- Greater Poland Uprising (1918–1919)
name=Establishment of Second Polish Republic
battles=Greater Poland (1918-19) - Ukraine (1918-19) - Against Soviets (1919-21) - Czechoslovakia (1919) - Sejny (1919) - Upper Silesia (1919–1921) - Lithuania (1920)
The Greater Poland Uprising of 1918–1919, or Wielkopolska Uprising of 1918–1919 (Polish: "powstanie wielkopolskie 1918–19 roku"; German: "Großpolnischer Aufstand") or Posnanian War was a military insurrection of Poles in the
Greater Poland(also called the Grand Duchy of Poznańor Provinz Posenregion) against Germany.
After the 1795
Third Partition of Poland, Polandceased to exist as an independent state. From 1795 through the beginning of World War I, several unsuccessful uprisings to regain an independent state took place. An 1806 uprising was followed by the creation of the Duchy of Warsawwhich lasted for eight years before being partitioned again between Prussia and Russia.
At the end of World War I, U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Pointsmet with opposition from European nations standing to lose power or territory. German politicians had signed an armisticeleading to a cease fire on November 11, 1918, with the Western and former Eastern front lines outside of Germany. Many Germans felt they had not lost the war and felt betrayed by their leadership ( Stab-in-the-back legend). Germany had signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovskwith Bolshevik Russiato settle the eastern frontiers. Therefore, from the date that the armistice was signed until the Treaty of Versailleswas fully ratified in January 1920, many territorial and sovereignty issues remained unresolved.
Wilson's proposal for an independent Poland did not definitively set borders for Poland that could be universally accepted. Most of Poland partitioned to Prussia in the late 18th century was still part of Germany at the close of World War I with the rest of the subsequent post-WWI Polish being part of Russia and
Austria-Hungary. The portion which was part of Germany included the Provinz Posen, or territory of Greater Poland, of which Poznań(Posen) was a major industrial city. The majority of the population was Polish(60%) ["Historia 1871-1939" Anna Radziwiłł, Wojciech Roszkowski Warsaw 1998] and was uncertain whether they would be repatriated with the proposed new Polish nation.
The defeat of the German Army on the Western Front in the autumn of 1918 ignited Polish hopes for a sovereign Poland and Poles began serious preparations for an uprising after the
Kaiser Wilhelm's abdication on 9 November 1918, which saw the end of the German monarchy, which would be replaced by the Weimar Republic.
The uprising broke out on
27 December 1918in Poznańafter a patriotic speech by Ignacy Paderewski, a famous Polish pianist.
The uprising forces consisted of members of the
Polish Military Organizationof the Prussian Partition, who started to form the "Straż Obywatelska" (Citizen's Guard), later renamed as "Straż Ludowa" (People's Guard) and many volunteers — mainly veterans of World War I. The ruling body was the "Naczelna Rada Ludowa" (High Peoples' Council) — at the beginning members of the Council were against the uprising, but supported it a few days later: unofficially 3 January 1919; officially 8 and 9 January 1919— and the military commanders: Captain Stanisław Taczak(promoted to major, temporary commander 28 December 1918– 8 January 1919) and later General Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki.
The timing of the uprising was fortuitous, as between October 1918 and the first months of 1919, internal conflict had weakened Germany, with soldiers and sailors rebelling against the monarchy and its hawkish generals. Demoralised by the signing of an armistice on
November 11 1918, Germany was embroiled in the German Revolution.
15 January 1919, the rebellious Polish forces managed to take control of most of the Province of Posen, and engaged in heavy fighting with the regular German army and the forces of the Grenzschutz, up until the renewal of the truce between the Ententeand Germany on 16 February, which affected the Wielkopolska or Posen Province part of the front line. Skirmishes continued, however, until the signing of the Treaty of Versailleson June 28, 1919.
Many of the Wielkopolska insurgents also took part in the 1919 - 1921 uprisings in Silesia.
The Greater Poland Uprising is considered to be one of the two most successful Polish uprisings: the second was the
Great Poland Uprising of 1806which was ended by the entry of Napoleon's Army.
Although it never recovered the entire Prussian Partition, the uprising had a significant effect on the Versailles decisions, which granted Poland not only the area won by the insurgents but also a portion of the Province of Pomerania and the towns of Bydgoszcz, Leszno, and Rawicz (the
Germany's territorial losses as required by the
Treaty of Versaillesnonetheless incited German revanchismsuch that the status of the independent city-state Danzig(Gdańsk) and the Polish Corridorbetween East Prussiaand the rest of Germany became a major issue in German politics, and was exploited by Adolf Hitlerin his rise to power. Hitler ultimately invaded Poland in September 1939, sparking World War II.
