Germans and Jews as Minorities in the Second Polish Republic (1918–1939)

 

At the end of the First World War, the goal of the Polish parties, except for the radical left “Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania” (SDKPiL), was the creation of a Polish nation-state, the future of which one was not able to agree on. It was not until the creation of a nation state that the existence of minorities became a problem, because Poland’s two existing major political groups were ultimately not prepared to tolerate them. The anti-German and anti-Semitic “National Democrats” (Narodowa Demokracja, also: Endecja) under Roman Dmowski (1864–1939) [Illustration 1], who had the trust of the Entente, sought a re-Polonization of the Western territories (the “Piast” concept), at the expense of Germany, and a displacement of the Jews. The followers of Józef Piłsudski (1867–1935) [Illustration 2], on the other hand, aspired to a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian state that extended to the East (the “Jagiellionian” concept), possibly as a federation, where the minorities would still have to be Polonized, or at least were expected to subordinate themselves to the Polish culture.[1]

On January 8, 1918, Woodrow Wilson outlined Fourteen Points as a statement of principles for future peace. According to these, an independent Polish state was to be created that “should include all territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations” and that should be assured “a free and secure access to the sea”. It is evident that already these two parts of point 13 were irreconcilable.[2] However, also the geographic planning of the two previously mentioned Polish politicians aimed at a Polish state that would include a large part of national minorities in addition to the “indisputably Polish population”.

In the multi-cultural aristocratic republic of the 18th century, any national-cultural affiliation to a non-Polish nationality was but a subordinate element of identity, whereas one’s religious or social affiliation had greater ordering significance. Jews were seen as a separate legal group. They were an economically vital part of the Polish feudal system and had their own representation, the “Council of Four Lands”, which had originally been introduced to regulate tax shares. Between the 16th century and 1764, the “Council of Four Lands” regularly held its sessions in Lublin and Yaroslav. In 1623, a parallel institution was established in Lithuania.[3] While any ideas of Polish “tolerance” are overly romantic, it is still true that persecutions of Jews were more likely to be associated with Ukrainians and urban, partly German, competitors than with the Polish aristocratic society, which rather depended on Jewish intermediaries. As for the Germans, they were more of a modern role model: From the 17th century onwards, male Polish aristocrats gradually replaced their oriental-style, full-length coats with more comfortable (shorter) western or “German” clothing. The Orthodox Jewry stuck to the formerly Polish-aristocratic costume, refused any more modern clothing, and reinterpreted the traditional aristocratic attire as a “social symbol” of Jewish self-confidence.[4]

In the course of the 19th century, however, this changed: The Polish people was “completed” by integrating its peasants into the Polish nation, as a part of which they had hitherto not been regarded,[5] and by building a mental wall against the culturally different groups instead. The peasant parties played up the Polish-Jewish division and vilified the Jewish merchants and innkeepers who worked for the aristocracy, denouncing them as “exploiters” of the peasants. In intellectual circles, the political mood was initially Jew-friendly, seeking their inclusion into the Polish nation, but that changed soon. The latest anti-Semitic tendencies in Germany made their way to Poland and were embraced by the “National Democrats” there, yet without them becoming any friendlier towards the Germans. Another factor with a negative effect was the growing political independence of the Jews that culminated in socialist “Bundism”, named after the anti-Zionist “General Jewish Labour Bund”, founded in 1897 in Poland and Russia, and in national Zionism. Polish Jews were resented because they evidently did not seek assimilation but instead wanted to establish themselves as a politically and culturally independent people and thus detach themselves from the non-Jewish Poles.[6] In the years before the First World War, the “National Democrats” organized a boycott movement and sought to drive the Jews out of Poland. The Germans' image had not been a negative one until 1848, but now that changed, too. This applied especially to the Prussians when they started introducing Germanization policies in the territories gained after the partitions of Poland and were confronted with the National Democracy there, mainly in the province of Poznań.

In 1918, one did not know yet where the re-established independent Polish state's borders would be. Except for the shorter border sections with Romania and Latvia, all boundaries of the new state were settled in armed conflicts. In the so-called Greater Poland Uprising of 1918/19, Poland expanded against Germany, with the Poles fighting against the regular German army and irregular military volunteer units, the so-called “Freikorps”. The territorial gain, achieved with the support of the Polish military, was later legalized by the Entente in the Treaty of Versailles. Poland was granted “access to the sea” by creating the “Polish Corridor” that led from the Polish Heartland through West Prussian territory, populated by Germans and Kashubians, to the Hela peninsula. No consideration was given to the preferences of the people who lived there. Danzig was declared the “Free City of Danzig”, and Poland was given rights pertaining to the seaport and the political constituencies. In July 1920, plebiscites were held in Masuria (Allenstein) and a smaller part of West Prussia (Marienwerder). Despite a by far greater population share of Polish speakers, the votes were in favour of Germany by over 90%.[7] This was not a decision for any “Deutschtum”, as which German nationalists celebrated it, but a decision in favour of a functioning German state, whose Polish rival was at war, known for corruption, and threatened by an impending Soviet invasion at the time.[8] After these territorial changes, both sides saw themselves as the losers. One did not consistently go through with the intended expulsion of the “optants” of different nationalities, but nonetheless, animosities arose that henceforth poisoned the relationship. In Upper Silesia, Poles tried to challenge the results of the plebiscite of 1921 in bloody “uprisings”, with the consequence that the territory was partitioned proportionally correctly, yet without considering its populations at all. Hence, there remained minorities of the respective other nationality in both parts.

