German minority in Poland
Overview
 
The registered German minority in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

consists of 152,900 people, according to a 2002 census.

The German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship
Opole Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Opole Voivodeship is divided into 12 counties : 1 city county and 11 land counties. These are further divided into 71 gminas.The counties are listed in the following table .- Economy :...

 (German: Oppeln), where most of the minority resides. The German minority electoral list currently has one seat in the Polish parliament (Sejm
Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

) benefiting from the provision in the current Polish Election Law which allows national minorities to be exempt from the 5 per cent national threshold (there were four from 1993 to 1997).

There are 325 Polish schools that use the German language as the first language of instruction, with over 37,000 students attending them.
Encyclopedia
The registered German minority in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

consists of 152,900 people, according to a 2002 census.

The German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship
Opole Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Opole Voivodeship is divided into 12 counties : 1 city county and 11 land counties. These are further divided into 71 gminas.The counties are listed in the following table .- Economy :...

 (German: Oppeln), where most of the minority resides. The German minority electoral list currently has one seat in the Polish parliament (Sejm
Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

) benefiting from the provision in the current Polish Election Law which allows national minorities to be exempt from the 5 per cent national threshold (there were four from 1993 to 1997).

There are 325 Polish schools that use the German language as the first language of instruction, with over 37,000 students attending them. Most members of the German minority are Roman Catholic and only some of them are Protestants (the Evangelical-Augsburg Church
Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland , the largest Protestant body in Poland, is rooted in the Reformation. The first Lutheran sermons were held in 1518, and in 1523 the first Lutheran dean, Johann Heß, was called to the city of Breslau, whence Lutheranism was spread into the...

). A number of German language newspapers and magazines are issued in Poland.

Statistical data

Most of the Germans in Poland (92.9%) live in Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

: 104,399 in the Opole Voivodeship
Opole Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Opole Voivodeship is divided into 12 counties : 1 city county and 11 land counties. These are further divided into 71 gminas.The counties are listed in the following table .- Economy :...

, i.e. 71.0% of all Germans in Poland and a share of 9.9% of the local population; 30,531 in the Silesian Voivodeship
Silesian Voivodeship
Silesian Voivodeship, or Silesia Province , is a voivodeship, or province, in southern Poland, centering on the historic region known as Upper Silesia...

, i.e. 20.8% of all Germans in Poland and 0.6% of the local population; plus 1,792 in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship
Lower Silesian Voivodeship
Lower Silesian Voivodeship, or Lower Silesia Province , is one of the 16 voivodeships into which Poland is currently divided. It lies in southwestern Poland...

, i.e. 1.2% of all Germans in Poland, though only 0.06% of the local population. A second region with a notable German minority is Masuria
Masuria
Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

, with 4,311 living in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

, corresponding to 2.9% of all Germans in Poland, and 0.3% of the local population.

Towns with particularly high concentrations of German speakers in Opole Voivodeship
Opole Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Opole Voivodeship is divided into 12 counties : 1 city county and 11 land counties. These are further divided into 71 gminas.The counties are listed in the following table .- Economy :...

 include: Strzelce Opolskie
Strzelce Opolskie
Strzelce Opolskie is a town in south-western Poland with 19,628 inhabitants , situated in the Opole Voivodeship. It is the capital of Strzelce County. Strzelce Opolskie is one of the biggest centers of German minority in Poland....

; Dobrodzien
Dobrodzien
Dobrodzień is a town in Olesno County, Opole Voivodeship, Poland, with 4,168 inhabitants .Both names in Polish and German mean "Good day". The name Guttentag is an archaic variant of standard German Guten Tag...

; Prudnik
Prudnik
Prudnik is a town in Poland, located in the southern part of Opole Voivodeship. Its population numbers 26,400 inhabitants . It is the capital of Prudnik County.- Education :* * * II Liceum Ogólnokształcące w Prudniku...

; Glogowek
Glogówek
Głogówek is a city in Poland located in Opole Voivodeship in Upper Silesia. The city lies approximately 35 km from Opole, the capital of the voivodeship, and is about 10 km from the Czech border...

; and Gogolin
Gogolin
Gogolin is a town in Poland, in Opole Voivodeship, in Krapkowice County. It has 6,116 inhabitants .-External links:*...

.