Timeline of uprising
*January 1916 – creation of Secret Inter-Party Citizen's Committee (pl. "Tajny Międzypartyjny Komitet Obywatelski") formed by members of the German Reichstag of Polish nationality.
*July 1918 – network of local Citizens' Committees is created on area of Prussian Partition.
11 October 1918– Polish organizations in the German Empire publicize common documents in which they declare the will to create independent Polish state; in effect, revolution.
9 November 1918– beginning of the German Revolution, which also occurred in Greater Poland. Poles organized secret military structures in the Poznańgarrison, Jarocinand Inowrocław.
10 November 1918– events of the so-called Republika Ostrowska.
11 November 1918
**Armistice signed, ending hostilities of
World War I.
**The Citizens' Guard ("Straż Obywatelska"), renamed a few days later to The People's Guard ("Straż Ludowa") comes out from the underground. The Mayor of
Poznań(Posen) Ernst Wilms is removed from office. German military authorities give permission for functioning of the People's Guard to keep peace in the Province of Posen.
12 November 1918
**The Central Citizen's Committee, later renamed to the High People's Council ("Naczelna Rada Ludowa", NRL), creates temporary "government-in-waiting" – Commission ("Komisariat"):
Stanisław Adamski, Wojciech Korfantyand Adam Poszwiński.
Jarogniew Drwęskibecomes the Mayor of Poznań.
13 November 1918
**Commission of the High People's Council calls citizens of German portion of Poland to keep calm in spite of the revolution.
** "Assassination on City Hall" – as it was dominated by Germans, the Execution Department of Worker's and Soldier's Council proceeded to Poznań's City Hall, an armed group of Poles forced them to change four of the German Delegates with Poles: Bohdan Hulewicz, Mieczysław Paluch,
Henryk Śniegockiand Zygmunt Wiza. Due to this event, Poles gain control over the headquarters of Poznań Garrison and 5th Corps.
17 November 1918– Commission of NRL calls for a one-time collection of money called a "national tax".
18 November 1918– elections to Poviat's People's Councils and members of the Partition's Sejm(1399 MPs).
20 November 1918– in exposé of the Polish government in Warsaw: "przyłączenie Wielkopolski będzie jednym z pierwszych naszych zadań" (the joining of Greater Poland will be one of our first tasks).
3 December 1918– The Partition Sejm of Poznań began official proceedings, in building of the "Apollo" Cinema. MPs were representing all lands of the Prussian Partition and Polish economic emigration, mainly from Westfalen.
5 December 1918– end of the Partition Sejm, which declared it's wanting of unification with the other partitions in a renationalized Poland and with NRL officially electing its members.
6 December 1918– first meeting of the NRL elected. Bolesław Krysiewicz becomes a Speaker. Election of executive body – Commission of NRL formed by representatives of: Greater Poland- Stanisław Adamskiand Władysław Seyda; Upper Silesia– Wojciech Korfantyand Józef Rymer; Eastern Pomerania– Stefan Łaszewski; Kuyavia– Adam Poszwiński.
11 December 1918– Polish languageand teaching of religion in Polish returns to schools.
15 December 1918– Polish government in Warsaw breaks diplomatic relations with Germany.
27 December 1918– in evening, uprising starts from shooting in front of Poznań's Police Headquarters, which was opposite the "Arkadia" Theater ( Franciszek Ratajczakis killed) and Hotel "Bazar". Fights also start in other towns. Jan Mertkadies under Boczków(both victims are mentioned in bulletin of NRL). Szamotuły, Środa Wielkopolska, Pniewy, Opalenica, Buk, Trzemeszno, Wrześniaand Gnieznoare liberated. Poles in Poznań capture main train station, Main Post Office and part of city fortifications.
28 December 1918
**Poles in Poznań capture Cytadela (Fort Winiary, main stronghold), Fort Grolmann and armory on Wielkie Garbary Str. (today Garbary Str.)
**Commission of NRL promotes Captain
Stanisław Taczakto temporary commander-in-chief of uprising (he is also promoted to rank of major).
29 December 1918– Poles capture Grodzisk Wielkopolski, Kłecko, Kórnik, Wielichowo, Gostyń, Witkowoand others.
30 December 1918
**Failure of peace talks with Germans, who refuse to take responsibility for causing fights on
**In Poznań Poles force 6th Regiment of Grenadiers from their barracks. After talks, Regiment leaves city with weapons.
Wronki, Wągrowiec, Gołańcza. Polish soldiers stop German offensive against Gniezno near Zdziechowa.
