German minority in Poland
|Regions with significant populations|
|south central region near Opole|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other German diaspora|
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 ethnicities and 45,000 solely German ethnicity. At a 2002 census there were 152,900 people declaring German ethnicity. Representatives of the German ethnic minority presume that the figures for their group are somewhat higher because after their exclusion in the communist period, members of the minority prefer not to state their real ethnicity. Also, due to complications arising from multi-ethnic Polish/German identities, many people of partial German descent do not identify with their German background, and some estimates number Poles with varying degrees of German ancestry from 400,000 to 500,000.
The German language is spoken in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship, where most of the minority resides, and in Silesian Voivodeship. German-speakers first came to these regions (present-day Opole and Silesian Voivodeships) during the Late Middle Ages. However, there are no localities in either the Upper Silesia or Poland as a whole where German could be considered a language of everyday communication. The predominant home or family language of Poland's German minority in Upper Silesia used to be the Silesian German language (mainly Oberschlesisch dialect, but also Mundart des Brieg-Grottkauer Landes was used west of Opole), but since 1945 Standard German replaced it as these Silesian German dialects went generally out of use except among the oldest generations which by now completely died off. 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.
In the school year of 2014/15 there were 387 elementary schools in Poland (all in Upper Silesia), with over 37,000 students, in which German was taught as a minority language (that is, at least for three periods of 45 minutes in a week), hence de facto as a subject. There were no minority schools with German as the language of instruction, though there were three asymmetrically bilingual (Polish-German) schools, where most subjects were taught through the medium of Polish. Most members of the German minority are Roman Catholic, while some are Lutheran Protestants (the Evangelical-Augsburg Church).
Germans in Poland today
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 does not exceed 0.09%:
|Lower Silesian Voivodeship||2,898,000||1,792||0.06|
|West Pomeranian Voivodeship||1,694,865||1,014||0.06|
|Greater Poland Voivodeship||3,365,283||820||0.02|
|Source (2002, diverging): Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warsaw; Census results.|
Poland is also the third most frequent destination for migrant Germans searching for work, after the United States and Switzerland.
History of Germans in Poland
German migration into areas that form part of present-day Poland began with the medieval Ostsiedlung (see also Walddeutsche in the Subcarpathian region). Regions which subsequently became part of the Kingdom of Prussia - Lower Silesia, East Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia - were almost completely German by the High Middle Ages. In other areas of modern-day Poland 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 became 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 ended in 1918, including a significant number in Volhynia. In the late-19th century, some Germans moved westward during the Ostflucht, while a Prussian Settlement Commission established others in Central Poland.
According to the 1931 census, around 740,000 German speakers lived in Poland (2.3% of the population). Their minority rights were protected by the Little Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The right to appeal to the League of Nations however was renounced[by whom?] in 1934, officially due to Germany's withdrawal from the League (September 1933) after Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in January 1933.
After Nazi Germany's invasion of the Second Polish Republic in September 1939, many members of the German minority (around 25%) joined the ethnic German paramilitary organisation Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz. When the German occupation of Poland began, the 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 whom the Nazis selected for extermination. The organisation actively participated and was responsible for the deaths of about 50,000 Poles.
During the German occupation of Poland during World War II (1939-1945), the Nazis forcibly resettled ethnic Germans from other areas of Central Europe (such as the Baltic states) in the pre-war territory of Poland. At the same time the Nazi authorities expelled, enslaved and killed Poles and Jews.
Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the Soviets annexed a massive portion of the eastern part of Poland (November 1939) in the wake of an August 1939 agreement between the Reich and the USSR. After the Nazis' defeat in 1945, Poland did not regain its Soviet-annexed territory; instead, the Soviets expelled the remaining Germans (those who had not been evacuated or fled before) from the areas of Lower Silesia, Upper Silesia, Pommerania, East Brandenburg, and East Prussia and replaced them with Poles, most of whom were expelled from Soviet-occupied areas that had previously formed part of Poland. About half of East Prussia became the newly-created Soviet territory of Kaliningrad Oblast (officially established in 1946), where Soviet citizens replaced the former German residents. The Potsdam Agreement of August 1945 specified or endorsed the shifting of borders.
Following the downfall of the Polish Communist regime in 1989, the German minorities' political situation in modern-day Poland has improved, and German citizens are now allowed to buy land and property in the areas where they or their ancestors used to live, and can return there if they wish. However, none of their properties have been returned after being confiscated.
