century the town declined in importance after the "The Deluge".
Nowy Sącz lay near the center of West Galicia from the First Partition ofPoland, 1772, to Polish independence,1918. Nowy Sącz rose to a new prominence in the 19th century when the Austrian authorities built a railway connecting it with Vienna (then the Habsburg capital). The town is important in Hasidic Jewish history for the founding of the Sanz Hasidic dynasty during the 19th century, the precursor to the Bobov dynasty founded in nearby Bobowa (with a synagogue with occasional services by Kraków congregation) and the Klausenberg dynasty.
During World War I Nowy Sącz was occupied by the Russian Empire. Briefly after the end of the war, it was associated with the independence movement of the Lemko (a Ukrainian related group native to the Beskid Niski), the Lemko-Rusyn Republic. The inter-war republic saw industrial expansion and the railroad factory expanded.
During the invasion of Poland starting World War II, Nowy Sącz was occupied by Nazi Germany on September 6, 1939. Because of its proximity to Slovakia, it lay on a major route for resistance fighters of the Polish Home Army. The Gestapo was active in capturing those trying to cross the border, including the murder of several Polish pilots. In June 1940, the resistance rescued Jan Karski from a hospital there, and a year later 32 people were shot in reprisal for the escape; several others were sent to concentration camps.
Theregional Jewish community numbered about 25,000 before the war, and nearly a third of the town's population had been Jewish; ninety percent of them died or did not return. A ghetto of around 20,000 people was established near the castle, and was liquidated to Belzec extermination camp on three days in August 1942. Across the river in the Jewish Cemetery, 300-500 people were executed for their part in sheltering Jews.
The Red Army fought its way into the city on January 20, 1945, and at war’s end, about 60% of the city had been destroyed. Nowy Sącz was honored for its heroism with the Grunwald Cross, third class in 1946. In 1947 much of the Lemko population was deported in Action Vistula (mostly to land recently annexed from Germany) in reaction to anti-communist activity in the region.
During the Polish communist regime, Nowy Sącz was the capital of Nowy Sącz Voivodeship (1975–98). In the 1950s the Polish authorities applied a special economic programme for the town, called the "Nowosadecki Experiment". The plan was to provide improvement and acceleration of the region's economic development, but it was only partially completed. The town was an important centre of the railway industry, and now contains one of the biggest railway engineering works in Poland. Since the social and political changes in Poland that started in 1989, the industry has faced economic problems.
Nowy Sącz is also important in the food industry, specializing in processing fruits, especially apples. Most of the factories were in the Biegonice district. Now the local government is trying change the structure of the industry, restructuring old factories and encouraging new companies to start up. This initiative also includes a move to hi-tech industry.
Nowy Sącz had one of the first computer companies in Poland, with the largest assembly plant in Europe, but this has closed due to ownership friction with the government. The building trade is also represented in the town, which has a major European window-manufacturer. Like all the biggest towns in Małopolskie, it has seen a significant influx of the largest European grocery chains.
A main economic problem now is the high level of unemployment which, officially about 20%, is one of the highest in the European Union. Recently the local government has tried to address the persistent economic and social problems of the Roma community including access to utilities and education.
The town has many historic features, including:
The mountainous country around Nowy Sącz is also popular with tourists, hikers and skiers, especially the Beskid Sądecki mountains (part of the Carpathians), of which the highest peak is Radziejowa (1,262 m above sea level). Nearby popular mountain resorts include Krynica-Zdrój and Piwniczna-Zdrój ("Zdrój" means "health spa"). 15 km north of Nowy Sącz is Jezioro Rożnowskie, a reservoir (22 km long, covering an area of 16 km², and a capacity of 193,000,000 m³), with many dachas and camping sites. Also to the north is Ciężkowicko-Rożnowski National Park. An annual festival of dance featuring children from highland regions from around the world in July Święto Dzieci Gór.