31 December 1918
Kościan, Oborniki Wielkopolskie, Ostrów Wielkopolski.
**Unit of Poles under command of
Paweł Cymesbegins offensive on Cuiavia.
1 January 1919
**Paderewski leaves Poznań.
Jarocin, Krotoszynand Mogilno.
3 January 1919– to avoid anarchy in Great Poland, the Committee of NRL decides to take over control of spontaneous uprising, but also decides that this decision should be kept secret.
4 January 1919– Commission of NRL decrees new President of Province of Poznań, Wojciech Trąmpczyński. German authorities call to boycott new President.
5 January 1919– Czarnków, Jutrosin, Kruszwica, Nakło, Nowy Tomyśl, Miejska Górka, Rawicz, Strzelnoand Wolsztynare captured by the Poles.
6 January 1919
**Poles capture Ławica Airport in Poznań with all aircraft undamaged.
Czerskand Kościerzynain Pommerania.
7 January 1919
**Poles divide captured lands into seven Military Districts ("Okręg Wojskowy").
8 January 1919
**Commission of NRL takes all civil and military authority without giving territorial range of this power. Also promotes General
Józef Dowbor-Muśnickito commander-in-chief of uprising forces.
**Poles recapture Chodzież (Battle of Chodzież) and Czarnków. They also win Battle of
Ślesinand capture Sieraków.
9 January 1919
**NRL officially announces taking control over Great Poland. Beginning of "polonisation" of administration, most anti-Polish officials are fired. In Poviats, German
landrats are subordinated to Polish starostas, which in future takes all their power.
**Polish airmen bomb military airfield in
10 January 1919– fights on southern front near Kąkolewo, Lesznoand Rydzyna. Poles capture Sarnowa.
11 January 1919– Germans recapture Sarnowa and win in Battle of Zbąszyń; Polish victory in Battle of Szubinand they capture Łabiszyn, Złotnikiand Żnin.
12 January 1919– fights near Leszno and Lipno.
13 January 1919– Germans recapture Szamocin.
14 January 1919– Commission of NRL appeals to Roman Dmowskifor help on negotiation of ceasefire.
15 January 1919– failed attempt to recapture Szamocin by Poles.
16 January 1919
**First number of "Tygodnik Urzędowy Naczelnej Rady Ludowej" with laws of NRL is published.
**In central Polish government of
Ignacy Paderewskiare two politicians of Great Poland: Józef Englich- minister of treasury and Kazimierz Hącia- minister of industry and trade.
17 January 1919– Men born in years 1897, 1898 and 1899 are mobilised to Great Polish Army.
20 January 1919– transfer of money to banks of the Reich on other side of front line is forbidden.
21 January 1919
**NRL creates oath of soldiers of Great Polish Army.
**Evidence of false information about Polish attacks on German civilians published by authorities in
Berlin, suggesting behavior like that of Germans themselves, is sent to Paris. Contemporaneously, NRL appeals to Allies asking for a military mission, suggesting the possibility of the Great Polish Army fighting against Bolsheviks. Many articles about the situation in Great Poland appear in Western newspapers.
22 January 1919
**On northern front, the Poles are forced to leave
**On southern front, the Poles win Battle of
Joseph Noulesis nominated by Highest Council of Allied Countries as chief of Allied mission in Poland.
23 January 1919– Poles defend Miejska Górkaafter heavy fights.
25 January 1919
**All communication between Great Poland and Reich is broken.
**Decree canceled Prussian prohibition of Polish language in schools.
26 January 1919– Soldiers of Great Polish Army with commander Gen. J. Dowbór-Muśnicki give oath on Wilhelm Platz, renamed on Plac Wolności ("Freedom Square") in Poznań.
28 January 1919– German offensive in area of Bydgoszczand Nakło. Battle of Rynarzewo. Germans capture Szubin.
29 January 1919– Roman Dmowski gives speech in front of Highest Council of Allied Countries in which he asserts Polish rights to the Prussian Partition, and accusing Germans of two-faced policies.
2 February 1919– beginning of Polish-German talks in Berlin.
3 February 1919– Poles stop German offensive on northern front. Their counterattack throws Germans on northern bank of Noteć. Poles recapture Rynarzewo and win Battle of Kcynia.
4 February 1919
Szubin; heavy fights on southern front near Rawicz.
