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Flag of Poland Coat of arms of Poland
Anthem: Mazurek Dąbrowskiego(Dąbrowski's Mazurka)
and largest city
52°13′N 21°02′E / 52.217°N 21.033°E / 52.217; 21.033
Official languages Polish
Ethnic groups 96.7% Polish (due to the expulsions), 3.3% others
Demonym Poles
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth elective monarchy July 1, 1569 - 1772/93 
 -  Polish Republic 1919 - 1939 
 -  Communist People's Republic of Poland 1945 
 -  Third Republic January 30, 1990 
 -  Water (%) 3.07
 -  June 2023 estimate 40,896,412
 -  December 2007 census 38,116,000
 -  Density 120/km2
319.9/sq mi
Currency Złoty (PLN)
Time zone Central European Time (CET) (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) Central European Summer Time (CEST) (UTC+2)
1. ^b Although not official languages, Belarusian, Kashubian, Silesian, Lithuanian and German are used in 20 communal offices.

Poland (Polish: Polska; German: Polen), officially the Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska), is a country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine and Belarus to the east; and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian-occupied German territory, to the north. Including their occupied German provinces, the total area of the present day Polish state is 312,679 km² (120,728 sq mi), and as such it is the 5th largest country in Europe. Poland’s population in June 2023 is 40,896,412 people[1], concentrated mainly in urban areas. The Republic of Poland is made up of sixteen voivodeships (Polish: województwo) or counties, which includes the occupied territories. Poland is now also a member of NATO, OECD, the Visegrád Group alliance, and the European Union.

Despite half of Poland being illegally occupied German provinces, in 2022 Poland launched a claim for 1.2 billion Euros against today's Germany for World War II reparations, 78 years after the end of the war which many historians argue Poland was responsible for[2]. The German government have correctly dismissed this claim[3], the Potsdam Protocol stating very clearly that "The U.S.S.R. undertakes to settle the reparation claims of Poland from its own share of reparations."[4]

In the 21st century Poland, along with Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, has emerged supporting traditional family values and moral norms in opposing western Liberal degeneracy and immorality agendas as propagated via the European Union, which one politician stated is "worse than communism".[5] The Visegrád-4 have also publicly announced they will not accept the non-European fake refugees now flooding Europe.[6][7] For this opposition the EU is preparing a range of sanctions against all of these countries.[8]

The European Union attacked Poland in April 2023 for banning food imports from Ukraine.[9]


See also: Slavs

The Polish people originated from the Slav tribes who migrated firstly from the Pripet region to the eastern Carpathians and then northwards to occupy, as their axis, the Vistula river basin. The Romans regarded the Vistula as the eastern frontier of the Germans.[10] The Teutons named the Slavs Vinithos or Venethas, rendered approximately by the Roman historian Tacitus as Venedi[11]; late Latin Venethae or Venedae, German Wenden. Shakhmatov has proved that the Slavs inherited this name from their former rulers, the Celtic Veneti, who had populated the district of the river Vistula.[12]

The term Polanie means the 'people of the plain' – the plain which slopes away gently to the northward of the Carpathians and the mountains of Bohemia - was applied to the tribes of Poles. The term Polska is not recorded prior to the tenth century, when one of their leaders, Duke Mieszko I, ruling in Posen (one of the more ancient Polish towns, like Gniezno, 30 miles to its east), considerably extended his authority over the other five tribes, and, having married a Christian (the Duke of Bohemia’s sister), was himself baptised in 967 and declared himself 'king'. His reign was the start of Poland’s history as a country notwithstanding that he acknowledged the feudal sovereignty or Imperial over-lordship of the Holy Roman Empire.[13][14][15] Poland as a state took time to become established. The power of its uncrowned provincial rulers was often disputed by the feudal landowners, who were building up big estates and who merely strengthened their own privileges by recognising a sovereign. The name Polonia first appears for Sclavinia under Mieszko's eldest son, Boleslaw I[16] 'the Brave' (r.992-1025) This king was expansionist and warred with the Bohemians and the Ruthenians, and conquered the Pomeranian tribes on the Baltic. In 999 he annexed Cracow, deposing its Duke. After beating back the Hungarians, he annexed Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia to his realm.[17] Polish territory underwent a gradual transformation through their invasions of neighbours and ducal marriages.

Beyond the river Oder the Poles' Teutonic neighbours, descendants of the German tribes which were once scattered all the way to the Vistula, were again spreading eastwards, regaining this territory, and also along the Baltic coast, and had forced the Slav tribes, particularly the Sorbs and the Wends, to vacate (or assimilate) any settlements they had made between the river Elbe and the Oder and, subsequently, much of the coastal region. The entire course of Polish history is interwoven with German-Polish rivalry, whereas Russia, Poland’s eventual neighbour to the east, presented no danger till much later. [18]


In direct contact with the West, whence came the Franciscan and Dominican monks who gradually converted the Polish people to Christianity in the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, Poland underwent a religious history and general development which paralleled those of Russia, or rather Kiev, under Byzantine influence.[19] Gniezno’s cathedral was founded (as a church) in the ninth or tenth centuries, and its bronze doors date from the twelfth century. It contains the tomb of St. Adalbert (d.977), the first (Bohemian) missionary of the Gospel to Poland and to Prussia, where the indigenous Prussians martyred him. During the visit of Otto III (r.996-1002), as Emperor and apostle, to the shrine of St. Adalbert at Gniezno, he established the first archbishopric, marking the coming of age of Poland as a Duchy under German influence. It has remained the seat of an Archbishop since the year 1000AD, and the first Kings of a so-called united Poland were crowned here up to 1230.[20] Posen also became the seat of a Bishop from the end of the tenth century.[21] Cracow too became an important Episcopal seat in the eleventh century, with a Gothic basilica being founded in 1223.[22]

Early towns

More than half the towns in mediaeval 'Great Poland' had developed from markets existing in the shadow of the forts which kept the roads and river-crossings secure. Posen, and Gniezno (considered the most ancient place in Poland[23]) had 5000 inhabitants each by the tenth century. This was the heartland of ethnic Poland which Poles today refer to as Great Poland. Polish towns made great strides in the thirteenth century. German colonisation made the towns grow faster, bringing with it the German system of municipal government known as the Magdeburg laws, which laws also facilitated growth. In Cracow, for instance, when the Tartars destroyed the town in 1241, it was rebuilt by German colonists in 1257.[24][25] Posen adopted German municipal law in 1253 with the immigration of Germans that year[26], and Cracow in 1257 following the rebuild. Warsaw, what became the main town of the Duchy of Mazovia, but which had been a mere village, was granted urban status in 1289.[27]

Early wars & expansion

Duke Boleslav 1st (992-1025) who had united the five main Polish tribes, was by no means inclined to continued feudal dependence; after the Emperor Otto's death he proceeded to conquer the borderlands between his own and the unofficial Saxon frontier; and in a series of campaigns he kept the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (r.1014-1024) at bay. Boleslav had speedily decided to compete with Germany for the rule of the Western Slavs. Three wars with Henry left Boleslav in possession (1018) of Lusatia and more. Boleslav made peace with Henry in 1018, which allowed Boleslav the freedom to campaign further east against the Russian duchies. His son Mieszko II was shorn of the western conquests by HRE Conrad II 'the Restorer' (1038-1058). From then on Poland remained Roman Catholic and western-orientated in religion, eclectic in politics and culture, a duchy only rarely owing more than a perfunctory allegience to the German Emperor.[28] The violent Boleslaw II 'the Bold' (r.1058-79) broke his bonds with the Holy Roman Emperor, who was in dispute with Pope Gregory VII, and the latter crowned Boleslav as an independent king in 1076 (a title which had been renounced by his predecessor, Duke Casimir (r.1034-58) 'the Restorer', who was known as the Restorer because he managed to reunite parts of Poland after a period of turmoil. He 'reincorporated' Mazovia, and invaded Silesia and parts of [[Pomerania])[29]. 'King' Boleslav II also squandered his energies in all-round aggression but he failed to annex the Wends to his west.[30] A civil war broke out, he was defeated and fled the country.

