German minority in Poland
The registered German minority in Poland at the 2011 national census consisted of 148,000 people, of whom 64,000 declared both German and Polish nationalities and 45,000 solely German nationality. At a 2002 census there were 152,900 people declaring German nationality therefore the last census noted a 4,900 decrease in the number of Germans in Poland.
The German language is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship (German: Woiwodschaft Oppeln), where most of the minority resides and Silesian Voivodeship (German: Woiwodschaft Schlesien). The German Minority electoral list currently has one seat in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (there were four from 1993 to 1997), benefiting from the current provision in Polish election law which exempts national minorities from the 5% national threshold.
There are 325 Polish schools that use the German language as the first language of instruction, with over 37,000 students. Most members of the German minority are Roman Catholic, and some are Protestants (the Evangelical-Augsburg Church). A number of German language newspapers and magazines are published in Poland.
According to the 2002 census, most of the Germans in Poland (92.9%) live in Silesia: 104,399 in the Opole Voivodeship, i.e. 71.0% of all Germans in Poland and a share of 9.9% of the local population; 30,531 in the Silesian Voivodeship, i.e. 20.8% of all Germans in Poland and 0.6% of the local population; plus 1,792 in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, i.e. 1.2% of all Germans in Poland, though only 0.06% of the local population. A second region with a notable German minority is Masuria, with 4,311 living in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, corresponding to 2.9% of all Germans in Poland, and 0.3% of the local population.
In the remaining 12 voivodeships of Poland, the percentage of Germans in the population lies between just 0.007-0.092%:
|Lower Silesian Voivodeship||2,898,000||1,792||0.062|
|West Pomeranian Voivodeship||1,694,865||1,014||0.060|
|Greater Poland Voivodeship||3,365,283||820||0.024|
History of Germans in Poland
German migration into the area of modern Poland began with the medieval Ostsiedlung (see also Walddeutsche). The historical regions of Lower Silesia, East Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia were almost completely German-settled by the High Middle Ages, while in the other areas there were substantial German populations, most notably in the historical regions of Pomerelia, Upper Silesia, and Posen or Greater Poland. Lutheran Germans settled numerous "Olęder" villages along the Vistula River and its tributaries during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In the 19th century, Germans were actively involved in developing the clothmaking industry in what is now central Poland. Over 3,000 villages and towns within Russian Poland are recorded as having German residents. Many of these Germans remained east of the Curzon line after World War I, including a significant number in Volhynia. In the late 19th century, some Germans moved westward during the Ostflucht, while others were settled in Central Poland by a Prussian Settlement Commission. After the creation of the Second Polish Republic, large numbers of Germans were forced to leave, especially in the Polish Corridor area.
According to the 1931 census there were around 740,000 Germans living in Poland (2.3% of the population). Their minority rights were protected by the Little Treaty of Versailles. The right to appeal to the League of Nations was however renounced in 1934, officially due to German withdrawal from the League in 1933.
After the German invasion of Poland in 1939 many members of the German minority (around 25%) joined the ethnic German paramilitary organisation Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz. When the German occupation of Poland begun, Selbstschutz took an active part in Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles. Due to their pre-war interactions with the Polish majority, they were able to prepare lists of Polish intellectuals and civil servants who were selected for extermination. The organisation actively participated in this mass murder and was responsible for the deaths of about 50,000 Poles.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, Germans from other areas of Central Europe were settled in the pre-war territory of Poland by the Nazis, who at the same time expelled, enslaved and killed Poles and Jews.
With the Nazis' defeat and Poland's shift west between the Oder-Neisse and Curzon lines, the Germans who had not fled were expelled or even killed. In the areas which had been part of Germany, Germans had previously formed the vast majority of the population. After the expulsions from 1945 onward they were reduced to a small minority. A different case is Upper Silesia, where the population was more mixed and some Germans were allowed to stay. A possible demonstration of the ambiguity of the Polish German minority position[clarification needed] can be seen in the life and career of Waldemar Kraft, a Minister without Portfolio in the West German Bundestag during the 1950s. However, parts of the German minority were not as involved in the Nazi system as Kraft was.
The vast majority of the ethnic Germans east of the Oder-Neisse line were Protestants and were forced out, but a significant minority in Silesia were Roman Catholic, even speaking a partly Slavic dialect called Wasserpolak, and the Poles generally allowed them to stay if they wished. Of those who remained, many later chose to emigrate to West Germany, fleeing Communist rule. With the downfall of the Communist regime, the German minorities' political situation improved. Germans are now allowed to acquire land and property in the areas where they, or their ancestors, used to live, and to move there.
There is no clear-cut division between the Germans and some other minorities, whose heritage is similar in some respects due to centuries of assimilation, Germanisation and intermarriage, but differs in other respects due to either ancient regional West Slavic roots or Polonisation. Examples of these minorities are the so-called Slovincians (Lebakaschuben), the Masurians and the Silesians of Upper Silesia. While in the past these people have been claimed for both Polish and German ethnicity, it depends on their self-perception which group(s) they choose to belong to.