The Jewish Minority

In Galicia, which had been a part of Austria until then, in the autumn of 1918, Poland’s independence was “marked” by pogroms against Jews that were mainly launched by peasants. They were the result of the peasants’ parties’ propaganda against the Jews as their exploiters, whom one would now finally be able to shake off. In the territorial conflict between Poland and Ukraine about Lemberg in November 1918, the local Jews declared themselves neutral. After the Polish victory, Polish soldiers launched military pogroms against the Jews of Lemberg, condemning Jewish neutrality as a lack of solidarity with Poland.[9] Also during the armed expeditions of the still young Polish army to the East, in the spring of 1919, in Pinsk, Lida, Minsk, and other places, organized killings of Jews were committed that equalled the pogroms of the various parties in the Russian Civil War.

The traditional religious anti-Judaism of the lower classes as well as considerable social envy were behind this increasingly hostile attitude towards Jews. Beyond that, a political development acted as an aggravating factor: In the First World War, Germans were increasingly seen as the main enemy. Russia, in 1915, had relocated both Germans and Jews from the Polish territories to the East and had accused them across the board of espionage and collaboration with the German enemy.[10] Even after 1918, the general impression persisted that Jews in the western parts of Poland were rather oriented towards Germany. Further East, it was the use of the Yiddish language that supported a similar notion.

The Polish borders [Illustration 3] were only rudimentarily determined, while the so-called Republic of Central Lithuania was annexed by Poland only in 1922, Upper Silesia was partitioned in 1922, Eastern Galicia granted to Poland de jure in 1923. The first population census of November 30, 1918, however, showed that, contrary to its claims, Poland was not the nation state it aspired to be, but rather a multi-ethnic entity.

The pogroms of the first post-war months – still war months in Poland – were made public in the press. Therefore, even before international commissions were sent to Poland to investigate and ascertain the facts,[11] Poland was forced to sign a Minority Treaty in addition to the Treaty of Versailles (as later were Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia). The treaty in which the Polish government committed to respecting the rights of the minorities and to allowing for their autonomous cultural structure was signed on July 28 in 1919.[12] In the Polish discourse, the provisions of the treaty, predominantly oriented to the Jewish context, were perceived as a humiliation of Poland, whom the Allies apparently did not trust with democratically tolerant behaviour. It would soon become clear how right they were.

In the second Polish-Soviet War of 1920, on both sides violent anti-Jewish excesses were committed. Moreover, a majority of the Polish-Jewish soldiers were detained in Jabłonna, near Warsaw, and several other camps by the Polish military, because of “the detrimental activity of the Jewish element”.[13] Ideas of “Jewish Bolshevism” were already widespread in Poland at the time, and they automatically pictured the Jews as supporters of the Soviet enemy. [Illustration 4]

As a consequence, the accusations of anti-patriotism also had an effect on the discriminations below the violence line. The founding of a new Polish nation was thus sacralised as a “resurrection” (zmartwychwstanie) – the victory over the Soviets as the “Miracle on the Vistula”, worked by the Mother of God. [Illustration 5]

The Catholic Church, to which the vast majority of ethnic Poles belonged, stood at the forefront of anti-Jewish propaganda. Whether it was about identifying Jews and Communists (1920), about applying the theses of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (several editions after 1923), or about the campaigns of the priest Stanisław Trzeciak (1873–1944) against civil marriage, kosher butchering, Jewish Messianism, and the Talmud[14] – with very few exceptions, the Catholic clergy engaged against the Jews. So did the Franciscan friar and later martyr Maksymilian Kolbe (1894–1941), who from his monastery in Niepokalanów stirred up hatred against Freemasons and Jews in his papers “The Knight of the Immaculate” (Rycerz Niepokalanej) and “Small Daily Newspaper” (Mały Dziennik), and affiliated children’s magazines.[15]

The Church also put forward “social” arguments: It advocated the emigration of Jews, arguing that the working class would benefit from it (Priest Jan Piwowarczyk, 1889–1959),[16] and declared “non-Christian employers” to be greedy exploiters (Archbishop Adam Sapieha (1867–1951), Cracow 1936). In February 1936, Primate August Hlond (1881–1948) wrote in a pastoral letter: “The Jewish problem exists and will continue to exist as long as the Jews will be Jews.” He added a list of “facts” according to which the Jews were fighting the Church, were libertines, atheists, Bolsheviks, and subversives.[17]

In national-democratic and right-wing extremist circles, the idea gained ground that Jews were aliens, foreigners, who admittedly lived in Poland for a long time but ought to be excluded from a nation whose self-concept was increasingly “ethnic” (völkisch) and determined by Catholicism. Apart from the National Democrats and later the radical nationalist block (a fascist party, “National Radical Camp”, ONR), also the peasant parties – though not all-party officials – were anti-Semitic to different degrees for economic reasons.

