Silesian Uprisings

Last updated
Silesian Uprisings
Part of the aftermath of World War I
Polish Silesia insurgents.PNG
Silesian insurgents
DateAugust 1919 – July 1921
Result Territory divided according to German–Polish Convention regarding Upper Silesia

Polish insurgents

Supported by:
Flag of Poland (1919-1928).svg  Second Polish Republic
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Weimar Republic

Polish armored car Korfanty in 1920 made by Polish fighters in Wozniak foundry. It was one of the two created, the second was named Walerus - Wozniak. Armoured Car Korfanty 1920.jpg
Polish armored car Korfanty in 1920 made by Polish fighters in Woźniak foundry. It was one of the two created, the second was named Walerus – Woźniak.

The Silesian Uprisings (German: Aufstände in Oberschlesien, Polenaufstände; Polish: Powstania śląskie) were a series of three uprisings from August 1919 to July 1921 in Upper Silesia, which was part of the Weimar Republic at the time. Ethnic Polish and Polish-Silesian insurrectionists, seeking to have the area transferred to the newly founded Polish Republic, fought German police and paramilitary forces which sought to keep the area part of the new German state founded after World War I. Following the conflict, the area was divided between the two countries. The rebellions have subsequently been commemorated in modern Poland as an example of Polish nationalism.



Wojciech Korfanty organized the Third Polish Silesian Uprising in Upper Silesia. Wojciech Korfanty.PNG
Wojciech Korfanty organized the Third Polish Silesian Uprising in Upper Silesia.

Much of Silesia had belonged to the Crown of Polish Kingdom in medieval times, but it passed to the Kings of Bohemia in the 14th century and, following this, to the Austrian Habsburgs. Frederick the Great of Prussia seized Silesia from Maria Theresa of Austria in 1742 in the War of Austrian Succession, after which it became a part of Prussia [2] and subsequently, in 1871, the German Empire. Although the province of Silesia overall had by then become overwhelmingly German-speaking (mainly Lower Silesia), but Poles constituted a majority in Upper Silesia. [3] [4] [5]

Mineral resources

Upper Silesia was bountiful in mineral resources and heavy industry, with mines, iron and steel mills. The Silesian mines were responsible for almost a quarter of Germany's annual output of coal, 81 percent of its zinc and 34 percent of its lead. [6] After World War I, during the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles, the German government claimed that, without Upper Silesia, it would not be able to fulfill its obligations with regard to reparations to the Allies.[ citation needed ]

Demographics in the early 20th century

The area in Upper Silesia east of the Oder was dominated by ethnic Poles, most of whom were working class. Most spoke a dialect of Polish, a few felt they were a Slavic group of their own called Silesians. [2] In contrast, most of the local middle and upper classes were ethnic Germans, including the landowners, businessmen, factory owners, local government, police, and Catholic clergy. [2] The population of Upper Silesia was overwhelmingly Catholic with 92% of the people being Roman Catholic. [7] Most of the 8% of Upper Silesians who were Protestant tended to be Germans, but the linguistic and ethnic divide between Catholic Germans and Poles tended to subsume their shared religion. [7]

In the German census of 1900, 65% of the population of the eastern part of Silesia was recorded as Polish-speaking, which decreased to 57% in 1910. [2] This was partly a result of forced Germanization, [8] but was also due to the creation of a bilingual category, which reduced the number of Polish speakers. [2] American Paul Weber drew up a language map that showed that in 1910, in most of the Upper Silesian districts east of the Oder river, Polish-speaking Silesians constituted a majority, forming more than 70% of the population there. [2]

While still under German control, various Poles identified as Silesians would write, publish, distribute pamphlets, newsletters and other written material, promoting the idea of a Polish-Silesian Identity. Included among the statements within these texts was adherence to the Roman Catholic church. One such publisher was Ignacy Bulla (later changed to Buła in celebration), who would spread information related to these principles at risk to his own life and freedom. He is widely credited with having inspired the Polish-Silesian patriotic feelings that inspired the uprisings. His contribution to bringing Silesia back into the Roman Catholic Church was the subject of at least one dissertation presented by a Seminary student.

