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Beyond the Trenches – The Social and Cultural Impact of the Great War

Second Edition

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Edited By Elżbieta Katarzyna Dzikowska, Agata G. Handley and Piotr Zawilski

This collection of articles is the outcome of extensive investigations into archival materials, concerning the involvement of various nations in the Great War. The authors analyse the wartime experiences of individuals and local communities, as well as whole nations. They offer a closer, more personal view of the impact of the Great War. The book re-constructs individual war narratives, and studies the long-term consequences of the conflict. The result is a multifaceted portrayal of the war, seen from local and international perspectives.

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Archive traces of the drama of war. Sources for investigation into the daily life of the inhabitants of cities in the Opole District in the archival fonds of the State Archive in Opole

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Anna Caban

State Archive in Opole

Archive traces of the drama of war. Sources for investigation into the daily life of the inhabitants of cities in the Opole District in the archival fonds of the State Archive in Opole

Abstract: The collection of archival materials serves as a silent witness of the history of the Opole region from the point of general mobilization to the signing of the armistice. It provides information on the wartime economy, the organization of life on areas not covered by warfare, espionage and support for East Prussia, as well as a range of other topics.

The storm which started in summer 1914 reversed the earlier arrangement of political powers, and destroyed the economy and transformed the social structures of both sides of the ensuing global conflict. The Great War opened the door to the formation of nation states and new political systems. The centenary of this breakthrough event served as a pretext to begin extensive research into the archival fonds of the State Archive in Opole to identify new, unknown and hitherto unstudied materials. The identified materials complement existing records and enrich the image of the Opole District, known from historical studies as a direct military supply base, with a panorama of the everyday life of citizens in the face of war. The archival materials presenting this event cover the period from the outbreak of war in August 1914 to the signing of the armistice in November 1918.

On the outbreak of war, the Opole District covered an area of 13 thousand square kilometers and comprised 18 village districts1 and 8 independent municipal districts2. The seat of the authorities of the Opole District (Regierungsbezirk ←93 | 94→Oppeln) was established in 1815 in Oppeln (Polish: Opole)3. The District’s authority covered 46 cities, 1482 communes and 1102 townships (Gutsbezirk)4. Before the outbreak of the Great War, this area was well developed, with a diversified economy and varied social aspects. The most industrialised and urbanised part of the district was the South-East area near the cities of Myslowitz (Polish: Mysłowice), Tarnau (Polish: Tarnowskie Góry), Gleiwitz (Polish: Gliwice), Ribnik (Polish: Rybnik), and the industrial region of Upper Silesia, where the mining and metallurgy industry was located5. Outside this region, industrial plants were located in larger cities. In Opole itself, the cement industry was booming6. However, crafts played an important part in the economy of Upper Silesia and provided employment for hundreds of thousands of people7. A significant part of the province was used for agriculture and forests8. According to the national census of 1 December 19109, the Opole District was inhabited by 2,207,981 people10. This number also includes 12,22711 soldiers stationed in the area. According to the official statistics of the time, over 53% of the local population was Polish, ←94 | 95→with slightly fewer Germans and the remainder comprising other nationalities12. Apart from the population growth, there were no other changes in the national or social structure of the district following the outbreak of war.

Presentation of archival materials of 1914–1918

Only part of the holdings of the State Archive in Opole relating to the period of the Great War has been preserved. An analysis of the introductions to the fonds shows that only a small percentage of the archival material has been preserved, although it is difficult to determine exactly how much; it is unclear whether this is due to the effects of World War II itself or to the negligence of the following years. The majority of files from the municipal and district authority offices of that period has been preserved to a similar degree. World War II had a significant impact on the preservation status of the files which had been started by the Opole District. Despite the evacuation and scattering of archival files over the Upper Silesia region, many materials have been lost and it is impossible to determine how much of this fonds has been preserved13.

Currently, most of the fonds use a basic inventory system that enables the identification of individual files, although the file title does not always indicate its actual content. Fortunately, almost all the fonds that provided the archival materials covered by this text have been inventoried14. As a consequence, the archival materials and research works concerning this period of Silesian history are now available to any interested parties.

So far the archival materials concerning the Great War stored in the State Archive in Opole have received little interest from users and researchers. Available publications indicate that they are confined to political, national and military issues. Many monographs and other similar publications have been devoted to the ←95 | 96→subject of the three consecutive Silesian Uprisings15 and the Silesian plebiscite16. In these publications, the Great War functions only as a prelude to later events which are depicted in Polish historiography as the most important stages in the struggle for national independence, and in German hagiography, as a rebellion against the homeland which was losing its blood in the war. In his book, Ryszard Kaczmarek presents an interesting fragment of everyday life observed from the perspective of a trench17. The author painstakingly studies the lives of Polish citizens from Upper Silesia. The life and living conditions of an “everyman” from the area, which during the Great War served only as a background to the main events, have not aroused great interest in researchers until now. The only attempt to study the subject of the everyday life of the population of Upper Silesia of that time and to determine directions for further investigation took place at a conference held in Gleiwitz on the eve of the centenary of the Great War18. The materials published after the conference will be a good indication of how much remains to be done in this area.

