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Cultures in Conflict

Religion, History and Gender in Northern Europe c. 1800–2000

Edited By Alexander Maurits, Johannes Ljungberg and Erik Sidenvall

This book includes studies of main conflict areas in modern Western societies where religion has been a central element, ranging from popular movements and narratives of opposition to challenges of religious satire and anti-clerical critique. Special attention is given to matters of politics and gender. With this theme, it provides a useful guide to conflict areas in modern European religious history.

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Anders Jarlert

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Anders Jarlert

Poland is Catholic, and a Pole is a Catholic.’ The Oppressed Evangelical Masurians after the Second World War

Abstract The fate of the Masurian Lutherans in eastern Poland is one of the tragedies of modern Europe. This chapter monitors the various, and often contradictory, attempts to transform a group that often escaped attempts at cultural and political classification. During the post-WWII era, various efforts to support this group were made by the part of European co-religionists. In this chapter is found a first history of the short-lived Swedish Church Masurian Aid.

‘Poland is Catholic, and a Pole is a Catholic’

In a letter from 1957, a bishop of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland wrote that the Masurians still were leaving, firstly because of the wrongs they suffered during and after the war, then due to their economic situation, losing their farms to newcomers and often having to work for them. Further, the loss of churches and church property ‘played no small role’ in turning Masurians against Poland. ‘The still repeated watchword “Poland is Catholic, and a Pole is a Catholic” led the Catholic population to treat Masurians as Germans and to discriminate against them.’1

In 1916, the journal Germania had stated that nationality and religion were not so profoundly intertwined in any other people as with the Poles. They were long used to regarding the Catholic confession as the crucial feature of Polish identity.2 Recent research has observed that this autostereotype is being used as an instrument for national religious homogenisation, either for a national exclusion of other confessions or against the representatives of a secular, enlightenment-based cultural understanding as being un-national.3

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Before the First World War, the German authorities tried to claim the Masurian language was separate from Polish by classifying it as a non-Slavic language.4 In 1910, the German language was reported by German authorities as being used by 197,060, Polish by 30,121 and Masurian by 171,413. Roman Catholics generally opted for the Polish language, Protestants appreciated Masurian.5 On 11 June 1920, the League of Nations held a plebiscite to determine if the people in Southern East Prussia wanted to remain with Germany or to join Poland. Masurs supporting the Polish side were violently harassed, and at least 3,000 Warmian and Masurian activists for Poland fled the region. The results determined that 99.32% of the voters in Masuria proper chose to remain with the German Reich. Their traditional Evangelical belief kept them away from Polish national consciousness, dominated by Roman Catholicism. Almost only Catholics voted for Poland.6

The General Situation in Masuria after the Second World War

Profound distress and comfortless poverty met me here. About 75 percent of the children are orphans. In most parishes, there were only children and aged ones. Fathers and adult sons have been in the war or in concentration camps, women between the ages of 20 and 40 have been deported to work camps. They lack both labour, machinery and cattle. I saw a 60-year-old woman digging on a field. She was alone planting potatoes over an entire acre. Moreover, I saw an even older woman, who walked behind a plough, drawn by underage children. Masuria’s 42 parishes have only 7 pastors.

This quotation in 1946 from Polish Lutheran Bishop Jan Szeruda (1889−1962) gives a distinct and dark picture of the need in Masuria at the time.7

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Out of 400,000 inhabitants in Masuria after the Second World War, the remaining Masurians were only about 75,000. Seventy-five per cent of the Masurians had fled in advance of the Red Army. Then, in summer, 1945, a typhoid fever proved fatal to many of the remaining ones. Free manifestations of regional and even national identities were not possible until after 1989, but this was too late for most Masurians. In 2011, only 1,376 Masurians identified themselves as such, when the Polish census for the first time allowed inhabitants to indicate one or two national-ethnic identities.8

The Masurians were a significant border region population. They appeared as neither Polish nor Germans, but something special: as Masurians. This situation could be compared to the Upper Silesians, the South Tyrolians, or the Slesvig population. They were of Slavonic descent, Evangelical since the Reformation, speaking a West Slavonic dialect, named Masurian, regarded as old-fashioned Polish, while they mostly used German as their devotional language. In writing, the Masurians used High German as opposed to the Low German used by most of East Prussia’s German population. Their emigration had begun many years earlier. Shortly before the First World War, at least 180,000 persons, 36% of all Masurians, were already living in Westphalia in Western Germany.

In the early nineteenth century, almost all Masurians had spoken Masurian. Adolf Schimanski in 1921 characterised the Masurians by their ‘Polish ancestry, their German schooling, their Slavonic customs and habits, their German tradition, their Polish family names and German given names, their Polish spoken language and German written language, their Polish proverbs, their German songs, their Slavonic religiosity, their Evangelical confession’.9 After 1918, the majority of Masurians could not write or read Polish, since the last generation with Polish school teaching left school in 1888. Nevertheless, Polish was still being spoken.

