Allenstein

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Allenstein town centre showing the town gate.1920s.
Memorial to the 1920 plebiscite victory (destroyed after WWII by the Poles).

Allenstein is an ancient German town in East Prussia situated in a county of that name. In 1935 its population numbered 38,105. It was notable for its breweries and sawmills[1] and was a major railway junction.[2]

The Teutonic Knights had founded the town, and between 1350 and 1359 erected a castle here, with a huge round tower. The town gate of Allenstein, a typical example of the extension of the red-brick fortress architecture of the Teutonic Order to the defences of the town, still stands today in good condition.[3]

1920 plebiscite

Following the end of World War I the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference demanded the county of Allenstein be given to the new Poland on the grounds that there was a considerable ethnic Polish majority [due to migration over the centuries from Poland]. They opposed any "plebiscite comedies", but one was nevertheless taken by the Allied Commission on 11 July 1920 under British supervision. Despite Poles crossing the border and terrorising the population (the British put a stop to this) the result was that of the 361,055 votes recorded, 353,655, or 98 per cent, were given for Germany, and only 7,400 for Poland. "In other words, the alleged 'considerable Polish majority' proved to be an insignificant minority of two in every hundred of the population."[4] Allenstein county remained in East Prussia.

World War II

In East Prussia was relatively quiet until the closing months of 1944 when the province began to be invaded and over-run by the Red Army. Allenstein's entire population either fled or were expelled, and often murdered, by the Soviets and Polish Communists, their town then being resettled by Polish settlers.[5] It remains under occupation.

Sources

  1. The New Pictorial Atlas & Gazetteer of the World, Odham's Press Ltd., London, 1935, p.232.
  2. Northern Germany by Karl Baedeker, 14th revised edition, Leipzig & London, 1904, p.164.
  3. Crusader Castles of the Teutonic Knights (1) by Stephen Turnbull, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2003, pps: 15, 32.
  4. Germany Under The Treaty by William Harbutt Dawson, London & New York, 1933, p.53-6, 66, 78.
  5. The Expulsion of the German Population from the Territories East of the Oder-Neisse-Line, edited by Professor Theodore Schieder and four other academic peers, published by the federal Ministry for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims, Bonn, West Germany, 1954, contains harrowing accounts.