The subject matter of the preserved archival materials

Archival documents are usually silent witnesses of history. During an analysis of the preserved archival materials from the Great War period, it is easy to see that ←96 | 97→cruelty had equal effects on the whole of society and the various aspects of its life. From the announcement of mobilisation19 by the Emperor until the signing of the armistice20, those involved in the events of the war could not be sure of their future. The archival materials stored in the State Archive in Opole are a perfect reflection of these uneasy times. Although they do not document military activities, they illustrate the importance of the supply base for warfare.

Key information concerning political and administrative issues has been preserved in the fonds of the Opole District (Regierung Oppeln). The Opole District, as a superordinate body, coordinated the works of a lower-level administration in the whole of Upper Silesia, and issued or approved all decrees, announcements and other legal regulations. Additionally, the district was a control entity for lower-level administration, supervising the district authorities and the municipal authorities. The importance of this administration level increased over the discussed period. The war disturbed the economy: for example, the termination of trade contacts with the Polish Congress led to shortages of food and raw materials21. In this difficult situation, the local agencies within the province were charged with additional tasks resulting from the state’s long-term military needs.

The best preserved and the most representative documents of those examined have been selected for the purposes of this paper. A large part comes from the fonds of the District Authorities Office in Opole (Landratsamt Oppeln). Apart from the political and military issues, which act as the focus of a large part of the preserved materials from this period, the most interesting materials for researchers are the archival materials that present the daily life of communities, or sometimes even individuals. This paper will examine the ones that best illustrate the more difficult aspects of everyday life during wartime.

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Mobilisation of military forces

The general mobilisation declared on 1 August 1914, initially by means of telegraph, was met with enthusiasm in Upper Silesian society22. The information, passed by word of mouth, was confirmed the same day and complemented by the hanging of announcements and mobilisation posters in all cities23. Martial law was imposed in Silesia on 31 July and the power was transferred to the army24. With time, the crowd cheering for the volunteers leaving for the front was replaced with loyal citizens who, driven by their sense of duty, supported their homeland. This is how a specific division of duties towards the state was constituted. The young and all those strong enough to carry arms were sent to the trenches. The remaining citizens were fighting at the rear of the front: they worked in armouries, chemical plants or mines, sewed clothes and worked in fields.

The preserved archival materials date back to the very beginning of the war. What merits particular attention is the pardon of 11 August 1914, in which Emperor Wilhelm shows favour to prisoners on the occasion of the outbreak of the war25. The mobilisation process is manifested in the records as conscription announcements26 and mobilisation summons for men who were taken on to compensate for the scarcity of recruits during consecutive stages of warfare27. The lists of the names of men summoned to join the supporting services are also preserved among these documents28. Re-organisation also affected transportation, procurement and the medical base. The latter element is best reflected in the ordinance ←98 | 99→of 12 August 1914 concerning the preparation of hospitals and medical staff for the needs of the army29.

Mobilisation concerned not only people but also animals. Typically horses were “recruited” and, after careful veterinary examination, equipped and sent to the front along with the soldiers30.

After the German troops entered the Kingdom of Poland in August 1914, the German military authorities used a “carrot and stick” method. On the one hand, they issued bilingual Polish-German announcements addressed to the local population and called for complete subordination to the new rule31. At the same time, the German authorities in their “announcements to the Poles” presented themselves as “defenders of western civilisation” against the barbarism of the “Asian hordes” and appealed for full support of their military actions against Russia32.

Finance and the war

Regardless of the times and changing circumstances, waging a war entailed the need to find funds. Governments of all the countries fighting on the fronts of the Great War secured sources of financing for the army and with time, gradually increased them33. Funds were acquired through the organisation of wartime loans, the sale of bonds, postcards and stamps34, additional printing of money and raising taxes35. In Germany, external loans represented one of the means of compensating for the financial deficit of the state. People also used, to a lesser degree, external “war credits”36. However, none of the steps taken by the state could prevent a ←99 | 100→serious monetary crisis37. The scarcity of money on the market was compensated with the issuance of substitutes: coupons and substitute money.

In Silesia, the first substitute money (Notgeld) of low and medium nominal value appeared as soon as in August 1914. The money was issued by magistrates and municipal administrations. It was withdrawn from circulation shortly after it had been issued38. The archival materials of the Komitet Wojewódzki Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej (Voivodeship Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party) in Opole include substitute coupons for 15 Pfening and 1 German mark issued by the magistrate of Groß Strehlitz (Polish: Strzelce Opolskie)39. The same fonds contains also substitute money issued in August 1914 by the German Central Bank in Berlin (Reichsbank Berlin) with a nominal value of 50 German marks. This money was in circulation until the end of the war40.

