Polish and other minorities in the German Empire (II Reich, 1871-1918)

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
How was living for minorities in the German Empire, 1871-1918?



I'm particularly interested in the condition of the Polish: had them some power position?, did they owned business or land?, were them fully citizens or second class subjects?
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
SoCal

Not very nice. The Poles were subject to Germanisation attempts, at times they were banned from building buildings. The international meeting of socialists in Brussels in 1902 condemned Germany's attempts to erase Poles, calling them "barbarous".
Yeah, Imperial Germany attempted to Germanize its Polish population:


This was done by various means; for instance, I believe that, after 1886, Poles in Posen could only sell land to Germans rather than to other Poles. These Germanization efforts helped generate resentment against Germans on the part of the Poles and thus very possibly helped fuel a Polish desire to secede from Germany and to recreate an independent Polish state. Interestingly enough, though, there were aspects of German rule that were beneficial for Poles. German-ruled Poland was the wealthiest part of Poland in the very late 19th century and Germany was also more successful at making Poles literate than Austria and especially Russia were:





Some Poles also moved to the heavily industrialized Ruhr region of Germany (hence the Polish presence near Dortmund on the map in Frank's OP here) in search of better job opportunities and better lives. During this time, western Germany was more industrialized and more developed than eastern Germany was--as well as being less crime-prone. So, yeah, there were some benefits for Poles in living under German rule, but Germany's attempts to Germanize the Poles probably made the Poles much more hostile towards German rule than they would have otherwise been. Interestingly enough, though, Germany did allow the Polish Party to participate in German Reichstag elections--with them winning seats in most of the territories that subsequently became part of Poland after the end of WWI:

 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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Interestingly enough, Prussia controlled even more Polish territory until 1806--with even Warsaw being Prussian back then:



Napoleon forced Prussia to give up most of its Polish gains in 1806 and Prussia managed to reacquire some, but not all, of its lost Polish territories in 1814-1815.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
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For what it's worth, the Masurians and western Upper Silesians were exceptional due to the fact that they were Poles who continued to support Germany. The Masurians almost unanimously voted to remain part of Germany in a 1920 plebiscite and western Upper Silesia likewise largely (albeit certainly not near-unanimously!) voted to remain part of Germany in a 1921 plebiscite:







The reason for the Masurians' near-overwhelming support of Germany might have been their Protestantism (Poland was largely Catholic) as well as a centuries-long history of living under some kind of German rule. As for the Upper Silesians, they were Catholic but also had a centuries-long history of living under some kind of German rule.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
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Meanwhile, in regards to Alsace-Lorraine, I believe that it was only granted a measure of autonomy in 1911--with it previously being ruled directly by Berlin over the previous 40 years. However, even this didn't secure good relations between Alsatians and the German government due to the 1913 Zabern Affair:


Alsace-Lorraine, of course, never actually held a plebiscite to determine its fate after the end of WWI--possibly due to France's fear that it would lose such a plebiscite to the new Weimar German government. Schleswig, on the other hand, did hold a plebiscite in 1920 in its northern and central parts:


To my knowledge, Danes in Imperial Germany weren't treated too badly, but nevertheless most Danes in Schleswig wanted to rejoin their brethren in Denmark after the end of WWI.
 
Jan 2016
332
Boland
For the most part Poles were second class citizens in Prussia. However, some magnates from Poland did have privileges common to their class, for instance the Radziwill's.

Prussia did also create a subordinate duchy of Posen.
 
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Jan 2016
332
Boland
Only to subsequently abolish it in 1848.
Have you ever read "Poland: an historical sketch" by Helmuth Graf von Moltke? Or "Prussia and the Poles" by Otto von Wenckstern? Both interesting reads, it gives you a sense of how they felt about the Poles. The latter of which is more of a justification for the Germanisation of the acquired Polish territory.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
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Have you ever read "Poland: an historical sketch" by Helmuth Graf von Moltke? Or "Prussia and the Poles" by Otto von Wenckstern? Both interesting reads, it gives you a sense of how they felt about the Poles. The latter of which is more of a justification for the Germanisation of the acquired Polish territory.
No, I haven't; are either of these available in English?