In local communities, pastors who spoke only German met protests. The language question obviously was a class matter, since Polish was associated with the poor people. In 1926, in the Ortelsburg diocese, only twelve pastors could preach in Polish without a script three read their own sermon, and six read printed sermons that they could not understand themselves. According to a report from Lipowitz in 1930, one German and one Masurian Church service were held each Sunday.10

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The Masurians have been described as the best documented and least ambiguous case anywhere in Europe of national consciousness running counter to language.11 However, from 1933, the Nazi regime directly suppressed the Masurian language. During the Evangelical Church struggle in the early years of the Nazi regime, many Masurian clergymen, while politically loyal to the regime, supported the Confessing Church, critical of the German Christians.12 The Nazis had believed that in future the Masurians, as a separate non-German entity, would disappear, while those who would cling to their ‘foreignness’, as one Nazi report mentioned, would be deported. In May 1945, the Polonization work started with the effort to register the Masurians as ‘Masurian population of Polish descent’. However, these efforts were effectively sabotaged by the violence of Polish looting bands. Those who did not want to register were accused of pro-Nazi or pro-American propaganda. Not until 1949, after violent pressing, did the majority register.13 Despite this formal regulation, the majority of the Masurian population went into inner emigration, reacting against collectivization and Polish language.14

The Swedish relief workers in the late 1940s found a great difference between the old and younger generations. Old people liked to speak Masurian, mixed with German words, while the children could not speak any Polish, since this had been forbidden during the Nazi regime, especially in the so-called estate parishes, where the squire had been a party member, and actively tried to reduce Polish customs.15 Then the Red Army had treated them as Germans.

The Difficult Position of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland after the Second World War in Masuria

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After the end of the Second World War, the pastoral responsibilities for the resident Protestants from the Prussian Evangelical Church were taken over by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (EAC) in Poland. This church had as early as 1920 been engaged in the connexion of Masuria to Poland. After the German invasion in 1939 many pastors, among them Bishop Julius Bursche (1862−1942), were murdered as renegades and Polonizers.16

Marked by an oppressive Catholic majority, when ‘Evangelical’ was equated with ‘German’, the EAC had to define and defend its position as a Polish Church. As a minority Church the EAC had to lean close to the state for protection against the overpowering Catholic Church. Therefore, the Church willingly accepted the Government’s programme of Polonization. They had to win the Masurians for a national Polishness and simultaneously to strengthen the Evangelical influence in Polish society.17 The ideological use of Re-Polonization instead of Polonization made things still worse. A Re-Polonization presupposed an earlier national consciousness that never was the case. A pro-German attitude was explained as based on material interests only, and since the Poles believed in and tried to ‘reactivate’ a Polish national feeling, they were disappointed.18

After the Second World War, the Polish Lutheran Church (EAC) understood the Masurians as tragic victims of a forced Germanisation who needed to be re-Polonized. There was no suggestion of recognising a separate Masurian identity.19 As the Polish journalist Andrzej K. Wróblewski stated, the Polish post-war policy succeeded in what the Prussian state never managed: the creation of a German national consciousness among the Masurians.20

Most of the pastors who came to Masuria had themselves been prisoners in German concentration camps. Now they arrived in a formerly German region, where a vast majority of the population had actively supported the National Socialists. Their ideological view of their ‘Polish’ brethren clashed with the factual, chaotic situation. Andreas Kossert concludes that two worlds of experience could not encounter each other in a more extreme way.21 This is easily enlightened by Reinhard Koselleck’s views on experience as horizon, where in this case two totally different experiences made it impossible to reach a common space of expectation.22

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The majority of the remaining population could speak Polish, but not read or write in this language. Furthermore, ‘Poland’ was associated with an engaging Catholicism, which the Lutheran Masurians under no circumstances wanted. In Gawrzyalken, the new pastor Jerzy Sachs experienced that only five Evangelicals came to the public church service, though about one hundred Protestants went to private devotions in private homes. Because of rumours also from Polish Catholics, the Masurians did not believe in the durability of a Polish Evangelical church and regarded its pastors as ‘verdeckte Katholiken’ (covert Catholics), who wanted to force their Polonization. That they continued to visit private devotions was in line with the old Masurian lay preaching tradition from the Pietist Gromadki. A few of these preachers had remained and could reactivate the traditions of Lay Protestantism, this time against the tendencies of Polonization. A special expression of this popular piety were the almost totally lay-organised Mission celebrations, that since 1951, in the peak period of Stalinism, were arranged everywhere, with church choirs, ‘Posaunenchöre’ and child groups from the EAC taking part.23

That the Masurians went to the Gromadki devotions instead of the Polish church services may seem unexpected, since the Gromadki earlier had been in conflict with the German authorities because of their Masurian language, but most of them had been loyal to the Prussian state.24 Still more surprising is that there were old bridges between the Gromadki − a Gemeinschaftsbewegung from the 1830s − and the Catholic piety. Like the Lithuanian Protestants, the Gromadki demonstrated an ‘impressive outward piety’, such as statues of saints in Masurian homes. Protestant Masurians had even participated in Catholic pilgrimages and observed Catholic holidays, though in the political struggle most of the Gromadki pleaded for ‘a space in between’.25 This points to the need to distinguish influences of Catholic piety that could be combined with the Lutheran tradition from other Catholic traditions, and especially from the Catholic hierarchy.

