West Prussia

West Prussia

Infobox Former Subdivision
native_name = "Westpreußen"
conventional_long_name = West Prussia
common_name = West Prussia
subdivision = Province
nation = Prussia
life_span = 1773—1824 1878—1922
year_start = 1773
date_start =
year_end = 1922
date_end =
event1 = Division by Napoleon
date_event1 = 1806
event2 = Restored
date_event2 = 1815
event3 = Province of Prussia
date_event3 = 1824 - 1878
event4 = Treaty of Versailles
date_event4 = 1919
p1 = Royal Prussia
flag_p1 = Flag of Prussia (1466-1772).svg
p2 = Free City of Danzig (Napoleonic)
flag_p2 = Gdansk flag.svg
p3 = Netze District
flag_p3 = Sin bandera.svg
s1 = Second Polish Republic
flag_s1 = Flag of Poland.svg
s2 = Free City of Danzig
flag_s2 = Gdansk flag.svg
s3 = Posen-West Prussia
flag_s3 = Flagge Preußen - Grenzmark Posen-Westpreußen.svg

image_map_caption = West Prussia (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire, as of 1878.
capital = Danzig
stat_pop1 = 1433681
stat_year1 = 1890
political_subdiv= Danzig Marienwerder

West Prussia (Audio-de|Westpreußen|Westpreußen.ogg; _pl. Prusy Zachodnie) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1918 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia. After 1918, its central parts became the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig, while the parts remaining with the German Weimar Republic became the new Posen-West Prussia or were joined to the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia. The territory was included within Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia from 1939–45, after which it became part of Poland. The territory of former West Prussia is currently divided between Poland's Pomeranian and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeships.

"West Prussia" is also used as a general name for the region in historical context from the 13th century to 1945. Inhabited by Old Prussians and Pomeranians during the Middle Ages, the population became mixed over centuries of immigrations by Germans, Poles, Slovincians, Kashubians, Huguenots, Mennonites, and Scots, among others.


In the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466), the towns of Pomerelia and western Prussia rebelled against the Teutonic Knights and sought the assistance of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland. By the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), Pomerelia and western Prussia became the Polish province of Royal Prussia, which received several special rights, especially in Danzig (Gdańsk). Royal Prussia became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 and retained self-government by Prussian natives. Eastern Prussia, on the other hand, remained with the Teutonic Knights, who were reduced to vassals of Poland by the Peace of Thorn. This territory became the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and removed the Polish suzerainty in 1657 Treaty of Wehlau.

Most of Royal Prussia was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in the 1772 First Partition of Poland, and became the Province of West Prussia the following year, with the exception of Warmia, which became part of the Province of East Prussia. King Frederick II of Prussia quickly began improving the infrastructure of the new territory. The Polish administrative and legal code was replaced by the Prussian system, and education improved; 750 schools were built from 1772-1775.Koch, p. 136] Both Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers taught in West Prussia, and teachers and administrators were encouraged to be able to speak both German and Polish. He also advised his successors to learn Polish, a policy followed by the Hohenzollern dynasty until Frederick III decided not to let William II learn the language.

However, Frederick looked upon many of his new citizens with scorn. He had nothing but contempt for the "szlachta", the numerous Polish nobility, and wrote that Poland had "the worst government in Europe with the exception of Turkey".Ritter, p. 192] He considered West Prussia as uncivilized as Colonial CanadaDavid Blackbourn. [http://www.oslo2000.uio.no/program/papers/s18/s18-blackbourn.pdf "Conquests from Barbarism": Interpreting Land Reclamation in 18th Century Prussia] . Harvard University. Accessed 24 May 2006.] and compared the Poles to the Iroquois. In a letter to his brother Henry, Frederick wrote about the province that "it is a very good and advantageous acquisition, both from a financial and a political point of view. In order to excite less jealousy I tell everyone that on my travels I have seen just sand, pine trees, heath land and Jews. Despite that there is a lot of work to be done; there is no order, and no planning and the towns are in a lamentable condition."MacDonogh, p. 363] Frederick invited German immigrants to redevelop the province, also hoping they would displace the Poles. [Norbert Finszch and Dietmar Schirmer. "Identity and Intolerance: Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States". Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0521591589] Many German officials also regarded the Poles with contempt.

