Germanisation of Poles during Partitions


Germanisation of Poles during Partitions

After partitioning Poland in the end of 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia and later German Empire imposed a number of Germanisation policies and measures in the newly gained territories, aimed at limiting the Polish ethnic presence in these areas. This process continued through its various stages until the end of World War I, when most of the territories were returned to Poland, which largely limited the capacity of further Germanisation efforts of the Weimar Republic until the later Nazi occupation.

Until the Unification of Germany

Following the partitions, the previous Germanisation attempts pursued by Frederick the Great in Silesia were naturally extended to encompass the newly gained Polish territories. The Prussian authorities started the policy of settling German speaking ethnic groups in these areas. These polices continued until 1815, when they were relaxed for several years. 1830 again saw the intensification of Germanisation and persecution of Poles in the Grand Duchy of Poznań by Eduard Heinrich Flottwell until 1841. After a short break the process of Germanisation continued since 1849.

1871 until the Treaty of Versailles

Within Bismarck's Kulturkampf policy, the Poles were purposefully presented as "foes of the empire" ( _de. Reichsfeinde).Abrams, p. 24.] As the Prussian authorities suppressed Catholic services in Polish language by Polish priests, the Poles had to rely on German Catholic priests. Later, in 1885, the Prussian Settlement Commission was set up from the national government's funds with a mission to buy land from Polish owners and distribute it among German colonists. [http://encyklopedia.pwn.pl/36449_1.html] . In 1888 the mass deportations of Poles from Prussia were organized by German authorities. This was further strengthened by the ban on building of houses by non-Germans (see Drzymała's van).

Another means of the policy was the elimination of non-German languages from public life, schools and from academic settings.In its extremes, the Germanisation policies in schools took the form of abuse of Polish children by Prussian officials (see Września). The harsh policies had the reverse effect of stimulating resistance, usually in the form of home schooling and tighter unity in the minority groups. In 1890 the Germanisation of Poles was slightly eased for a couple of years but the activities intensified again since 1894 and continued till the end of the World War I. This led to international condemnation e.g. an international meeting of socialists held in Brussels in 1902 called the Germanisation of Poles in Prussia "barbarous". [http://www.echoed.com.au/chronicle/1902/jan-feb/world.htm] Nevertheless, the Settlement Commission was empowered with new more powerful rights, which entitled it to force Poles to sell the land since 1908.

Germanisation of Poles in Ruhr area

Another form of Germanisation of Poles was the relation between the German state and Polish coal miners in the Ruhr Area. Due to migration within the German Empire, an enormous stream of Polish nationals (as many as 350,000) made their way to the Ruhr in the late 19th century, where they worked in the coal and iron industries. German authorities viewed them as potential danger and a threat and as a "suspected political and national" element. All Polish workers had special cards and were under constant observation by German authorities. In addition, anti-Polish stereotypes were promoted, such as postcards with jokes about Poles, presenting them as irresponsible people, similar to the treatment of the Irish in New England around the same time. Many Polish traditional and religious songs were forbidden by Prussian authorities [http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/swiat/1,34239,2978729.html] . Their citizens' rights were also limited by German state.Bade, Weiner, p. 11.] In response to these policies, the Polish formed their own organizations to defend their interests and ethnic identity. The Sokół sports clubs and the workers' union "Zjednoczenie Zawodowe Polskie" (ZZP), "Wiarus Polski" (press) and "Bank Robotników" were among the best known such organizations in the area. At first the Polish workers, ostracised by their German counterparts, had supported the Catholic Centre Party. Since the beginning of the 20th century their support more and more shifted towards the social democrats. In 1905 Polish and German workers organized their [http://www.deutsche-und-polen.de/_/ereignisse/frames/content_lang_jsp/key=ruhrpolen_1880.html first common strike] . Under the German law of changing surnames ( _de. Namensänderungsgesetz) a significant number of "Ruhr-Poles" had to change their surnames and Christian names to Germanised forms, in order to evade ethnic discrimination. Increasing intermarriage between Germans and Poles also contributed much to the Germanisation of ethnic Poles in the Ruhr area.

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