Union of Poles in Germany

Union of Poles in Germany

Union of Poles in Germany ( _pl. Związek Polaków w Niemczech, _de. Bund der Polen in Deutschland e.V.) is an organisation of the Polish minority in Germany, founded in 1922. The union initiated collaboration between other minorities, including Sorbs, Danes, Frisians and Lithuanians.

Early history

The union was intended to express the views of the Polish minority in Germany, This partly comprised the Polish-native population of the former East German provinces which remained with Germany under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles (Upper Silesia, East Brandenburg, Pomerania, Warmia or areas where Poles settled in Middle Ages (East Prussia) — mostly farmers and workers — and partly the Polish immigrants in Ruhr area. This constituency of the Union was calculated to number approximately 1,500,000 people. However, the Polish minority was only legally recognised as such in Upper Silesia, where they possessed international status due to Treaty of Versailles. In other areas Poles were subject of assimilationist policies that did not recognize their distinct ethnicity.

In Nazi Germany Poles faced increased problems as the Nazis attempted to force cultural unity on the country. Poles outside of the Upper Silesia were forced to declare German nationality; activists of the union were subject of persecutions. However, the union was kept legal in the hope to avoid escalations of ethnic conflict that would create problems for the German minority in Poland.

The leaders of the Union found it necessary to invent new symbols for the Union to avoid the possibility that Poles would adhere to the new “national” symbols, such as the Nazi salute and the swastika.

This led to invention of the symbol of the Union, the Rodło, a stylized representation of the Vistula river. The reason for its adoption was that the Polish national symbol, the White Eagle, was not allowed by Prussian law. The Nazi swastika provided an inspiration for the Poles's own alternative symbol that was designed to be a challenge for Nazi Germany.

It was created by the graphic designer Janina Kłopocka, who made a rough sketch of "the emblem of the Vistula river, cradle of the Polish people, and royal Kraków — the cradle of Polish culture". The white emblem was placed on a red background to emphasize the solidarity with the Polish nation and its soul.


Originally, the Union, with headquarters in Berlin (until the outbreak of World War Two), was divided into four districts:
* District I (Opole), which covered German part of Upper Silesia,
* District II (Berlin), which covered Saxony, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Posen-West Prussia and Province of Pomerania,
* District III (Bochum), which covered Westfalia, Rhineland, Baden and Pfalz,
* District IV (Olsztyn), which covered the Province of East Prussia

In October of 1923 the District V was created, with capital in Zlotow. It covered the area of Posen-West Prussia. Also, Lower Silesia was in 1928 added to District I.

World War II and after

Even before the German invasion of Poland, members of the Polish minority were deported to concentration camps; some were executed at the Piaśnica mass murder site. The Union was delegalised.

Members of the minority were subject of obligatory military service in the German Wehrmacht. In 1945, most of areas populated by Poles were located inside the new post-War Polish border, the Oder-Neisse line. It is calculated that out of the 3,500,000 former German citizens now in Polish territory, more than 1,500,000 belonged to the Polish minority.Fact|date=December 2007 After the war, many members found it difficult to be recognised as Poles by the new Communist authorities. Moreover, along with most Poles, they were unsympathetic to the Communist ideology of the new government. Unlike most of Polish society, the native Poles in former German territory sometimes had no experience of Poland, other than under Communism.Fact|date=December 2007


* August 27 1922: founded in Berlin
* 1933: adopted Rodlo as symbol to challenge Nazis.
* March 6 1938: The first congress in Berlin. Adopted 5 rules for Poles
* September 1 1939: the union was made illegal by the Nazis and 1200 activists sent to concentration camps.
* 1945: reactivated.

Five rules for Poles

Original Polish version"1. Jesteśmy Polakami, 2. Wiara ojców naszych jest wiarą naszych dzieci, 3. Polak Polakowi Bratem,4. Co dzień Polak narodowi służy, 5. Polska jest Matką naszą - nie wolno mówić o Matce źle."

1. We are Poles2. The faith of our Fathers is the faith of our children3. All Poles are brothers4. We serve our nation every day5. Poland is our mother - you shall not speak ill of her.


*1922-1931: Stanisław Sierakowski
*1931- April 1939: Bolesław Domański
*April 1939 - September 1939: S. Szczepaniak
*1950-1964: S. Szczepaniak
*1964-1969: J. Styp-Rekowski
*1970-1988: E. Forycki
*1988-1991: T. Wesołowski
*1991-1993: S. Jabłoński
*1993-1997: T. Hyb
*1997- : J. Młynarczyk


* "Dziennik Berliński", "Polak w Niemczech", "Mały Polak w Niemczech", "Gazeta Olsztyńska", "Mazur", "Głos Pogranicza", "Kaszub", "Dziennik Raciborski", "Ogniwio" and other.

External links

* [http://www.zpwn.de/ Union of Poles in Germany] pl icon
* [http://www.rodlo.org/ rodlo] pl icon

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