In the remaining 12 voivodeship
Voivodeship
Voivodship is a term denoting the position of, or more commonly the area administered by, a voivod. Voivodeships have existed since medieval times in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Serbia....

s of Poland, the percentage of Germans in the population lies between just 0.007-0.092%:
Region Population German % German
Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

38,557,984 147,094 0.381
Opole Voivodeship
Opole Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Opole Voivodeship is divided into 12 counties : 1 city county and 11 land counties. These are further divided into 71 gminas.The counties are listed in the following table .- Economy :...

 
1,055,667 104,399 9.889
Silesian Voivodeship
Silesian Voivodeship
Silesian Voivodeship, or Silesia Province , is a voivodeship, or province, in southern Poland, centering on the historic region known as Upper Silesia...

 
4,830,000 30,531 0.632
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

 
1,428,552 4,311 0.302
Pomeranian Voivodeship
Pomeranian Voivodeship
Pomeranian Voivodeship, or Pomerania Province , is a voivodeship, or province, in north-central Poland. It comprises most of Pomerelia , as well as an area east of the Vistula River...

2,192,000 2,016 0.092
Lower Silesian Voivodeship
Lower Silesian Voivodeship
Lower Silesian Voivodeship, or Lower Silesia Province , is one of the 16 voivodeships into which Poland is currently divided. It lies in southwestern Poland...

2,898,000 1,792 0.062
West Pomeranian Voivodeship
West Pomeranian Voivodeship
West Pomeranian Voivodeship, , is a voivodeship in northwestern Poland. It borders on Pomeranian Voivodeship to the east, Greater Poland Voivodeship to the southeast, Lubusz Voivodeship to the south, the German federal-state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania to the west, and the Baltic Sea to the north...

1,694,865 1,014 0.060
Greater Poland Voivodeship
Greater Poland Voivodeship
Wielkopolska Voivodeship , or Greater Poland Voivodeship, is a voivodeship, or province, in west-central Poland. It was created on 1 January 1999 out of the former Poznań, Kalisz, Konin, Piła and Leszno Voivodeships, pursuant to the Polish local government reforms adopted in 1998...

3,365,283 820 0.024
Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship
Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship
-Transportation:Transportation infrastructure is of critical importance to the voivodeship's economy. Kuyavia-Pomerania is a major node point in the Polish transportation system. Railway lines from the South and East pass through Bydgoszcz in order to reach the major ports on the Baltic Sea...

2,068,142 636 0.031
Lubusz Voivodeship
Lubusz Voivodeship
- Administrative division :Lubusz Voivodeship is divided into 14 counties : 2 city counties and 12 land counties. These are further divided into 83 gminas....

1,009,005 513 0.051
Masovian Voivodeship
Masovian Voivodeship
-Administrative division:Masovian Voivodeship is divided into 42 counties : 5 city counties and 37 "land counties"...

5,136,000 351 0.007
Łódź Voivodeship 2,597,000 263 0.010

History of Germans in Poland

German migration into the area of modern Poland began with the medieval Ostsiedlung
Ostsiedlung
Ostsiedlung , also called German eastward expansion, was the medieval eastward migration and settlement of Germans from modern day western and central Germany into less-populated regions and countries of eastern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The affected area roughly stretched from Slovenia...

 (see also:Walddeutsche
Walddeutsche
Walddeutsche Germans , sometimes simply called Polish Germans, the name for a group of people, mostly of German origin, who settled during the 14th-17th century on the territory of present-day Sanockie Pits, Poland, a region which was previously only sparsely inhabited because the land was...

). The historical regions
Polish historical regions
Polish historic regions are regions that were related to a former Polish state, or are within present-day Poland without being identified in its administrative division....

 of Lower Silesia
Lower Silesia
Lower Silesia ; is the northwestern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia; Upper Silesia is to the southeast.Throughout its history Lower Silesia has been under the control of the medieval Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy from 1526...

, East Brandenburg, Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 were nearly completely German-settled by the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

, while in the other areas there were substantial German populations, most notably in the historical regions of Pomerelia
Pomerelia
Pomerelia is a historical region in northern Poland. Pomerelia lay in eastern Pomerania: on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea and west of the Vistula and its delta. The area centered on the city of Gdańsk at the mouth of the Vistula...

, Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

, and Posen
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

 or Greater Poland
Greater Poland
Greater Poland or Great Poland, often known by its Polish name Wielkopolska is a historical region of west-central Poland. Its chief city is Poznań.The boundaries of Greater Poland have varied somewhat throughout history...

. Lutheran Germans settled numerous "Olęder
Oledrzy
Olędrzy is a Polish term used to describe persons, often of Dutch or German origin or ancestry, who lived in settlements in Poland organized under a particular type of law....