All protagonists made a point of solving the “Jewish Question” (kwestia żydowska) without violence, if possible, but through exclusion and ethnic separation from the Poles, and emigration. Things often turned out differently, though. One immediate impact of anti-Semitic measures was the direct adverse consequences they had for Jewish university students: In the sense of affirmative action, one initially admitted primarily demobilized soldiers to university. Though in the 1920s, no official numerus clausus was introduced, potential Jewish students were often denied admission by putting forward the bogus argument that there was a “lack of space” and a fear of rows with nationalist Polish students. They often had no choice but to go abroad, which then was used against them to corroborate their “lack of patriotism”. In many state institutions, such as the post or the railway, jobs were preferentially given to non-Jews. Sales monopolies for tobacco, alcohol and matchsticks were withdrawn from Jews and given to war invalids, which in many cases excluded Jews. New regulations for Sunday rest forced devout Jewish craftsmen and merchants who observed the Sabbath to have two days off per week.[18]

Formally, Jews were afforded political participation in Poland, but de facto, their own fractionalization and Antisemitism were obstacles. A considerable number of Orthodox Jews refused to be part of the secular Polish state. They had their own political representation, the Agudat Haortodoksim, which had been founded during the German occupation in the First World War. Also, there were the Orthodox-Zionist Mizrachi, founded in 1902 in Vilnius, and their youth organization Bnei Akiva. Thus, Zionists were divided into different schools of thought and the respective political parties: The moderate “General Zionists”, the social democratic “Workers of Zion” (Poale Zion) with its left and right currents, and the right-wing revisionist “New Zionist Organisation” (NZO).[19] Non-Zionists could join the “Folkists” (Yidishe Folkspartai) that had a non-Zionist national agenda in Poland,[20] or they could join the “Bund”, an anti-Zionist, yiddishist, left-wing-socialist party that demanded Jewish cultural autonomy until a “socialist society” would be achieved, and that gained in importance at the end of the 1930s.[21]

However, it should not be overlooked that a considerable portion of Poland’s metropolitan Jews was acculturated and assimilated, just as was the case in Germany and Western Europe. They were neither followers nor voters of the minority parties but rather of the Polish centrist and left-wing parties.[22] This tends to be left unmentioned in nationalist representations.

As anti-Semitic attitudes were widespread in the political centre as well, the non-anti-Semitic parties such as the “Polish Socialist Party” (PPS), small liberal groups, and the mostly illegal “Communist Party” held obvious appeal for Jewish Poles. The PPS, however, wanted to avoid being perceived as “Jew-infiltrated” by its voters and therefore moved Jewish party members to the backbenches. After his coup in 1926, Piłsudski founded the “Nonpartisan Bloc for the Cooperation with the Government” (BBWR), an organization supposed to end party rivalry that also found Jewish followers. After Piłsudski’s death in 1935, the new rulers dissolved the bloc and formed the “Camp of National Unity” (OZN). Out of their own convictions and hoping to take the wind out of the sails of the rival “National Democrats”, the OZN became increasingly anti-Semitic: Universities introduced a numerus clausus for Jews, a new law prohibited kosher butchering, and, in 1938, “foreign Jews” – Polish Jews living abroad – had their citizenship revoked. Jews who were thereupon expelled from Germany by the “National Socialists” were then initially denied admission to Poland. Only the outbreak of the Second World War prevented part of the anti-Jewish legislation from coming into force.[23]

In 1922 and 1928, with the exception of the “Bund” and the Galician Zionists, some of the Jewish parties joined a “Bloc of National Minorities”, hoping to achieve better results in the electoral system that favoured bigger parties. In 1922, their success made it possible to prevent the election of a national democrat for president, at which point a propaganda campaign concerted by the “National Democrats” against “their president” (Ich Prezydent) incited one of their partisans to assassinate the non-Jewish peasant party President Gabriel Narutowicz.[24] In 1928, a new bloc of national minorities succeeded in securing 86 seats in the Sejm, with Germans gaining 21 and Jews gaining 13 seats.[25] Piłsudski’s authoritarian politics began after that and initially targeted Ukrainians and “National Democrats”. With the Great Depression on top of it all, however, it exacerbated the conflicts and finally resulted in national-democratic violence against Jews.[26]

After the pogroms in the period immediately after 1918, violence escalated again from 1929 on. The colleges and universities of Warsaw, Wilna, and Lemberg were places of constant conflict; in the face of a deteriorating economy, the situation had become harshly competitive, which spurred the violent prosecution of Jewish students by radical right-wing fellow students. In medical sciences, they tried to deny Jewish students access to “Christian corpses”. The Polish government made an effort to countervail this and expanded the disciplinary authority of the university rectors, but achieved the opposite effect: At some universities, the rectors enforced the demand for “ghetto benches” (getto ławkowe), by which measure the seats for Jewish students were segregated from those for non-Jewish “Christian” students.[27]

Outside the universities, violent confrontations instigated by radical groups such as the National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowe) as well as the ONR, and anti-Semitic associations, became frequent after 1936. The government's reaction was ambiguous: On the one hand, Prime Minister Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski, in 1937, condemned the anti-Jewish activities of the right and admitted to as many as 348 anti-Jewish events in the Voivodeship of Białystok in 1936 alone. On the other hand, he argued that what began as “beating up the Jews” would ultimately end in anarchy and was condemnable merely for this reason.[28] This fitted in well with the statement he had made as a newly appointed Prime Minister in the Polish Sejm of June 4, 1936, where he denounced violence and “discrimination” (krzywda) against the Jews but actually sanctioned the anti-Jewish acts for most who heard him say the words “economic war – yes, of course” (walka ekonomiczna – i owszem).[29] Polish anti-Semites professed they were not following German National Socialism, were against racism, and were not “revolutionaries but reactionaries”.[30] The apparent difference this made was only in the heads of the perpetrators.