The First World War

As a frontier area, Upper Silesia was placed under martial law in August 1914 and remained so for rest of the war. [9] The German military administrators distrusted the Poles, taking the viewpoint that as Slavs, they were naturally sympathetic towards the Russians, and governed Upper Silesia in a very high-handed and harsh manner. [9] The First World War was a period in Upper Silesia of collapsing living standards as wages failed to keep up with inflation; almost everyone suffered from shortages of food and working hours were increased in the mines and factories. [10] The ultra-nationalist climate produced by the Burgfrieden ("the peace-within-the-caste-under-siege") with the call for all Germans to rally behind the Kaiser in the war effort led to members of Germany's Polish minority to feel more excluded and marginalized than before 1914. The subject of an independent Polish state was first raised by the Germans and Austrians who in 1916 created a puppet Polish state on the territory of Congress Poland. [9] The way in which the Allies promoted the promise of an independent Poland after the war, most notably in the 14 Points issued by the American president Woodrow Wilson led to hopes within the Polish community within the Reich that Poland might be reborn again after an Allied victory. During the First World War, about 56, 000 men from Upper Silesia were killed fighting in the war with the heaviest losses being taken at the Battle of Somme in 1916. [11]

Versailles plebiscite

During the Paris peace conference in 1919, a strong division emerged between the British prime minister David Lloyd George who wanted Upper Silesia to remain within Germany vs. the French Premier Georges Clemenceau who supported the Polish claim to Upper Silesia. [12] The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, had ordered a plebiscite in Upper Silesia, to determine whether the territory should be a part of Germany or Poland. [2] The plebiscite was to be held within two years of the Treaty in the whole of Upper Silesia, although the Polish government had only requested it to be held in the areas east of the Oder river, which had a significant number of Polish speakers. [2] Thus, the plebiscite took place in all of Upper Silesia, including the predominantly Polish-speaking areas in the east and the predominantly German-speaking areas west of the river. [2] The Upper Silesian plebiscite was to be conducted on 20 March 1921. In the meantime, the German administration and police remained in place. [2] The requirement for a referendum in Upper Silesia in the Treaty of Versailles was a compromise to resolve the Anglo-French dispute at the Paris peace conference. [12] In the German city of Posen turned the Polish city of Poznań, an uprising by the city's Polish population in December 1918 had left about 2, 900 people dead, and it was felt preferable to have a plebiscite in Upper Silesia and rather a resort to arms as being the case in Poznań. [12]

Cap badge of the Polish Storm Detachment during Silesian Uprisings Cap badge of the Polish Storm Detachment during Silesian Uprisings.PNG
Cap badge of the Polish Storm Detachment during Silesian Uprisings

Meanwhile, propaganda and strong arm tactics by both sides led to increasing unrest. [2] The German authorities warned that those voting for Poland might forfeit their jobs and pensions. [2] Pro-Polish activists argued that, under Polish rule, Silesian Poles would no longer be discriminated against. Poland also promised to honour their German state social benefits, such as the old age pensions. [2] However, many German Army veterans joined the Freikorps (Free Corps), a paramilitary organization whose troops fought any pro-Polish activists. [2] The pro-Poland side employed the Polish Military Organisation (POW) – a secret military organisation and predecessor of Polish intelligence  – to fight back with the same force. [13]

The majority of the men serving in the para-military forces on both sides were veterans of the First World War and were experienced soldiers, accustomed to fighting and killing. [14] In addition, most of the men serving on the German side had served in the Freikorps ("Free Corps"), units of volunteers raised by the government to fight against the possibility of a Communist revolution. [14] Most of the men serving on the Polish side had previously served in the German military during World War One. [15]

Eventually, the deteriorating situation resulted in Upper Silesian Uprisings conducted by Poles in 1919 and 1920.

The right to vote was granted to all aged 20 and older who either had been born in or lived in the plebiscite area. A result was the mass migration of both Germans and Poles. [16] The German newcomers accounted for 179,910, while Polish newcomers numbered over 10,000. [2] Without these "new voters", the pro-German vote would have had a majority of 58,336 instead of the final 228,246. [2] The plebiscite took place as arranged on 20 March. A total of 707,605 votes were cast for Germany and 479,359 for Poland. [2]

The Third Silesian Uprising conducted by Poles broke out in 1921. The League of Nations was asked to settle the dispute before it led to even more bloodshed. In 1922, a six-week debate decided that Upper Silesia should be divided. This was accepted by both countries, and the majority of Upper Silesians. Approximately 736,000 Poles and 260,000 Germans thus found themselves now in Polish (Upper) Silesia, and 532,000 Poles and 637,000 Germans remained in German (Upper) Silesia.[ citation needed ]


First uprising (1919)

First Silesian Uprising
Date16–26 August 1919
Parts of Upper Silesia
Result German forces crush uprising
Flag of Germany.svg Grenzschutz
Oberschlesisches Freiwilligen-Korps
Flag of Poland.svg Polish Military Organisation
Commanders and leaders
Alfons Zgrzebniok