Captivity

One of the fundamental issues closely related to war is the issue of captivity. On all fronts of the Great War, six to nine million soldiers and officers, according to different estimates, were sent to prisoner-of-war camps over the course of the war41. Regardless of the organisational structure and geographical latitude, the greatest problem faced by the camps was shortage of food and illnesses. Hunger and related diseases were the main cause of death, both in France and Germany, where the accommodation and sanitary conditions were the mildest, and in camps in Russia, Italy and Turkey, where they were the most difficult42. About 2.5 million ←100 | 101→prisoners ended up in prisoner-of-war camps43 in Germany during the Great War. Ca. 90 thousand privates, non-coms and officers, these being Russians, Romanians, Serbs, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Italians and Poles from the tsarist army, were sent to camps in Lamsdorf (Polish: Łambinowice)44 and Neisse (Polish: Nysa)45: the largest camps in Upper Silesia46. As soon as in October 1914, according to the “food for work” rule, 65,000 war prisoners were sent to work in mines, ironworks, cement plants, agricultural farms and larger factories belonging to the machine engineering, metallurgical and arms industries47. Accommodation, sustenance and the type of works they performed are indicated in the files of all levels of administration, which was dully performing tasks defined by military authorities and resulting from military needs of the state48. Armed civil employees were delegated to supervise and monitor the prisoners’ work in industrial plants and other forced labour facilities49. For the prisoners in the camps, daily life consisted of hard and exhausting work and difficult living with poor sanitary conditions, frequent maltreatment by the camp wardens and, with time, growing food scarcities, which led to illnesses and death.

On the outbreak of the war, Polish seasonal labourers were kept by force in Silesia50. After the seizure of the Kingdom of Poland by the German army, more “volunteer” workers from occupied areas joined the group of civil prisoners (Zivil Gefangene)51. Their living conditions and legal status were only slightly different ←101 | 102→from those of a prisoner of war. They were low paid, isolated from the local community and contained in camps. Nevertheless, they tried to protest against their working conditions and made attempts at escaping. The archival files of the Great War stored in the fonds of the State Archive in Opole preserve a large amount of materials presenting the living conditions and the moods of the Polish, Russian and Jewish labourers employed in Upper Silesia52.

In the following years, the number of wartime and civil prisoners employed in various industries continuously increased. Forced labourers could not fill all the positions vacated by the German citizens who had been sent to the front. Many sons, husbands and fathers found themselves in French or Russian captivity and experienced exactly the same as the soldiers of the hostile armies imprisoned in Germany53. In particular, the soldiers imprisoned in Russia had to face all the pains of everyday camp life: hunger, disease, hard work and difficult conditions. However, from the beginning, they received support from their compatriots, who organised collections of food, clothes, medicines and money. Actions aimed at supporting German prisoners of war, whether local or nationwide, were broadly publicised by propaganda54. The situation became extremely difficult after the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917 and changed only after the Peace Treaty of Brest was concluded in March 1918. Pursuant to the Treaty, the exchange and gradual repatriation of captives to Germany was started55. Lists of war prisoners returning from Russian captivity, which have been preserved in the fonds of the State Archive in Opole, are a rich and interesting source of individual and family stories56. An inspection of the lists confirms that the majority ←102 | 103→of healthy former prisoners of war were, after a short rest, returned to the front, this time in France.

Organisation of life in areas not covered with warfare

Regular citizens living far from the front were becoming increasingly affected by the results of a prolonged war. As the situation on the front was getting more complicated, the life of people beyond the frontline had to be carefully regulated. This concerned even such remotely related areas of life as the breeding of homing pigeons57 to be used for military purposes. In August 1915, the president of the Opole District introduced, by means of a decree, monthly reports informing about the situation concerning housing premises, sustenance and equipment for soldiers58. Provisions concerning passports59 and fire safety were strengthened60. All levels of administration called for strict obedience of these rules. Violation of the fire safety rules was punished with particular severity. Also, healthcare was covered with strict supervision which involved, for example, regulation of the sale of medical products61 or determination of the procedure to be followed in case of epidemic62.

The echoes of war did not spare school and cultural life. The introduction of “History of war” (Kriegsgeschichtsstunde)63 as a school subject was an attempt at constraining the depraving effect of the war on youth. In addition, libraries were developed to offer titles that promoted a positive image of war64. One example of the disorganisation of school life was the cancellation of meetings with parents65.

With time, as the war brought further damage, public readings, cultural events and church concerts were organised to support soldiers and war-disabled persons. ←103 | 104→The funds raised were most often donated for the organisation of nursing houses66 and support of soldiers who had lost their sight in warfare67.

Collections of money and valuables were organised as a reflection of a broadly understood patriotism68. German propaganda had a huge influence on the creation of a positive image of war69. A number of tricks were used to justify the calling for financial sacrifices by the state, the most convincing of which were posters containing various slogans and rhymes. It is worth quoting one of them: “Daß ich in Deutschlands schwerer Zeit/Mein Gold dem Vaterland geweiht/Zum Schutz und Schirm von Hof und Herd,/Wird offenkundig hier erklärt” (When the things were going bad for Germany/I gave my gold for my country/ And wanted to protect its greatest treasures,/ And now I must openly confess it)70,71.

Regardless of the ban on organising dancing events72, the 500th anniversary of the Hohenzollern dynasty was celebrated pompously in 191573. This event, together with similar celebrations of a propaganda nature, were the elements that sustained the atmosphere of patriotism.