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The Gromadki protested rationalism in theology and church. Among the so-called Stundenhalter − the leaders of prayer meetings − were people from the lower classes, where books of Johann Arndt were widely read. Another distinct feature was the lay preaching. The long distances in Masuria made them used to services without clergy.26

From 1946, the EAC severely criticised the attitude of Polish society. While supporting the Polonization politics, the Church criticised the insufficient protection of the Masurians against Polish looting bands as well as their treatment from the majority population. They emphasised how counter-productive it was to treat the Masurians as Germans. During the so-called verification actions in 1948−1949, the EAC found its influence too weak to shape a Polish mentality among the Masurians.

Those faithful to the Evangelical Church felt themselves alienated from the EAC. Pastors were sometimes regarded more as propagandists then as soulcarers. Another important aspect was that − contrary to the case in Pomerania or Lower Silesia − the pastoral care in the German language in Masuria was forbidden by the state. The pastors, too, wanted to treat the Masurians differently from the remaining ethnical Germans in Pomerania. However, with public services in German, the EAC would have been open to attacks from the Catholic Church as being ‘German’. This was an unsolvable dilemma, since they as a Protestant Church were committed to preach the gospel in the native language.

In Ortelsburg, a Swedish priest preached in German, and was translated by the Polish pastor into Polish. A female participant said: ‘Uns tat das Herz weh, denn wir waren ja nur Deutsche in der Kirche.’ Sometimes, singing in German was allowed. Private devotions were almost exclusively held in German, and some pastors used the German language at funerals, the communion of the sick, and at house visits. The removal of German inscriptions on memorials, altars, and church windows (especially Bible quotations) were met with protests; and some subjects were kept secret for some years. Still after the political liberalisation in 1956, a layman, Emil Leyk, demanded the introduction of German services, since only the German language, and not Polish, reached the Masurians in liturgy and preaching. This he regarded not as ‘anti-Polish’, but as a ‘matter of the heart’. The official Polish language had isolated the Masurian Christians from their Church.27

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The weak position of the EAC led to weak protests against the illegal occupation of Evangelical Church buildings by the Catholics. Though the EAC was deployed by the state as the legal successor of the Evangelical Prussian Church, it had no infrastructural possibilities to proceed against the attacks. For example, in the Neidenburg district, all the evangelical churches in 1946 were in Catholic hands, and the Protestants had to lurk in cemetery chapels and halls. This Evangelical−Catholic antagonism led to a stronger polarization, strengthening the German mentality in the Masurians.28

Later on, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski boasted Poland’s acquisition of the German lands east of Oder-Neiße as ‘the greatest Counter-Reformation in recent history’. Not only formerly Protestant churches in Masuria were taken over, but Catholics also staged ‘ceremonial burnings of Protestant church books’. Addressing a large gathering in 1959, one priest said that ‘there was once a large black stain of Lutheranism on the map of Masuria. Now there are only scattered spots; let us pray that these also disappear.’29

Still in the 1980s, the Roman Catholic Church mostly illegally occupied Evangelical church buildings. In Puppen in Ortelsburg, the small Evangelical congregation was beaten (‘geprügelt’) from their church during the service on 23 September 1979. This triggered a big wave of emigration that made the Evangelical communities in Masuria a disappearing minority in a formerly Protestant region.30

The Swedish Initiative of Rev. Daniel Cederberg (1908−1969)

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In the severe post-war situation, a Swedish clergyman, Daniel Cederberg, initiated and directed the Swedish Church Masurian Aid. Before the war, Cederberg had been a seamen’s pastor in Danzig and Gdynia. He knew the area well and spoke both German and Polish. Among Polish Protestants, he was well known since the Wolosianka trial in 1937, where a Lutheran pastor in Volynia had been sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for unauthorised political activity, and to two years for defamation of the Mother of God. Much due to Cederberg’s actions, Wolosianka was cleared of the political accusations. During the early war years in Gdynia, then occupied by the Third Reich, Cederberg had active contacts with the Polish resistance.31 However, his involvement in the Wolosianka trial did not strengthen his position in the eyes of the Catholic clergy.