On 15 August 1919, German border guards (Grenzschutz) massacred ten Silesian civilians in a labour dispute at the Mysłowice mine (Myslowitzer Grube). The massacre sparked protests from the Silesian Polish miners, including a general strike of about 140,000 workers, [17] and caused the First Silesian uprising against German control of Upper Silesia. The miners demanded the local government and police become ethnically mixed to include both Germans and Poles. [2]

About 21,000 Germans soldiers of the Weimar Republic's Provisional National Army (Vorläufige Reichsheer), with about 40,000 troops held in reserve, quickly put down the uprising. The army's reaction was harsh, with 2,500 Poles either hanged or executed by firing squad for their parts in the violence. [ citation needed ] Some 9,000 ethnic Poles sought refuge in the Second Polish Republic, taking along their family members. This came to an end when Allied forces were brought in to restore order, and the refugees were allowed to return later that year.

Second uprising (1920)

Second Silesian Uprising
Date19–25 August 1920
Result Foreign-enforced cease-fire
Flag of Poland.svg Polish Military Organization Flag of Germany.svg German civil government and police of Upper Silesia Allied Plebiscite Commission Military Forces

The Second Silesian Uprising (Polish: Drugie powstanie śląskie) was the second of the three uprisings.

In February 1920, an Allied Plebiscite Commission was sent to Upper Silesia. It was comprised via the representatives of the Allied forces, mostly from France, with smaller contingents from United Kingdom and Italy. [2] Soon, however, it became apparent that the Allied forces were too few to maintain order. Further, the commission was torn apart by lack of consensus: the British and Italians favored the Germans, while the French supported the Poles. [2] Those forces failed to prevent continuing unrest. [2]

In August 1920, a German newspaper in Upper Silesia printed what later turned out to be a false announcement of the fall of Warsaw to the Red Army in the Polish–Soviet War. Pro-German activists spontaneously organised a march to celebrate what they assumed would be the end of independent Poland. The volatile situation quickly degenerated into violence as pro-German demonstrators began looting Polish shops; the violence continued even after it had become clear that Warsaw had not fallen. [2] [18]

On 19 August, the violence eventually led to a Polish uprising which quickly resulted within the occupation of government offices in the districts of Kattowitz (Katowice), Pless (Pszczyna) and Beuthen (Bytom). Between 20 and 25 August, the rebellion spread to Königshütte (Chorzów), Tarnowitz (Tarnowskie Góry), Rybnik, Lublinitz (Lubliniec) and Gross Strehlitz (Strzelce Opolskie). The Allied Commission declared its intention to restore order, but internal differences kept anything from being done; British representatives held the French responsible for the easy spread of the uprising through the eastern region. [19]

The fighting was slowly brought to an end in September, by a combination of allied military operations and negotiations between the parties. The Poles obtained the disbanding of the Sipo police and the creation of a new police ( Abstimmungspolizei ) for the area, which would be 50% Polish. [18] Poles were also admitted to the local administration. The Polish Military Organisation in Upper Silesia was supposed to be disbanded, though in practice this did not happen.

Third uprising (1921)

Third Silesian Uprising
Date2 May – 21 July 1921
Result League of Nations forces a ceasefire.
Flag of Germany.svg Grenzschutz
Flag of Poland.svg Polish Military Organisation
Greater Polish Army
Inter-Allied Commission
Commanders and leaders
Friedrich Wilhelm von Schwartzkoppen
Karl Höfer
Wojciech Korfanty
Maciej Hrabia Mielzynski
Jules Gratier
Filippo Salvioni
William Heneker
Train derailed by the insurgents near Kedzierzyn Wykolejony pociag.jpg
Train derailed by the insurgents near Kędzierzyn
Polish insurgents unit in 1921 Powstancy slascy 1921.jpg
Polish insurgents unit in 1921

The Third Silesian Uprising (Polish : Trzecie powstanie śląskie) was the last, largest and longest of the three uprisings. It included the Battle of Annaberg and began in the aftermath of a plebiscite that yielded mixed results. The British and French governments could not reach a consensus on the interpretation of the plebiscite. [2] The primary problem was the disposition of the "Industrial Triangle" east of the Oder river, whose triangle ends were marked by the cities of Beuthen (Bytom), Gleiwitz (Gliwice) and Kattowitz (Katowice). [2] The French wanted to weaken Germany, and thus supported Polish claims on the territory; the British and the Italians disagreed, in part because the German government declared that a loss of the Silesian industries would render Germany incapable of paying the demanded war reparations. [2] Devising a frontier that was mutually acceptable to both sides proved to be impossible because in many of the contested districts of Upper Silesia, the people in the urban areas tended to vote for staying in Germany while the rural areas voted for going to Poland. [20] Thus, any division would mean that a number of people would end up on the "wrong" side of the frontier. [20]