Organisation of support for East Prussia after the Russian offensive in 1915

The invasion of East Prussia by the Russian army in mid-August 1914 and the helplessness of the Austrian-Hungarian army in Galicia forced Germany to ←104 | 105→relocate part of its army to the eastern front74. The victories of Tannenberg75 and of the Masurian Lakes stopped the Russian attack on East Prussia76. Owing to the victory in the winter Masurian campaign, Germany regained East Prussia77. Gradually, citizens began to return to their home cities and towns that had been damaged in fierce battles. Many had been killed in the fighting and a few thousand had been deported to Siberia. The remainder were welcomed by the sight of burnt, plundered and devastated houses, burnt farms, destroyed crops and stolen animals, and ensuing hunger78.

This difficult situation required immediate action. Help for East Prussia was organised on the basis of patriotic duty and solidarity with other regions of Germany79. The population of the Opole district, whose wartime auspices also covered the city of Lyck (Polish: Ełk), took an active part80, as demonstrated by the letters sent by the helpers along with the amounts they donated for this purpose81. The aid process was supervised by the President of the Opole district, for which he was awarded a certificate of honorary citizenship of Opole82.

Spies

The first wave of spymania occurred during the early days of war. Those seen as “disloyal” or “hostile” towards the Prussian state, even before the outbreak of war, were subject to preventive arrests and retention. This group included ←105 | 106→Polish activists in Silesia83. A second group consisted of people who had been accidentally arrested or retained based on gossip and slander. During the days following the outbreak, anti-spy hysteria was gradually replaced by systematic and strict police supervision of all potential spies. All foreigners were under special supervision. Those who had not left of their own will on the outbreak of the war were interned or deported84. Both the correspondence of potential spies and the letters of soldiers and prisoners were subject to strict censorship85.

The preserved materials reflect this particularly interesting and colourful aspect of everyday life during wartime. They include descriptions, lists of spies and people suspected of espionage who lived in the empire. Interestingly, they concern not only foreigners but also Prussian nationals. This documentation dates back to both the first and the later years of war. Announcements from the Grottkau (Polish: Grodków) Kreis concerning people suspected of espionage in mid-1915 are a unique example86. These archival materials contain short descriptions of each wanted person. Apart from their names and surnames, the materials also provide information about their age, place of residence, nationality and social group. Individual records indicate the reason for including a given person in the wanted list87, together with photographs or descriptions of people suspected of espionage88. These archival personal files list men and women, civilians and military men, foreigners and nationals, the young and the elderly, people representing all social and professional groups. The lists of people interned in Switzerland serve as an interesting case in point, even though they depict an atmosphere of increasing suspicion towards strangers from a different perspective. A list of civilians, German citizens, dated August 1918 includes personal data of the retained people, place and date of birth, place of retention and place of their forced stay89.

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News from the front

Reports from the front are the most emotional of the documents, with private letters from soldiers being the most personal90. Rare postcards are very special materials as, apart from personal messages, they contain a rich ideological-symbolic layer of a propaganda nature91.

Official reports contain lists of the fallen and of the missing in warfare92 as well as notices of death addressed to relevant registry offices93. Victims of war were honored posthumously with the Cross of Merit94, which in no way compensated for the bitterness and helplessness felt by the rest of society. The Prussian authorities, aware of the growing crisis, relentlessly called on the people to enlist95 and undertake other sacrifices for the sake of the ongoing war.

Memoirs

Memoirs constitute a separate part of the archival files. And although they are not credible documents, they shed further light on how wartime was perceived and experienced by an average citizen: a soldier96 and a labourer97. These archival materials include also archival files that tell us how the people who survived kept the memory of those who had fallen on the fronts of the Great War98.

Iconographic materials

Recently, an album consisting of 44 pages with 122 photographs of various size and quality was discovered in the fonds of the State Archive in Opole. The album conveys a unique picture of the Great War. It is possible that all the photographs were taken by one person between February 1916 and May 1917. Aerial imagery, outdoor pictures and portrait photographs are a truthful illustration of the war: ←107 | 108→burnt cities99, destroyed buildings and machinery100, devastated fields near the front line101 and the nearest French forts, towns and villages of Souville, Verdun, Tavannes and Vaux, among others. Aerial images presenting French forts are often accompanied by additional descriptions, which confirm that they served as supporting material for military use102. World War I meant also new battle techniques, new weapon types and new methods of protection against the enemy. Photos of planes, barrage balloons and zeppelins103 belong to the foreground of the theatre of the Great War. Photographs depicting the daily life of soldiers are the most interesting part of the fonds. On the one hand, soldiers are presented while performing their duties: in trenches104, on guard105, when marching106 or during inspection of the chief leader107. On the other hand, they are presented in their free time: during meals108, celebrations and cultural events109 or in an officers’ casino110. Black and white photographs halt time in order to complete a colourful picture of everyday reality.

Previously unknown and unpublished photos as well as photos already published by the press111 tell us more about the Great War than could be said in a thousand words.

Conclusion

“Historical breakthrough” is probably the best definition of the Great War period. This was a time of turbulent events that changed both the earlier macro-scale picture of Europe and the world, as well as the micro-scale picture of local communities and individual persons.