The titular Dukedom of Cracow, which had only been Polish since 1000 AD, and southern 'Poland' were ceded to Bohemia, and Poland once more became a feudatory of the German Empire under their new Duke, Ladislaus I (r.1079-1102). His successor, Duke Boleslaw III 'the Wrymouth' (r.1102-38) (who also died a feudatory of the German Emperor), had restored Polish fortunes to some extent and again invaded Pomerania (held of the Holy Roman Emperor Lothar III who reigned 1133-1137), giving Poland a (temporary) seaboard. But having endured terrific internal strife, decreed in his Will that the 'kingdom' would be better divided into four hereditary Dukedoms for each of his four sons. A kind of family federation. One became Duke of 'Great Poland', another of the remnant of Silesia, another Cracow, another, half-heathen Mazovia[31]. The rising local magnates, dowered with estates, preferred these provincial Dukes. But the division of loyalties among them brought on a long period of dynastic struggle, intrigue, and national weakness. Poland soon lost lands they had previously conquered such as Pomerelia, whose originally independent Dukes are buried in the Cistercian Abbey Church at Oliva, outside Danzig. Also, by this time the now fully Germanized Silesia[32][33], had been divided into sixteen miniscule Dukedoms and was finally annexed by Bohemia.[34] More Civil Wars followed which encouraged foreign intervention. Boleslav IV (1146-73) submitted (1157) for the last time as a feudal vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. The remaining Wends, and West Slav tribes largely settled between the Vistula and Elbe rivers and Pomerania, petitioned the Emperor for formal inclusion in the Empire, and Poland's conquest of these provinces was soon lost to the by now largely Germanised inhabitants, who drove them out.[35] The minor Dukes in Silesia became wholly Germanized[36] and invited in further substantial numbers of German colonists. However, in 1241 the Tartar invasion took place and the then Regent, Henry II of Silesia 'The Pious', was defeated and slain in the battle of Liegnitz on April 9th. Whilst they did not return, the devastation inflicted in Poland generally left weakness and depopulation.[37]

Teutonic Order

See Teutonic Knights

Pomerelia had remained under a provincial Duke and the Poles sought again to replace him by conquest, giving them an outlet to the sea west of the pagan Prussian tribes. The Duke of Masovia also engaged in continual sporadic warfare with the Prussians, but was unable to achieve anything at all. Although the Danes had conquered Estonia, the Germans now entered upon the scene. In 1201 Albert von Buxtehude (d.1229), under the patronage of Pope Innocent III, led a crusade from Lubeck to found Riga, in Kurland, of which he became Bishop. In 1204 he founded the Knights of the Sword to maintain his conquests and to extend them at the expense of the pagans and the "schismatic" Russians.[38] In 1228, Conrad, Duke of Mazovia, came to an agreement with Herman von Salza, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, giving the latter the province of Chelmno (German: Kulm) on condition that the Order would destroy once and for all the marauding Prussians. For the next 50 years the Order carried out their task, supported by Papal Bulls. The Order also eventually absorbed the failing neighbouring Livonian Order of the Knights of the Sword. When the Margrave of Brandenburg invaded the Duchy of Pomerelia and Danzig, the Order drove them out, infuriating the Poles. The Order had now become a territorial power, with a direct land connexion to Germany, and German mass migration took place under their encouragement. Their crusades against the pagan Lithuanians continued.[39]

File:Poland 1370.png
Poland in 1370 at the death of Casimir 'the Great', showing his annexations of his neighbours' territories. Silesia and Sweidnitz were not part of Poland, and the territories south-east of the Duchy of Cracow were invaded and conquered.

The Lithuanian native princes had been extinguished in 1324 in battle with the Golden Horde, leading to a civil war and a succession war between Lithuania and Poland. The latter’s King Casimir III who had united most of Poland again, was an expansionist who now invaded the Halitsch Principality of Galicia and made attempts to settle it with Poles. In Poland itself he was faced with the hard task of producing unity in lands divided into particularistic tribal provinces, of which Masovia was under its own Dukes, while Galicia was not Polish at all.[40]. Importantly, Casimir III abandoned Poland's war with the Teutonic order, and under the Treaty of Kalisz in 1343 ceded Poland's claims to Kulm, and Pomerelia. By the Treaty of Vyšehrad (in Prague) in 1339 he abandoned any claims Poland had to Silesia.[41] In addition he revised the German Magdeburg laws by which cities such as Cracow were governed, establishing an Appeal Court at Cracow forbidding appeals to the German Royal (H.R.E.) Courts. He also tried to exclude his distant and often vanquished and very minor kin of the Piast dynasty from the succession, and this led to further turmoil upon his death.[42]

Meanwhile the Teutonic Order's apogee had been reached: they dominated the Baltic coastline from Estonia to Pomerelia.[43] The personal union of Poland and Lithuania by the marriage of the Hungarian Princess Jadwiga (d.1398), heiress to the throne of Poland, and the Lithuanian Duke Jagiello (who became baptised a Christian as Wladislav II [1386-1434] of Poland), was a bold and brilliant move by these two nations.[44] Although the Teutonic Order had purchased the Newmark, a province of Brandenburg, in 1402, it was already afflicted by internal local dissent. In addition there were constant skirmishes with the Poles & Lithuanians. Spurred on by the Bohemian House of Luxemburg Kings, Wenceslas and Sigismund, who warned the Knights that the Poles were planning war, the Order’s Grand Master declared war in 1409. Jagiello, and his cousin, the ruling Lithuanian warrior-Duke Vytautas, gathered all their strength, with, in addition, huge numbers of Czech and other mercenaries, schismatics, and even pagan Tartars. The encounter of the two great armies, the Polish-Lithuanian twice the size of the Order's, took place on 15 July, 1410, at Tannenberg in Prussia. At first it appeared things were going in favour of the Order, being highly trained in warfare, but the tide gradually turned in favour of the much larger force and ended in the Order's disastrous rout. The Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen was among the slain. The victors drew nearer together.[45][46] According to the imposed[47] Peace of Thorn in 1411 following the Order's defeat, it had to cede the hard fought-over Samogita to Lithuania, and pay penal financial indemnities to the victors. To do this the monastic state were obliged to impose high taxes on their cities and towns to raise the funds. In the 1420s, Grand Master Paul von Rusdorf brought stability to the Order and its relations, but fighting with Poland resumed in 1431 during another simultaneous Lithuanian Civil War (1431–1435).

A further thirteen years' war was subsequently fought from about 1450 by the two powers using ferocious mercenaries on both sides with customary devastation. Gradually the Order, never great in its own numbers, was unable to sustain, financially and materially, such a long war, and after the Battle of Pluck in 1462 the Teutonic Knights' began their retreat. By a second imposed[48] Peace of Thorn in 1466 the Order's State in Prussia was forced to pay homage to the King of Poland as feudal overlord (much like Scotland did to England before Robert the Bruce), and Poland annexed Pomerelia. Danzig was permitted to retain her autonomy as a free German Hanseatic city, as was the Prince-Bishopric of Elbing, but like the Order, to pay homage to the Polish Crown. In final ignominy, in 1457 the Grand Master was expelled from the Order's castle at Marienberg by traitorous Czech mercenaries and forced to settle with his retinue in the castle at Konigsberg[49], built by the Order about 1255.

None of the territories conquered by Poland (such as Galicia and Pomerelia) or annexed by them during this 200 year period were ethnically Polish.


In 1569 Poland forced Lithuania into a Commonwealth, at the latter's ultimate cost, and continued to be an expansionist power involved in almost continuous warfare at the expense of all her neighbours.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth armies had advanced into Latvia and were attempting to secure it and 'Polonize' it (as they had also done in Galicia) under Casimir. However, in 1621 the Swedes took Riga and advanced into Kurland. The unwanted Roman Catholic forces were now being driven out. In 1623 the King of Poland authorised a Scot, Robert Stewart, to raise a force of 7,000 men as in the same year the Swedish King declared that he would drive the Poles out of the parts of Prussia that they had also occupied. The Poles now turned to the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor for support (although Poland was not in that empire, so this was a purely religious call for help). A truce advantageous to the Swedes was signed on September 16, 1629 at Altmark. By May 1635 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, now at war with Russia, said it was prepared to acknowledge Swedish possession of all Kurland and Livonia (a mere formality given these provinces were not ethnically Polish or Lithuanian). However, the Swedes were oppressive occupiers who imposed heavy taxes.

