Volkstag

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The Volkstag was the parliament of the Free City of Danzig between 1919 and 1939.

Volkstag building

History[edit]

Police arrests a "troublemaker" at the 1933 elections

After World War I Danzig (Gdańsk) became a Free City under the protection of the League of Nations.

The first elections to a constitutional convention took place on 16 May 1920, the first parliamentary session on 14 June 1920 at the former West Prussian Provincial administration building (Provinzialverwaltung – Landeshaus), Neugarten (today Nowe Ogrody). The building was pulled down after World War II.[1]

The Volkstag was elected by the male and female citizens of Danzig above 20 years of age; members of the Volkstag were required to be above 25 years of age.[2] Further elections happened on 18 November 1923, 13 November 1927, 16 November 1930, 28 May 1933 and 7 April 1935.

The 1933 election[edit]

After the Polish state increased its Westerplatte garrison by 120 soldiers, the local populace's fear of a Polish invasion was used by the Nazi party to boost their election chances. Provocative marches, speeches and a broadcast of Hitler's speech resulted in an absolute majority (50.03%) of the vote in the 28 May 1933 election.[3]

The 1935 elections[edit]

After the successful Saar plebiscite, where more than 90 percent of the Saar populace voted in favour of Germany, the Nazis expected to achieve a similar success in Danzig and dissolved the Volkstag on 21 February 1935. New elections were scheduled for 7 April 1935. In the following weeks the Nazi Party organized more than 1.300 rallies, the local radio station was exclusively used for their propaganda and the usage of public poster pillars was also limited to Nazi propaganda. At the same time the oppositional parties were subject to a massive terror campaign. The Social Democrats were able to organize only seven rallies (only one in a major hall), which were all disturbed by the SA, a Nazi paramilitary force. Most other parties were not able to organize any public meeting at all. The Social Democrat newspaper “Danziger Volksstimme” and the Catholic “Danziger Volkszeitung” were banned twice, the Volksstimme was furthermore confiscated in the last three days prior to the election.[4][5]

However, the result of the elections (59.31% of votes for the Nazi party) was not as high as the Nazis had expected and the planned parade of the local SA and SS units was canceled. Gauleiter Albert Forster, who started to announce the results on the radio, stopped in his speech and did not read out the results.[5]

Action of Voidance[edit]

The oppositional parties, except for the Polish Party, immediately filed a lawsuit at the Danzig High Court, where they specified 45 examples of illegal manipulation of the elections by the Nazis, including the direct threat of dismissal from public service by the Gauleiter to any official not voting for the Nazis. The secrecy of the ballot was not warranted and even “foreign Danziger”, people who were not citizens of the Free City of Danzig, had voted.[5]

The High Court examined 988 witnesses and found 40 out of 45 claims valid.[4][5] However the High Court did not agree to cancel the election results, but only changed them in part: the Nazi party had to give away one seat, which was then granted to the Social Democrats.[4][5]

League of Nations petitition[edit]

The oppositional Social Democrat, German National and Catholic Centre parties did not accept this verdict and protested to the League of Nations. Anthony Eden, responsible for the Danzig affairs at the League of Nations, reported the breach of the constitution on 22 January 1936. While Spain and the Soviet Union supported immediate actions, France, Turkey, Portugal and Australia preferred not to tolerate such actions in the future, while Denmark and Poland did not support any consequences. The council adjourned a decision and after Danzig's President Arthur Greiser assured to maintain the constitution in the future, the League of Nations abandoned the petitition.[4][5]

Dictatorship[edit]

Afterwards the opposition was fiercely terrorized. Members of the Volkstag were attacked, leaflet distributors beaten up. The conservative member of the German National People's Party (DNVP), Dr. Curt Blavier, former Senator and vice president of Danzig's police, was arrested. Newspapers were banned. On 10 June 1936 a meeting of the DNVP was attacked by about 100 SA and SS members, 50 visitors had to be sent to a hospital. Gustav Pietsch, an independent candidate sympathizing with the conservative DNVP, was attacked with an iron bar, pushed in front of a tram and severely injured.[6] The DNVP “voluntarily” declared its self-dissolution.[4][5]

In October 1936 120 politicians of the Social Democratic Party were imprisoned and on 14 October the party was banned. On 25 May 1937 the Social Democrat politician Hans Wiechmann was killed by the Gestapo after a visit to the League of Nations' High Commissioner Carl Jakob Burckhardt.[4][5]

In December 1936 leading members of the Catholic Centre were arrested, among them several members of the Volkstag, a judge and a high public official. The Centre Party, the last opposition party, was banned in October 1937[4][5] and its Chairman, Bruno Kurowski, imprisoned.