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The well-preserved materials from 1914–1918 stored mainly in the archival fonds of municipal or district authority offices, as well as in the provincial administrations, allow a careful analysis of the life of the people from the Opole district living in the shadow of the main events. Although the materials in the State Archive in Opole have been available for researchers for many years, they have enjoyed little interest. Earlier investigations concerning the Great War period have focused on the documentation of military-political events. It is high time they became a basis for the presentation of the social-economic changes in Upper Silesia and a canvas for illustrating the everyday reality of people who lived behind the front during the Great War.

Mobilisation decrees and lists of recruits, as well as notices and lists of fallen soldiers, document the two faces of war. New regulations of the state institutions caused changes in many spheres of civilian life. Communication, the educational system, food supply and distribution system, as well as trade in medicines were reorganised. A series of detailed regulations concerning the operation of hospitals, the work of medical personnel and the procedures preventing epidemics was introduced. Industry and agriculture were switched to “special tracks” in order to satisfy the needs of war, which were growing year by year. Prisoners of war were employed in place of men fighting on the front and worked in the field and the workshop.

Prolonged war increased problems and influenced society’s attitude towards the authorities, which on the one hand, offered social aid for citizens but on the other, issued decrees concerning the pursuit of spies and deserters. The support for people from the war zone, which had been organised during the first years of the war on the initiative of the Opole District community, gradually disappeared.

Aversion, bitterness and a sense of helplessness grew in those who were left with only photographs of their sons, husbands or fathers wearing army uniforms. The preserved archival materials reflect each of the above-mentioned spheres of life.

The question arises whether historians will be willing to familiarise themselves with the archival materials presented herein and whether they will resume the so-far neglected investigation into various aspects of the daily life of people in Upper Silesia and of the changes that took place in the socio-economic sphere during the Great War. The area of research and the resource base are extensive. It is worth assuming a new perspective on such problems as the employment of forced labour in different sectors of the provincial economy, as well as the influence of war on law and trade, or social-political changes. Such matters as prisoner-of-war camps, female and underaged labour, espionage and propaganda await a thorough analysis.

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Bibliography

Archival sources

Archiwum Państwowe w Opolu:

Akta miasta Grodkowa.

Akta miasta Korfantowa.

Akta miasta Krapkowic.

Akta miasta Opola.

Komitet Wojewódzki Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej w Opolu.

Rejencja Opolska [Regierung Oppeln].

Starostwo Powiatowe w Grodkowie [Landratsamt Grottkau].

Starostwo Powiatowe w Koźlu [Landratsamt Cosel].

Starostwo Powiatowe w Nysie [Landratsamt Neisse].

Starostwo Powiatowe w Opolu [Landratsamt Oppeln].

Zbiór fotografii z I wojny światowej.

Związek Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację Zarząd Okręgu w Opolu.

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Muzeum martyrologii jeńców wojennych w Łambinowicach. Informator, oprac. Popiołek Stefan, Sawczuk Janusz, Senft Stanisław, Opole.

Nowak, Edmund: Obozy na Śląsku Opolskim w systemie powojennych obozów w Polsce (19451950). Historia i Implikacje. Opole 2002.

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Pajewski, Janusz: Pierwsza wojna światowa 19141918. Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN: Warszawa 1998.

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Popiołek, Stefan/ Janusz, Sawczuk and Stanisław, Senft (eds.): Muzeum martyrologii jeńców wojennych w Łambinowicach. Informator. Opole 1969.

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Stanek, Piotr: “Jeńcy wojenni na Górnym Śląsku w latach I wojny światowej”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (19141918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013 r. Opole 2013 [PDF version].

Witkowski, Michał: “Wojna Propagandowa”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (19141918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013 r. Opole 2013 [PDF version].

Illustrations

Illustration 1: Bilingual, German-Polish announcement of the Prussian authorities addressed to the Kingdom of Poland population of August 1914 – Rejencja Opolska [Regierung Oppeln] – Biuro Prezydialne, 141, pp. 30–31;

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Illustration 2: Appeal to the Poles – Rejencja Opolska [Regierung Oppeln] – Biuro Prezydialne, 141, p. 23;

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Illustration 3: Substitute money – 4149, Komitet Wojewódzki Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej w Opolu, 4149, pp. 3–4;

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Illustration 4: Photographs of people suspected of espionage that supplemented announcement of authorities – Akta miasta Grodkowa, 1142, p. 261;

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Illustration 5: Postcard sent from Opole in 1915 presenting an Austrian-Hungarian general that follows the Russian prisoners with his eyes – Starostwo Powiatowe w Opolu [Landratsamt Oppeln], 1636, p. 173;

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Illustration 6: Army camp – Southern Verdum [Truppenlager südl. Verdun.] – Zbiór fotografii z I wojny światowej, 1, p. 19;

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Illustration 7: Soldiers in trenches – Zbiór fotografii z I wojny światowej, 1, p. 12.


1 The village districts in the Opole district: Bytom, Gliwice, Głubczyce, Grodków, Katowice, Kluczbork, Koźle, Lubliniec, Niemodlin, Nysa, Olesno, Opole, Prudnik, Pszczyna, Racibórz, Rybnik, Tarnowskie Góry, Toszek, Zabrze. These areas were administered by “landrat” – starosts (Landratsamt) and district areas (Kreisausschuss) they ruled cf. Mendel, Edward: Polacy na Górnym Śląsku w latach I wojny światowej. Położenie i postawa. Wydawnictwo “Śląsk”: Katowice 1971, p. 17.