By December 1654 the Swedes were again planning to attack both Poland and Russia, and troop reinforcements were sent to Kurland and Livonia. The following year Poland was invaded from two directions and capitulated. Sweden, however, now proposed to take for itself Pomerelia (fictitiously named by Poland 'Royal Prussia') rather than restore it to Prussia. This brought the Swedes into potential conflict with Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg (the 'Great Elector') and Duke of Prussia, the monarch of Brandenburg-Prussia. But the latter could not compete militarily and signed an agreement in January 1656 whereby the feudal overlordship of Prussia, which the Polish Crown had imposed after the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in 1466, would now be assumed by the Swedish Crown. However the tide turned. The Poles fought back, mostly by guerrilla warfare. Frederick William was now obliged to support the Swedes, and the Brandenburg-Prussian-Swedish troops defeated a new Polish army outside Warsaw. At this point Tsar Alexei of Russia invaded Kurland-Livonia, laying siege to Riga in August 1656, taking Dorpat in October. Imperial (HRE) and Polish forces now invaded Kurland. Sweden's victorious tide was turning, and Frederick Wilhelm now changed horses again and achieved the promise of the return of full sovereignty over all Prussia at the Treaty of Wehlau if he allied with King Jan Kazimierz of Poland who was also at war with Russia. At the Peace Treaty of Oliva (outside Danzig) in May 1660 the Polish King abandoned his titular claims to Kurland and Livonia, and acknowledged the full sovereignty of the Elector of Brandenburg over Prussia. The war between Poland and Russia was finally brought to an end in 1667 with further territorial cessions which brought about the abdication of the Polish King.[50]

The Partitions

About this time, the middle of the seventeenth century, Poland slipped into "the desperate and well-nigh irremediable decadence which continued unchecked for a hundred years, bringing the country to the verge of ruin...The nation lived in an anarchy thinly concealed under the forms of an elaborate republican constitution"[51][52] The elected monarch had been emasculated and from the 1570s "the State had become, in fact, as well as in name, a Republic."[53] The wars against the Swedes, Turks, and Muscovites dealt the Polish economy its final blow. "By the 18th century the once busy and thriving towns presented a perfect picture of desolation, business confined to the operations of jewish money-lenders and petty traders. Poland was destitute."[54]

Throughout the Great Northern War, which wasted northern and central Europe for twenty years (1700-1720), all the belligerents treated Poland as if she had no political existence, lived off the country and systematically plundered it. The Polish Diet was the humble servant of the conqueror of the moment, and the leading magnates chose their own sides without the slightest regard for the interests of the country. The Lithuanians, for the most part, supported Sweden's Charles XII, while the Poles divided their allegiance between Augustus II, Elector of Saxony[55] and the Polish Stanislaus Leszczynski, whom Charles placed upon the Polish throne in 1704 and kept him there till 1709. At the end of the war Poland was ruined materially as well as politically. Augustus now proposed the three Great Powers should divide Poland between them. However, he died on 1 February 1733[56], with nothing further done.[57]

Leszczynski sought to regain the throne of Poland with a French army corps and 4,000,000 livres from Versailles, and on 26th August 1733 he was promptly elected King for a second time. However the Lithuanians dissented and solicited the intervention of Russia in favour of the Elector of Saxony, Augustus III, son of the late Elector and King, and in October a Russian army appeared at Warsaw. Leszczynski and his partisans were then besieged in the autonomous Hanseatic city-port of Danzig but eventually the Danzigers surrendered, with much damage being done to their beloved city. Leszczynski spent the rest of his life in Lotheringia (Lorraine). Augustus III of Saxony was now declared King (until his death in 1763). Poland, with its absentee monarch, now fell into decades of political anarchy, strife, and financial insolvency. Constitutional government had practically ceased.

On 7 September 1764 the Polish Diet elected, via colossal bribery and Russian threats, a new King, Stanislaus Poniatowski, who had been a lover of Catherine The Great of Russia, who was behind his appointment. She had foreseen that he would be a compliant tool in her interests, ready to obey her behests.[58] However the Polish Diet began oppressing all those in the country who were not Roman Catholics under new legislation passed in 1756. Russia and Prussia protested and the Law was repealed in 1767. Minority members of the Diet met in a confederation at Bar agitating for the Law to be reinstated and for the recent treaty with Russia to be repudiated. They took up arms to enforce these demands. They solicited help from the Turks who thereupon declared war on Russia. This afforded an excuse for Russia and Prussia to send troops into Poland. In 1770 there was an outbreak of the Black Plague in Poland and the adjoining powers cordoned off the country. For many years past the partition of Poland had been in the air.[59] The Courts at Berlin and Vienna decided that the best mode of preserving the equilibrium of Europe was for all three powers to re-adjust their territories at the expense of a prostrate Poland. King Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great - German: Friedrich der Große) in February 1769 sent Count Rochus Friedrich Lynar (1708-1783) to St Petersburg to sound out the Empress Catherine The Great as to the expediency of a partition, and in August Joseph II of Austria, Holy Roman Emperor, solicited a meeting with Frederick and they met twice during that summer. In 1770 Austria revived an ancient claim of the Crown of Hungary and occupied the county of Zips, which was pledged to Hungary as security for a loan to Poland in 1442, which was never repaid. This act decided the other confederates. The first Treaty of Partition was signed at St. Petersburg between Russia and Prussia on the 6/17 February 1772; the second treaty which admitted Austria was signed 5/16 August the same year. The Polish Sejm (Parliament) reluctantly gave their consent on 18 August 1773. Russia obtained the originally Lithuanian palatinates of Vitebsk, Polotsk, & Mscislaw: 1586 square miles with a population of 550,000. Austria gained Galicia (which Poland had invaded in 1340) minus Cracow: 1710 square miles, population 806,000. Prussia received the return of the maritime palatinates minus the autonomous city of Danzig, the palatinate of Kulm minus Thorn, what was called Great Poland as far as the Nitza, and the palatinates of of Marienberg and Ermland, some 629 square miles with a population of 370,000. With the exception of the province of Posen, all these Prussian territories had been previously forcibly taken by Poland from the Teutonic Order in 1466. Poland therefore lost about one-fifth of her population and one-fourth of her aggrandized territory in this, the First Partition.[60]

Russia continued to strengthen; and Frederick The Great died on 17th August 1786. The longstanding accord between Prussia and Russia came to an end. The following year the latter found herself at war with both Sweden and the Ottoman Empire. The Polish Diet raised Poland's army to 65,000 men, rejected an alliance with Russia, and established communications with the Western powers. Poland now endeavored to strengthen her position by an advantageous alliance with Prussia. King Frederick Wilhelm II stipulated, at first, that Poland should relinquish her nominal sovereignty over Danzig ("that little republic"[61]), and give up the town of Thorn, which had been founded by the Teutonic Knights. The English Prime Minister Pitt endeavored to persuade Poland that the protection of Prussia was worth the sacrifice. An alliance was then concluded between Poland, Prussia and Austria, on 20 March 1791, which engaged the two powers to guarantee each others possessions and render mutual assistance in case either were attacked. However, political anarchy continued in Poland and a revolution broke out on 3rd May 1791. The result was a radical French Revolutionary style equalitarian new Constitution for Poland, which became a hereditary constitutional monarchy with very limited powers, with Ministers and duennial parliaments.

Not everyone was happy with the new Constitution and another internal uprising broke out, and Russia declared war in its support. Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia declined to be involved as he had not been consulted about the new Constitution. The rebels with Russian assistance defeated the Polish army and won the day. The reformers fled abroad. The new Constitution of 3rd May was abolished. The Russian army now poured into the eastern part of the so-called Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Prussians, alarmed that Russia would occupy the whole country, occupied Great Poland and surrounding counties. The second Treaty of Partition was signed on 23rd September 1793 by which Russia obtained all the eastern provinces (including virtually all Lithuanian) extending from Livonia to Moldavia, a quarter of a million square miles. Prussia got Dobrzyn, Kujavia and the greater part of the former Great Poland, with Thorn and Danzig, the latter being surrendered by the Polish King with whom it was in personal union. Poland was now reduced to one-third of her 1771 dimensions, with a population of about three and a half million.[62]