**Beginning of talks between Polish government in Warsaw with Commission of NRL about representation of Great Poland in
5 February 1919– Failure of talks in Berlin. German conditions were: demobilisation of Great Polish Army, recognition by Poland of German claims to Great Poland and payment by Polish side for all damage made during uprising. In spite of this, Entente still remarks that both sides are ready for peace talks.
6 February 1919– end of talks about representation of Prussian Partition in Sejm Ustawodawczy. With regard to fact that Great Poland, Cuiavia, Silesiaand Pommeraniaare still officially part of Reich, to avoid international repercussions, Polish government and NRL decide to resign from planned election of 126 MPs, giving temporary right of representation of Prussian Partition to 16 MPs of Reichstag.
7 February 1919
**Heavy fights in
Kolno, which was captured many times by both sides.
**Commission of NRL promotes 122 former NCOs of German Army to rank of
**Chief of state
Józef Piłsudskisigns decree officially allowing to 16 MPs from Prussian Partition to participate in Sejm Ustawodawczy.
9 February 1919– Poles stop German offensive near Trzciel.
10 February 1919– Poles stop German attack near Rawicz.
11 February 1919– Commission of NRL dissolves all town councils, giving 25 Marchas term of elections of new self-governments.
12 February 1919– Germans use armoured trainto capture Kargowaand Babimost, but their offensive is stopped near Kopanica.
14 February 1919
**Beginning of talks about prolongation of ceasefire after WWI. German delegation is against extending it for Great Poland, but
Franceforces them to allow this condition.
**German Main Headquarters is moved to
Kołobrzegas a part of preparation for using all forces against Great Poland.
16 February 1919– prolongation of Allied-German ceasefire in Trieris signed, which also referred to front in Great Poland. Contemporary Great Polish Army is recognized as Allied Forces.
Between ceasefire and reunification
18 February 1919– In spite of ceasefire, there are fights near Rynarzewo. Poles capture armoured train.
9 February 1919– Volunteer company of Great Polish soldiers moves to Lesser Polandto fight against Ukrainians.
20 March 1919– "Ostmarkenzulage" – special addition for German officials working in eastern provinces, which had to stimulate German colonization of Prussian Partition, is canceled.
23 March 1919– Poles win vast majority in election to City Council of Poznań.
24 March 1919– Commission of NRL ask Polish Government in Warsaw to create separate administration of ex-Prussian Partition, as it is much better developed than rest of the country. Ignacy Paderewski forces government to leave all power in hands of NRL in those lands till final recognition of Polish-German border, and in future creation of autonomy of those lands (after all only Upper Silesiareceived it). NRL mobilises men born in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894 and 1901.
5 April 1919– Sejm Ustawodawczy announces by-elections in ex-Province of Posen for next 42 MPs.
9 April 1919– Commission of NRL decrees 8-hour workdayin industry and trade.
10 April 1919– Commission of NRL decrees removing all signs in German language from offices and train stations, and changes all streets names into Polish. Punishment for breaking this law was 2 years of prison and 10,000 Polish marks.
16 April 1919– NRL decides that 3 Maywill be national holiday.
7 May 1919– Wszechnica Piastowskais opened.
15 May 1919– Polish language becomes only official language. German language is only auxiliary, but a lack of Polish speaking officials means German is still used in judiciarytill 1920.
25 May 1919– Army of Great Poland is subjugated to Headquarters of Polish Army, but keeps its separate organisation.
30 May 1919– People's Guard is transformed to Home Defence ("Obrona Krajowa").
1 June 1919– by-elections of MPs to Sejm Ustawodawczy.
6 June 1919
**minor fights near
**Rising threat of German offensive induces Commission of NRL to introduce state of emergency in all lands under its jurisdiction, and in a belt of 20 km from the front line it introduces
martial law. A few days later, NRL announces penalty of death for acting against Great Polish Army or in interest of German Army.
18 June 1919– minor fights near Rynarzewo.
28 June 1919– Treaty of Versaillesgives almost all of Great Poland to Poland.
1 July 1919
**Commission of NRL raises border duty border with ex-Kingdom of Poland.
**artillery fire on front.
9 July 1919– outside of 20 km belt near front, state of emergency is canceled.
10 July 1919– proceedings of Polish Government with whole Commission of NRL about further policy in Former Prussian Partition ("Były Zabór Pruski"). There was taken decision about creation of Ministry of Former Prussian Partition ("Ministerstwo Byłej Dzielnicy Pruskiej").