2 The municipal districts of the Opole district were established through designation of areas around cities with more than 20 thousand inhabitants. These were: Opole, Gliwice, Bytom, Królewska Huta (Chorzów), Katowice, Zabrze, Nysa, Racibórz, loc.cit.

3 The Opole district was established pursuant to the act of 30 April 1815 and came into being on 7 May 1816. Throughout its existence, the district changed its scope and administrative structure several times, cf. Czapliński, Marian: “Kancelaria i registratura Rejencji Opolskiej”. Sobótka (2/1961), pp. 179–183.

4 Mendel, Edward: op. cit., p. 17.

5 Czapliński, Marek: “Dzieje Śląska od 1806 do 1945 roku”. In: Czapliński, Marek/ Kaszuba, Elżbieta/ Wąs, Gabriela et al. (eds.): Historia Śląska. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego: Wrocław 2007, pp. 300–310; cf. Mendel, Edward, op. cit., p. 18.

6 Borkowski, Maciej: “Życie codzienne w Opolu w latach Wielkiej Wojny (1914–1918)”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (1914–1918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice 20–22 June 2013, Opole 2013, [PDF.], p. 90; cf. Czapliński, Marek: op. cit., pp. 300–310.

7 Ibid., p. 306.

8 Mendel, Edward: op. cit., pp. 18–22.

9 Statistik des Deutsche Reichs. Die Volkszählung im Deutschen Reiche am 1 Dezember 1910, Berlin 1914.

10 Mendel, Edward: Dzień powszedni na Śląsku Opolskim w czasie I wojny światowej. Opole 1987, p. 7; cf. Gehrke, Roland: “Od Wiosny Ludów do I wojny światowej (1848–1918)”. In: Bahlcke, Joachim/ Gawrecki, Dan/ Kaczmarek, Ryszard (eds.): Historia Górnego Śląska. Polityka, gospodarka i kultura europejskiego regionu. Dom Współpracy Polsko-Niemieckiej: Gliwice 2011, pp. 202–203.

11 Mendel, Edward: op. cit., pp. 24–25.

12 Ibid., pp. 25–26; cf. Gehrke, Roland: op. cit., pp. 202–203.

13 State Archive in Opole (Archiwum Państwowe w Opolu subsequently referred to as APO), Rejencja Opolska (Regierung Oppeln subsequently referred to as RO) – Wstęp do inwentarza, pp. 8–9.

14 The personal files of the fonds Rejencja Opolska (Opole District) are an exception as they have not yet been subjected to a full inventory of the archival units. The inventory works within this area are in progress. We will be able to familiarize ourselves with their final results after completion of all the works.

15 The First Silesian Uprising (16–24 August 1919) broke out as a consequence of the dissatisfaction of the Polish people with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, according to which the division of the Upper Silesia region was to be decided by a plebiscite. The Second Silesian Uprising (19/20–25 August 1920) was an attempt at highlighting the presence of the Polish population in this region. It was also a revolt against the terror of the German paramilitary units. The Third Silesian Uprising (2/3 May–5 July 1921) was an aftermath of the plebiscite results and also an attempt to change the state of affairs; cf. Czapliński, Marek, op. cit., pp. 365.

16 The plebiscite in Upper Silesia (Volksabstimmung in Oberschlesien) was mandated by the Treaty of Versailles and was to determine the division of Upper Silesia between Poland and Germany. The plebiscite was conducted on 20 March 1921. Its result was unfavourable for Poland; cf. Czapliński, Marek: op. cit., p. 362; et cf. Popiołek, Kazimierz: Historia Śląskaod pradziejów do 1945 roku. Wydawnictwo “Śląsk”: Katowice 1984, pp. 521–536.

17 Kaczmarek, Ryszard: Polacy w armii Kajzera. Na frontach I wojny światowej. Wydawnictwo Literackie: Kraków 2014.

18 Linek, Bernard/Rosenbaum, Sebastian/Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (1914–1918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013. Opole 2013 [PDF version].

19 The mobilisation was ordered on 1 August 1914, cf. Pajewski Janusz: Historia Powszechna 1871–1918, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN: Warszawa 1996, pp. 324–325.

20 The terms of the armistice were signed by representatives of Germany on 11 November 1918 in a railway carriage near the Compiègne forest; Gilbert, Martin: Pierwsza wojna światowa. Trans. Stefan Amsterdamski. Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo: Poznań 1994, pp. 502–504; cf. Pajewski, Janusz: Pierwsza wojna światowa 1914–1918. Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN: Warszawa 1998, pp. 759–761.

21 Czapliński, Marek: op. cit., p. 343.

22 Reports of the local press are a good reflection of the moods of the Opole population at the announcement of mobilisation and during the first days of war; cf. Borkowski, Maciej: op. cit., p. 90.