On 21 March 1939, Greiser declared the legislative period to last another 4 years.

Elections[edit]

e • d  Results of the Volkstag elections 1919-1935[7]
Parties 1919[8] 1920 1923 1927 1930 1933 1935
 % Seats  % Seats  % Seats  % Seats  % Seats  % Seats  % Seats
turnout 70.4 81.60 85.43 89.07 92.09 99.5
NSDAP - - - - - - 0.81 1 16.4 12 50.12 38 59.31 43
DNVP 15.33 - 28.20 34 26.98 33 19.59 25 13.11 10 6.35 4 4.17 3
German State Party (DSP) - - - - 6.25 7 1.16 1 - - - - - -
German Democratic Party (DDP) 23.78 - 8.76 10 6.68 8 3.39 4 1.64 1 - - - -
Centre Party 16.27 - 13.88 17 12.81 15 14.27 18 15.28 11 14.63 10 13.41 10
Social Democrats 38.51 - 15.93 19 24.12 30 33.79 42 25.25 19 17.69 13 16.05 12
USPD 6.12 - 17.45 21 - - - - - - - - - -
Communist Party - - - - 9.09 11 6.40 8 10.21 7 6.80 5 3.37 2
Freie Wirtschaftliche Vereinigung (WVgg) - - 9.71 12 2.90 3 1.22 1 3.22 2 - - - -
Deutschliberale Partei (DVG) - - - - - - - - 3.39 3 - - - -
Nationalliberale Bürgerpartei (NLBP) - - - - - - 4.56 5 2.22 2 - - - -
Deutsch-Danziger Volkspartei (DDVP) - - - - 4.49 6 4.38 5 - - - - - -
Bürgerliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft (BAG) - - - - - - 2.31 3 2.37 2 - - - -
Polish Party - - 6.08 7 4.38 5 3.15 3 3.23[9] 2 3.15[10] 2 3.53 2
Others - - - - 2.29 2 4.97 4 3.68 1 1.25 - 0.16 -
Totals 120 120 120 72 72 72

Presidents of the Volkstag[edit]

  • 1920-1921: Wilhelm Reinhard
  • 1921-1921: Adalbert Mathaei
  • 1921-1923: Adolf Treichel
  • 1923-1924: Julius Gehl
  • 1924-1926: Adolf Treichel
  • 1926-1928: Alfred Semrau
  • 1928-1930: Fritz Spill
  • 1930-1931: Julius Gehl
  • 1931-1933: Wilhelm von Wnuck
  • 1933-1933: Franz Potrykus
  • 1933-1936: Wilhelm von Wnuck
  • 1937-1939: Edmund Beyl

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Danzig-online.pl
  2. ^ Constitution of Danzig (German)
  3. ^ Epstein, Catherine (2012). "Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland". Oxford University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-19954641-1. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Matull, Wilhelm (1973). "Ostdeutschlands Arbeiterbewegung: Abriß ihrer Geschichte, Leistung und Opfer" (in German). Holzner Verlag. p. 412 ff, 440ff. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sodeikat, Ernst (1966). "Der Nationalsozialismus und die Danziger Opposition" (in German). Institut für Zeitgeschichte. p. 139 ff. 
  6. ^ Benz, Wolfgang (2003). Überleben im Dritten Reich, Juden im Untergrund und ihre Helfer (in German). C.H.Beck. p. 160. 
  7. ^ Die Freie Stadt Danzig, Wahlen 1919–1935 (German)
  8. ^ 1919 elections to the German National Assembly prior to the foundation of the Free City
  9. ^ including 0.82 % Polish Catholic Party
  10. ^ including 1.1 % Polish List “Dr. Moczynski”

External links[edit]