In late April 1921, rumours spread that the British position would prevail, prompting the local Polish activists to organise an uprising. [2] The insurrection was to begin in early in May. Having learned from previous failures, the Third War was carefully planned and organized under the leadership of Wojciech Korfanty. It started on 2–3 May 1921, with the destruction of German rail bridges (see "Wawelberg Group") in order to slow down the movement of German reinforcements. A particular concern was to prevent the recurrence of violent acts against Polish civilians by members of the Freikorps, demobilised Imperial German army units that had refused to disband. These paramilitary units existed throughout Germany and usually acted independently from both the provisional official army and the leadership of the fledgling German Republic. However, the Reich government subsidized these groups and thus had much leverage over them. [21] The most violent and the most aggressive of the Freikorps units sent into Upper Silesia was the Oberland corps from Bavaria, which seemed to have been the unit most responsible for the atrocities on the German side. [21]

The Inter-Allied Commission, in which General Henri Le Rond was the most influential individual, waited rather long prior to taking any steps to end the violence. [22] The French troops generally favored the insurrection, while within some cases, British and Italian contingents actively cooperated with Germans. [22] UK Prime Minister Lloyd George's speech in the British Parliament, strongly disapproving of the insurrection, aroused the hopes of some Germans. but the Entente appeared to have no troops ready and available for dispatch. [22] The only action the 'Inter-Allied Military Control Commission' and the French government made was demanding immediate prohibition of the recruiting of German volunteers from outside Upper Silesia, and this was promptly made public. [22]

After the initial success of the insurgents in taking over a large portion of Upper Silesia, the German Grenzschutz several times resisted the attacks of Wojciech Korfanty's Polish troops, in some cases with the cooperation of British and Italian troops. [22] An attempt on the part of the British troops to take steps against the Polish forces was prevented by General Jules Gratier, the French commander-in-chief of the Allied troops. [22] Eventually, the insurgents kept most of territory they had won, including the local industrial district. They proved that they could mobilize large amounts of local support, while the German forces based outside Silesia were barred from taking an active part in the conflict.

The fighting in Upper Silesia was characterized by numerous atrocities on both sides with rape and mutilation being integral and routine methods of war. [23] The men of both sides tended to conflate "national honor" and their sense of masculinity with their perceived ability to "protect" the women of their respective communities from the other side. [24] For both sides, rape served as a way to symbolically "unman" the men of the other side by proving that they were incapable of defending their women and as a way of asserting their power over the women of the other side, hence the frequency of rape. [24] Complaints about rape by both sides started to become common after the 1919 uprising, but were most common after the 1921 uprising. [25] The British historian Tim Wilson wrote about sexual violence by the German forces: "Eighteen such incidents can be easily verified. Many of these were multiple rapes; in other cases of mass rape the number of victims were not even given". [26] In September 1922, the Polish government submitted a detailed dossier about the rape of Polish Upper Silesian women to the League of Nations. [26] Wilson also wrote that rape of women believed to be supporting the German cause by "Polish militants" was "relatively common". [27]

Mutilation by both sides were a common tactic as a way to show dominance over the other side. [28] Both sides liked to mutilate the faces of their victims to the point of obliviating the face as a way to show their dominance by robbing the victim of not only their lives, but even their identities that they held in life. [29] Reports from the British officers state that the "corpses of both men and women have been mutilated". [30] The most common means of mutilation was by smashing in the face with rifle butts into a bloody mash. [29] Likewise, castration of prisoners were a common tactic, again as a way to show dominance and to literally "unman" the other side. [31] Violence against the genitals was the second common form of mutilation of faces. [31] One British Army officer wrote in 1921 "It is revolting the number of murders that took place, generally at night and in the woods, which no amount of patrolling could stop. For instance, a one-armed German ex-soldier was taken out and murdered by the Poles one night, and the same night the French reported several murders by the Germans near their post in the woods close by". [32] Wilson wrote that these tactics were not "the triumph of innate barbarism in the absence of social constraint", but rather were tactics quite consciously chosen to express contempt and dominance. [31] Much of the grotesque violence was due to the fluidity of identities in Upper Silesia where many people saw themselves as neither German nor Polish, but rather Silesian, thus leading to nationalists to take extreme measures to polarize society into diametrically opposed blocs. [33] In May-June 1921, at least 1, 760 people were killed in the fighting in Upper Silesia. [32]

