Jean Georges Haffner

Jean Georges Haffner arrived to Gdańsk as an Army Doctor with Napoleon’s Grande Armée during its unstoppable march across the countries of Europe. He was garrisoned in Gdańsk, the city referred to as the “Gibraltar of the Baltic” by Napoleon, who then granted the city the status of a Free City – n paper. In reality the City and its residents were robbed by Napoleon’s officers in the most outrageous manner. Luckily for Haffner, Jean Rapp, General and Haffner’s school friend became the Governor of Gdańsk. With such connections Haffner had his ways to implement his serious plans. Next to being a medical doctor and General Pracritioner he was also a hygiene propagator and believed in the reviving powers of sea bathing. Pursuant to his friend’s and protector’s order, no more than a year after the French took over Gdańsk, Haffner began his work on organising a bathing resort in Brzeźno. This way, the insignificant fishing village on the sea became the first health resort on the Baltic Sea. Initially it was intended to host the French soldiers but it created a new fashion which was followed by others.

After the Russian defeat of Napoleon Haffner did not return to France. He stayed in Gdańsk and for his purposes he chose a small fishing village located on the sea. He apparently decided on this location when he saw Sopot for the first time. He decided that the spot was perfect for opening a bathing resort which in time could be developed into a health resort. He married a wealthy widow in Gdańsk, and offered his medical services to people, ran a public bath and was dedicated his every free moment to planning and soon after to implementing the plans and projects which allowed Sopot to be turned into a city. Under his supervision, with support from the authorities, various new facilities were created, including bathing and recreation facilities in Sopot located around today’s Skwer Kuracyjny. The fashion for bathing became more and more popular, so the number of guests grew. Over a few years the sleepy fishing village turned into a health resort and 20-30 years later it became a spa which could compete with renowned centres of its type all over Europe.

There is a fine monument to Dr. Haffner in Park Północny (Northern Park) in Sopot, and the neighbouring Street is also named after him. Also in Brzeźno he is well remembered and the local park is named after the founder of the Brzeźno bathing resort.

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