Accordingly, outright pogroms occurred – the best-known ones in Przytyk near Radom (March 1936), Grodno (July 1935)[31] and Brest (July 1937).[32] Because a Jewish defence militia had formed in Przytyk, Polish nationalists have until today been trying to describe the events there as an anti-Polish operation of Jews.[33]

Politically, Poland turned away from the Entente and France during the 1930s and – until another turning point occurred in March 1939 – towards Germany. The first expression of the new political course was the renunciation of the Polish Minority Treaty in October 1933, when Germany left the League of Nations. Theoretically, this would have made the Western powers’ guarantees obsolete. Like Nazi Germany, Poland tried to shift its politics from multilateral to bilateral agreements, which resulted in the treaties of January 1934. Foreign minister Józef Beck reassured the Germans that the renunciation of the treaty was mainly directed against the League of Nations’ support of the Jews.[34] Whether a common Polish-German anti-Soviet policy was ever close to attainment is still highly controversial. From 1938/39 on, after Poland had profited from Germany’s annexation policy towards Czechoslovakia by the annexation of the Cieszyn region, Polish politics turned to the Western powers again.

The German Minority

After the incomplete census of 1921, the Ukrainians were – at almost four million – the most significant minority (14,3%) in Poland, followed by the over two million Jews that counted as a minority (7,7%), and the Germans at slightly above one million (4%).[35] The number of Germans went down until 1931, either because they emigrated to Germany or because they acquired Polish citizenship. Although Polish Upper Silesia, with its larger share of German population, had not even been recorded in 1921, the number of Germans in Poland fell to around 740.000 over the course of these ten years. There were large numbers of Germans in Upper Silesia and Poznań / West Prussia as well as in Greater Poland / Wielkopolska and Pomerania / Pomorze, but there were smaller populations scattered in all other Polish regions as well (such as in Łódź, Galicia und Wolhynia), where at first the attitude was far less nationalistic.

Despite everything, most Jews were basically loyal to the Polish state, while the same was not true for the Germans in Pomerania nor for the nationally oriented Ukrainians, who were denied both statehood and cultural autonomy. Poland’s nationalist politicians were pursuing a policy of assimilation of Belorussians and Ukrainians, as is generally known. In contrast, they considered Germans and Jews to be usually not assimilable and therefore hoped they would emigrate. On the part of the Germans, the antipathy was mutual: prejudice (polnische Wirtschaft, a widely spread stereotype of perceived Polish inefficiency), political judgement (“bleeding border”), and – apart from Upper Silesia – religious divides did not allow for much harmony. The Weimar Republic had accepted territorial losses in the West. Still, it took a revisionist attitude as far as the East was concerned and waged a customs war against its Polish neighbours until 1933. Considerable amounts of money were spent to keep Germans from emigrating, to support their Germanness and in this manner maintain the German claims to the territories one had lost. [36]

With the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918/19, the Silesian Uprisings of 1919/21, and the conviction of having suffered injustice through the Treaty of Versailles and the partitioning of Upper Silesia, one had severe reservations about Poland on the German side. As a result, politically hostile groups from Poznan and Pomerania “Catholic Centre Party” (Zentrum), “German Democratic Party” (DDP), “German People’s Party” (DVP), “German National People’s Party” (DNVP) joined forces and in 1921 formed the Deutschtumsbund in Bydgoszcz / Bromberg, which was then prohibited in 1923. After that, various professional associations endeavoured to tend to cultural and educational needs of the German minority. For Upper Silesia, an organization formed in Kattowitz / Katowice in November 1921 that from 1925 on called itself “German People’s Federation for Polish Silesia” and was presided by Otto Ulitz (1885–1972). Politically, in Upper Silesia, the conservative “German Party” (DVP, DDP, DNVP), the “German Catholic People’s Party” (Zentrum, from 1933 on “Christian German People’s Party” – CDV) and the “German Social Democratic Party”, that was stronger here because of the industrial areas and temporarily operated under the name of “German Socialist Labour Party of Poland” (DSAP), were in opposition to each other. In Łódź, German Socialists were rivals of the nationalist groups.[37]

The two most important settlement areas of the Germans had different statuses. While Poznan / West Prussia was directly exposed to the grasp of the Polish authorities, Upper Silesia received special status through the German-Polish Convention regarding Upper Silesia, also known as the Geneva Convention, of May 15, 1922. As early as 1920, Poland – as a tool of persuasion – had granted autonomy status concerning education, police, and finances to those Upper Silesia regions that would fall to Poland. The Geneva Convention, on the other hand, was under the supervision of the League of Nations, which after 1933 meant that the political and racist policies of Nazi-Germany (such as the Civil Service Restoration Act and the Nuremberg Laws) were not implemented in the German part of Upper-Silesia until 1937.[38] In 1937, however, the 15 years of the Convention expired, and subsequently the racial laws were applied and adopted by the “German People’s Federation for Polish Silesia” that now expelled its German-Jewish members.

After Piłsudski’s coup d’état in 1926 [Illustration 6], one expected politics to become less anti-German, but the opposite was the case. German estates were increasingly subjected to land reform, rarely practised elsewhere. German public schools were closed down on all sorts of pretexts, after which private schools replaced them; German doctors were denied access to health insurances. A systematic de-Germanization was started, targeting mainly Pomeranians (the Polish Corridor), the Kashubians (who were declared to be Poles), and the Upper Silesians, where the newly appointed Wojewod Michał Grażyński (1890–1965), who had been one of the leaders in the Third Polish Uprising, initiated a decidedly anti-German policy.[39] In international trading, both sides intensified the “customs war”, which ended as late as 1934. While in Germany, at the beginning of the 1930s, one called for a revision of the borders, in Poland the Defence Association of the Western Territories (Związek Obrony Kresów Zachodnich) used boycott calls, amongst other things, to mobilize against Germany and the German minority in Poland.

