Hel (Ger. Hela) - the name exists in Danish documents as early as 1198,
but time of establishment of the settlement in place of today's city is estimated at much
earlier. However because of type of ground and washing it away by the sea, attempts to find
any traces of it were unsuccessful.
Danish chronicles from 1219 describe a settlement with city privileges based on Lubeka law
under rule of prince of Pomerania - Swietopelek II. Any other documents confirming city
privileges of Hel were not preserved, but there exist records that settlement was treated as if
it was based on Lubeka law, which could mean that it had status of a city.
In 1308-1309 Teutonic Order conquered Hel. Teutonic Knights probably destroyed all
documents related to ownership of Hel by Pomeranian dukes. In 1351 there was Brotherhood
of St. Catherine established here. In 1378 Grand Master of the order Winrich von Kniprode
renews localization act of the place. At that time most of inhabitants were fishermen, all
other goods were being brought here from nearby cities. There were also some taverns here, because
sailors often visited city. There are also records that tell about less fair methods
of gaining profit by the inhabitants of peninsula, especially, because those lands were
excellent shelter for all kinds of cutthroats.
In 1417 in New Hel (located around 1.5 km (1 mile) East of old Hel) a new church of St. Paul
- patron of fishermen. The temple exists to this day, but has currently a role of Museum of
Fishery. The mystery of absorption of "Old Hel" by the sea (Ger. "Alte Hela") hasn't been fully
explained - to this day arise sensation old legends about the city also called "Polish Atlantis".
Hel earned on its military value during Thirteen Years' War 1454-1466. Based on treaty from March 14,
1454, Hel was administered by Gdansk. Fortifications and military port was built here, from here all
kinds of battles with all enemy units were lead.
In 1524 information about new movement, Lutheranism, reached Hel. One year after new trend reached Gdansk,
a Lutheran parish was established here. In 1526 king of Poland Sigismund the Old came to Gdansk
and among organizational changes made there, part of Hel Peninsula with city borders. So Hel was under rule
of Gdansk for long years and managed by one of its mayors. The change was disadvantageous for Hel: the
main profession of its inhabitants was fishery, and number of them was constantly decreasing. From 1526
to 1593 population decreased from 640 to 445. In 1570 the oldest church of Holiest Lady Mary burned down, it
was situated around 1500 meters (1 mile) from the center of today Hel. The church was originally the center of
a settlement with city hall, hospital and marketplace. But as a result of natural forces the center with time
was moved towards its today location.
XVIII century begun fortunately for Hel: in 1709 there was an outbreak of plague and 225 people died. In 1734
the village was under fire of Russian fleet, because it was a part of Danzig, where king of Poland Stanislaus
Leszczynski was staying. In 1741 and 1771 Hel was much destroyed by storms. In 1777 prince Frederick of
Mecklenburg prohibited using the prayer called "for blessed seashore", which meant good takes for fishermen,
as well as fortunes gain from ship wrecks.
As a result of Second Partition of Poland in 1793 Hel becomes part of Prussia. In 1807-1814 Hel becomes a district
of Free City of Gdansk instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1825 a lighthouse is built here and it still exists
today. In 1872 Hel was degraded to village, which was rational taking under consideration the sizes of nearby villages.
In 1887 Hel became a part of newly created Puck district. The end of XIX century meant growth for Hel: in 1892-1893
there was a modern fishery and passenger port as well resort was built. Thanks to that the city also becomes official
"Baltic Resort" in 1896.
As a result of Treaty of Versailles Hel became a part of Poland. On February 10th, 1920 there was
a symbolic celebration held here - wedding of Poland and the sea. In 1936 based of decree of the president of Poland
access to the city and peninsula was partially limited - Fortified Region Hel was built there - strategic defensive point.
Those restrictions were partially limited only in 1996. After aggression of Germany on September 1st, 1939, Hel became
famous as one heroically and long defended regions of Poland - it was surrendered on October 2nd, 1939. Only almost 3000 soldiers
defended the post. Hel was liberated on September 10th, 1945.
After the war Hel was constantly growing as not only a fishery port, but also as one of the most popular
Polish resorts. As a result in 1963 it regained the status of a city.
Also see: Old postcards