The support of France for Poland proved to be crucial. On 23 May 1921, the Freikorps defeated the Poles at the Battle of Annaberg, which in turn led to a French ultimatum demanding that the Reich cease at once its support of the German para-military forces. [21] The next day, much to the shock of the Freikorps who were expecting to follow up their victory by keeping all of Upper Silesia for Germany, the German president Frederich Ebert bowed to the ultimatum and banned the Freikorps. [21]

Twelve days after the outbreak of the insurrection, Korfanty offered to take his troops behind a line of demarcation (the "Korfanty Line"), conditional on the released territory not being re-occupied by German forces, but by Allied troops. [22] It was not, however, until 1 July that the British troops arrived in Upper Silesia and began to advance in company with those of the other Allies towards the former frontier. [22] Simultaneously, with this advance, the Inter-Allied Commission pronounced a general amnesty for the illegal actions committed during the insurrection, with the exception of acts of revenge and cruelty. [22] The German Grenzschutz was withdrawn and disbanded. [22]


Silesian Insurgents Monument in Katowice. The largest and heaviest monument in Poland, constructed in 1967. Katowice - Pomnik Powstancow Slaskich.jpg
Silesian Insurgents Monument in Katowice. The largest and heaviest monument in Poland, constructed in 1967.

Arrangements between the Germans and Poles in Upper Silesia and appeals issued by both sides, as well as the dispatch of six battalions of Allied troops and the disbandment of the local guards, contributed markedly to the pacification of the district. [22]

The Allied Supreme Council was, however, still unable to come to an agreement on the partition of the Upper Silesian territory on the lines of the plebiscite; the British and the French could only agree on one solution: turning the question over to the Council of the League of Nations. [2] [22]

The greatest excitement was caused all over Germany and in the German part of Upper Silesia by the intimation that the Council of the League of Nations had handed over the matter for closer investigation to a commission; this remained comprised via 4 representatives, one each from Belgium, Brazil, Spain, and China. [22] The commission collected its own data and issued a decision, stressing the principle of self-determination. [2] On the basis of the reports of this commission and those of its experts, in October 1921 the Council awarded the greater part of the Upper Silesian industrial district to Poland. [2]

The Polish Government had decided to give Silesia considerable autonomy with the Silesian Parliament as a constituency and the Silesian Voivodeship Council as the executive body.

Poland obtained almost exactly half of the 1,950,000 inhabitants, viz., 965,000, but not quite a third of the territory, i.e., only 3,214 of 10,951 square kilometres (1,241 of 4,228 mi2). [22] This, however, comprised by far the more valuable portion of the district. Of 61 coal mines 4912 fell to Poland, the Prussian state losing 3 mines out of 4. Of a coal output of 31,750,000 tonnes, 24,600,000 tonnes fell to Poland. All iron mines with an output of 61,000 tonnes fell to Poland. [22] Of 37 furnaces, 22 went to Poland, 15 to Germany. Of a pig-iron output of 570,000 tonnes, 170,000 tonnes remained German, and 400,000 tonnes became Polish. [22] Of 16 zinc and lead mines, which produced 233,000 tons in 1920, only 4, with an output of 44,000 tonnes, remained German. [22] The main towns of Königshütte (Chorzów), Kattowitz (Katowice), and Tarnowitz (Tarnowskie Góry) were given to Poland. [22] In the Silesian territory that Poland regained, the Germans were a significant minority. Similarly, a significant minority of Poles (about half a million Poles) was still left on the German side, most of them in Oppeln (Opole). [2]

In order to mitigate the hardships likely to arise from the partition of a district that was essentially an economic unit, it was decided, on the recommendation of the Council of the League of Nations, that German and Polish delegates, under a chairman appointed by the Council of the League, should draw up economic regulations as well as a statute for the protection of minorities, which were to have a duration of fifteen years. [22] Special measures were threatened in the event that either of the two states should refuse to participate in the drawing up of such regulations, or to accept them subsequently. [22]

In May 1922, the League of Nations issued the German-Polish Accord on East Silesia, also known as the Geneva Accord, intended to preserve the economic unity of the area and to guarantee minority rights. The League also set up a tribunal to arbitrate disputes. Furthermore, in response to a German complaint about the importance of Silesian coal for the German industry, Germany was given the right to import 500,000 tons per year at discounted prices. [2] In 1925, three years following the development of the agreement and approaching the termination of the coal agreement, Germany refused to import the appropriate quantities of coal, attempting to use the coal issue as a lever against Poland, trying to impose a revision of the whole Polish-German frontier. [2] Polish-German relations worsened, as Germany also began a tariff war with Poland, but the Polish government would not yield on the border issue. [2]