On 9 September 1946, the Swedish national committee of the Lutheran World Convention met in Lund. Its decision was to form a special committee for church aid in Masuria with Rev. Cederberg as the representative of the national committee. When difficulties arose against a quick realization, Cederberg took the initiative to constitute a separate association, the Church Masurian Aid (Kyrkliga Masurienhjälpen or Kościelna Pomoc Mazurom). From its start up to its end in December 1948, Cederberg’s eager impatience was both a strength and a weakness in the work. It was a strength, mainly because the help could start immediately, it was quickly organized locally, and it reached the persons in the deepest need. However, he did not wait for approval from ecclesiastical or civil authorities, and thus the work was several times disturbed by misunderstandings, both in Poland and in Sweden. He was supported by the Swedish Archbishop Erling Eidem, but another Swedish bishop, Torsten Ysander, acted against him.32

The Masurian Church Aid had ten ‘active members’, and a lot of ‘passive members’ who supported the organization. The active members elected the board, that is, themselves, and worked quite efficiently with Cederberg as their chairman and Mrs Gunvor Hammar as their treasurer. Most important was that the Swedish-speaking American Dr Clifford Ansgar Nelson, stationed at the Lutheran World Convent in Geneva, was one of these ‘active members’.33

Dr Nelson visited Masuria in August 1946. He wrote:

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The natives who are left live in a state of hopelessness. Many cities and villages have been completely burned and destroyed. We travelled through villages which were deserted, with ruins everywhere. The smiling and fertile lake area, once inhabited by a thriving agricultural population, is now unprotected, except for the little that can be done by the women, who even hitch themselves to the plough to try to grow a little grain. A riot of rats and mice has ultimately caused terrible damage to the insufficient grain stock. Wild boars ravage in the potato fields. Horses and cows are almost entirely missing. A whole parish of 800 people had only one cow and one goat. Food is in extremely short supply and a widespread famine in the coming months is inevitable, unless something can be done to help the situation. Medicine is very rare and diseases are being spread. Venereal diseases usually occur up to 50−60 percent in women, and they get very little medical attention. Such an apparent need is hardly present anywhere else. The coming winter will lead to death if we cannot rescue them.34

Five days after the constitution of the Masurian Aid, it was reported that Pastor Allan Lind had gone to Poland on the 30th of September with the support of the Lutheran World Convention. Pastor Ragnar Fahlman from Vilhelmina in the far north of Sweden was sent out in October to give support in the food distribution and pastoral care. On the 11th of November, the new organization expressed its willingness to engage two deaconesses and a minister, already working in Masuria for the Swedish Church Aid. On the 2nd of December, Pastor Viktor Almgren was employed for three months, the resident chaplain Kjell Hagberg for three months, and the deaconess Kerstin Johansson, from Ljungby in Halland, also for three months. In February and March 1947, another four deaconesses, one clergyman, one student, and one female clerk were sent out. They stayed with local Masurian pastors’ families.35

An early meeting with Zygmunt Robel, the provincial governor of the Olsztyn province, Bishop Szeruda, Senior Friszke, Pastors Hellqvist and Lind, as well as the treasurer, Mrs Hammar, had paved the way for the work.36

Bishop Szeruda expressed his ‘joy for the work which the Church Aid had executed for renewal in the devastated Church province of Masuria. This organisation represented the only direct emergency assistance which had taken contact with his Church after the war and was considered by him indispensable for the nearest future.’37

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The Polish deaconesses from the Tabita home in Skolimów near Warsaw had been serving before the war at the Evangelical hospital in Warsaw, which was destroyed in the war. They continued their work in Gdansk, but since only 1% of the inhabitants there were Evangelicals after the so-called population exchange, the authorities regarded the work of the sisters as superfluous, and they were told to leave. Instead they began serving in Masuria, visiting homes, taking part in the distribution of food, pastoral care, Bible studies, and, not least, in healthcare. A venereal ambulance was established, directed by Dr Sylvia Chapman, a specialist in female diseases from New Zealand, who spoke some Polish. She was under administration from Geneva, and then from the Polish Ecumenical Reconstruction Committee.38

The Swedish Masurian Church Aid funded repairs of vicarages, parish houses, and church windows. Three totally destroyed organs were repaired, in Olsztyn, Mikołajki, and Giẑycko.39 Other projects included a reprint of Luther’s Small Catechism in Polish, in 10,000 copies, and a provisional hymnbook for the Evangelical Christians in Masuria. This was printed in Lund, Sweden, but then forbidden in Masuria, because some words in Martin Luther’s ‘Ein feste Burg’ from the sixteenth century were understood as criticizing the Soviets as enemies.40

In January 1947, the Masurian Aid was accused of narrow-minded con-fessionalism, but they replied that help was to be given to people in need without concern for confession or nationality. The help to the Masurians was especially warranted since confessional limits of other aid organizations had made the Masurians the most distressed group in need of help. This was not ‘confessional help’, though it should be declared that the donors were Lutherans. This open formulation marked a turning point in Lutheran relief work. It was a consequence of the first paragraph in the statutes of the Masurian Church Aid, speaking of help ‘in spiritual and material terms, [to] provide assistance to the distressed population of the Polish province of Masuria, and to pay particular attention to our fellow Lutheran believers’.41

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That the Lutheran relief work without confessional concerns worked also among settlers from the Ukraine is confirmed by a published letter in Russian, from 1947, to a woman in the Swedish county of Småland, starting ‘Dear sister in Christ’. The man writes that his wife ‘kisses your tender hands and your dear face, and we thank the dear Creator that he has given you the possibility and opened your heart and your soul.’ Further, it says that ‘our dear Jesus is preparing for us an everlasting kingdom.’42