" villages along the Vistula River and its tributaries during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In the 19th century, Germans were actively involved in developing the cloth making industry in what is now central Poland. Over 3,000 villages / towns within Russian Poland are noted to have had German residents. Many of these Germans remained east of the Curzon line
Curzon Line
The Curzon Line was put forward by the Allied Supreme Council after World War I as a demarcation line between the Second Polish Republic and Bolshevik Russia and was supposed to serve as the basis for a future border. In the wake of World War I, which catalysed the Russian Revolution of 1917, the...

 after World War I, including a significant number in Volhynia
Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

. In the late 19th century, some Germans moved westward during the Ostflucht
Ostflucht
The Ostflucht was a movement by residents of the former eastern territories of Germany, such as East Prussia, West Prussia, Silesia and Province of Posen beginning around 1850, to the more industrialized western German Rhine and Ruhr provinces...

, while others were settled in Central Poland by a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n Settlement Commission
Settlement Commission
The Prussian Settlement Commission was a Prussian government commission that operated between 1886 and 1924, but actively only until 1918. It was set up by Otto von Bismarck to increase land ownership by Germans at the expense of Poles, by economic and political means, in the German Empire's...

. After the creation of the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

, large numbers of Germans were forced to leave, especially in the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 area.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Germans from other areas of Eastern Europe
History of German settlement in Eastern Europe
The presence of German-speaking populations in Central and Eastern Europe is rooted in centuries of history, with the settling in northeastern Europe of Germanic peoples predating even the founding of the Roman Empire...

 were settled in (the pre-war area of) Poland by the Nazis, who at the same time expelled, enslaved and killed Poles
Expulsion of Poles by Germany
The Expulsion of Poles by Germany was a prolonged anti-Polish campaign of ethnic cleansing by violent and terror-inspiring means lasting nearly a century. It began with the concept of Pan-Germanism developed in early 19th century and continued in the racial policy of Nazi Germany asserting the...

 and Jews
Operation Reinhard
Operation Reinhard was the code name given to the Nazi plan to murder Polish Jews in the General Government, and marked the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, the use of extermination camps...

.

With the Nazis' defeat and Poland's shift west between the Oder Neisse and Curzon line
Curzon Line
The Curzon Line was put forward by the Allied Supreme Council after World War I as a demarcation line between the Second Polish Republic and Bolshevik Russia and was supposed to serve as the basis for a future border. In the wake of World War I, which catalysed the Russian Revolution of 1917, the...

s, the Germans who had not fled were expelled or even killed
Flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland during and after World War II
The flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland was the largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II...

. In the regions of pre-war Germany proper, Germans had formed up until then the vast majority of the population. After the expulsion from 1945 onward they were reduced to a small minortiy. A different case is Upper Silesia, where the population was more mixed and some Germans were allowed to stay. A possible demonstration of the ambiguity of the Polish German minority position can be seen in the life and career of Waldemar Kraft
Waldemar Kraft
Waldemar Kraft was a German politician who served as Federal Minister for Special Affairs in the Cabinet of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer from 1953 to 1956...

, a Minister without Portfolio in the West German Bundestag
Bundestag
The Bundestag is a federal legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag is established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier...

 during the 1950s. However, parts of the German minority were not as involved in the Nazi system as Kraft was.

The vast majority of the ethnic Germans east of the Oder-Neisse line were Protestants and were forced out, but a significant minority in Silesia were Roman Catholic, even speaking a partly Slavic dialect called Wasserpolak
Wasserpolak
Wasserpolak was the name used for people living in Upper Silesia who spoke Silesian . German equivalent is Wasserpolnisch, Czech Wasserpolák or Vasrpolák....

, and the Poles generally allowed them to stay if they wished. Of those who remained, many later chose to emigrate to post-war West Germany
German exodus from Eastern Europe
The German exodus from Eastern Europe describes the dramatic reduction of ethnic German populations in lands to the east of present-day Germany and Austria. The exodus began in the aftermath of World War I and was implicated in the rise of Nazism. It culminated in expulsions of Germans from...

, fleeing Communist rule. With the downfall of the Communist regime, the German minorities' political situation improved. Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 are now allowed to acquire land and property in the areas where they, or their ancestors, used to live, and to move there.

