Insights and Perspectives
Betrayed twice. The German community in the Kingdom of Poland during the Great War
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I the Kingdom of Poland was inhabited by about 500 thousand Germans who accounted for approximately 5% of the total population of the Kingdom. Three-quarters of this population lived in the countryside with the largest concentrations in the provinces of Piotrków, Kalisz, Warsaw and Płock1. The largest number of Germans living in the cities inhabited Łódź and Warsaw as well as industrial centers of the Łódź and Częstochowa – Sosnowiec districts. In many cases, after living together with the Polish population for over a century, the German national consciousness was limited to a sense of community regarding the language and religion. Gradually the process of acculturation deepened, which was visible mainly in the cities, especially in ← 201 | 202 → Warsaw2. The state of national consciousness was also heavily influenced by Russian public institutions, especially educational. For the youngest generation of Germans in the Kingdom, that is the people born in the last decades of the 19th and early 20th century, the Russian character of the country where they lived was absolutely natural. Similar to their Polish and Jewish neighbors, Germans felt subjects of the country in which Russian was the official language, the Orthodox religion the privileged denomination and military service under Russian command an undisputed duty of young men. Not without reason, a German geographer and historian, Eugen Oskar Kossmann, coming from Rudy Bugaj near Aleksandrów Łódzki wrote about “the late national awakening”3 of his compatriots4. In...
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