Germany’s national-socialist politics towards Poland were determined by the Upper Silesian Convention and a deliberately Poland-friendly policy after the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January 1934.[40] Cultural exchange and an expansion of diplomatic relations were symbolic of this policy. Yet, at the same time, Germans in foreign countries became an important target for national-socialist agitation. In 1935, the Reich Ministry of Education established a department for border- and foreign policy that was taken over by the Party (NSDAP) and the SS in 1936 and was one of the predecessors of the notorious Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, whose task was the “Gleichschaltung”, i.e., to bring the Germans abroad into line.

In Łódź, on Palm Sunday of 1933 (April 9, 1933), Polish nationalists committed assaults against Germans, which, after the national-socialist April boycotts in the Reich, the representatives of the Germans (and German historians, even after 1945) blamed on the Zionist Jews. Although these accusations were wholly unfounded, they alienated Germans and Jews, who had hitherto cooperated well. This was the moment when the “National Socialists” were able to “take over” the Germans, who had until then been largely tolerant. Mutual calls for boycotts encouraged the respective nationalist hardliners and made even conventional German organizations susceptive to Nazi politics.[41]

Even though there was no longer any force behind it and – because of revisionist hopes – in Germany it was seen as politically opportune if the Germans remained in Poland, an increasing number of them (those who rather saw themselves as Reichsdeutsche) left the territories in West Prussia and around Poznan that had formerly been part of the Reich. The more rural German population from the formerly Russian Partition and Austrian Partition remained in Poland, had higher birth rates, and became quantitatively more significant.

The Nazi officials used as their extended instrument the “German National Socialist Association for Poland”, founded in 1921, in formerly Austrian Bielitz / Bielsko. From 1932 on, it acted as the “Young German Party” (Jungdeutsche Partei, JdP) in Eastern Upper Silesia under engineer Rudolf Wiesner (1890–1973). An effort to replace the "Deutscher Volksbund" (DVB) failed because it met with resistance, at which point the JdP focused more on Poznan / Pomerania but found itself in competition with the traditional-national "Deutsche Vereinigung" (DV) that had emerged in 1934 in the wake of controversies between the previous organizations. In the Sopot Agreement of May 1934, the German NS-authorities recognized the role of the DV as a minority organization, while the JdP was supposed to drive the process of nationalist-socialist transformation.[42]Nonetheless, this dual track was a thorn in the flesh of the Nazis, as it divided the ethnic German group into two. The situation in Central Poland was similar in that there the JdP and the “German People’s Union in Poland” (Deutscher Volksverband, DVV), founded in 1924, were competing for proximity to the National Socialists and “true” Germanhood. The “Coordination Centre for Ethnic Germans” (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle under the control of the SS) tried in vain to foster an agreement between the two opposing groups.

Most German minority politicians used the German-Polish detente of 1934 to show loyalty to the Polish state, even though any mutual perception remained observantly critical. Withal, the Poles sometimes preferred the JdP to the “old-Prussian” Germans of the traditional associations. After 1945, in Germany, one tried to whitewash from Nazi-tendencies the DV that had been competing with the JdV, and in Poland, one covered up the cooperation with the JdP. Therefore, this particular period calls for further scientific research in the course of which the respective representations would need to be deconstructed.

The two political organizations were synchronous in their positive attitude to “National Socialism”, but among themselves, they were enemies. Only in Upper Silesia, the CDV that had emerged from the “Catholic Centre Party” and was led by journalist Eduard Pant (1887–1938) remained in opposition to the Nazis. The party was dissolved after the German invasion of Poland. Pant had died in 1938; other politicians of the party were persecuted.  

In contrast to official Polish state policy, which had been intent on a German-Polish accommodation until 1938, the Polish public moved to the right during the 1930s. This had a detrimental effect on its relationship with both the German and the Jewish minorities. During the last year before the war, after Germany had denounced the German-Polish-non-Aggression Pact, this effect became visible in the public realm as well. Poland ignited a fierce anti-German propaganda campaign, and almost all German organizations turned into eager supporters of the “National Socialists”, who wanted to use alleged anti-German actions of the Poles (such as the “assault” on the German radio station Gleiwitz) to justify the intended war. [Illustration 7] The mutual relationship deteriorated significantly – some of the functionaries, such as Rudolf Wiesner of the JdP, fled to Germany.