German Poles (German: Deutsche Polen, Polish: Polacy pochodzenia niemieckiego) may refer to either Poles of German descent or sometimes to Polish citizens whose ancestors held German citizenship before World War II, regardless of their nationality.
After the flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland, the largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II, approximately 1,000,000 former citizens of Germany were naturalized and granted Polish citizenship. Some of them were forced to stay in Poland and some wanted to stay there, as it was their native territory. The lowest estimate by West German Schieder commission of 1953, is that 910,000 former German citizens were granted Polish citizenship by 1950. The highest estimate is that 1,043,550 were naturalized as Polish citizens by 1950.
However the vast majority of those people were the so-called "autochthons" who were allowed to stay in post-war Poland after declaring Polish nationality in a special verification process. Therefore most of them were not ethnic Germans but Polish or "Wasserpolnisch" speaking inhabitants of the pre-war border regions of Upper Silesia and Warmia-Masuria. Despite their ethnic background, they were allowed to reclaim their former German citizenship on application and under German Basic Law were "considered as not having been deprived of their German citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention." Because of this fact many of them left People's Republic of Poland due to its undemocratic political system and constant economic problems.
It is estimated that, in the Cold War era, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens decided to emigrate to West Germany and, to a lesser extent, to East Germany. Despite that, hundreds or tens of thousands of former German citizens remained in Poland. Some of them created a family with other Poles, who, in the vast majority, were settlers from central Poland or were resettled from the former eastern territories of Poland by the Soviets to the Recovered territories.
Notable Poles of German descent
- Nicolaus Copernicus
- Władysław Anders, a general in the Polish Army and a politician with the Polish government-in-exile in London.
- Izabela Czartoryska, a noble lady, writer, art collector, and founder of the first Polish museum, the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.
- Stanisław Ernest Denhoff, a noble, politician and military leader.
- Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, a general and Polish national hero.
- Adam Fastnacht, a historian and member of Armia Krajowa.
- Jan Fethke, a film director, author and famous proponent of Esperanto language.
- Emil August Fieldorf, Polish general during World War I and World War II.
- Franciszek Fiszer, an author and philosopher.
- Anna German, a singer.
- Henryk Grohman, an industrialist.
- Józef Haller, Polish general, political and social activist.
- Maximilian Kolbe, Catholic saint killed in Auschwitz concentration camp.
- Henryk Korowicz, professor, economist, and rector of Academy of Foreign Trade in Lwów.
- Juliusz Karol Kunitzer, an industrialist, economic activist, philanthropist and industrial magnate in Congress Poland.
- Joachim Lelewel, Polish historian and politician.
- Samuel Linde, a linguist, librarian, and lexicographer of the Polish language.
- Tadeusz Manteuffel, historian.
- Suzanna von Nathusius, a child actor.
- Wilhelm Orlik-Rückemann, Polish general and military commander.
- Emilia Plater, a noble lady and revolutionary.
- Nelli Rokita, politician of Law and Justice party in Poland.
- Karol Ernest Wedel, a candy maker.
- Edward Werner an economist, judge and politician in the Second Polish Republic.
Germans in Poland today
There are several bilingual communities in Poland.
Poland is the third most frequent destination for migrant Germans searching for work, after the US and Switzerland.
German media in Poland
- Schlesisches Wochenblatt
- Schlesien Aktuell - German-speaking radio station from Opole
- Radio Polonia (broadcasting in German for half an hour a day)
- Polen am Morgen - Online-newspaper, published daily since 1998
- Waldemar Kraft
- Bilingual communes in Poland
- German Minority (political party)
- Germans in the Czech Republic
- Polish minority in Germany
- Vistula Germans in Russian Poland
- SGGEE German history and genealogy in Russian Poland; includes map of German settlements in Russian Poland as referenced above.
- Przynależność narodowo-etniczna ludności – wyniki spisu ludności i mieszkań 2011. GUS. Materiał na konferencję prasową w dniu 29. 01. 2013. p. 3. Retrieved on 2013-03-06.
- As of 2002, according to Polish National Census.
- Marta Moskal in "Language minorities in Poland at the moment of accession to the EU" notes that 2% (704,000) did not state any nationality in the 2002 census. She assumes that some members of the German national minority who have inhabited the Silesia region for numerous generations might define their nationality as Silesian (173,200 defined their nationality as Silesian). Representatives of ethnic minorities presume that the figures for their groups are underestimated because, after their exclusion in the communist period, members of the minority groups prefer not to state their real ethnicity.
- Tomasz Kamusella in "Dual Citizenship ..." estimates the number of ethnic Germans to be 400-500 thousand.
- Kampania Wrześniowa 1939.pl
- Helga Hirsch in "Die Rache der Opfer". The author mentions the indiscriminate expulsions of most Germans from 1945 until the mid-50s, regardless of their personal involvement or non-involvement in the Nazi dictatorship.
- Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost-Mitteleuropa, Theodor Schieder (compilator) in collaboration with A. Diestelkamp [et al.], Bonn, Bundesministerium für Vertriebene (ed.), 1953, pp. 78 and 155.
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- (English) Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
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