Bytom (bĭˈtôm) [key], Ger. Beuthen, city (1994 est. pop. 232,400), Śląskie prov., SW Poland, in the Katowice mining region. An important heavy industrial center, it has iron- and steelworks and the largest silver foundry in Poland. A Polish king built a fortress on the site in the 11th cent., and by the 12th cent. the lead and zinc mines of the region were being exploited. The city was chartered in 1254, and in the late 13th cent. served briefly as the capital of an independent principality that passed under the rule of Bohemia. The Hapsburgs held the city from 1526 until 1742, when it passed to Prussia. In a plebiscite after World War I a majority of the population voted to join Poland, but Germany held onto the city. It was finally incorporated into Poland in 1945. Bytom has an opera house and museum.