Aristocrats-in-exile now gathered in Leipzig, Germany, to plan a 'national rising', with the Polish hero Kosciuszko approaching the positively evil French Jacobins in Paris for assistance, in January 1794. He suggested a league of republics against a league of sovereigns! The Revolution's Committee of Public Safety in Paris declared it could not support an insurrection engineered by aristocrats! A military revolt by the remnants of the Polish army was now gathering at Cracow, and Kosciuszko went there. The army mutiny now became yet another revolution. The Polish and Russian armies fought it out throughout April with the Polish army at one point 'liberating' both Warsaw, and Vilnius - the capital of Lithuania. Kosciuszko was appointed Dictator, with a Supreme Council. However the Polish army had, in its successful moments, also rashly invaded those parts of Poland ceded to Prussia, which had been poorly garrisoned. Prussia now joined with Russia, with the Poles suffering their first serious reverse on June 5th. The inveterate lawlessness of the Poles now asserted itself, and violent and ceaseless dissensions, both in the Supreme Council and in the army, neutered the political situation. Anarchy returned. On October 10th and 29th the Polish army met with final staggering defeats. It had all been for nothing. On the 24th October 1795 Prussia acceded to the Austro-Russian Third Partition of 3rd January, and the distribution of the conquered provinces was finally regulated on the 10th October 1796. Austria received those parts of Galicia she did not previously get, including Cracow province, as well as parts of southern Mazovia. Prussia took Podlachia and the rest of the old Duchy of Mazovia, with Warsaw; and Russia all the rest. Poland had ceased to exist as a sovereign country. With this a great many Poles emigrated.[63]

Congress Poland

File:Poland Congress Sept 1914.png
Congress Poland (given as Russland) as it was in 1914.

Poland had been in conflict with the Russian Empire, Prussia and the Austrian Empire, who, after over a century of near continuous warfare and anarchic turmoil, finally partitioned the country thrice between 1772 and 1795, wiping it off the political map of Europe. Napoleon created a short-lived 'Grand Duchy of Warsaw' in 1807 (and abolished serfdom), as a sop to Polish support for him (against everyone else in Europe). Upon his demise a 'Kingdom of Poland' was established by Russia, Prussia and Austria within the borders of the Russian Empire by the Congress of Vienna. This became commonly known as 'Congress Poland'. It has been argued by many that in fact this 'kingdom' (which became one of the Tsar's titles) represented the closest ethnic borders to what constituted native ethnic Polish lands (see ethnographical map below). Congress Poland was 2,220 square miles and ten Governments (or provinces): Warsaw, Kalisz, Piotrkow, Radom, Kielce, Lublin, Siedlce, Plozk, Lomza, and Suwalki. In 1858 the population was estimated at 4,800,000 comprising 3,560,000 Poles, 240,000 Germans, 220,000 Russians, 185,000 Lithuanians and Letts, 500 others, 2,075 travellers/merchants, and 595,000 jews. It was first governed under a 'Constitution for the Kingdom of Poland' first proposed by Tsar Alexander I in 1815, not subject to Russian administration. Poland had a Diet, a national administration, and a national army of thirty thousand men. However, in 1830 there was a violent insurrection against Russia. The constitution was withdrawn, the national army abolished, the national language proscribed in public offices. and the administration was as far as possible Russianised; the universities were closed. Not until the accession of Tsar Alexander II (1856) were several reforms introduced into Poland, with Polish being re-established as the language of the administration and of public instruction. The administration was again completely separate from that of Russia; elective district and municipal councils and a Council of State were formed. The re-opening of the universities and of additional gymnasiums, and the establishment of schools for the peasantry, preceded the arrival of the Grand Duke Constantine as Imperial Lieutenant at Warsaw, accompanied by the Marquis Weilopolski as chief of the civil administration. From the latter downwards, every official in Poland was now a Pole. Yet, agitation continued, and another insurrection broke out in Warsaw in January 1863. The struggle, hopeless from the moment it was seen that no foreign power had any intention of assisting the Poles, lasted until the Spring of 1864 when it was crushed, almost all its leaders executed. In 1870 the population was 5,705,605 people (including 814,923 jews). In 1874 the office of Lieutenant of Poland was abolished and replaced with a Governor-General.[64]

The Great War

File:Poland Kingdom Proclamation 1916..png
Central Powers Proclamation of a new autonomous Kingdom of Poland, 1916.
File:Poland State Council 1917.png
Poland's Council of State, 1917.

In August 1914 Tsar Nicholas II recognised the expediency of considering the question of the reconstitution of [Congress] Poland, and the Grand Duke Nicholas, by the Tsar's orders, issued a manifesto foreshadowing the grant of a large measure of autonomy. The war delayed matters, but in July 1916 Sergei Sazanoff, Russian Foreign Minister, resurrected the proposal. According to the scheme submitted by him the future Polish Government was to consist of a Viceroy, a council of Ministers, and two chambers, with full administrative powers in all matters save the army. diplomacy, customs, strategic railways and common finance, which were to remain under the control of the Imperial Government.[65]

In several memoranda sent during 1915 and 1916, Hans Hartwig von Beseler, the Governor-General of the Polish areas under German control, proposed the establishment of an independent Polish state. German Emperor Wilhelm II then proposed creating a dependent Polish state out of Congress Poland, which the Central Powers had conquered from the Russians. This new autonomous Kingdom of Poland would be ruled by a German Prince and Crown Council, and have its military, transportation, and initially the economy controlled by Germany. Known informally as the Regency Kingdom of Poland, it was proclaimed during World War I by the German Empire and Austria-Hungary on 5 November 1916 as the Government-General of Warsaw and became active on 14 January 1917. On March 30th Prince Lvov's Russian Revolutionary government acknowledged the independence of Poland. It was subsequently transformed into the independent Second Polish Republic, the customary founding date being 11 November 1918, the date of the Western Front Armistice ending The Great War. Following the Treaty of Versailles several provinces and/or parts of were taken from Germany and added to the Second Republic. In addition the new Poland invaded Galicia, Russian Ukraine and Lithuania.

Versailles Treaty and thereafter

File:Polnische Population im 20. Jahrhundert.png
Map showing ethnically Polish people in 1900 (Orange areas). Congress Poland is outlined with a red border. It will be seen that Congress Poland contained the ethnic Polish heartland, apart from the province of Posen and the Polish settlers in the German provinces and in Vilnius province.
File:20070422165915!Historisches deutsches Sprachgebiet.PNG
German language-speaking areas after the official national census of 1910.

For centuries Poland, having invaded adjoining provinces and countries (see also: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), and held them for often short periods, had no permanent ethnic borders. Writing in 1915 Lord Eversley pointed out that in 1770 two-thirds of the people in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were not ethnic Poles.[66] Apart from "Polish chauvinist imperialist fantasies"[67] as to what actually constituted Poland, the natural Polish borders were a much disputed issue.[68]

Polish fascists had been formulating absurd claims in the latter part of the 19th century and in 1892 the Polish Archbishop of Posen and Gnesen felt obliged to say:

Any attempt to identify Silesia with Poland’s pre-1772 status is entirely unjustified and fallacious. It implies no more nor less than an attempt at new booty…. ~ Florian Stablewski, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Posen and Gnesen in the Kurjer Poznanski, 9 October 1892.

In 1919, two fanatical Polish fascists, Roman Dmowski and Ignace Paderewski, both born and brought up in Congress Poland, were invited to put their case to the Paris Peace Conference, following a "vigorous and well-organised campaign in the United States, England and France in favour of a Greater Poland". Dmowski spoke for a staggering five hours stating what he saw as Poland's claims, including a reversion to the frontiers of 1772 regardless of populations & ethnicities and without "plebsicite circuses". (Clearly democracy was not at the top of his list.) The Polish delegation called for all the territories in the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to be formally part of the new resurrected Poland, without any consultation whatsoever with the Ruthenians or the Lithuanians. Indeed, the Poles had the audacity to state to the western plutocratic liberal Allies that the Lithuanians were a "primitive people" and only still existed because of Polish assistance and practical help!; and, outrageously, that Poland had "never imposed upon any nation our language or religion"![69] Their request regarding Lithuania was refused. Despite living and working some years in exile in Lemberg in Austrian Galicia, Dmowski referred to the Germans as "the enemies of Poland and of humanity". He was supported by France's M. Clemenceau who wanted "to smash Germany to defenceless atoms".[70] President Woodrow Wilson stated that "the only real interest of France in Poland is in weakening Germany by giving Poland territory to which she has no right".[71] He added that it would be a mistake to extend the new Polish State over territory patently German. Nevertheless, "more than any other member of the Peace Conference President Wilson was the creator of the New Poland"[72] in the subsequent botched Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Trianon, opposed vigorously by Germany, whose delegates stated regarding Danzig that the proposals stood "in direct opposition to all assurances given in the declarations of President Wilson" and would lead "to violent opposition and a continuous state of war in the East." The imposed settlement at Versailles was regarded in Germany as "an outrage".[73] Poland was resurrected as an independent country, described by Molotov as "the monstrous bastard of Versailles"[74], but awarded German provinces such as West Prussia - what became known as the Polish Corridor; - and Galicia (Red Ruthenia) (in a League of Nations 25 year mandate) without a plebiscite, and other German provinces where many, often a majority, ethnic Germans lived[75]. Tomáš G Masaryk, writing in the London Saturday Review in October 1930 said:

As for the Polish Corridor, it may be definitely said that Germany will never tolerate a condition of things by which East Prussia is separated from the German Reich.

