• Short Summary

    SYNOPSIS: Dark clouds and desolation were typical conditions of many European countries after six years of World War Two.

  • Description

    SYNOPSIS: Dark clouds and desolation were typical conditions of many European countries after six years of World War Two. In the wake of a particularly savage transgressor, this was Poland.

    1945, peace came again to Europe, and the inhabitants of European cities looked around at the destruction and devastation of the war's bombing.

    But for the citizens of Stettin, Breslau, Danzig, Gorzow, and Beuthen, all cities in the 'Polish Corridor' to the immediate east of the line of the Oder and Neisse, this 'look around' was coupled with the question - what is to become of the land we live on.

    Still wearing military uniform Polish soldiers reversed the maxim to 'Guns into Ploughshares' and prepared for their greatest battle...for existence.

    As in their wartime struggle to rid themselves of the Nasi yoke, so in their peacetime resettlement the Poles were assisted by Britain. Here a British mission supervises expatriation of German settlers.

    As compensation for Russian territorial claims to Eastern Poland, certain territories, populated by German settlers, were given to Polish administration. Farmers, mainly from the Polish territories at the River Bug which she had ceded to Russia, moved in to 'being again'.

    For nearly a thousand years the ownership of the 100,000 square kms of land to the east of the Oder Niesse, has been in dispute. Pre 15th century German colonisation was defeated by a resurgent Poland as the Mongols invaded Muscovy and relieved the pressure on Poland's Eastern borders. But a weakened 17th century Poland was unable to resist the territorial demands of Russia Prussia and Austria, until Napoleon, at the request of active Polish emigrees in Paris in 1807, founded the great Dukedom of Warsaw. Came another carving of territory in 1815 when the Vienna Congress handed the Kingdom of Poland to Russia; Galicia, West Prussia, and Poznan to Prussia and Austria.

    Poland stayed divided in one way or another until in 1918 when Pilsudski reformed the divided elements into a Republic of Poland, and (by the Treaty of Versailles) gained almost the whole of West Prussia as a corridor leading to the Baltic. In 1920 Pilsudski further distinguished his military career by vanquishing the Red Army at Warsaw and (by the Treaty of Riga) obtained White Russia and Wolhynia.

    Plebiscites held in this 'corridor' territory were disappointing particularly in upper Silesia as most voters wished to remain under the administrative rule of a richer, more industrialised Germany, to which they were also tied by linguistic and cultural bonds. But despite the results the border was fixed in favour of Poland, sharing parts of the territory with Czechoslovakia, and the foundation for 'The minority problem' was laid.

    Pilsudski, hero of the first world war, and the queasy peace that followed, over-rod the protest of the minorities in the 1930's, set up a dictatorship then a government, and laid down a constitution in 1935. Meanwhile he signed pacts - with France and Russia in 1932, Germany in 1934. But the minorities in Poland became more and more vocal, and their cries were attractive to Adolf Hitler in nearby Germany, seeking a pretext to go to war.

    1939 the Polish government resisted in vain Germany's request to allow German troops to cross her territory on the way to Russia. She also resisted similar Russian demands - thus prevented Britain going to her aid until Hitler marched. The German Russian conflagration soon died into treaty-locked friendship while Poland was sliced to their requirements.

    The Corridor became German again. Russia annexed Ukraine and Byclo-Russia, put in troops. Then Germany invaded Russia. Diplomatic relations were established between the Polish Government in exile in London and Russia, severed when Russia found the mass graves at Katyn, nr Smolensk. Under the aegis of Moscow the National Liberation. Committee was set up in Poland. When the Polish Resistance workers rose in the Autumn of 1944 (with the aid from British sources) against the occupying Germans, Russia did nothing to help, and in 1945 (Jan) a provisional government well seeded with members of the Liberation Committee, recognised Soviet claims to east Poland.

    Virtually suppressed during Nazi occupation religious Poland was once again free to worship as she chose. Leader of Polish religious resistance was Cardinal Wyszynski..many times imprisoned by his tormentors.

    In the Potsdam agreement final fixation of the German Polish borders was reserved until a Peace treaty between the Allies and the Axis had been signed, but Russia unilaterally granted to Poland the 'right' to administer the territories to the East of the Oder Neisse Line.

    In October 1949 the East German Government described the Oder Neisse as a 'peace frontier', and concluded (July 1950) a Treaty between the German Democratic Republic and the Republic of Poland' which recognized this line as a final and irrevocable 'peace and friendship' frontier. Federal Germany, and the West declared this agreement contrary to international law and therefore illegal, but by then the Germans had moved out, and the Poles had moved in.

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