In March 1947, plans for an orphanage were discussed. The orphanage in Mikołajki was to become a project of both hope and disappointment. In June, the Swedish Europe Aid promised 100,000 zloty for the repair of a building, and its representative, Major Hans Ehrenstråle, was positive to the orphanage project of Pastor Pilch, while Mrs Lisa Lind from Save the Children was critical of the suitability of the building for the purpose. When the Provincial Office in Olsztyn submitted the guidelines to appropriate executive institutions, a letter was sent to the Foreigners’ Section of the provincial headquarters of the national police on 26 August 1948. Four days later, the head of the Section replied that since 26 April the Swede Margareta-Zenta Svensson had represented the Church Aid. She worked as superintendent of the future orphanage in Mikołajki.43

In spring 1948, the process practically stopped due to lack of funds. While the parish had no financial means to cover the costs for the orphanage, state policy did not allow such institutions to be run by religious organizations. Margareta-Zenta Svensson understood in October 1948 that they should have applied on behalf of the Masurian Aid, not on behalf of the Lutheran Church in Poland. She left Mikołajki in autumn 1949: ‘Unable to carry out her mission, she saw no point in staying in Poland.’ Instead of the orphanage, a home for elderly was established in Sorkwit, since the authorities raised no objections regarding elderly homes run by religious communities.44

In the Polish weekly Przekroj damaging articles appeared in September 1947, where the Swedish Church Aid organisation was accused of former pro-Nazi activities in the Ukraine. Such attacks were also launched by socialists in Sweden. Cederberg now realised that since the attacks on the Masurian Aid had taken on an unmitigated political character, it was necessary to prepare for the inevitable withdrawal of the field work.45

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In November−December 1947, the Swedes had to cease handing out food and clothes, since they spoke German with the Masurians. Instead, the distribution was to be carried out by a Polish organization. This was a sudden change of attitude, but in line with the strong Polonization efforts.46

Towards the end of 1948, the funds of the Masurian Aid were handed over to the newly established Swedish Church Poland Aid. The work had to be changed from temporary emergency assistance to prolonged support.

Difficulties in Masuria during the Work

As early as in October 1945, Bishop Szeruda perceived that collaboration between the Polish government and the Roman Catholic Church was marginalising the Evangelical Augsburgian Church. Lutherans were regarded as Germans, and the Catholics pressed many of them to convert. This, together with the pressure from the Polish authorities on the Masurians to register as Polish citizens, created a difficult situation. This continued, and still in the mid-1950s, local Masurians were called ‘Germans’ or even ‘Hitlerists’, reviving the negative attitude towards the settlers. Polish authorities later observed that Polish chauvinism was not a thing of the past, but widespread and growing because of the growth of pro-German options. The two chauvinisms increased each other.47

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The Methodists were the first Protestants to undertake spiritual care in Masuria after the Second World War, in accordance with a Church conference in Olsztyn in mid-September 1945, where it was agreed that they should take care of the Lutherans during a time of need. The teaching should be given according to Luther’s catechism, the liturgy should follow the traditions of the Evangelical Church, and pastors would wear the liturgical dress of the Prussian Union Church, but be subject to the Methodist superintendent. After the arrival of the Polish Lutheran pastors in autumn, 1945, the Methodists still stayed for a long time in Ełk and Ostróda. As late as in October 1948, Church Senior Friszke wrote about Methodist ‘infiltration’ in the Lutheran field in Masuria. A few years later, the Methodists were persecuted since their activities were assessed as harmful because of their competition with the re-Polonizing EAC, and because of their relations with the American Methodists.48

The settlers (‘Ansiedler’) constituted another difficulty. The inhabitants of Eastern Poland, taken over by the Soviet Union, had lost almost everything, and were forced to move westwards, many of them to Masuria. Since they were zealous Catholics and regarded the Masurians as Germans, many of them turned to the Evangelical villages to take over houses and lands. When an old Masurian tailor returned home after staying with his brother in Olsztyn over Christmas, he had no home. His house had been occupied by refugees from the East, who forced him out of his former home.49 One of the Swedish pastors reported in winter 1947 about nightly thefts of the few cows and horses left, and described how the Masurians had been plundered first by the Russians and then by the settlers. He even spoke about a ‘Catholic terror’ and hatred towards Evangelical Christians.50 Still worse were the relations between the Central Poles and the Masurians, who showed more understanding for the Ukrainians and East Poles.51

Yet another problem was the accusations of foreign involvement in Polish affairs, because of the American connection to Clifford Nelson in Geneva, and American food and money being sent to Masuria. This was necessary both for the quick start and for the continuation of the aid, but most suspicious in the eyes of the Communists. Neither the Red Army nor Polish Communists are mentioned in the public Swedish reports. This was of course due to fear of interruptions and persecutions. To Daniel Cederberg, the combined attacks from Polish Roman Catholicism, Communism, Swedish cultural radicalism, and bureaucratic relief work (i.e. Europahjälpen) formed the worst resistance.52