Gates of Warsaw

File:Polish soldiers near Stokhod river in Ukraine during 1920 invasion.png
Polish officers near the Stokhod river during their invasion of Ukraine 1920.
File:Polish troops enter Kiev 1920.png
Polish troops and cavalry in Kiev 1920.

During the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth vast tracts of territory in Lithuania, and their former provinces annexed by Poland, were taken over by Polish landowners and they continued in possession right down to the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which they fled and took refuge in the new Poland. "They not unnaturally put strong pressure on the Polish Government to reconquer their lands for them."[76] Meanwhile the victorious plutocratic Western Allies proposed that the eastern frontier of Poland should be drawn as to include only those territories where the Polish population was in a majority (the Curzon Line). The Poles replied that this was insulting. Polish patriots called for action, as they wanted to see a Greater Poland (including territories not ever historically ethnically Polish), and it was in such a mood that Marshal Pilsudski, the head of the new Polish State and the Commander-in-Chief of the (French-armed) army, set out in the spring of 1920 to conquer territories for Poland, invading Galicia and Ukraine, on April 25th. The Soviet army, disorganised by the civil war, made a feeble resistance; and Polish troops quickly reached Kiev (May 8th). By June, however, the Soviet forces had reorganised and were able to launch a massive counter-offensive, which not only drove the Poles fast out of the Ukraine (June 11th), but brought Soviet troops within a few miles of Warsaw, where the Soviet offensive, like the Polish offensive before it, became exhausted. On July 23rd Poland asked the Soviet Russian Government for an armistice.[77] However on August 3rd the Russian Government announced that negotiations for an armistice had been suspended. On August 14th the Polish army, now under France's General Weygand as 'military adviser', again commenced another offensive by marching due east into White Russia driving the meagre Bolshevik forces there beyond Pinsk. Both sides had outstripped their supply lines, and an armistice was concluded at Riga on October 12th (ratified Nov 2nd) upon a line 150 miles east of the ethnographical frontier proposed by the Allies (the Curzon Line). The Peace Treaty of Riga signed 18 March 1921 confirmed the armistice line as the border between Poland and Soviet Russia. A victory of sorts for Poland, despite the additional tract of land being sparsely populated and of poor quality.[78] Since that time, the Poles have turned around their rash attempt at conquest for a 'Greater Poland' into a great propaganda offensive in the West saying that the Soviets were invading Poland and only their great defence at the "Gates of Warsaw" saved a communist invasion of western Europe. For those ignorant of the true facts this is a nice story.

"The Poles, haughty, headstrong, and inordinately proud, deeply resented the patronising attitude of the French whose assertions that the military mission under their General Weygand saved Warsaw from capture by the Bolsheviks in 1920 were hotly denied by the Poles."[79]

Encouraged by their success, Poland now invaded Lithuania with a force under General Zeligowski, in October 1920, and annexed the province and city of Vilnius,[80][81] in a flagrant violation of armistice terms.[82] Pilsudski admitted later that this operation had been carried out with his knowledge and approval. Protests from the League of Nations failed to dislodge the Poles and Poland was left in occupation[83][84] until 1939 when Lithuania was able to recover it.

The French Government supported Poland's expansionst ambitions and thus found itself once again in disagreement with the British, who did not. In February 1921 a Franco-Polish alliance was signed which included a secret military convention. The French sent [further] large quantities of military equipment to Poland, despite the alliance not being universally popular in France. Many suggested that a belligerent country such as Poland which was on singularly bad terms with all its neighbours might well prove to be a tiresome liability.[85] Nevertheless, the French loan of 400 million francs for the purchase of war material from France (only) took place under stringent mortgage conditions against Poland's natural resources.[86] Writing in his book The Shape of Things to Come (1933), H. G. Wells stated on the restoration of the new Poland that "instead of a fine, spirited and generous people there appeared a narrowly patriotic government which developed into an aggressive, vindictive and pitiless dictatorship."[87] Francesco Nitti had already prophisised trouble:

This new Poland, which with its imperialist obsessions is preparing for itself and its newly risen people a terrible destiny - unless it amends its errors in time - fulfils two absurd conditions: that of separating Germany and Russia, and that of being the military agent of France against Germany.[88]

German revanchism

See also Danzig

The objective of German Foreign Policy between the two world wars was the revision of the Versailles Treaty, and territorial revanchism was a consistent characteristic of the all their Governments in this 20-year period. Germany sought to use Article 19 of the League of Nations' Covenant (which was incorporated in the Versailles Treaty), which said:

The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions which might endanger the peace of the world.[89]

The 1920 Social Democratic Party of Germany Congress affirmed "We shall never accept the diktat of force as permanent legal order. We shall never relinquish the principle of self-determination and we shall strive for the unification of all Germans."[90]

Meanwhile throughout the inter-war period Poland organised two insurrections in Upper Silesia both involving officers and soldiers from General Haller's army from across the border, in and out of uniform, resulting in Allied troops having to be sent to the region.[91][92] Poland argued that there was a large ethnic Polish population. The Germans correctly argued that the overwhelming majority of these had emigrated from Russian Congress Poland into Upper Silesia to work in the great German industries and mines there where wages which were far higher than those in Russia.[93] Poland went on to annex important parts of the province demonstrating the impotence of the Allies and the League of Nations.

In 1925 the German Government rejected Georgy Chicherin, the Soviet Union's Foreign Commissar's proposal for a joint concerted action "to push Poland back to her ethno-graphic boundaries."

At the Locarno conferences in October 1925 the German Government stated they would never accept the eastern borders of the imposed Treaty of Versailles and intimated that failing agreements force could not be ruled out to rectify them.

As late as 26 February 1931, Sir Horace Rumbold, 9th Bt., British Ambassador in Berlin, wrote:

"It must be remembered that a war against Poland to rectify the eastern frontiers would be in the nature of a crusade. A large part of the population would eagerly join in it without compulsion."[94]


See also Galicia
See also Polish Corridor
See also Upper Silesia

Like the Czechs, the Poles came down hard on all non-ethnic-Polish minorities in the country, Germans, Ruthenians and jews. Throughout all the occupied German territories in Eastern Germany, Poland oppressed the ethnic German population, many whose families had lived and worked in them for centuries. This became a major grievance for all German governments between the wars as there was a continuous flow of dispossessed refugees from their old provinces.[95][96] An example was all the tenant farmers in West Prussia who farmed Crown Lands. They and their families were instantly dispossessed and expelled.[97]

Agitation was even carried on against German Roman Catholic canons and clergy as part of the Polish de-Germanizing policies. Some of them were deported. De-Germanization proceedings were carried on which were outside the provisions of the Minorities Treaties (and therefore illegal under International Law). Occupational restrictions were imposed which prevented Germans from following professions under which, for example, many German doctors lost their practices. Licenses were also refused to German chemists, and Germans were debarred from pursuing other occupations as diverse as a hotel-keeper and the humble occupation of a chimney sweeper. In 1927 licenses for the sale of alcohol were withdrawn from Germans, including a hotel-keeper at Graudenz. The gerrymandering of the electoral laws was also carried out to be totally detrimental to the German electorate and their representation in the Sejm. Poland also abused the citizenship rules, by its deliberately bogus interpretation of the Treaties, which interpretation differed from everyone elses. A German resident in the territories which now found themselves in Poland could only automatically (with conditions) become a Polish citizen if their continuous residence commenced before 1908. If the German was discovered to have spent the winters in, say, Berlin, or his children attended [boarding] schools away from home, or sons served in the army, these and other puerile reasons were sufficient excuse for the authorities to decline citizenship. The arbitrary interpretation by Poland of Clause 4 of the Versailles Minorities Treaty, referring to citizenship by birth, led to the expulsion of many applicants and led to a formal appeal by the German Union to the League of Nations on 12 November 1921. Before an agreement was reached, late in the autumn of 1922, the League Council appointed a Commission of Jurists to decide the dispute. Members were from Britain, Spain, and France as well as the head of the League's legal section. The finding of this Commission went against Poland. Arrogantly, the Polish Government refused to accept this decision and challenged the competence of the League of Nations! This then went to the Permanent Court at The Hague, whose decision was handed down on 15 September 1923, finding that Poland's interpretation and construction was contrary to the Treaty and unsupported by any precedent in international law.[98]