In 1921, Adolf Hitler who was the best known member of the Munich-based National Socialist German Workers' Party, but not its leader, came into conflict with the party's founder and leader, Anton Drexler. In July 1921, the dispute came was resolved with Hitler seizing control of the party and deposing Drexler as a party leader. [34] At the meeting in Munich that decided in favor of Hitler, it was the veterans of the Upper Silesia campaign newly returned to Bavaria, described by one contemporary as the "Upper Silesian adventurers, flashing medals, badges and swastikas", who provided the decisive votes which enabled the triumph of Hitler over Drexler. [34] A number of the Freikorps veterans of the Upper Silesia war such as Fritz Schmedes went on to serve in the Nazi Party. Schmedes, who played a leading role as a Freikorps officer in the "vicious fighting" in Upper Silesia in 1921, became a SS-Brigadeführer in World War Two who committed one of the worse massacres ever in Greek history when his men massacred the entire village of Distomo on 10 June 1944. [35]

Under the Sanajca' regime, Michał Grażyński, was appointed as the voivode of Polish Upper Silesia in 1927. [36] Graźyński became involved in a lengthy feud with Korfanty and went out of his way to downplay and minimize Korfanty's role in the uprisings. [36] By contrast, Graźyński vastly inflated his own role in the uprising of 1921 as he described himself as the "chief insurgent" and the "sole liberator" of Upper Silesia, an attempt to rewrite history in his favor that made him unpopular in Upper Silesia. [36] The fact that Grażyński was from Galicia led him being viewed as an outsider in Upper Silesia. [37] During his time as the voivode which lasted until 1939, Grażyński held gigantic rallies to honor the anniversary of the uprising of 1921 every May 3rd that were meant as much to honor himself as the anniversary of the uprising. [37] Grażyński's rallies were boycotted by Korfanty and his supporters who complained that he was taking all of the credit for the uprisings for himself. [37] Jan Kustos, the leader of the Upper Silesia Defense League that wanted autonomy for Upper Silesia in Poland criticised the especially grandiose and expensive rally Grażyński organsed on 3rd May 1931 to mark the 10th anniversary of the uprising as a colossal waste of money, charging that it was unjust that millions of zlotys have been spent on the rally when so ordinary people were suffering from the Great Depression. [37]

In September 1939, Polish Upper Silesia was annexed to Germany, and during the German occupation, there were a violent policy of Germanizing the "recovered lands". [38] During the German occupation, the Polish veterans of the Upper Silesia uprisings were as much possible hunted down and killed as enemies of the Reich. [39] For this reason alone, the Polish veterans tended to be overrepresented in the Polish resistance. [39] In 1945, all of Upper Silesia was annexed to Poland. [40] During the Communist era, the government in Warsaw took an ultra-nationalist line to rebut the charge that it was under Soviet domination, and placed great emphasis on the "recovered western territories" as the centerpiece of its claim for legitimacy. [41] Władysław Gomułka gave a speech at Góra Świętej Anny on 1 May 1946 to honor the Poles killed fighting in the battle in 1921 and presented a line of continuity between the uprising of 1921 and his government. [42] This was especially the case during the period when Gomułka was in power between 1956-1970 as he restored the tradition of celebrating the anniversary of the third uprising every May 3rd and often took part in the celebrations. [43]

The last veteran of the Silesian Uprisings, Wilhelm Meisel, died in 2009 at the age of 105. [44] [45] In 2021, a dispute emerged over plans to put up a monument in Opole honoring those who fought for Poland. [46] The Social-Cultural Society of Germans in Opole Silesia, representing the last of the volksdeutche (ethnic German) minority in Silesia, called for a monument to honor both sides. [46] The mayor of Opole stated he wanted to “commemorate the heroes of the Silesian uprising who fought for Poland and not those who shot at them.” [46]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Upper Silesia</span> Historical region in Poland and Czech Republic

Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia, located today mostly in Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greater Poland uprising (1918–1919)</span> 1918-19 military insurrection in German-occupied Greater Poland

The Greater Poland uprising of 1918–1919, or Wielkopolska uprising of 1918–1919 or Posnanian War was a military insurrection of Poles in the Greater Poland region against German rule. The uprising had a significant effect on the Treaty of Versailles, which granted a reconstituted Second Polish Republic the area won by the Polish insurrectionists. The region had been part of the Kingdom of Poland and then Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth before the 1793 Second Partition of Poland when it was annexed by the German Kingdom of Prussia. It had also, following the 1806 Greater Poland uprising, been part of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–1815), a French puppet state during the Napoleonic Wars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Province of Silesia</span> Province