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Around 1947 the Provincial Public Security Office in Olsztyn started a broad operation of surveillance of foreign aid organizations. In April 1947, a Masurian woman from Mikołajki who worked for the mission was recruited under the alias ‘Swede’. She made friends with the Swedish deaconesses and provided a variety of information on the activities of Swedish guests, the Masurian community, Pastor Władysław Pilch, as well as other religious groups, such as the Mormon community in Zełwągi. Unfortunately, Pastor Almgren, who was a keen photographer, had taken a picture of the church in Baranowo, where the parsonage had been turned into a Civic Militia station. On 29 October 1948, Miss Zenta Svensson wrote to Daniel Cederberg that he should be extremely careful with what he wrote to her, since she thought that her post was being opened. There were even efforts to seize her as a spy, efforts that later were directed against Cederberg himself.53

The Spirituality of the Masurian Evangelical Christians

The Swedish relief workers made some accurate observations on the liturgy and spirituality in Masuria. In the Eucharist service, the communicants came forward to the choir and knelt during their confession, after the sermon. The singing of hymns was especially moving. One report says: ‘It was a cry from the depth of a suffering people’s heart.’ A Polish pastor together with his Swedish colleague could conduct the liturgy: the gospel and the creed were read in Swedish and in Polish. The Swedish pastor preached, interpreted to Polish. The congregation sang the hymn ‘So nimm denn meine Hände’ in German. It sounded like the roar of rushing waters. Masurians were found to preserve a layman’s religion, and the Church elders in the villages really knew what Lutheranism was about. They were proud of their faith. The old Lutheran family devotions were common in the Masurian homes.54

After taking part in a Church service, Clifford Nelson wrote:

Every person could say with Job: ‘The Lord took.’ Yes, what did the Lord not take away from them? It cannot be described. Everything, everything had been lost. And yet, they could continue with Job, saying, ‘The Lord gave; Blessed be the Name of the Lord!’ We were torn by tears when we were told about the goodness and grace of the Lord. How often did we not hear one after another say: ‘The Lord has kept me so wonderful’? And that was no phrase, but reality. The Lord is their part, their only part. But He is also the good part.55

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Many Masurians spoke in few words, in contrast to the flowing tongue of the Poles from the East. The Masurians lacked the light mind of the Polish, but they had the reverence for holiness in common, in contrast to the prosaic Germans. To the Masurian, as to the Pole, mysticism was important in religion. His reverence for the Church and the sacraments had something in common with the Roman Catholic’s, but simultaneously their Lutheran faith in the vocation or calling was deeply rooted. They were uncommonly faithful to Lutheranism, while their piety showed some Catholic features.56

Some Masurians said about the Third Reich, that its fate was God’s just judgement over human arrogance and a people that had turned away from God.57

In Pasym, one of the Swedish pastors took part in a very special solemnity. After a confirmation, the clergymen visited a small burial place far away in the woods, where eight Masurian women had buried their husbands on the spot where they had been shot. Now they wanted the place to be consecrated. When this was realized, after a speech by Pastor Otto Wittenberg from Pasym, the widows received Holy Communion on the graves of their husbands.58 Perhaps this was another example of a popular Lutheran inculturation of a sort of Catholic piety in an oppressed situation, where Catholics and Poles were being identified.

There are other European border regions, such as Slesvig or Alsace, where language, politics, and culture have been confronted or combined. In Silesia or Memelland (Klaipeda) the religious differences were also important. However, in Masuria, the construction of religious, political, cultural, and ethnic identities was more intricate than perhaps anywhere else in Northern Europe. In this, the watchword ‘Poland is Catholic, and a Pole is a Catholic’ played an important part.



Germania, 8.11.1916.

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Electronic Sources

‘German regions Prussia World War II’,, retrieved 14 August 2018.

‘Masuria’,, retrieved 29 January, 2020.

Unpublished Sources

Lund University Library

Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667)

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Almgren, Viktor, ‘Något om Masuriens land och folk’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 152−159.

Almgren, Viktor, ‘Några rader från verksamheten i Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 25−28.

Berger, Stefan, ‘Border Regions, Hybridity, and National Identity: The Cases of Alsace and Masuria’, in Q. Edward Wang & Franz L. Fillafer (eds), The Many Faces of Clio: Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography. Essays in Honor of Georg G. Iggers, New York 2007, pp. 366−381.

Blank, Richard, ‘When Germans and Poles lived together’, in Keith Bullivant, Geoffrey Giles & Walter Pape, Germany and Eastern Europe: Cultural Identities and Cultural differences, Amsterdam 1999.

Blanke, Richard, Polish-speaking Germans? Language and National Identity among the Masurians since 1871, Köln 2001.

‘Från hjälpverksamheten. Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 34−37.

‘Från hjälpverksamheten. Polen’, in Lutherhjälpen 1948, pp. 29−32.

Hagberg, Kjell, ‘Bland masuriska bröder’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp.29−31.

Hahn, Hans Henning, ‘Stereotypenforschung und Religion: Methodische Überlegungen’, in Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 32. Jg, Heft 1/2019, pp. 19−30.

Koselleck, Reinhart, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories, Stanford 2018.