The German Union (in Poland) submitted a Report in the Sejm (Polish parliament), and to the Senate, which was published in the Posener Tageblatt, no.287, on 17th December 1927 which stated a variety of contraventions of the Minorities Treaty: German schools had been illegally staffed with Polish teachers; that school and Kreis inspectorates had not included representatives of the Lutheran confession; that German children had been removed by force from German schools; that persons of German nationality, whose [Polish] citizenship had not been definitely determined[99] had been expelled; that the authorities had failed to confirm German members of school management committees; that German children had been compelled to attend Polish (Roman Catholic) church festivals' that German children had been prevented from attending elementary schools with instruction in the German language; that property of the German Womens' Unions, and German humanitarian institutions, such as churches, chapels and mortuaries, had been confiscated and handed over to Roman catholic parishes; elsewhere chapels had been burnt down, German cemeteries desecrated.. The German Union had also protested against the anti-German demonstrations in districts inhabited by Germans in considerable numbers and the support given to these demonstrations by the Polish public and the lower Polish authorities; against the illegal refusal of the Polish Registrars to publish the Banns of Marriage for Germans; and against the prohibition of German songs and dances at childrens' establishments. In a number of German Protestant parishes attendance at church had been prohibited [the Poles regard Protestants as heretics]; illegal house searches are made and documents illegally seized from the offices, business premises, and homes of German members of the Sejm who in turn were mistreated, and who, as Deputies, possessed immunity. German and other associations had been illegally dissolved; freedom of the press had been curtailed as far as German editors were concerned; German newspapers had been illegally seized; the amnesty law had been unfairly administered to the disadvantage of German editors; peaceful German citizens had been placed under surveillance; theatrical performances had been prohibited.[100]

From 1920 until 1933 Frederick Augustus Voigt was the Manchester Guardian's correspondent in Germany, and although based in Berlin, Voigt travelled widely and also ventured further afield in central and eastern Europe, taking a particular interest in the political conditions within Poland. His particular interest was in exposing to the world their political repression and state terror and he caused a sensation with his reports on Polish attacks on the Ruthenians in Galicia.

In July 1934 Poland arrogantly declared to the Assembly of the League of Nations that she no longer recognised the right of the League to concern itself with minority questions in Poland - a virtual denunciation of the Versailles Minorities Treaty which Poland had signed.[101]

On 29 March 1939 Dr. Ernst Vollert[102] sent a Memorandum to the Head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Lammers, of the detailed Minutes of the discussions held February 27 to March 3, with a Polish Government delegation on questions concerning national [minority] groups. In summary he said

the Poles have no intention of making any change in their policy towards Germans in Poland.....They are determined to pursue with vigour their present de-Germanizing policy. In conclusion: The Polish Government, on the basis of their 'democratic' laws, arrogate to themselves the right to torment and persecute the German community, and deprive them of their rights, while, at the same time, demanding privileges for those Poles in the Reich (who have no issues). In view of this basic attitude no constructive results could be achieved in these discussions.[103]

In a Foreign Ministry Memorandum circulated to all German Embassies and consulates on 11 May 1939, Under-Secretary of State Ernst Woermann wrote:

For a long time the oppression of the German community in Poland, especially in the former Prussian provinces, has increased in all spheres of life in consequence of an intensified campaign of hatred carried on by the greater part of the Polish press and a number of anti-German organizations, despite repeated serious representations by the German Government. From the attitude of the Polish Government it must be concluded that they are neither seriously willing, nor do they appear to be in a position, to prevent this development. Transmitted herewith are copies of a number of such reports with the request that this material should be used, in a manner which appears appropriate, with the Government to which you are accredited and also the press.[104]
The policy of Poland, over which His Majesty's [British] Government has no control and of which they probably were ignorant, was the thousands of cases of persecution and excesses against Germans in Poland. It was [now] a policy based upon the Polish belief in the unlimited support of the British and French Governments. ~ Baron von Weizacker, Secretary of State in the German Foreign Ministry, speaking to the British Ambassador at Berlin, 15 August 1939.[105]


Meanwhile Poland was building alliances. A crucial event, however, was the Arbitration Treaty signed at Locarno between the former WW1 Allies and Germany. This Arbitration Treaty was between Germany and Poland. The fundamental flaw was not only would Britain and Italy not guarantee to come to the aid of the victim by reason of a violation of the arbitration clauses, but it also meant that there was no undertaking by Germany to accept the frontiers as imposed in 1919/1922, so that any violation of those frontiers would not automatically place Germany in the wrong.

File:Polish Anti-German Week of the Polish Riflemen Association! 1930.png
Polish Riflemen's Association hold an Anti-German Week in 1930 with crude propaganda.

Further, although Germany undertook not to resort to force from the start but to accept arbitration, the Germans made it clear at the time that this did not mean that under certain conditions force would not be eventually employed. As a result of this, France signed new alliance treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia on the same day as the Locarno treaties but nothing to do with them. How France could assist these countries, militarily, remains the question as after signing the initial Treaty of Mutual Guarantee they could not cross German borders.


File:Polish tanks invade Zaolzie, Czechoslovakia, 1938.png
Polish tanks invade Zaolzie in Czechia on 2 October 1938

After the National Socialist Party came to government in Germany in January 1933 it proposed firstly border revisions (as proposed since 1919 by previous governments). These fell on deaf ears. Hitler now proposed to Poland an extra-territorial motorway and trunk railway linking Germany with East Prussia and the Free City of Danzig. This, and the question of the Free City returning to the Reich[106] itself, was flatly refused by Poland[107], notwithstanding Poland did not have sovereignty over Danzig but only oppressive and contested 'rights', which ultimately became one of the principal causes of the outbreak of war between them and Germany, leading to World War II.

Even before Versailles, President Theodore Roosevelt stated prophetically: "The nation has as a matter of course a right to abrogate a treaty in a solemn and official manner for what she regards as a sufficient cause, just exactly as she has a right to declare war or exercise another power for a sufficient cause."[108]

France was obsessed with the encirclement of Germany and in turn concluded numerous treaties of alliance. The Left-wing government of France had signed, on 5 September 1936 at Rambouillet, a 'Franco-Polish Protocol' which reaffirmed the alliance between the two countries, defined the terms of collaboration of their military staffs, and settled France's financial contribution towards the defensive organization of Poland[109] However, by the autumn of 1938, French Foreign Minister, Georges Bonnet, started to advocate the ending of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe and ordered his officials at the Quai d'Orsay to start preparing grounds for renouncing the French treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland. Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies in October 1938, Bonnet spoke of his desire to "restructure" the French alliance system in Eastern Europe and of his wish to "renegotiate" treaties that might bring France into a war "when French security is not directly threatened". In these efforts to end the eastern alliances, Bonnet, however, had opposition from other members of the French government.

Following the Munich Agreement Poland decided it would now pounce upon Czechoslovakia. On 30 September 1938 the Polish Ambassador delivered a "Note" to the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prague "couched in offensive terms and demanding immediate surrender to Poland of Teschen and Freistadt."[110] Poland then presented an ultimatum to the Czech Government for the immediate cession of Teschen and Freistadt (the frontier coal-mining district east of Mahrisch-Ostrau) at about midnight on 1st October 1938 requesting a response by midday. The British Government, being made aware of this immediately, protested that this was "wholly contrary to the spirit of the Munich Agreement which provided that the settlement of territorial problems in Czecho-Slovakia should be achieved by negotiation and not by force".[111]

Despite representations Poland ignored them and invaded the following day, annexing the province of Teschen. On November 1st Poland also occupied some northern parts of Slovakia; and further obtained from Czecho-Slovakia: Zaolzie, territories around Suchá Hora and Hladovka, around Javorina, and in addition the territory around Lesnica in the Pieniny Mountains, a small territory around Skalité and some other small border regions.