A possible demonstration[original research?] 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, most of the German minority had not been as involved in the Nazi system as Kraft was.
There is no clear-cut division in Poland 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 such minorities include the Slovincians (Lebakaschuben), the Masurians and the Silesians of Upper Silesia. While in the past these people have been claimed[by whom?] for both Polish and German ethnicity, it really depends on their self-perception which 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 ethnicity.
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, over 1 million former citizens of Germany were naturalized and granted Polish citizenship. Some of them were forced to stay in Poland, while others wanted to stay because these territories were inhabited by their families for hundreds of years. The lowest estimate by West German Schieder commission of 1953, is that 910,000 former German citizens were granted Polish citizenship by 1950. Higher estimates say that 1,043,550 or 1,165,000 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 ethnicity in a special verification process. Therefore, most of them were inhabitants of Polish descent of the pre-war border regions of Upper Silesia and Warmia-Masuria. Sometimes they were called Wasserpolnisch or Wasserpolak. 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 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 families 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 (Former eastern territories of Germany).
Notable Poles of German descent
- Władysław Anders, general, leader of the Polish 2nd Corps during World War II and prominent member of the Polish government-in-exile in London.
- Grzegorz Braun, journalist, academic lecturer, movie director, screenwriter and alt-right politician.
- Izabela Czartoryska, noblewoman née Flemming, writer, art collector, and founder of the first Polish museum, the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków.
- Stanisław Ernest Denhoff, noble, politician and military leader.
- Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, general and Polish national hero.
- Karol Estreicher (senior), father of Polish Bibliography and a founder of the Polish Academy of Learning.
- Adam Fastnacht, historian and member of Armia Krajowa.
- Jan Fethke, film director, author and famous proponent of Esperanto language.
- Emil August Fieldorf, Polish general during World War I and World War II.
- Franciszek Fiszer, author and philosopher.
- Mark Forster
- Anna German, popular singer.
- Małgorzata Gersdorf, lawyer, judge, Head of Polish Supreme Court
- Wanda Gertz, decorated officer in the Polish Army during World War II
- Roman Giertych, lawyer, advocate, former Deputy Prime Minister
- Kamil Glik, professional footballer who plays for Serie A club Torino and the Poland national football team.
- Henryk Grohman, industrialist.
- Józef Haller, Polish general, political and social activist
- Marek Jędraszewski, Archbishop of Kraków since 2016 (his mother was connected with Bambers)
- Angelique Kerber, German-born of Polish parentage of German descent, Wimbledon champion
- Miroslav Klose, professional footballer, Germany national football team and FIFA World Cup all-time top goalscorer, and former striker for Italian football club S.S. Lazio.
- Lukas Podolski
- Maximilian Kolbe, Catholic priest murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp, subsequently canonised.
- Henryk Korowicz, professor, economist, and rector of Academy of Foreign Trade in Lwów.
- Janusz Korwin-Mikke, politician and writer.
- Gustaf Kossinna, linguist and archaeologist.
- Juliusz Karol Kunitzer, industrialist, economic activist, philanthropist and industrial magnate in Congress Poland.
- Karolina Lanckorońska, like her father an art collector and philanthropist.
- Joachim Lelewel, Polish historian and politician.
- Samuel Linde, linguist, librarian, and lexicographer of the Polish language.
- Tadeusz Manteuffel, historian.
- Suzanna von Nathusius, child actor.
- Wilhelm Orlik-Rückemann, Polish general and military commander.
- Erich von dem Bach Zelewski, high ranking SS officer of Kashubian and Polish parentage.
- Emilia Plater, noblewoman and revolutionary.
- Nelli Rokita, politician of Law and Justice party in Poland.
- Piotr Steinkeller, early industrialist and banker
- Jerzy Stuhr, film actor and director
- Romuald Traugutt, a "dictator" of the January Uprising
- Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland, current President of the European Council.
- Jozef Unrug, Prussian-born Polish admiral who helped to form the Polish Navy in independent Poland, inmate of Colditz.
- Karol Ernest Wedel, notable confectioner.
- Edward Werner, economist, judge and politician in the Second Polish Republic.
German media in Poland
- Schlesisches Wochenblatt
- Schlesien Aktuell[permanent dead link] - 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.
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