Kossert, Andreas, ‘‘Grenzlandpolitik’ und Ostforschung an der Peripherie des Reiches: Das ostpreußische Masuren 1919–1945’, in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2/2003, pp. 117−146.

Kossert, Andreas, Ostpreussen: Geschichte und Mythos, München 2005.

Kozłowski, Janusz Bogdan, ‘O istocie gromadkarstwa mazurskiego’, in Komunikaty Mazursko-Warminskie. Kwartalnik 2, pp. 218−242

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Krysiak, Dominik, ‘Szwedzka misja charytatywna a kvestia utworzenia domu dziecka w Mikołajkach (1946−1949)’, in Meritum, tom I, Olsztyn 2009, pp. 163−177.

Kulczycki, John J., Belonging to the Nation: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Polish-German Borderlands 1939−1951, Cambridge, MA 2016.

‘Kyrkliga Polenhjälpen. Verksamhetsberättelse 1948−49’, in Lutherhjälpen 1950, pp. 163−168.

Larsson, Hedvig, ‘En Masurienprästs arbetsdag’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 214−217.

Lind, Allan, ‘I kyrkans gärning bland masurerna’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, pp. 191−195.

Madajczyky, Pjotr, ‘Polen, die Vertriebenen und die in den Heimatgebieten verbliebenen Deutschen seit den fünfziger Jahren. Hilfen –Kontakte –Kontroversen’, in Christoph Dahm & Hans-Jakob Tebarth (eds), Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und die Vertriebenen: Fünfzig Jahre Eingliederung, Aufbau und Verständigung mit den Staaten des östlichen Europa, Bonn 2000, pp. 101−117.

Małłek, Janusz, ‘Kosciól Ewangelicko-Augsburski na Mazurach w Pierwszych latach po II Wojnie Swatowej’, in Opera selecta: Reformacja i protestantyzm w Polsce i Pruscah (XVI–XX w.), Torun 2012.

‘Masuriskt tackbrev’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, p. 217.

Michalak, Ryszard, ‘The Methodist Church in Poland in reality of liquidation policy: Operation ‘Moda’ (19491955)’, in Przegląd Narodowościowy/Review of Nationalities 8/2018, pp. 199−224.

Nelson, Clifford Ansgar, ‘Ett besök i Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, pp. 139−142.

Ryman, Björn, Lutherhjälpens första 50 år. 1947−1997, Stockholm 1997.

Schimanski, Adolf, Die wirtschaftliche Lage der Masuren (Phil. Diss.), Königsberg 1921.

Szeruda, Jan, ‘Långväga lundagäster ha ordet’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, pp. 92−94.

‘Verksamhetsberättelse 194849’, in Lutherhjälpen 1949, pp. 166−167

Walser Smith, Helmut, ‘Prussia at the Margins’ in Neil Gregor, Niels Roemer & Mark Roseman (eds), German History from the Margins, Bloomington, IN 2006, pp. 69−83.

1John J. Kulczycki, Belonging to the Nation: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Polish-German Borderlands 1939−1951, Cambridge, MA 2016, p. 298 (1957, June 25).

2Germania 8.11.1916.

3Hans Henning Hahn, ‘Stereotypenforschung und Religion: Methodische Überlegungen’, in Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 32. Jg, Heft 1/2019, p. 25.

4‘German regions Prussia World War II’, Retrieved 14 August 2018. 5 ‘German regions Prussia World War II’, Retrieved 14 August 2018.

6‘Masuria’,, retrieved 29 January 2020, and further sources, especially Andreas Kossert,‘“Grenzlandpolitik” und Ostforschung an der Peripherie des Reiches: Das ostpreußische Masuren 1919–1945’, in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2/2003, p. 124.

7Jan Szeruda, ‘Långväga lundagäster ha ordet’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, p. 93.

8, retrieved 29 Jan. 2020. Cf. Kulczycki 2016, p. 299, stating that ‘apparently, no Mazurs identified themselves as such when in 2011 the Polish census for the first time allowed inhabitants to indicate one or two national-ethnic identities.’

9Adolf Schimanski, Die wirtschaftliche Lage der Masuren (Phil. Diss.), Königsberg 1921, quoted from Kossert 2001, p. 202.

10Kossert 2001, pp. 177, 223.

11Richard Blank, ‘When Germans and Poles lived together’, in Keith Bullivant, Geoffrey Giles & Walter Pape, Germany and Eastern Europe: Cultural Identities and Cultural differences, Amsterdam 1999, pp. 37−55, quoted p. 44.

12Kossert 2001, p. 256.

13Kossert 2001, pp. p. 309 f., 312 f.

14Kossert 2001, p. 314.

15Viktor Almgren, ‘Något om Masuriens land och folk’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, p. 155.

16Kossert 2001, pp. 321, 307 f.

17Kossert 2001, pp. 321 f.

18Kossert 2001, pp. 302.

19Kossert 2001, pp. 324, 321 f, Kulczycki 2016, p. 84.

20Andreas Kossert, Ostpreussen: Geschichte und Mythos, München 2005, p. 358.