In the course of the German invasion of Poland, which is usually taken to mark the beginning of World War II, bloody German-Polish confrontations also occurred away from the actual battlefield. In Bromberg / Bydgoszcz, members of the "Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz" (an ethnic-German self-protection militia) are said to have fired at retreating Polish troops, which provoked a reaction during which Polish soldiers fired at civilians. The NS- propaganda exploited the fact that there were around 350 German victims as a justification for their war against Poland. In November 1939, one “reported” over 5000 victims, and later, on the order of Goebbels, (one added a zero and henceforth talked of 58.000 victims of the “Bromberg Bloody Sunday”). The Germans later used this as pretext to execute up to 10.000 Polish citizens of the town.[43] [Illustration 8]

Interpretations of the occupation of the predominantly German town of Kattowitz / Katowice on September 4 in 1939 are similarly controversial. Reports of the German Wehrmacht depicted the occupation as one almost without any fighting and meeting with an enthusiastic reception by the German Upper Silesians. On the Polish side, however, there emerged a heroic saga – by now challenged in Poland as well – about boy scouts who had fought the Germans and, in the end, had been thrown down the parachutists’ tower in the Kościuszko-Park by local Germans.[44]

As different as German and Jews were in their demographic and political qualities, in interwar Poland they were considered immediate enemies (together with the Ukrainians) of the newly emerged Polish nation state (more on this in Agnieszka Pufelska’s article).[45] All Polish parties except the left were hostile to minorities because they – albeit each under its own flag – ultimately sought to establish an imperial entity under the label of a nation state. The Germans were one of the partitioning powers, they were the enemy in conflicts in 1918/21, they displayed a revisionist attitude during the Weimar Republic, and they, once again, confirmed these characteristic traits in 1939. The Jews fitted well into the old religious-economic-political enemy pattern that also fed anti-Semitism elsewhere, and they were wrongly equated with the genuine German and Soviet enemies Poland had. Essentially, the strong Polish right wanted to get rid of everybody who was not or did not want to become a Catholic and a Pole. Their goal of national homogenization – nearly achieved after 1945 – was without doubt evident even before 1939.

 

Endnotes

[1] Kotowski, Albert, Polska Polityka narodowościowa wobec mniejszości niemieckiej w latach 1919–1939 [The Polish Nationalities Policy Towards the German Minority in the Years 1919-1939], Toruń 2002, pp. 77-79 as well as: von Jena, Kai, Polnische Ostpolitik nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, Stuttgart 1980. The terms “Piast” and “Jagiellionian”, are based on Poland’s territories under the Piast (10th–12th century) and the Jagiellonian dynasties (14th–16th century).

[2]The 14 points of US President Woodrow Wilson’s message to the US Congress, January 8, 1918.

[3] Jilek, Grit, Nation ohne Territorium, Baden-Baden 2013, pp. 94-145.

[4] Keil, Martha, “‘Jüdische’ Kleidung zwischen Selbstrepräsentation und Zwangskennzeichnung”, in: Handbuch Jüdische Kulturgeschichte, Salzburg 2008.

[5] Struve, Kai, Bauern und Nation in Galizien. Über Zugehörigkeit und soziale Emanzipation im 19. Jahrhundert, Göttingen 2005.

[6] Weeks, Theodore R., From Assimilation to Antisemitism. The ‘Jewish Question in Poland, 1850–1914, DeKalb (Ill.) 2006.

[8] Golczewski, Frank, “Eine Gegenprobe zur Vierteilung?”, in: Der Westpreuße 72.5, 2020, pp. 19-23.

[9] Benow, Josef, Der Lemberger Judenpogrom. (November 1918–Jänner 1919), Vienna 1919; Chasanowitsch, Leon, Die polnischen Judenpogrome im November und Dezember 1918. Tatsachen und Dokumente, Stockholm 1919 and Taubert, Wilhelm; Wronker, Hermann, Für die Opfer der drei Lemberger Blutnächte. Aus der Leidensgeschichte der der Lemberger Juden, Frankfurt a. M. 1919 as well as Gewürz, Salomon, Lemberg. Eine kritische Beleuchtung des Judenpogroms vom 21. Bis 23. November 1918, Berlin 1919. See also N.N., “A Record of Pogroms in Poland”, in: New York Times, 01.06.1919, p. 43.

[10] Schuster, Frank M., Zwischen allen Fronten. Osteuropäische Juden während des Ersten Weltkrieges, Cologne 2004. Lohr, Eric, “The Russian Army and the Jews: Mass Deportation, Hostages, and Violence during World War I”, in: The Russian Review 60, 2001, pp. 404-419.

[11] The commissions confirmed the pogroms but tried to paint a rather positive picture. For the original texts see: “Mission of The United States to Poland: Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Report (1919)”, 3.10.1919. Printed again in: Morgenthau, Henry jr., All in a Life-Time, Garden City (NY) 1922, pp. 348-384. Jadwin, Edgar, Homer H. Johnson, Mission of The United States to Poland: Jadwin and Johnson Report, 31.10.1919.

[12] The texts are available here: Treaties of the Paris Peace Conference including Minority Rights Treaties; A German Copy of the Polish Minority Rights Treaty and in addition, a facsimile of the Polish treaty.

[13] Order of the 1st staff division of the Polish War Department, August 6, 1920, printed in the anti-Semitic pamphlet Mścisławski, Tadeusz, Wojsko polskie a żydzi [The Polish Military and the Jews], Warsaw 1923, pp. 27f. Cf. also Henschel, Christhardt, “Jablonna als Erinnerungsikone”, in: Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts 9, 2010, pp. 545-571. And Henschel, Christhardt, “Jabłonna”, in: Enzyklopädie jüdischer Geschichte und Kultur, vol. 3, Stuttgart, Weimar 2012, pp. 157-159.

[14] Trzeciak, Stanisław, Talmud, bolszewizm i ‘Projekt prawa małżeńskiego w Polsce’ [The Talmud, Bolshevism and the ‘Project of a Marriage Law in Poland’], Warsaw 1932. And Trzeciak, Stanisław, Program światowej polityki żydowskiej [The World Program of Jewish Politics], Warsaw 1936.