In the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, the Hanseatic city of Danzig, no longer able to rely on its own strength, opted together with the Hanseatic city of Thorn to join the Kingdom of Prussia and thus West Prussia. Some of the areas of Greater Poland annexed in 1772 that formed the Netze District were added to West Prussia in 1793 as well.

From 1807–13 during the Napoleonic Wars, southern parts of West Prussia were added to the Duchy of Warsaw, a Napoleonic client state. In 1815 the province, restored to the Kingdom of Prussia, was administratively subdivided into the "Regierungsbezirke" Danzig and Marienwerder. From 1824-1878 West Prussia was combined with East Prussia to form the Province of Prussia, after which they were reestablished as separate provinces. The region became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the unification of Germany.

After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, most of West Prussia was granted to the Second Polish Republic (the Polish Corridor) or the Free City of Danzig, while small parts in the west and east of the former province remained in Weimar Germany. The western remainder formed Posen-West Prussia in 1922, while the eastern remainder became part of Regierungsbezirk West Prussia within East Prussia.

The region was included in the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia within Nazi Germany during World War II. Many West Prussian Germans fled westward as the Red Army advanced on the Eastern Front. All of the region was granted to Poland according to the post-war Potsdam Agreement in 1945. The vast majority of the remaining German population of the region was subsequently expelled westward. All of their property, including their homes, was looted and stolen; the emptied region was replaced with Poles.

This ethnic cleansing was carried out by Allied soldiers, who committed brutality and war crimes.de Zayas] Many German civilians were deported to labor camps like Vorkuta in the Soviet Union, where a large number of them perished or were later reported missing. In 1949, the refugees established the non-profit Landsmannschaft Westpreußen to represent West Prussians in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Historical population

From 1885 to 1890 West Prussia's population decreased by 1%.

*1875 - 1,343,057
*1880 - 1,405,898
*1890 - 1,433,681 (717,532 Catholics, 681,195 Protestants, 21,750 Jews, others)
*1900 - 1,563,658 (800,395 Catholics, 730,685 Protestants, 18,226 Jews, others)
*1905 - 1.641.936 (including 437.916 Poles, 99.357 Kashubians) [Brockhaus Kleines Konversations-Lexikon, 1911, online at [http://www.zeno.org/Brockhaus-1911/A/Westpreu%C3%9Fen] ]


Note: Prussian provinces were subdivided into districts called "Kreise" (singular "Kreis", abbreviated "Kr."). Cities would have their own "Stadtkreis" (urban district) and the surrounding rural area would be named for the city, but referred to as a "Landkreis" (rural district).

Population according to the census 1905:

Office holders

*Administration of West Prussia before 1919



*cite book|last=Koch|first=H. W.|title=A History of Prussia|publisher=Barnes & Noble Books|location=New York|year=1978|pages=326|isbn=0-88029-158-3
*cite book|last=MacDonogh|first=Giles|title=Frederick the Great: A Life in Deed and Letters|year=2001|publisher=St. Martin's Griffin|location=New York|pages=436|isbn=0-312-27266-9
*cite book|last=Ritter|first=Gerhard|authorlink=Gerhard Ritter|title=Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile|year=1974|publisher=University of California Press|location=Berkeley|pages=207|isbn=0-520-02775-2
*cite book|last=de Zayas|first=Alfred-Maurice|authorlink=Alfred-Maurice de Zayas|title=A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Eastern European Germans 1944-1950|year=1994|publisher=St. Martin's Press|location=New York|pages=|isbn=

External links

* [http://www.westpreussen-online.de/ www.westpreussen-online.de] de icon
* [http://www.gemeindeverzeichnis.de/gem1900//gem1900.htm?westpreussen/westpreussen1900.htm Administrative subdivision of the province in 1910] de icon
* [http://www.rosenberg-wpr.de/westpreussen.rm Das Westpreußenlied (Real Audio)]
* [http://users.foxvalley.net/~goertz/faqwpr.html West Prussia FAQ]
* [http://www.progenealogists.com/germany/prussia/index.html East and West Prussia Gazetteer]

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