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 ethnicities and 45,000 solely German ethnicity. At a 2002 census there were 152,900 people declaring German ethnicity. In 2013, Poland's German community was estimated to be around 350,000. Due to complications arising from multi-ethnic identities and previous concealment during the communist period, many people of German descent are not accounted for and some estimates number Poles of German ancestry from 400,000 to 500,000.
The German language is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship, where most of the minority resides, and in Silesian Voivodeship. However, there are no localities in either the former 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 the area that is part of modern Poland began with the medieval Ostsiedlung (see also Walddeutsche in the Subcarpathian region). The historically Prussian regions of 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 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 ethnic Germans were forced to leave, especially in the Polish Corridor area.
According to the 1931 census there were around 740,000 German speakers 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 however was renounced in 1934, officially due to Germany's withdrawal from the League after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.
After Nazi Germany's invasion of the Second Polish Republic in 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 Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, ethnic Germans from other areas of Central Europe such as the Baltic States were forcibly resettled in the pre-war territory of Poland by the Nazis, who at the same time expelled, enslaved and killed Poles and Jews.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Soviets annexed a massive portion of the eastern part of Poland as part of an agreement between the two powers. However, after the Nazis' defeat, Poland was not given back its Soviet-annexed territory; instead, the Soviets expelled Germans 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 were previously part of Poland. About half of East Prussia became the newly created Soviet territory of Kaliningrad, where Soviet citizens replaced the former German residents. This shifting of borders was part of the Potsdam Agreement.
With the downfall of the Communist regime, 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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 (Former eastern territories of Germany).
Notable Poles of German descent
- Władysław Anders, general in the Polish Army and a politician with the Polish government-in-exile in London.
- Izabela Czartoryska, noble lady, 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.
- 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.
- Anna German, singer.
- Henryk Grohman, 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, industrialist, economic activist, philanthropist and industrial magnate in Congress Poland.
- 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
- Emilia Plater, noble lady and revolutionary.
- Nelli Rokita, politician of Law and Justice party in Poland.
- Romuald Traugutt, dictator of January Uprising
- Karol Ernest Wedel, candy maker.
- Edward Werner, economist, judge and politician in the Second Polish Republic.
- Kamil Glik, professional footballer who plays for Serie A club Torino and the Poland national football team.
- 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, professional footballer
- Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland, current President of the European Council.
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 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 ethnicity 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 ethnicity as Silesian (173,200 defined their ethnicity 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.
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- Tomasz Kamusella in "Dual Citizenship ..." estimates the number of ethnic Germans to be 400-500 thousand
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- See p 101 in: Oświata i wychowanie w roku szkolnym 2014/2015 / Education in 2014/2015 School Year. 2015. Warsaw: GUS. stat.gov.pl/files/gfx/portalinformacyjny/pl/defaultaktualnosci/5488/1/9/1/oswiata_i_wychowanie_w_roku_szkolnym_2014-2015.pdf
- See p 136 in Tomasz Kamusella. 2014. A Language That Forgot Itself (pp 129-138). Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe. Vol 13, No 4. www.ecmi.de/fileadmin/downloads/publications/JEMIE/2014/Kamusella.pdf
- "Klimczak.PolishAndGermanSilesia". Retrieved 30 January 2016.
- Central Statistical Office (Poland) (2002). "Wyniki Narodowego Spisu Powszechnego Ludności i Mieszkań 2002 w zakresie deklarowanej narodowości oraz języka używanego w domu" [Results of national census regarding the self-declared nationality and language spoken at home]. Stat.gov.pl official website. Supplementary table in Microsoft Excel format listing 152,897 Germans in total (row C54, compare with table): direct download. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04 – via Internet Archive.
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