The Province of Silesia was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919. The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province in 1815, then became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1 April 1938 to 27 January 1941 as a province of Nazi Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Świętochłowice</span> Place in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Świętochłowice is a city with powiat rights in Silesia in southern Poland, near Katowice. It is also the central district of the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union metropolis, with a population of 2 million, and is located in the Silesian Highlands, on the Rawa River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite</span> 1921 referendum on the German-Polish border through Upper Silesia

The Upper Silesia plebiscite was a plebiscite mandated by the Versailles Treaty and carried out on 20 March 1921 to determine ownership of the province of Upper Silesia between Weimar Germany and Poland. The region was ethnically mixed with both Germans and Poles; according to prewar statistics, ethnic Poles formed 60 percent of the population. Under the previous rule by the German Empire, Poles claimed they had faced discrimination, making them effectively second class citizens. The period of the plebiscite campaign and inter-Allied occupation was marked by violence. There were three Polish uprisings, and German volunteer paramilitary units came to the region as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wojciech Korfanty</span>

Wojciech Korfanty was a Polish activist, journalist and politician, who served as a member of the German parliaments, the Reichstag and the Prussian Landtag, and later, in the Polish Sejm. Briefly, he also was a paramilitary leader, known for organizing the Polish Silesian Uprisings in Upper Silesia, which after World War I was contested by Germany and Poland. Korfanty fought to protect Poles from discrimination and the policies of Germanisation in Upper Silesia before the war and sought to join Silesia to Poland after Poland regained its independence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silesian Voivodeship (1920–1939)</span> Former voivodeship of Poland

The Silesian Voivodeship was an autonomous province (voivodeship) of the Second Polish Republic. The bulk of its territory had formerly belonged to the German/Prussian Province of Silesia and became part of the newly reborn Poland as a result of the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite, the Geneva Conventions, three Upper Silesian Uprisings, and the eventual partition of Upper Silesia between Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. The remainder had been the easternmost portion of Austrian Silesia which was partitioned between Poland and Czechoslovakia following the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the Polish–Czechoslovak War and the Spa Conference of 1920. The capital of the voivodeship was Katowice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michał Grażyński</span>

Michał Grażyński was a Polish military leader, social and political activist, doctor of philosophy and law, voivode of the Silesian Voivodeship, Scouting activist and president of Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tarnowskie Góry</span> Place in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Tarnowskie Góry is a town in Silesia, southern Poland, located in the Silesian Highlands near Katowice. On the south it borders the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union, a megalopolis, the greater Silesian metropolitan area populated by about 5,294,000 people. The population of the town is 61,842 (2021). As of 1999, it is part of Silesian Voivodeship, previously Katowice Voivodeship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orzesze</span> Place in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Orzesze is a town in Silesia in southern Poland, near Katowice. Borders on the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union – metropolis with the population of 2 million. Located in the Silesian Highlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerzy Ziętek</span> Polish politician and general

Jerzy Jan Antoni Ziętek was a Polish politician and general. A Silesian Insurrectionist in his youth, during the Second World War he joined the Polish armed forces in the USSR and later became an important politician representing Silesia in the People's Republic of Poland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silesian Parliament</span>

Silesian Parliament or Silesian Sejm was the governing body of the Silesian Voivodeship (1920–1939), an autonomous voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic between 1920 and 1945. It was elected in democratic elections and had certain influence over the usage of taxes collected in Silesia. It consisted of 48 deputies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dobrodzień</span> Place in Opole Voivodeship, Poland

Dobrodzień is a small town in Olesno County, in Opole Voivodeship, Poland. Located in the historical region of Upper Silesia, it is the administrative seat of Gmina Dobrodzień. As of December 2021, the town has a population of 3,650.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wawelberg Group</span>

The Wawelberg Group, also known as the Konrad Wawelberg Destruction Group, was a Polish special-forces unit. The group began the Third Silesian Uprising on May 2/3, 1921 by blowing up seven rail bridges linking Upper Silesia with the rest of Germany.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Annaberg</span>

The Battle of (the) Annaberg was the biggest battle of the Silesian Uprisings. The battle, which took place between May 21–26, 1921, was fought at the Annaberg, a strategic hill near the village of Annaberg O.S., located southeast of Oppeln (Opole) in Upper Silesia, Weimar Germany. After the hill had been captured by irregular Polish-Silesian units in the Third Silesian Uprising, German Freikorps pushed the Polish forces back. The final border was determined by political and diplomatic efforts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karl Höfer</span> German Army officer

Karl Höfer also Hoefer; was a German general. During World War I he became known as the Held vom Kemmelberge (hero of Kemmel hill) after his division had captured the Kemmelberg during the Fourth Battle of Flanders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Union of Upper Silesians</span>

The Union of Upper Silesians was an early 20th-century movement for the independence of Upper Silesia. The movement had its genesis during the revolutions of 1848. Allied with the Silesian People's Party, it dissolved in 1924 but has influenced the present-day Silesian Autonomy Movement.

