Poles in Germany

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Polish minority in Germany
Total population
1.5 million (2011)[1]
Polish, German, Silesian, Cassubian
mostly Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Poles, Germans, Silesians, Kaszubs
Symbol of Polish minority in Germany - Rodło.

The Polish minority in Germany, is the second largest Polish minority (Polonia) in the world and the biggest in Europe. Estimates of the number of Poles living in Germany vary from 1.5 million[2] to about 2 million[3][4] and with up to three million people living that might be of Polish descent, although many of them have lost their ancestors' identity. According to the latest census, there are approximately 1.5 million Poles in Germany. The main Polonia organisations in Germany are the Union of Poles in Germany and Congress of Polonia in Germany. Polish surnames are relatively common in Germany, especially in the Ruhr area (Ruhr Poles) and among Silesians.


Since the Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795 and Poland's partial incorporation into Prussia, a large Polish ethnic group existed inside Prussia's borders, especially in the new provinces of Posen and West Prussia.

During the late 19th century rapid industrialization in the Ruhr region attracted about 300,000 Poles, especially from East Prussia, West Prussia, Poznan, and Silesia. Silesia. They comprised about 30% of the Ruhr area population by 1910. Kashubians and Masurians also came. Participants in this migration are called the Ruhrpolen.

After 1870 the Poles were under an increasing pressure of Germanization, and the Kulturkampf attacked their Catholic Church. Most Catholic bishops were imprisoned or exiled. The teaching language which had previously been Polish in the predominantly Polish-speaking areas in Prussia was replaced by German as teaching language, even in religious education where Polish priests were replaced by German teachers. However, these Germanization policies were not at all successful. In contrast, it led to the political awakening of many Poles and to the establishment of a wealth of Polish economic, political and cultural associations which were aimed at preserving Polish culture and Polish interests, especially in the Province of Posen and in the Ruhr area. The policy of forced cultural Germanization alienated large parts of the Polish-speaking population against the German authorities and produced nationalistic sentiments on both sides.

After the First World War, the predominantly Polish provinces had to be ceded to the newly created Polish Republic. Polish-speaking minorities remained especially in Upper Silesia and parts of East Prussia. During the Weimar Republic, Poles had judicial status as a national minority[5] in Upper Silesia under the auspices of the League of Nations (likewise the German minority in the Polish Silesian Voivodeship. After the rise of the Nazis, all Polish activities were systematically constrained. However, in August 1939, the leadership of the Polish community was arrested and interned in the Nazi concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. On 7 September 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the Nazi government of the 3rd Reich stripped the Polish community in Germany of its minority status. This was formally confirmed by Hermann Göring's decree of 27 February 1940.

Today the German government does not recognize Poles in Germany as a national minority. Polish agencies claim, that this way Germany is not recognizing the right of self-determination for the group.[6] After Poland joined the European Union, several organisations of Poles in Germany attempted to restore the pre-war official minority status, particularly claiming that the Nazi decree is void. While the initial memorandum to the Bundestag remained unanswered, in December 2009 the Minority Commission of the Council of Europe obliged the German government to formally respond to the demands within four months.[citation needed]

The position of the German government is, that after the German territorial losses after World War II, the current Polish minority has no century old roots in the remaining German territory, because Germany lost all the historic Polish territory. Since they are therefore only recent immigrants, they do not fulfill the requirements of a national minority according to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Treaty of Good Neighbourship. Being German citizens, they still retain all civil and political rights every German citizen possesses, and therefore can voice their will in the political system.[7]

Population distribution[edit]

State Number of Poles  % of State population  % of Poles in Germany[8]
North Rhine-Westphalia
Lower Saxony
Neue Länder (former East Germany)
Total 1,543,000 1.9 100.0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ German Census 2011
  2. ^ "Ausländische Bevölkerung: Fachserie 1 Reihe 2 - 2011". Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland. 2011-12-31. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  3. ^ prof. dr hab. inż. Piotr Małoszewski, "Sytuacja Polaków w Niemczech w zakresie dostępu do nauki języka ojczystego".
  4. ^ "Raport o sytuacji Polonii i Polaków za granicą 2012". Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych. 2013. p. 177. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Rak, Krzysztof (2010). "Sytuacja polskiej mniejszości narodowej w Niemczech". p. 36. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Rak, Krzysztof (2010). "Sytuacja polskiej mniejszości narodowej w Niemczech". pp. 34–38. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Answer to Small inquiry to the German Government by MP Ulla Jelpke and the PDS, 9 September 2000, German Government]]
  8. ^ Destatis, site 99-100

Further reading[edit]

  • Cyganski, Miroslaw. "Nazi Persecutions of Polish National Minorities in the Rhineland-Westphalia Provinces in the Years 1933-1945," Polish Western Affairs (1976) 17#12 pp 115–138
  • Fink, Carole. " Stresemann's Minority Policies, 1924-29," Journal of Contemporary History (1979) 14#3 pp. 403–422 in JSTOR
  • Kulczycki, John J. School Strikes in Prussian Poland 1901-1907: The Struggle over Bilingual Education (1981)
  • Kulczycki, John J. The Polish Coal Miners' Union and the German Labor Movement in the Ruhr, 1902-1934: National and Social Solidarity (1997)
  • Kulczycki, John J. The Foreign Worker and the German Labor Movement: Xenophobia and Solidarity in the Coal Fields of the Ruhr, 1871-1914 (1994)
  • Riekhoff, Harald von. German-Polish Relations, 1918-1933 (1971).
  • Sobczak, Janusz. "The Centenary Of Polish Emigration To Rhineland-Westphalia," Polish Western Affairs (1970) 11#1 pp 193–198.
  • Wynot, Edward D. "The Poles in Germany, 1919-139," East European Quarterly, 1996 30#2 pp 171+ online broad overview

External links[edit]