1 August 1919– Sejm Ustawodawczy votes resolution about "Temporary organisation of government in former Prussian Partition" ("O tymczasowej organizacji zarządu byłej dzielnicy pruskiej"), creating Ministry of Former Prussian Partition and plan of gradual unification of Great Poland with rest of country.
12 August 1919– Władysław Seyda becomes first Minister of Former Prussian Partition.
19 August 1919– NRL is dissolved.
28 August 1919– Headquarters of Polish Armygives daily order No. 216 in which Great Polish Army is switched in structures of Polish Army, and its Headquarters is transformed to Headquarters of 7th Corps.
6 November 1919– Commission of NRL is dissolved.
10 January 1920– ratification of Treaty of Versailles, according to which Polish forces in Great Poland should take control over small pieces of Great Poland's territories given to Poland that are resisting under German control and Eastern Pomerania.
13 January 1920– Headquarters of Great Poland front gives order to preparation for realise Treaty of Versailles.
17 January 1920– beginning of taking of control over lands given to Poland.
8 March 1920– liquidation of front in Great Poland.
24 March 2005– last Polish fighter of uprising, Lieutenant Jan Rzepa, dies at age 106.
* Antoni Czubiński, "Powstanie Wielkopolskie 1918–1919. Geneza-charakter-znaczenie", Poznań 1978
Antoni Czubiński, "Rola Powstania Wielkopolskiego w walce narodu polskiego o powstrzymanie niemieckiego >parcia na wschód<", Przegląd Zachodni 1968, nr 5-6
* A.Czubiński, Z.Grot, B.Miśkiiewcz, "Powstanie Wielkopolskie 1918–1919. Zarys dziejów", Warszawa 1978
* K.Dembski, "Wielkopolska w początkach II Rzeczypospolitej. Zagadnienia prawno-ustrojowe", Poznań 1972
Roman Dmowski, "Polityka polska i odbudowanie państwa" 1925
* Z. Grot (ed.), "Powstanie wielkopolskie 1918–1919", Poznań 1968
* Z.Grot, I.Pawłowski, M.Pirko, "Wielkopolska w walce o niepodległość 1918–1919. Wojskowe i polityczne aspekty Powstania Wielkopolskiego", Warszawa 1968
* P.Hauser, "Niemcy wobec sprawy polskiej X 1918–VI 1919", Poznań 1984
* K.Kandziora, "Działalność POW w Poznaniu. Przyczynek do historii Polskiej Organizacji Wojskowej zaboru pruskiego w latach 1918–1919", Warszawa 1939
* S.Kubiak, "Niemcy a Wielkopolska 1918–1919", Poznań 1969
* "Materiały Sesji Naukowej z okazji 50-lecia Powstania Wielkopolskiego 1918/1919", Zaszyty Naukowe UAM 1970, Historia t.10
Witold Mazurczak, "Anglicy i wybuch powstania wielkopolskiego. Z dziejów genezy brytyjskiej misji płka H.H.Wade'a w Polsce", [in:] Antoni Czubiński (ed.), "Polacy i Niemcy. Dziesięć wieków sąsiedztwa", PWN, Warszawa 1987
Janusz Pajewski, "Rodział XXII. Powstanie Wielkopolskie", [in:] J.Pajewski, "Odbudowa państwa polskiego 1914–1918", Warszawa 1985,
Janusz Pajewski, "Znaczenia Powstania Wielkopolskiego dla odbudowy Państwa Polskiego w 1918 r.", Zeszyty Naukowe UAM, Historia 1970, t.10
* S.Rybka, "Zerwane pęta. Wspomnienia z dni rewolucji niemieckiej i powstania polskiego 1918-1919", Poznań 1919
* A.Rzepecki, "Powstanie grudniowe w Wielkopolsce. 27 XII 1918", Poznań 1919
* Z.Wieliczka, "Wielkopolska w Prusy w dobie powstania 1918/1919", Poznań 1932
* Z.Wroniak, "Paderewski w Poznaniu", Kronika Miasta Poznania 1959, nr 4
* H.Zieliński, "Rola powstania wielkopolskiego oraz powstań śląskich w walce o zjednoczenie ziem zachodnich z Polską"; (1918-1921), [in:] "Droga przez Półwiecze".
* Dietrich Vogt: Der großpolnische Aufstand 1918/1919: Bericht, Erinnerungen, Dokumente. Marburg 1980 (J.-G.-Herder-Institut) ISBN 3879691479
* Richard Blanke, Orphans of Versailles. The Germans in Western Poland 1918-1939, Lexington, KY.,1993 (presents somehow pro-German vision of the events)
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