There is no clear-cut border between the German and some other minorities, who in some aspects have a similar heritage due to centuries of assimilation, Germanisation
Germanisation
Germanisation is both the spread of the German language, people and culture either by force or assimilation, and the adaptation of a foreign word to the German language in linguistics, much like the Romanisation of many languages which do not use the Latin alphabet...

 and intermarriage, but in other aspects have a different heritage due to either ancient regional West Slavic
West Slavs
The West Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking West Slavic languages. They include Poles , Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatian Sorbs and the historical Polabians. The northern or Lechitic group includes, along with Polish, the extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages...

 roots or Polonisation. Examples for these minorities are the so-called Slovincians (Lebakaschuben), the Masurians or the Silesians
Silesians
Silesians , are the inhabitants of Silesia in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. A small diaspora community also exists in Karnes County, Texas in the USA....

 of Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

. While in the past these people have been claimed for both the Polish and the German ethnicity, it depends on their self-perception which group(s) they choose to belong to.

German media in Poland

  • Schlesisches Wochenblatt
    Schlesisches Wochenblatt
    The Wochenblatt.pl - until january 2011 "Schlesisches Wochenblatt" - is a German newspaper published weekly in Opole, Poland, with a circulation of 6,500....

  • Polen-Rundschau
    Polen-Rundschau
    polen-rundschau is the first and only German language newspaper published countrywide in Poland since the Second World War. It has been published from the Polish capital Warsaw monthly since April 2004. It is printed in colour on twelve to 16 pages, in tabloid format. The paper is not under the...

  • Schlesien Aktuell - German-speaking radio station from Opole
  • Radio Polonia (broadcasting in German for half an hour a day)
  • Polen am Morgen - Online-newspaper, published daily since 1998

See also

  • Waldemar Kraft
    Waldemar Kraft
    Waldemar Kraft was a German politician who served as Federal Minister for Special Affairs in the Cabinet of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer from 1953 to 1956...

  • Bilingual communes in Poland
    Bilingual communes in Poland
    The bilingual status of gminas in Poland is regulated by the Act of 6 January 2005 on National and Ethnic Minorities and on the Regional Languages, which permits certain gminas with significant linguistic minorities to introduce a second, auxiliary language to be used in official contexts...

  • German Minority (political party)
    German Minority (political party)
    German Minority is a political party of the German minority in Poland, in the mainly Polish part of Silesia. It is the political arm of the Social-Cultural Association of Germans in Silesian Opole and Social-Cultural Association of Germans in Silesian Voivodeship German Minority is a political...

  • Germans in the Czech Republic
    Germans in the Czech Republic
    There are various communities of Germans in the Czech Republic . In the 2001 census, 39,106 Czech citizens, or around 0.4% of the Czech Republic's total population, declared German ethnicity. Government statistics also showed 14,157 German citizens living in the CR .-Migration history:Ethnic...

  • Polish minority in Germany
  • Olędrzy
    Oledrzy
    Olędrzy is a Polish term used to describe persons, often of Dutch or German origin or ancestry, who lived in settlements in Poland organized under a particular type of law....

  • Vistula Germans in Russian Poland
    History of Germans in Russia and the Soviet Union
    The German minority in Russia and the Soviet Union was created from several sources and in several waves. The 1914 census puts the number of Germans living in Russian Empire at 2,416,290. In 1989, the German population of the Soviet Union was roughly 2 million. In the 2002 Russian census, 597,212...

  • Bambrzy
    Bambrzy
    Bambrzy are Poles who are partly descended from Germans who moved from the area of Bamberg to villages surrounding Poznań, Poland...

  • SGGEE German history and genealogy in Russian Poland; includes map of German settlements in Russian Poland as referenced above.

Further reading

  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: Die deutschen Vertriebenen. Graz, 2006. ISBN 3-902475-15-3.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: Heimatrecht ist Menschenrecht. München, 2001.ISBN 3-8004-1416-3.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: A terrible Revenge. New York, 1994. ISBN 1-4039-7308-3.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: Nemesis at Potsdam. London, 1977. ISBN 0-8032-4910-1.
  • de Zayas, Alfred M.: 50 Thesen zur Vertreibung. München, 2008. ISBN 978-3-9812110-0-9.
  • Kleineberg A., Marx, Ch., Knobloch E., Lelgemann D.: Germania und die Insel Thule. Die Entschlüsselung vo Ptolemaios: "Atlas der Oikumene". Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2010.
  • Naimark, Norman: Fires of Hatred. Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe. Cambridge Harvard Press, 2001.
  • Prauser, Steffen and Rees, Arfon: The Expulsion of the "German" Communities from Eastern Europe at the End of the Second World War. Florence,Italy, European University Institute, 2004.
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