[15] Cf. on the general issue: Modras, Ronald, The Catholic Church and Antisemitism. Poland, 1933–1939, London, New York, 3rd ed. 2004 (1st ed. 1994), also Kraków 2004.

[16] A description of Piwowarczyk’s views: Synowiec, Andrzej, “Problem tzw. kwestii żydowskiej w Polsce w publicystyce ks. Jana Piwowarczyka: wybrane aspekty” [The Problem of the so-called Jewish Question in Poland in the Publishing of the Priest Jan Piwowarczyk: Selected Aspects], in: Rocznik Historii Prasy Polskiej 9.1, 2006, pp. 19-45.

[17] Pałka, Damian, Kościół katolicki wobec Żydów w Polsce międzywojennej [The attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Jews in interwar Poland], Krakow 2006.

[18] Golczewski, Frank, “The Problem of Sunday Rest in Interwar Poland”, in: Gutman, Yisrael et al. (Ed.), The Jews of Poland between two Wars, Hannover (NH) 1989, pp. 158-172.

[19] Reinharz, Jehuda, Yaacov Shavit, The Road to September 1939. Polish Jews, Zionists, and the Yishuv on the eve of World War II, Waltham MA 2019; Gitelman, Zvi, The Emergence of Modern Jewish Politics: Bundism and Zionism in Eastern Europe, Pittsburgh (PA) 2003.

[20] Weiser, Kalman, Jewish People, Yiddish Nation. Noah Prylucki and the Folkists in Poland, Toronto 2011.

[21] Pickhan, Gertrud, ‚Gegen den Strom‘. Der Allgemeine Jüdische Arbeiterbund Bund in Polen 1918–1939, Stuttgart 2001 (polish edition: Pod prąd. Powszechny Żydowski Związek Robotniczym Bund w Polsce w latach 1918–1939, Warsaw 2017).

[22] Landau-Czajka, Anna, Syn będzie Lech… Asymilacja Żydów w Polsce międzywojennej [The son will be called Lech... The Assimilation of Jews in Poland in the Interwar Period], Warsaw 2006.

[23] Melzer, Emanuel, No Way Out. The Politics of Polish Jewry 1935–1939, Cincinnati (Ohio) 1997.

[24] Golczewski, Frank, Polnisch-jüdische Beziehungen 1881–1922, Wiesbaden 1981, pp. 334-351.

[25] Kotowski 2002, p. 113.

[26] Srebrakowski, Aleksander, “Sprawa Wacławskiego. Przyczynek do historii relacji polsko-żydowskich na Uniwersytecie Stefana Batorego w Wilnie” [The Case Wacławski. A Contribution to the History of Polish-Jewish Relations at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius], Przegląd Wschodni 9.3, 2004, pp. 575-601.

[27] Graboń, Agnieszka, Problematyka żydowska na łamach prasy akademickiej w okresie międzywojennym [The Jewish Problem in the Columns of the Academic Press in the Interwar Period], Krakow 2008; Natkowska, Monika, Numerus clausus, getto ławkowe, numerus nullus, paragraf aryjski”. Antysemityzm na Uniwersytecie warszawskim 1931–1939 [Numerus clausus, ghetto benches, “Aryan paragraph”: Anti-Semitism at Warsaw University 1931–1939], Warsaw 1999.

[28] “Przemówienie premiera Generała Sławoj-Składkowskiego” [The First Speech of General Sławoj-Składkowski], in: Nasz Przegląd, 14.1.1937, pp. 5-6.

[29] Sprawozdanie stenograficzne z 26 posiedzenia Sejmu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z dn. 4 czerwca 1936 r., okres IV, łam 7. Cf. Adamczyk, Arkadiusz, “Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski i Bogusław Miedziński wobec kwestii żydowskiej w ostatnich latach II Rzeczypospolitej” [The Attitude of Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski and Bogusław Miedziński vis-à-vis the Jewish question in the last years of the Second Republic], in: Acta Universitatis Lodziensis, Folia Historica 66, 1999, pp. 159-178, here pp. 163-166.

[30] This is the explanation of: Chodakiewicz, Marek Jan, Żydzi i Polacy [Jews and Poles], Warsaw 2000, p. 42.

[31] Śleszyński, Wojciech, Zajścia antyżydowskie w Brześciu nad Bugiem 13 V 1937 r. [Anti-Jewish incidents in Brest on the Bug, May 13th, 1937], Białystok 2004. Żyndul, Jolanta, Zajścia antyżydowskie w Polsce w latach 1935–1937 [Anti-Jewish Incidents in Poland in the Years of 1935–1937], Warsaw 1994.

[32] Bojarski, Jude, “Moje Grodno” [My Grodno], in: Jasiewicz, Krzysztof (Ed.), Europa nieprowincjonalna [Non-Provincial Europe], Warsaw 1999, pp. 235-236.

[33] Chodakiewicz, Marek Jan, Ciemnogród? O Prawicy i Lewicy [Dark Borough? On Right and Left], Warsaw 1996; Gontarczyk, Piotr, Pogrom? Zajścia polsko-żydowskie w Przytyku 9 marca 1936 r. [Pogrom? The Polish-Jewish Incidents in Przytyk on March 9th, 1936], Biała Podlaska, Pruszków 2000.

[34] Kotowski 2002, pp. 195-196.

[35] The inconsistent basis of the census, the different categories (nationality in 1921, mother tongue in 1931) and allegations of partial irregularities make the numbers seem vague. Cf. Lakeberg, Beata, Die deutsche Minderheitenpresse in Polen 1918–1939 und ihr Polen- und Judenbild, Frankfurt a. M. et al. 2010, pp. 36-40.

