|Gmina||?aga? (urban gmina)|
|Town rights||between 1248 and 1260|
|o Mayor||Andrzej Katarzyniec|
|o Total||39.92 km2 (15.41 sq mi)|
|o Density||640/km2 (1,700/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
68-100 to 68-103
|Area code(s)||+48 68|
?aga? ['?a?a?] (French and German: Sagan, Upper Sorbian: Zaha?, Latin: Saganum) is a town in southwestern Poland, on the Bóbr river, with 25,731 inhabitants (2019). The town is the capital of ?aga? County in the historic region of Silesia. Previously in the Zielona Góra Voivodeship (1975-1998), ?aga? has been in the Lubusz Voivodeship since 1999.
The town's name probably means "place of the burnt forest" (Polish: ?ega?, ?agiew): probably referring to the burning of primaeval forest by early settlers. If this is correct, it is consistent with the names of nearby places: ?ary, Zgorzelec, Po?arów.
?aga? is located roughly halfway between Cottbus and Wroc?aw, approximately 100 meters above sea level and at the centre of the ?aga? administrative district. It is about 100 km (62 mi) north of the Polish border with the Czech Republic, and approximately 40 km (25 mi) to the east of Poland's border with Germany. The rural district of ?aga? surrounds the town on its northern, eastern and southern sides. I?owa lies to the south-west and the rural district of ?ary is to the north-west. The Rivers Bóbr and Kwisa meet up just outside the town on its south-eastern side.
The area formed part of Poland after the creation of the state in the 10th century. ?aga? was founded in the 12th century by Polish monarch Boles?aw IV the Curly near an old settlement of the same name, which name was then changed to Stary ?aga? ("Old ?aga?"). The name comes from the Old Polish word zagon. It was first mentioned in a 1202 deed, when it belonged to the Duchy of Silesia under the rule of the Piast duke Henry I the Bearded, within fragmented Poland. In 1251, it became part of the newly created Duchy of G?ogów under Henry's grandson Konrad I. Duke Konrad I granted ?aga? town rights between 1248 and 1260. The town developed wealth from development of mining, and attracted German settlers from the west.
After Konrad's death in 1274, his heirs again divided the duchy and the castle of ?aga? became the residence of his youngest son Przemko of ?cinawa, Duke of ?aga? from 1278, who established a monastery of the Augustinian Canons here. Thus the Duchy of ?aga? came into the existence. In 1284, he swapped his estates for the Duchy of ?cinawa and was succeeded by his elder brother Konrad II the Hunchback. When Konrad II died in 1304, all the former G?ogów estates were reunified under his surviving brother Henry III.
In 1309, Henry III of G?ogów was succeeded by his eldest son Henry IV the Faithful, who in 1321 again had to divide the duchy with his younger brothers. He ceded G?ogów to Przemko II and retired to ?aga?, which again became the capital of a duchy in its own right. In 1329, all the sons of Henry III of G?ogów became vassals of John of Luxembourg, the King of Bohemia - with the exception of Przemko II who died suddenly two years later. When in 1393 Henry VI the Older, grandson of Henry IV, died without issue, the estates were again reunified with G?ogów until in 1412 Jan I, the eldest son of Duke Henry VIII the Sparrow, became the sole ruler of the ?aga? duchy.
In 1549, Elector Maurice of Saxony ceded Sagan to the Bohemian king Ferdinand I of Habsburg. Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg allotted the fief to Albrecht von Wallenstein, his supreme commander in the Thirty Years' War in 1627. It then passed to the illustrious Bohemian family of Lobkowicz, who had the Baroque ?aga? Palace erected. One of two main routes connecting Warsaw and Dresden ran through the town in the 18th century and Kings Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III of Poland traveled that route numerous times. After the First Silesian War of 1742, ?aga? became part of Prussia. It was part of the Province of Silesia of Prussia and after 1871 Germany. In the 19th century ?aga? was still a significant Polish center.
In 1786, the fief was purchased by Peter von Biron, Duke of Courland, and in 1843, it passed to his daughter Dorothea, the wife of Edmond de Talleyrand, a nephew of the great French diplomat Talleyrand, who spent her retirement years at Sagan. A patent of King Frederick William IV of Prussia on 6 January 1845 invested her as Duchess of Sagan; and Napoleon III recognized the title in France, in favour of her son Louis.
The double title (a prince and a duc) both Prussian and French, served to render the duc de Sagan a neutral party during the Second World War: his Château de Valençay provided a safe haven for treasures of the Louvre during the German occupation of France.
During the war, the Germans operated two prisoner-of-war camps and a forced labour camp in the town, all intended for prisoners of various nationalities. Sagan was occupied by Soviet troops during the third week of February 1945, following several days of savage fighting.
As early as 1939, soon after invading Poland, Nazi Germany established a system of prisoner of war (POW) camps in Sagan. In total, the Mannschafts-Stammlager Stalag VIIIC and its subsidiaries held over 300,000 prisoners from some 30 different countries. It is estimated that around 120,000 of them died of hunger, disease and maltreatment. Later, in 1942, an additional camp was set up for Allied pilots, called Stalag Luft III.
In March 1942, the town became the location of the Stalag Luft III camp for captured airmen (Kriegsgefangenen Stammlager der Luftwaffe 3 Sagan). It was the site of the most courageous escape resulting in the killing of 50 prisoners including the following Polish flight officers: Major Antoni Kiewnarski; Lieutenant Stanis?aw Król; and navigation Lieutenants W?odzimierz Kolanowski, Jerzy Mondschein, Kazimierz Pawluk and Pawe? Tobolski. This episode of history was the subject of the 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen. It was the biggest and the most deadly escape of officer aircrew captured by Nazi Germany during the entire war. The number of prisoners attempting the escape was 200, of whom 76 managed to leave the camp; 73 were caught and 50 executed on Hitler's orders. Just three successfully escaped, one to Gibraltar and two to Sweden. All three re-united in England.
There were only a few other, similar escapes from German POW camps in the Second World War. A slightly smaller one on March 6, 1943 from Oflag XXI-B in Szubin, involving 43 British officers. On September 19-20, 1943, an escape from the Oflag VI B in Dössel near Wartburg involved 47 Polish officers. A day later 67 French officers escaped from Edelbach in Austria 67. Another involved 54 French soldiers on December 18, 1943, from Marlag near Hamburg.
After Nazi Germany's defeat, the town became again part of Poland as the result of the border changes decided at the Potsdam Conference. The totality of the town's population was expelled, and the town was repopulated by Poles, many displaced from former eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union.
Clearing the rubble began in 1947, and was followed by the establishment of small enterprises, factories and schools. During the 1970s, a "new town" quarter was built, and by 1983, the historic baronial château ("?aga? Palace") had been fully rebuilt.
In the years 1967-1971 a museum dedicated to the history of prisoners of war of the Stalag VIII-C camp was established. In 2011, the former Augustinian monastery complex with the church of the Assumption was designated a Historic Monument of Poland. In 2013, the first Polish monument of Wojtek the Bear, soldier of the Polish II Corps during World War II, was unveiled in ?aga?.
?aga? is home to sports' clubs