From 25 February to 3 March 1939 Count Ciano, Italy's Foreign Minister visited Poland for talks. He found that "anti-German demonstrations had been breaking out here and there in all Polish cities over the Danzig question". [Only 1% of Danzig's 407,000 population was Polish.] Ciano wrote that Poland's Foreign Minister, Colonel Beck, was "fundamentally and constitutionally anti-German". "I do not fail to point out to the Polish authorities that anti-German demonstrations put me in an embarrassing situation. I receive the [false] answer that they are due to French propaganda opposed to National Socialism." Ciano found Warsaw a "characterless capital, flat, grey, and very sad."[112][113]

In February two major anti-German demonstrations took place in front of the German Embassy in Warsaw and on on February 28th were reportedly taking place "all over Poland" stirred up by agitation in the Polish Press; every day hostile articles appeared. A formal complaint was lodged with the Poles about their volatile Western Association which had an agenda and planned programme to stir up the people against everything German. An informant reported that a high-ranking Polish Police Officer had described the demonstrations as "completely justified".[114] The German Ambassador at Warsaw (von Moltke) telegraphed the Berlin Foreign Ministry on March 17th that there were "renewed anti-German street demonstrations".[115]

In a telegram to the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Viscount Halifax, on August 18th, the British Ambassador (Henderson) at Berlin, stated that "direct contact between Poland and Germany has unfortunately ceased for the past four months"[116] [i.e: since the British guarantee to Poland.]

World War II

In September 1939, after 20 years of considerable provocation by Poland against every single neighbour it had[117][118][119][120][121][122][123][124], two thirds of the country was invaded by Germany and the eastern third by the Soviet Union. Remarkably, Polish diplomatic and military intelligence was so blind to reality[125] that Poland made an urgent request to the Soviet government for the supply "of war materials of which she was in desperate need". This was refused on September 8th.[126] Its military, despite being equipped with modern weaponry by, mainly, France[127], was completely defeated and its government fled abroad. Great Britain, who had, in March, given a "blank cheque" guarantee of support to Poland in the event that she was attacked or invaded now declared war on Germany on September 3rd, therefore widening what should have remained a local conflict, effectively starting World War II. Britain failed, however, to declare war on the Soviet Union. Poland was quickly and decisively defeated by Germany with some assistance from the Soviet Union the latter taking the eastern third of the country.

Potsdam Conference

File:Poland (yellow) and the nowadays occupied german territories.png
Poland after WWII, showing the occupied German territories

After World War II, all of Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union emerging as a communist puppet state within the Eastern Bloc under the control and tutelage of the Soviet Union. At the Potsdam Conference the plutocratic Western Allies were presented with Stalin's fait accompli that he had illegally and without any consultation with the other Allies transferred the "administration" of the German provinces in the official Soviet Zone of Occupation, east of the rivers Oder and the Western Neisse, to its puppet communist government of Poland.[128][129]

This included (with the exception of the Kaliningrad enclave) Pomerania, most of East Prussia, and Danzig, which had never in history been constituent sovereign parts of Poland (although periodically invaded by them). Silesia and West Prussia were also included. The German population who had their homes and farms there for up to 800 years and who had not fled, were ruthlessly expelled and/or murdered, their entire properties stolen and occupied.[130][131][132][133][134] President Truman and the British delegations protested at these actions.

The London Times published this report on 10 September 1945: "I have visited this morning a hospital at Danzig where more than sixty women and children who were summarily evicted from a hospital and an orphanage in Danzig last month were, without food or water or even straw to lie on, dispatched in cattle trucks to Germany. When the train finally arrived in Berlin of the eighty-three persons crammed into two of the trucks, 20 were dead. A woman recovering from typhoid recounted how she watched her husband being beaten to death by Poles and how she had been driven from her farm in West Prussia. Three orphans I saw aged between eight and twelve are still skeletons after ten days treatment. None of them weighed more than three stone [42 lbs]. Another small boy turned out of Danzig had a postcard attached to him stating his soldier father was long since missing and that his mother and two sisters had died of hunger."[135]

In addition, on October 18, 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower telegraphed Washington DC: "Polish administration and methods are causing a mass exodus westward of German inhabitants who are being ordered out of their homes and told to evacuate the 'New Poland'. Many unable to move are placed in camps on meagre rations and under poor sanitary conditions. Death and disease rates in these camps are extremely high. The methods being used by the Poles definitely do not conform to the Potsdam Agreement" which had said that any resettlements had to be "humane".[136]

Potsdam Conference Protocols (XII) signed on 1 August 1945 stated:

"The Czechoslovak Government, the Polish Provisional Government and the Control Council in Hungary are being requested meanwhile to suspend further expulsions".

The Berlin Protocol declared:

"The three heads of government reaffirm their opinion that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should await the [final] peace settlement."

Byrnes (USA) later wrote:

"We specifically refrained from promising to support, at the [Potsdam] Conference, any particular line as the western frontier of Poland. In the light of this history, it is difficult to credit with good faith any person who asserts that Poland's western boundary was fixed by the conferences, or that there was a promise that it would be established at some particular place."

In the east of Poland 180,000 square kilometers of territory was annexed by the Soviet Union (much of which the Poles had invaded in 1920 and annexed).[137]

Until the late 1950s, nearly 90 per cent of Germans gave the answer NO! when asked if their country should recognise the Oder-Neisse line border with Communist Poland.[138] Lithuania became also a Soviet Republic, and the eastern and south-eastern provinces (i.e:Galicia & Ruthenia), which Poland had variously occupied by conquest and mandate previously, were annexed by the Soviet Union.

Independence from Soviets

The Potsdam Protocol declared that, in accordance with the decisions reached at the Crimea Conference, a (communist-controlled) Polish Provisional Government of National Unity was recognized by the Three Powers. The subsequent establishment by the British and United States Governments of diplomatic relations with this Soviet puppet Polish Government resulted in the withdrawal of their recognition of the former so-called Polish Government in Exile based in London. By this route the Western plutocratic Allies officially abandoned Poland to communism for the next 45 years.

In 1990-91 communist rule collapsed and Poland became what is informally known as the Third Polish Republic, a fully sovereign country. The pre-war constitution was however not restored, and much of the present new constitution is quasi-communist and hard-line socialist in content. An example being that the great estates and all the land and property stolen from its owners by the communist state has not been restored to the rightful owners, nor has compensation been paid. It is difficult to see how this is permitted in the European Union.

There remains the issue of all the stolen property in, and the occupied German provinces.


Until towards the end of the eighteenth century Polish historians wrote almost exclusively in Latin. Joachim Lelewel, a Polonized German, was a noted historian of Poland, and died at Paris in 1861. Karol Szajnocha, who was born and died in Lemberg, was born to a Czech father, and was a self-taught, less political, and more impartial historian than Lelewel, was an authority on the origins of Poland and the Polish nobility. The best available accounts of Polish literature, ancient and modern, are to be found in the lectures of the poet Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) entitled Cours de Littérature Slave. Mickiewicz was born in Lithuania on the border of White Russia. He, Bohdan Zaleski (1802-1886), born near Kiev, and Zygmunt Krasinski (born & died in Paris: 1812-1859), the three famous poets of Poland, all died in exile: Mickiewicz in Constantinople and the latter two in Paris. The poet Vincent Pol (1807-1872) was born in Lublin, when it fell into Galicia, to Franz Pohl, a German in the Austrian administrative service. During the anti-Polish massacres of 1846 Pol, identifying as Polish, was half-murdered at Lemberg. A notable author of the Polish language, novels, and political and historical works, was Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812-1887) who was born east of Brest-Litovsk.

Many westerners today refer to Poland as a country with an eternal victim complex, and this was reflected in John Murray's comment back in 1875 that "Polish literature is nearly all of one colour, and founded on one sad theme; and in the lives of the principal writers, that of the country itself seems to be reflected".[139]

The jewish Question

File:Hagan's book.png
Published in 2018.
File:Poland jews 1931.png
jews in Poland in 1931.