23 Kaczmarek, Ryszard: op. cit., pp. 87–93.

24 Czapliński, Marek: op. cit., p. 342.

25 APO, Starostwo Powiatowe w Opolu (Landratsamt Oppeln, subsequently referred to as LO), 835, pp. 133–135.

26 Ibid., 1777, p. 54.

27 APO, Akta miasta Grodkowa, 1109, p. 42.

28 Ibid. p. 44; The Act of the Reichstag of 5 December 1916 on the Supporting Service for Homeland imposed on all men aged 16–60, who could not fight on the front, a duty to work for the front, and mobilised them for alternative military service. The same laws were applied to childless women and women engaged in so-called “useless activity”. In parallel, working time was extended, vacations were shortened; the reluctant were mandated to work and the work of the under-aged and the retired was formalised; cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: Samobójstwo Europy. Wielka wojna 19141918. Wydawnictwo Literackie: Kraków 2014, p. 531.

29 APO, Starostwo Powiatowe w Koźlu (Landratsamt Cosel, subsequently referred to as LC), 261, pp. 49–50.

30 Ibid., 499, p. 31.

31 APO, RO – Biuro Prezydialne, 141, pp. 30–31.

32 Henceforth, unless stated otherwise all quotations in the text have been translated by the translator; ibid., p. 23.

33 Towards the end of 1914, Germany devoted 25% of its budget for war purposes. Four years later, in 1918, these expenses constituted 52% of the total national expenditure. At the same time, Great Britain allocated as much as 80% of its budgetary funds for wartime expenses, cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., p. 526.

34 Postcards and stamps issued during World War I included images of rulers, leaders, war heroes or victorious battles. The largest number of postcards was issued during this period in Germany; cf. ibid., p. 398 and p. 526.

35 Ibid., p. 526.

36 The central powers took out loans in Swiss, Swedish and Dutch banks, cf. ibid., p. 529.

37 The outbreak of the war led to a drop of share and security prices, withdrawal of money from banks and retention of “hard money” [golden and silver coins] by society, cf. Mendel, Edward: 1987, p. 14.

38 Ibid., pp. 14–16.

39 APO, Komitet Wojewódzki Polskiej Zjednoczonej Partii Robotniczej w Opolu (subsequently referred to as KWPZPRO), 4153, pp. 1–4.

40 Ibid., 4149, pp. 1–4.

41 Stanek, Piotr: “Jeńcy wojenni na Górnym Śląsku w latach I wojny światowej”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (19141918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013 r. Opole 2013 [PDF version], p. 36; cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., p. 456.

42 Ibid., pp. 457–458. 175 prisoner-of-war camps supervised by the Ministry of War were established in Germany during World War I. In total, 101 of them were intended for soldiers and non-coms – stalags [Stammlager für kriegsgefangene Mannschaften und Uniteroffiziere], 74 were intended for officers – oflags [Offizerslager für krigsgefangene Offziere] cf. Stanek, Piotr: op. cit., p. 36.

43 The largest group of prisoners consisted of the Russians and the French; loc. cit.

44 The camp complex in Łambinowice was intended for privates and non-coms. From 1914 to 1918 the camp many times extended and included a few smaller camps: Popiołek, Stefan/ Janusz, Sawczuk and Stanisław, Senft (eds.): Muzeum martyrologii jeńców wojennych w Łambinowicach. Informator. Opole, pp. 8–10.

45 In Nysa there was a camp for officers, cf. Stanek, Piotr: op. cit., p. 36.

46 Mendel, Edward, 1987, p. 19; cf. Nowak, Edmund: Obozy na Śląsku Opolskim w systemie powojennych obozów w Polsce (19451950). Historia i Implikacje. Opole 2002, p. 229.

47 Czapliński, Marek, op. cit., p. 345; cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., p. 459.

48 APO, LC, 496, pp. 3–4.

49 APO, LO, 1601, pp. 55–56.

50 Popiołek, Kazimierz: op. cit., p. 481; cf. Stanek, Piotr: op. cit., p. 39.

51 Thanks an intensive conscription campaign, tens of thousands of Polish workers voluntarily moved to Upper Silesia. This did not solve the problem of the shortage of workforce for an economy that had been switched to wartime mode: Popiołek Kazimierz, loc.cit. Military authorities forced citizens from occupied areas to work. Germans specialised in recruitment through “raids” and their victims, apart from the Poles, included Belgians and French. The captives were deported to work in industry and agriculture. Between 500 and 600 thousand Poles were forced to work for the Reich during World War I. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., pp. 534–535.

52 APO, ibid., 331, pp. 429–430 and pp. 496–497; cf. Miodowski, Adam: “Sytuacja jeńców wojennych z armii państw centralnych w niewoli rosyjskiej po przewrocie bolszewickim (listopad 1917–marzec 1918)”. In: Grinberg, Daniel/ Snopko, Jan/ Zackiewicz, Grzegorz (eds.): Wielka Wojna. Poza linią frontu. Wydawnictwo Prymat: Białystok 2013, p. 367; et cf. Chwalba Andrzej: op. cit., p. 458.

53 According to different sources from 150 to 200 thousand soldiers from the Prussian army were sent to prisoner-of-war camps in Russia. They were treated better than many of their fellow prisoners and they were granted much better living conditions, cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., p. 458.