[36] For a comprehensive presentation, except Kotowski 2002, see also: Kretinin, Sergej, Nemcy v Pol’še 1918–1939 [Germans in Poland, 1918–1939], Tambov 2019; Matelski, Dariusz, Niemcy w II Rzeczypospolitej (1918–1939) [The Germans in the Second Republic (1918–1939)], Toruń 2018. Wynot, Edward D., “The Polish Germans 1919–1939”, in: The Polish Review 17, 1972, pp. 23-64.

[37] Machetta-Madajczyk, Petra, Klassenkampf oder Nation? Deutsche Sozialdemokratie in Polen 1918–1939, Düsseldorf 1997.

[38] Graf, Philipp, Die Bernheim-Petition 1933. Jüdische Politik in der Zwischenkriegszeit, Göttingen 2008.

[39] Kotowski 2002, p. 116, p. 132, p. 192.

[40]German-Polish Agreement on Upper-Silesia of May 15, 1922, in: Reichsgesetzblatt Teil II, 1922, p. 238; German-Polish Declaration of Non-Aggression of January 26th, 1934.

[41] Kosmala, Beate, “Lodzer Juden und Deutsche im Jahr 1933. Die Rezeption der nationalsozialistischen Machtübernahmein Deutschland und ihre Wirkung auf das Verhältnis von jüdischer und deutscher Minderheit”, in: Hensel, Jürgen (Ed.), Polen, Deutsche und Juden in Lodz 1820–1939, Osnabrück 1999, pp. 237-248.

[42] Kotowski 2002, p. 238.

[43] The representations of both sides followed the propaganda constructs for a long time: cf. Dwinger, Edwin Erich, Der Tod in Polen. Die volksdeutsche Passion, Jena 1940; Serwański, Edward, Dywersja niemiecka i zbrodnie hitlerowskie w Bydgoszczy na tle wydarzeń w d. 3. IX. 1939 r. [German Diversion and Nazi Crimes in Bydgoszcz against the Background of the Incidents of September, the 3rd, 1939], 2nd ed. Poznań 1984. Cf. Jastrzębski, Włodzimierz, Mniejszość niemiecka w Polsce we wrześniu 1939 roku [The German Minority in Poland in the September of 1939], Toruń 2010, p. 97-167, (German edition: Die deutsche Minderheit in Polen im September 1939, Münster 2012). Jochen Böhler has quite correctly seen a “franctireur delusion” on both sides lead up to the events. See also Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg: Die Wehrmacht in Polen 1939, Frankfurt a. M. 2006.

[44] Gołba, Kazimierz, Wieża spadochronowa. Harcerze śląscy we wrześniu 1939 [The Parachute Tower. Silesian Scouts in September 39], Katowice 1957. in contrast: Bębnik, Grzegorz, Katowice we wrześniu ’39 [Kattowitz in September 39], Katowice 2006.

[45] Even though Polish historians and politicians never seemed to get tired of characterizing the state of 1918 as a continuation of the one of 1795, this claim is as ill-founded as the 1991 reference of the Baltic States by the authoritarian pre-war states. The Polish-Lithuanian state was a nobleman’s republic that was a-national, whereas the interwar Polish Republic claimed to be a nation state and restricted its minorities wherever it could.

 

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Digital Sources

[all sources have been accessed on January 21st, 2021]

The 14 points of US President Woodrow Wilson’s message to the US Congress, January 8, 1918. (German)

“Mission of The United States to Poland: Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Report (1919)”, 3.10.1919

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Lemberg Pogrom

Benow, Josef, Der Lemberger Judenpogrom. (November 1918–Jänner 1919), Vienna 1919.

Chasanowitsch, Leon, Die polnischen Judenpogrome im November und Dezember 1918. Tatsachen und Dokumente, Stockholm 1919.

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Taubert, Wilhelm; Wronker, Hermann, Für die Opfer der drei Lemberger Blutnächte. Aus der Leidensgeschichte der der Lemberger Juden, Frankfurt a. M. 1919.

 

Minority Treaties

A synopsis of the minority treaties, signed together with the Paris Peace Treaties (in German and the Original French)

The minority treaty between the Allies and Poland at the topical dossier “European History” (in German)

The minority treaty between the Allies and Poland (facsimile in Polish and English)

 

Poland During the First World War on the pages of the "International Encyclopedia of the First World War. 1914–1918-online"

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/regions/Poland]

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/poland]

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/polish_war_myths_east_central_europe]

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/post-war_military_action_and_violence_east_central_europe]

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/dmowski_roman]

[https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/pisudski_jozef]

 

Polish Jewry

Jewish Galicia and Bukovina Organization (JGB)

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Germans and German Culture in Poland

Poland, in: Onlinelexikon zur Kultur und Geschichte der Deutschen im östlichen Europa (German)

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Kommission für die Geschichte der Deutschen in Polen e.V. (German)

Nordost-Institute at the University of Hamburg (IKGN e.V.)

 

German-Polish Treaties

German-Polish Agreement on Upper-Silesia of May 15, 1922, in: Reichsgesetzblatt Teil II, 1922, p. 238. (French / German)

German-Polish Declaration of Non-Aggression of January 26th, 1934. (German)

Author

Prof. Dr Frank Golczewski 

Published on 10 February 2022