Poland had first confirmed jewish liberties by charter in 1265, and from that point in time Poland witnessed the growth of Europe's most important jewish refuge.[140] It eventually grew to a vast jewish population, estimated in the first half of the 20th century as 9-10% of its population.[141][142] This resulted in the inevitable social unrest. During and after The Great War there were significant violent pogroms against jews across Poland.[143] Following the end of WWI the Poles invaded Galicia and captured Lemberg where Polish troops ran amok in jewish neighbourhoods, incensed by jewish protestations of neutrality in the contest for the city between Poles and Ruthenians (Ukrainians). A pogrom in Chrzanow in November 1918 saw widespread looting and pillaging of jewish homes and businesses; in Warsaw synagogues were burned. Further east, there were also pogroms in Polish-occupied Vilna and Pinsk - where Polish troops shot thirty-five people for the offence of distributing charitable donations from the United States. Violence gave way to discrimination during the 1920s, despite the fine words of the Minorities Treaties. Sunday became a compulsory day of rest for all. jews who could not prove pre-1918 residence were denied Polish citizenship. One Polish politician stated that "the jewish community is 'a foreign body', dispersed in our organism so that it produces a pathological deformation. In this state of affairs it is impossible to find a way out other than the removal of the alien body, harmful through both its numbers and its uniqueness." The fanatical leader of the Fascist Party, Roman Dwomski, spoke in similar terms.[144]

Nitti, former Prime Minister of Italy, said in 1922 that Poland was unable to assimilate its jews[145] - and the government actively "encouraged" emigration. Between 1919 and 1935, jewish emigration from Poland to Palestine totaled 107,958, with 27,843 (45% of the total number of immigrants) in 1935 alone. "This was due to political pressure in Poland".[146] In 1935 and 1936 a further 23,291 arrived in Palestine and in 1939 and 1940 a quarter of jewish immigrants into Palestine in each year held Polish citizenship; this continued over the next three years with 16.6%, 18.1% and 23.9%.[147]

In 1931 Poland was reckoned to have 500 ghettos. A speaker at the World jewish Congress in the summer of 1932 declared that the suicide rate in the ghettos had increased 25 per cent in the last three years, and that about 90 per cent of the ghetto's inhabitants had tuberculosis. jewish journalist Saloman Spitzer (1859-1941), who had a special interest in the squalid Warsaw ghetto, which had open sewage canals in the streets, stated "there are about 3,500,000 jew in Poland. 3,000,000 of them are paupers and 490,000 are destitute. The rest can barely make a living". He said emigration was therefore economically impossible for them. "The gates of the USA are closed, and Palestine's are only half open. They could not build ships fast enough to take away all the jews if they had the money and knew where to go!" he said, adding that jews were looking forward to the new Poland, but that was all now forgotten. "Poland to the Poles" was the motto and jews were excluded and oppressed.

Since 1920, jews had been excluded as judges, from the police and postal services and, as far as possible from the civil service; many jews had been bank directors in former years, they were now out. Anti-semitic posters in the streets said "We must not allow the jew to deprive the Polish worker of his bread", "Don't patronize the jew!", "Buy only from Polish shops!" and "Poland awake! Why do you take your money to the jew, the enemy of your race and religion?" German businesses in those provinces which now found themselves in Poland had been nationalized. The Germans had employed Poles and jews without discrimination. Now the jews have been dismissed. jewish firms with long traditions and excellent standing were refused banking facilities, while new Polish firms were given credit facilities.[148] It became difficult for a jew to become a schoolteacher; to become a university professor was next to impossible. State assistance was made available to to polish schools only, not to jewish schools. The number of jewish students at Polish universities fell by half between 1923 and 1937.[149]

On October 20, 1936 Poland's Foreign Minister, Joseph Beck, told the British Ambassador in Warsaw, Sir Howard Kennard, that he was concerned about the "jewish problem" and that the Polish peasants in particular "were becoming more restive in regard to the jewish monopoly of business." M.Beck "hoped that jewish emigration to Palestine might be resumed on a 'larger scale' at some future date, [but] he felt that this was not sufficient for jewish requirements and that some other outlets must be found for them."[150]

In 1937 renewed anti-semitic action broke out in Poland. jews were banned from the National Totalitarian (Polish: Sanation) Party, banned from the medical profession, and their lawyers restricted. A serious pogrom occurred in Brest-Litovsk in May, and the Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego (O.Z.O.N. - Camp of National Union) Party proclaimed an "anti-jewish month" in September - rigorously observed by the right-wing parties and groupings.[151] With the co-operation of the French, the Polish government commissioned a task force in 1937 to examine the feasibility of deporting Polish jews to Madagascar. The head of the commission was Mieczysław Lepecki. However the commission decided the numbers the island could accommodate were insufficient for their proposed resettlement plans.[152][153]

As a result of anti-semitism, many of the approximately 70,000[154] Polish jews living in Germany had arrived after the First World War. In early October 1938 the Polish government announced that all Polish passports would become invalid at the end of the month unless they received a special stamp before then, obtainable only in Poland. This measure was meant to rid Poland effectively for all time of all Polish jews living in foreign countries, most of whom were in Germany. Of course, the German government now feared that it would have to permanently accept these 70,000 jews. The German government tried to negotiate this issue with the Poles, but they flatly refused. On October 28th, just two days before the deadline, German police rounded up between 15,000 and 17,000 Polish jews, mostly adult males, from across the Reich and transported them to the German-Polish border. The deportees traveled in regular German passenger trains with more than adequate space. Contrary to some claims, they were not crammed into cattle cars. The deportees were well provided with food and medical care. Red Cross personnel and medical doctors accompanied them on the trains. The Polish border officials were surprised when the first trainloads arrived at the border, and their Polish passports still being valid, let the jews back into Poland. At about the same time, the Polish government was deporting German jews back to Germany. The next day, 29 October, the Polish and German governments suddenly agreed to stop the deportations of their respective jewish populations to each other's countries. The deportations were completely halted that night.[155] Finally the German and Polish Governments reached an agreement that Polish jews expelled at the end of October could return to Germany in order to wind up their personal and business affairs and the Polish government pledged to receive back into Poland the expelled Polish jews' wives and children under 18 years of age still in Germany. Numbers were estimated at between five and six thousand. These arrangements would expire on 31 July 1939. However, Polish jews still in Germany became stateless after October 31st. The German Alien Control Police were instructed to get as many of these Polish jews as possible to leave Germany.[156]

At the 1938 Évian Conference Poland submitted a "bulky" Memorandum in which they pointed to their 3.5 million "largely proletarianized" jews whom they wanted to get rid of.[157]

In November 1938 the Polish Government was becoming "extremely active" regarding Polish jews, especially those threatened with expulsion from Germany. (A Polish Decree of October made the return to Poland of 60,000 jews of Polish nationality domiciled in Germany practically impossible.) The Germans suggested in both Washington D.C. and The Hague that persecutions of jews should also be expected in Poland. American Claiborne Pell of the Refugee Committee said the Poles were trying to blackmail the UK & USA to take their jews, and added that "the policy of the Polish Government during the past weeks has in general met with the strongest disapproval of both the British and American Governments".[158]

With World War II jews in Poland were trapped. As a result of the Third Reich's policies, the overwhelming civilian war casualities in Poland were jews, not Poles.

Following World War Two, further pogroms took place. On 11th August 1945 Poles in Kraków engaged in a pogrom against jews in the city, killing one and wounding five. On 4th July, 1946 a pogrom took place in Kielce and 42 jews died. Many more fled.

Relevant maps

See also

Further reading

  • Edwin Erich Dwinger: Der Tod in Polen (in German), Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1940 (Archive)
  • Schultze-Rhonhof, Gerd, 1939 - The War that had Many Fathers - The Long Run-up to the Second World War, English edition Munich, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4466-8623-2
  • Walendy, Udio, Who Started World War II, Uckfield, Sussex, England, Sept 2014, ISBN10: 1-59148-072-8
  • Scheil, Stefan, Poland's War Calculation in 1939, Ingram Content Group Ltd., U.K., 2023, www.bod.de
  • Korte, Stefan, Geopolitical Upheaval in Eastern Europe, www.Legatum-publishing.com, 2023, ISBN: 978-82-93925-23-1

External links


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External links

  • Poland from the Inside by Bertram de Colonna, Heath Cranton Limited, London 1939 (The book in HTML)
  • Death in Poland: The Fate of the Ethnic Germans by Edwin Erich Dwinger, (The book in HTML, Cover text)
  • Polish Atrocities Against The German Minority in Poland, published by the German Foreign Office, Berlin, 1940 (Auswärtiges Amt) (PDF-File)

External links

et:Poola es:Polonia pt:Polónia