21Kossert 2001, p. 322, Kulczycki 2016, p. 84.

22See, for example, Reinhart Koselleck, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories, Stanford 2018.

23Kossert 2001, pp. 323 f.

24Stefan Berger, ‘Border Regions, Hybridity, and National Identity: The Cases of Alsace and Masuria’, in Q. Edward Wang & Franz L. Fillafer (eds), The Many Faces of Clio: Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography. Essays in Honor of Georg G. Iggers. New York 2007, p. 377.

25Helmut Walser Smith, ‘Prussia at the Margins’ in Neil Gregor, Niels Roemer & Mark Roseman (eds), German History from the Margins, Bloomington, IN 2006, p. 75.26 Janusz Bogdan Kozłowski, ‘O istocie gromadkarstwa mazurskiego’, in Komunikaty Mazursko-Warminskie: Kwartalnik no. 2, p. 242. 27 Kossert 2001, pp. 324 f.

28Kossert 2001, p. 326.

29Richard Blanke, Polish-speaking Germans? Language and National Identity among the Masurians since 1871, Köln 2001, p. 296.

30Kossert 2001, p. 328.

31Björn Ryman, Lutherhjälpens första 50 år. 1947−1997, Stockholm 1997, pp. 32−34.

32Ryman 1997, p. 38.

33LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), Konstituerande sammanträde för Kyrkliga Masurienhjälpen, Oct. 18 1946.

34Clifford Ansgar Nelson, ‘Ett besök i Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, p. 139.

35LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), 1946, Oct. 23 §§ 6, 7; Nov. 11 § 10; Dec. 2 §§ 22−25; 1947, Feb. 9, § 45; March 25 §§ 60, 61.

36Dominik Krysiak, ‘Szwedzka misja charytatywna a kvestia utworzenia domu dziecka w Mikołajkach (1946−1949)’, in Meritum, tom I, Olsztyn 2009, pp. 163−177 (here used in a private English translation).

37‘Från hjälpverksamheten. Polen’, in Lutherhjälpen 1948, p. 29.

38‘Från hjälpverksamheten. Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 3537.

39Viktor Almgren, ‘Något om Masuriens land och folk’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 158 f.

40‘Verksamhetsberättelse 194849’, in Lutherhjälpen 1949, pp. 166 f.

41LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), 1947 Jan. 23, § 39; Statutes from 1946, Oct. 18, § 1: ‘i andligt och materiellt avseende lämna hjälp åt den nödlidande befolkningen i den polska provinsen Masurien och att därvid särskilt gagna våra lutherska trosfränder.’

42‘Masuriskt tackbrev’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, p. 217.

43LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), especially 1947, June 26 § 105, 1948, Feb. 16 § 253, Sept. 7 §§ 306, 309.

44LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), Zenta Svensson to Cederberg 1948, Oct. 29; ‘Kyrkliga Polenhjälpen. Verksamhetsberättelse 1948−49’, in Lutherhjälpen 1950, p. 166; ‘Angreppen mot ’Kyrkliga Masurienhjälpen’. Akter och kommentarer.

45LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), Nov. 13 § 199 et passim.

46LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), ‘Rapport från Kyrkliga Masurienhjälpens verksamhet under november och december månader 1947’.

47Pjotr Madajczyk, ‘Polen, die Vertriebenen und die in den Heimatgebieten verbliebenen Deutschen seit den fünfziger Jahren: Hilfen –Kontakte –Kontroversen’, in Christoph Dahm & Hans-Jakob Tebarth (eds), Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und die Vertriebenen: Fünfzig Jahre Eingliederung, Aufbau und Verständigung mit den Staaten des östlichen Europa, Bonn 2000, pp. 101−117.

48Janusz Małłek, ‘Kosciól Ewangelicko-Augsburski na Mazurach w Pierwszych latach po II Wojnie Swatowej’, in Opera selecta. Reformacja i protestantyzm w Polsce i Pruscah (XVI–XX w.). Torun 2012; Ryszard Michalak, ‘The Methodist Church in Poland in reality of liquidation policy. Operation ‘Moda’ (19491955)’, in Przegląd Narodowościowy /Review of Nationalities 8/2018, p. 200.

49Viktor Almgren, ‘Några rader från verksamheten i Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, pp. 25 f.

50LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), Viktor Almgren to Daniel Cederberg 1947 Jan. 1.

51Kossert 2001, p. 320.

52Ryman 1997, pp. 36 f.

53LUB, Saml. Cederberg, Daniel (B:667), Zenta Svensson to Cederberg 1948 Oct. 29.

54Allan Lind, ‘I kyrkans gärning bland masurerna’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, p. 193; Kjell Hagberg, ‘Bland masuriska bröder’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, p. 29.

55Clifford Ansgar Nelson, ‘Ett besök i Masurien’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1946, p. 139.

56Almgren 1947, p. 156 f.

57Almgren 1947, p. 157.

58Hedvig Larsson, ‘En Masurienprästs arbetsdag’, in Kyrkor under Korset 1947, p. 216.