Łódź is the third-largest city in Poland. Located in the central part of the country, it has a population of 696,503 (2016). It is the capital of Łódź Voivodeship, and is approximately 135 kilometres (84 mi) south-west of Warsaw. The city's coat of arms is an example of canting: depicting a boat. It alludes to the city's name which translates literally as "boat."
Łódź was once a small settlement that first appeared in written records in around 1332. In the early 15th century it was granted city rights, but remained a rather small and insubstantial town. It was the property of Kuyavian bishops and clergy until the end of the 18th century, when Łódź was annexed by Prussia as a result of the second partition of Poland. Following the collapse of the independent Duchy of Warsaw, the city became part of Congress Poland, a client state of the Russian Empire. It was then that Łódź experienced rapid growth in the cloth industry and in population due the inflow of migrants, most notably Germans and Jews. Ever since the industrialization of the area, the city has struggled with many difficulties such as multinationalism and social inequality, which were vividly documented in the novel The Promised Land written by Polish Nobel Prize-winning author Władysław Reymont. The contrasts greatly reflected on the architecture of the city, where luxurious mansions coexisted with redbrick factories and old tenement houses.
After Poland regained its independence in 1918, Łódź grew to be one of the largest Polish cities and one of the most multicultural and industrial centers in Europe. The interbellum period saw rapid development in education and healthcare. After the invasion of Poland in 1939, the German Army captured the city and renamed it Litzmannstadt in honour of the German general Karl Litzmann, who was victorious near the area during World War I. The city's large Jewish population was forced into a walled zone known as the Łódź Ghetto, from which they were sent to German concentration and extermination camps. Following the liberation of the city by the Soviet Army, Łódź, which sustained insignificant damage during the war, became part of the newly established Polish People's Republic.
After years of prosperity during the socialist era, Łódź experienced decline after the fall of communism throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The city, however, is internationally known for its National Film School, a cradle for the most renowned Polish actors and directors, including Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski.