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The Polish ethnic minority in East Prussia in the context of the German-Polish relations (1918-1939)

UDK 94 (430+438)

N.A. Stroganova


The impact of relationship between Germany and Poland on position of the Polish ethnic minority in East Prussia in 1918 — 1939 is considered

The influence of German-Polish relations on the status of the Polish national minority in East Prussia in 1918 — 1939 is considered in the article.

The separated by "The Danzig corridor" from other Germany, East Prussia sometimes depended on neighboring countries more, than on the central government. Presence here of national groups, related to the population of the nearby states, influenced a situation in this region, and position of Poles in East Prussia in many respects was defined by a condition of the Polish-German relations.

In the early twenties for the Polish government was occupied with formation of eastern frontier, the relations with Lithuania, "the Silesian question" therefore the "national" future of Varmiya, Masur and Povislya was an unimportant problem for ruling elite of that time — she did not demand rapid response. Only by the end of 1920 shifts were outlined in understanding of a being of a question. The diet adopted on October 18, 1920 the resolution in which it urged the government "to use any means for protection of the Polish population living in the German empire before incessant prosecution and terror of the German gangs" [1, s. 59]. The problem of East Prussian Poles was originally considered within policy in relation to all national diaspora which was recognized by the government "one of those factors which will affect in a decisive way the future of Poland in the West" [2, s. 11].

Significant changes in the sphere of protection of the Poles living abroad including in Germany, began in 1922. Then Council of cultural guardianship was created, and in a year the Interministerial commission of cultural guardianship over Poles abroad is created. The Polish authorities began to treat problems of the Polish population in Germany more attentively. Poland actively influenced the Polish movement in Germany through public organizations. The Union of protection of the western outskirts which rendered to Poles abroad the financial and organizational aid was the most considerable of them. The principles of interaction of the Polish organizations in Germany and Second Rechi Pospo-

Bulletin of the Russian state university of I. Kant. 2009. Issue 12. Page 70 — 75.

cast were developed in 1922 at their congress with participation of the Polish diplomatic missions. In the 1930th the World union of Poles abroad joined an action of the help to the Polish movement in Germany [3, 8. 31].

Consular establishments of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had serious impact on the Polish movement in East Prussia: consulate general in Konigsberg, consulates in Olsztyn and Kvidzyna, vice-consulate in Elka; short time (1922 — 1923) existed the consular agency in Elblonge. The task of consuls included guardianship of the Polish citizens abroad; protection of economic interests of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; they issued passports and visas, carried out a wide range of administrative and notarial tasks, reemigration resolved issues [4, 8. 17]. Consuls were engaged in financing of the Polish associations, promoted issuance of credits to the Polish peasants, elections, questions of opening and activity of the Polish schools [5, 8. 99-267].

The solution of the problem of seasonal Polish workers whose number in East Prussia reached several thousand became real "headache" for the Polish consulates. Many of them crossed border illegally and sought to remain on permanent residence. It was necessary to solve this problem at the interstate level. On the twenty fourth of November, 1927 the emigratory convention between Germany and Poland on which the arrived illegally Polish seasonal workers should be returned to Poland [4, 8 was signed. 169—171].

Economic communications with East Prussia had a great influence on development of the Polish-German relations. Originally Polish enterprises actively participated in the well-known Konigsberg fairs, but then Poland passed to policy of economic boycott for this German province, constraining export and supply of the Polish wood that led to ruin of East Prussian dealers in the wood and the sawing enterprises. In 1923, during coal crisis in Germany, export of the Polish coal was suspended. In 1925 the "customs war" which expanded boycott and on other goods began [6, 8. 182 — 183]. This action caused a loss to economy of East Prussia, but also did not bring political benefits to Poland.

Boycott caused the whole discussion about the fate of the East Prussian region in the Polish society. To some of the first the program concerning East Prussia was stated by the consul general Rechi Pospoli-toy in Konigsberg S. Srokovsky in the book "From the Earth of a Black Cross". Srokovsky urged "to seek for the maximum impoverishment of edge (East Prussia. — The N of S.) that there realized that economically it can exist only with strong support of neighbors, mainly Poland, at the same time extraordinary promising is an example of the growing rich Gdansk... East Prussia will cease to aspire to a direct territorial connection with Germany as it acting through Poland will find additional incentives to existence" [7, 8. 26, 31].

In 1922 this idea was supported by the head of the Prosecutor General's Office of Poland S. Bukovetsky, considering that it is possible to achieve weakening of communication of East Prussia with other Germany by carrying out "positive" trade and communication policy (like that that it was successfully carried out in relation to Gdansk) and due to attraction on the side of the German ethnic minority within the country for the sake of rapprochement of East Prussia and Poland [8, 8. 80]. In 1924 opposed policy of economic boycott for East Prussia

B. Studnitsky, having urged to facilitate development of the economic relations between Poland and East Prussia [9, 8. 230].

In the Polish political elite two camps offering different solutions of an East Prussian problem were formed. Yu. Pilsudsky's supporters did not consider it among the main that was reflected subsequently in a foreign policy. In the early twenties for the idea about the partition of East Prussia of R. Dmovsky who said recovered again: "East Prussia cannot remain further at all as a part of Germany as it would mean a pathological state". Supporting this idea, in March, 1924. "The Poznan courier" wrote that East Prussia is a symbol of the Polish misses of former centuries and also serious danger [10, B. 292—293] today. In 1932 the famous Polish politician

C. Grabsky wrote: "Our advance to Masurian Lakes and Baltic still should be realized. It is not the fact of the current life, however long since remains one of the main tasks of the Polish history, historical expensive public policy of the Polish people. And sooner or later Poland will face Germany for the Baltic coast" [11, 8. 144—145]. Recession in a discussion about the fate of East Prussia occurred to the middle of the 1930th what the famous Polish publicist E. Gertykh with regret wrote about: "Of what occurs in Manzhouli or Argentina we know approximately in the same degree that on the lands lying so close under our side" [12, 8. 250].

Germany and Poland cooperated on a problem of the mazursky population. On the basis of the 28th article of the Treaty of Versailles the southern part of the Nidzhitsky area in East Prussia — Dzhaldovo with neighboring villages (24 thousand people, from them 18 thousand mazura) — was told to Poland without referendum [13, B. 358]. After acceptance of this area by the Polish authorities Dzhaldovsky district appeared in a difficult economic situation, having lost former communications with other areas of the East Prussian region. Aggravated a situation in it and enrollment in the Polish army and also oppression of local mazur by the Poles arriving from other regions of Poland. By 1930th in Dzhaldovsky district began to allocate only two groups of the population: Poles and Germans. The authorities did not want to notice mazur owing to what they began to go to East Prussia. A little the Polish-German negotiations as a result of which an agreement on return to the former places of residence of fugitives from Dzhal-dovsky district was signed could soften a dzhaldovsky problem. But departures from this territory continued all interwar period.

The new stage in the Polish-German relations began with arrival of Nazis to the power. After the meeting of the ambassador of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth A. Vysotsky with A. Hitler on May 2, 1933 in Berlin both the Polish and German sides announced the aspiration to peacefully resolve controversial issues. On the twenty sixth of January, 1934 between Poland and Germany the non-aggression pact was signed. This contract became an important milestone in the Polish-German relations. The Polish diplomatic and consular services and also heads of the Polish movement in Germany received recommendations to pursue concerning the German state policy "in the positive direction, creative, nicely in the external manifestations" [1, 8. 297]. In March, 1934 at a conference of the Polish consuls in Germany in terms of the interests of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the Opole Silesia, East Prussia and the Border zone were recognized as the major regions.

First signing of the Polish-German pact stimulated expansion of activity of the Polish organizations in Varmiya, Mazurakh and Povislye. Offices of NSDAP in East Prussia received secret orders not to carry out obvious anti-Polish actions. Cooling of the relations began since a rejection by Poland of the German offers of "global settlement" controversial issues and also a failure of attempt of creation of the constant bilateral commissions on ethnic minorities what the Third Reich persistently tried to obtain. The Polish government clearly understood that permission of these problems was possible only in case of equivalent interpretation of ethnic minority in both states.

In the second half of the 1930th the position of the German authorities in relation to the Polish movement changed. If earlier they were reconciled with the fact that the Union of Poles in Germany represents the interests of all Polish population living in its territory, then since 1936 they began to claim that this association can speak out in defense only of the members. Since 1938 the German authorities undertook check of offices of all Polish organizations, introduced restrictions for the press, dismissals of Poles began with work. The local administration in East Prussia watched closely contacts of the Polish organizations with the government of Poland to accuse them of antistate activity. In the Polish libraries, systematic audits on search of books with anti-Hitlerite contents were carried out, the Polish financial institutions were strictly controlled to elicit the facts of material support from the Polish state.

Some problems of ethnic minorities were tried to be solved when the Polish-German declaration on fundamentals of policy for ethnic minorities was published on November 5, 1937. Its announcement took place during reception of delegation of the Polish movement by A. Hitler in Germany, and in Poland — at the time of the meeting of the president of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Ignatsa Mostsitsky with representatives of the German minority. This document proclaimed that Poles in Germany and Germans in Poland have to carry out duties concerning the state in which they live, but it was told also about obyazanno-

styakh the states concerning ethnic minorities to which have to be guaranteed it is sewn up in the sphere of free development of national culture and sewn up from assimilation [14, s. 22]. However the declaration had no nature of the legal act of direct action. Its acceptance aggravated dependence of Poles in Germany from the Polish-German interstate relations which continued to worsen.

In the late thirties the German authorities ceased to grant permission to for holding the Polish actions, forbade to speak in Polish in public places, to use national symbols. In August, 1939 all Polish organizations in East Prussia were closed, and their heads and rank-and-file members appeared in prisons and concentration camps from where many of them did not return any more. So the Third Reich "closed" a problem of the Polish minority.

The policy of the German state in an ethnic question was continuation of an imperial course of the 19th century: germanization had to lead to the final decision of a national problem according to the principle: one state — one nation. This course received the extreme embodiment during domination of Nazism.

Position of East Prussian Poles in many respects depended on a condition of the Polish-German relations in which the periods of confrontation and rapprochement alternated. Poles in East Prussia and in Germany in general, could not exist unaided from the outside which arrived from public organizations in Poland and also directly from the Polish state. The help of the Polish government was manifestation not only sentimental care of compatriots abroad, but was dictated by foreign policy tasks which solution was not always equitable to the interests of the Polish ethnic minority. Considering presence of Germans within the country, Poland did not wish to make actions which would lead to growth of requirements about improvement of their situation in the Polish state.

List of sources and literature

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3. Gqsiorowski A. Rola kultury fizycznej w utrwalaniu Polskosci na Warmii, Mazurach i Powislu//Komunikaty Mazursko-Warmiñskie. 1986. No. 1 — 2.
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10. Eichler A. Polen und Ostpreussen//Archiv für Politik und Geschichte. 1925. H. 9.
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12. Wrzesinski W. Migdzy II Rzeczpospolit^ a Republik^ Weimarsk^//Komunikaty Mazursko-Warminskie. 1966. No. 3.
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14. Wrzesinski W. Zwi^zek Polaköw w Niemczech na Warmii, Mazurach i Powislu. Olsztyn, 1962.

About the author

N.A. Stroganova — an edging. east. sciences, head of department of modernization of education of the Ministry of Education of the Kaliningrad region,


Dr. N. Stroganova, head of the Department of Education Modernisation of the Ministry of Education of the Kaliningrad Region,

Nancy Torres
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