54 APO, ibid., 1585, p. 798.

55 Miodowski, Adam: op. cit., pp. 365–370.

56 APO, ibid., 324, pp. 9–13.

57 Ibid., 3474, p. 16.

58 APO, LC, 496, p. 3.

59 APO, LO, 1642, pp. 2–3.

60 Ibid., 1113, p. 65.

61 Ibid., 1413, p. 156 and p. 158.

62 Ibid., 1386, pp. 157–164 and 1395, p. 56.

63 Lusek, Joanna: “Szkoła w latach I wojny światowej”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (19141918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013 r. Opole 2013 [PDF version], p. 103.

64 APO, LO, 817, pp. 1, 9–10.

65 Ibid., 742, p. 527.

66 APO, Akta miasta Krapkowic, 1294, pp. 239–242.

67 APO, LO, 1571, pp. 17–18.

68 APO, Akta miasta Opola (subsequently referred to as AMO), 1281, pp. 234–237.

69 Military authorities introduced strict censorship of the press in the Reich with the outbreak of war. With time, the German authorities established special institutions – Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst (05.10.1915), die Militärische Stelle des Auswärtigen Amtes (MAA) (01.07.1916), Bild – und Filmamt (BUFA) (30.01.1917) intended to manage and supervise all propaganda activity; cf. Witkowski, Michał: “Wojna Propagandowa”. In: Linek, Bernard/ Rosenbaum, Sebastian/ Struve, Kai (eds.): Koniec starego świata – początek nowego. Społeczeństwo Górnego Śląska wobec pierwszej wojny światowej. (19141918) Źródła i metody. Gliwice, 20–22 czerwca 2013 r. Opole 2013 [PDF version], pp. 115–116; et cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., pp. 390–405.

70 Henceforth, unless stated otherwise, all quotations in the text have been translated by the translator.

71 APO, LO, 2037, p. 122.

72 Ibid., 1762, p. 1.

73 Ibid., 686, pp. 72–73.

74 Beckett, Ian F.W.: Pierwsza wojna światowa 19141918. Trans. Rafał Dymek . Książka i Wiedza: Warszawa 2009, pp. 81–82; cf. Kaczmarek, Ryszard: op. cit., pp. 108–112.

75 The Battle of Tannenberg was fought between 26 and 31 August 1914, cf. Pajewski, Janusz, 1996, p. 340; German propaganda attached great importance to the victory over the Russian army at Tannenberg. Tannenberg became a symbol of effective defense of the homeland and was presented on postcards, posters and in literature, cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., pp. 403–404.

76 Ibid., pp. 125–135; cf. Beckett, Ian F.W.: op. cit., pp. 82–84.

77 Pajewski, Janusz, 1998, pp. 253–254; cf. Łach, Bolesław W.: “Społeczeństwo Prus Wschodnich wobec agresji rosyjskiej”. In: Grinberg, Daniel/ Snopko, Jan/ Zackiewicz, Grzegorz (eds.): Wielka Wojna. Poza linią frontu. Wydawnictwo Prymat: Białystok 2013, p. 38.

78 Ibid., pp. 38–41.

79 Ibid., p. 42.

80 APO, LO, 1845, pp. 16–20.

81 Ibid., 864, pp. 545–547.

82 APO, AMO, 628, p. 1.

83 The arrested included inter alia: Bronisław Koraszewski, Józef Dreyza, Konstanty Wolny, Marian Różański, Jakub Kania, and others; Czapliński, Marek: op. cit., p. 342; et cf. Mendel, Edward: 1987, p. 12.

84 Ibid. pp. 12–13; et. cf. Chwalba, Andrzej: op. cit., pp. 378–383.

85 Ibid., p. 384.

86 APO, Akta miasta Grodkowa, 1142, s. 1.

87 APO, Ibid., p. 109.

88 APO, Ibid., pp. 261–262.

89 APO, LO, 1753, p. 46.

90 APO, Ibid., 1826, pp. 1–3.

91 Ibid., 1636, pp. 172–173;APO, AMO, 1281, p. 169.

92 Ibid., 1280, p. 74.

93 Ibid., pp. 75–76.

94 APO, Akta miasta Korfantowa, 104, pp. 5; APO, LO, 162, pp. 125–127.

95 Ibid., 1759, p. 132.

96 APO, RO, akta osobowe, 52215, sheet not numbered.

97 APO, KWPZPRO, 3184, pp. 6–7.

98 APO, AMO, 2530, p. 35 and p. 137; APO, Starostwo Powiatowe w Nysie (Landratsamt Neisse), 309, pp. 37.

99 APO, Zbiór fotografii z I wojny światowej, 1, p. 42.

100 Ibid., p. 37.

101 Ibid., pp. 11–12, 29.

102 Ibid., p. 19.

103 Ibid., pp. 30–31, 33–34, 43.

104 Ibid., p. 12.

105 Ibid., p. 39.

106 Ibid., p. 11.

107 Ibid., p. 28.

108 Ibid., p. 42.

109 Ibid., pp. 14, 39–40.

110 Ibid., p. 20.

111 APO, Związek Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację Oddział Okręgowy w Opolu, 333, pp. 1–12.