The German–Polish Convention on Upper Silesia, also known as the Geneva Convention of 15 May 1922, dealt with the constitutional and legal future of Upper Silesia, part of which became Polish territory after the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite.

Major Edward Crozier Creasy (1888–1936) was commander and senior liaison officer of the Inter Allied Detachment during the Upper Silesia plebiscite. In May 1921, he was ambushed and, facing a Polish firing squad, said: "The Union Jack, though invisible, is round me. You will hit the British flag if you do. You dare not do it". The Polish execution officers put their weapons down and refused to carry out the execution order.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silesian independence</span> Separatism in the Czech Republic

Silesian independence is the political movement for Upper Silesia and Cieszyn Silesia become a sovereign state.


  1. (in Polish) Ostatnie chwile odlewni Woźniaków Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine .
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 Anna M. Cienciala, THE REBIRTH OF POLAND
  3. Racisms Made in Germany edited by Wulf D. Hund, Wulf Dietmar Hund, Christian Koller, Moshe Zimmermann LIT Verlag Münster 2011 page 20, 21
  4. The Ideology of Kokugo: Nationalizing Language in Modern Japan Lee Yeounsuk page 161 University of Hawaii Press 2009
  5. The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe since 1850 (Studies of World Migrations) Leo Lucassen page 61 University of Illinois Press page 2005
  6. MacMillan, Margaret (2001). Paris 1919 . Random House. p.  219. ISBN   0-375-50826-0.
  7. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 42.
  8. "Mapy narodowościowe Górnego Śląska od połowy XIX wieku do II Wojny Światowej" Dorota Borowiecz Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego 2005 ISBN   83-229-2569-7
  9. 1 2 3 Wilson 2010, p. 27.
  10. Wilson 2010, p. 26-27.
  11. Wilson 2010, p. 26.
  12. 1 2 3 Wilson 2010, p. 28.
  13. Polish military leaders during Polish-Bolshevik War
  14. 1 2 Polak-Springer 2015, p. 30.
  15. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 58.
  16. Plebiscite contributions for benefit of uniting Warmia and Masuria, Spisz and Orawa, Cieszyn Silesia Archived 6 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine . portal
  18. 1 2 Watt, Richard (1979). Bitter Glory: Poland and its Fate. Barnes and Noble. ISBN   0-7607-0997-1.
  19. Gajda, Patricia A. (1982). PostScript to Victory: British Policy and the German-Polish Borderlands 1919–1925. University Press of America. p. 69. ISBN   0-8191-2204-1.
  20. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 172.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Wilson 2010, p. 83.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Edmund Burke, James Dodsley, Annual Register, v. 2 – 1922, Google Print, p.179-180 (public domain text)
  23. Wilson 2010, p. 5 & 77-78 & 121-124.
  24. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 113-114.
  25. Wilson 2010, p. 128.
  26. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 78.
  27. Wilson 2010, p. 121.
  28. Wilson 2010, p. 155-157.
  29. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 155.
  30. Wilson 2010, p. 124.
  31. 1 2 3 Wilson 2010, p. 156.
  32. 1 2 Wilson 2010, p. 200.
  33. Wilson 2010, p. 157-158.
  34. 1 2 Schoenbaum 1966, p. 19.
  35. Mazower 1993, p. 214.
  36. 1 2 3 Polak-Springer 2015, p. 68.
  37. 1 2 3 4 Polak-Springer 2015, p. 69.
  38. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 7-8.
  39. 1 2 Piekałkiewicz 2019, p. 199.
  40. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 8.
  41. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 8-9.
  42. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 200-204.
  43. Polak-Springer 2015, p. 237-240.
  44. Książek, Mirosława (1 January 2009). "Wilusiowi stuknie 105 lat!" (in Polish). Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  45. "Odszedł najstarszy Ślązak" (in Polish). Nowiny: Dziennik Zachodni. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2010. "Wilhelm Meisel do końca cieszył się życiem, bardzo lubił towarzystwo, muzykę oraz ruch. Interesował się tym, co dzieje się w Polsce i na świecie."
  46. 1 2 3 Harper, Jo (8 May 2021). "A century on, the Silesian Uprisings remain complicated". Emerging Europe. Retrieved 28 December 2022.

Further reading