Bromberg

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Bromberg (Polish: Bydgoszcz) is an ancient German city in West Prussia. The Treaty of Versailles awarded West Prussia, including Bromberg, to the new state of Poland in 1919. Significant atrocities against the German inhabitants occurred here in August-September 1939.

In 1904 Bromberg's predominantly (89%) German population [1] was 52,200[2] and by 1914 was 75,000[3] and it was then the seat of the district government. By 1982 its population was estimated to be 352,400, although what area this embraces is unclear.[4]

History and development

Part of Bromberg c1900

As a village Bromberg fell under the sovereignty of the Teutonic Knights in the 1200s, receiving German town rights in 1346. The town was greatly devastated during the 17th century Swedish wars but regained its commercial importance when the Netze canal was constructed by Frederick The Great which connected the rivers Vistula and the Oder making it a major inland port.[5] Before The Great War the Prussian Government assisted in the development of Bromberg which became an exceedingly well-built city with magnificent public institutions, technical schools, colleges of music and art, academies, museums, chiefly located in the broad boulevards lined with trees and divided in the middle with flower beds. With its parks and gardens and trees - numbering one for each house - Bromberg was looked upon as a garden city. It possessed a highly developed municipal life with hydro-electricity power, a gas works dating from 1858, municipal water supplies, a new sewage disposal works, municipal abattoirs, electric tramways, splendidly equipped hospitals, a municipal theatre and other civil institutions. It was a centre of cultural institutions and of trade and professional organisations.[6]

Before 1920 with its railways and water connexions it formed a junction, a clearing house for trade between East and West Prussia and the rest of Germany, including Upper Silesia. It was a centre of the wholesale trade. Industrial undertakings then included timber and woodwork factories, sugar factories, flour mills, metal and machine works, distilleries etc. Its leather industries had a historic reputation.[7]

1919-1939

The award of this city and its hinterland to the new Poland in the Treaty of Versailles caused the Germans "pain and chagrin in finding their treasured institutions in Polish hands." There was as a result a mass exodus of Germans, including all officials and their families, when Poland took possession, importing poor Poles to replace them. Poland claimed in 1920 that only 10,000 Germans remained, which seems incredible. In the two decades between the World Wars the German minority who had remained in Poland were persecuted and dispossessed. Vast amounts of property was confiscated and appropriated (landowners lost 1,263,288 acres alone) and the Poles boycotted those German trading houses that had remained. Special agrarian reforms were unilaterally applied against Germans and over 500 German-language schools were closed. Sir Robert Donald maintains that "there was a decided lowering of the social and cultural standard of the population."[8][9][10]

Bloody Sunday

Some of the dead following the Bromberg massacres Sept 1939

During August 1939 Germans were openly menaced in villages and towns, leading to boycotts, terror, and murders. Often this was invoked by Polish Officials.[11] Protestant churches and parish halls were destroyed and burnt including that in Bromberg-Schwedenhoe and in Hopfengarten near Bromberg. Vicarages were robbed and pillaged. In Bromberg city Parish Church the altar was defiled and other religious pieces destroyed, bibles and altar cloths torn to rags.[12] This culminated in "Bloody Sunday" 3 September 1939 when the Poles murdered thousands of innocent civilians in and around Bromberg. There are innumerable witness statements from survivors including one from a 13 year-old pupil of the German High School in Bromberg, Heinz Matthes, who testified that Polish soldiers stabbed him through the right shoulder with a bayonet. He survived. The book The Polish Atrocities Against the German Minority in Poland contains countless witness statements sworn under oath, and catalogues the atrocities and murders in Bromberg in grim detail. Since 1945 Polish nationalist propaganda has made serious attempts to excuse this barbarism arguing it is "Nazi" propaganda.

Sources

  1. The Polish Corridor and the Consequences by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E,., LL.D., London, 1928, pps:22 & 27.
  2. Baedeker, 1904
  3. Donald, 1928, p.27.
  4. Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropaedia, vol.2, 15th edition, 1989, p.692.
  5. Britannica 1989, p.692.
  6. Donald, 1928, p.25-6.
  7. Donald, 1928, p.26.
  8. Donald, 1928, p.26-7.
  9. Orphans of Versailles - The Germans in Western Poland 1918-1939, by Professor Richard Blanke, Kentucky University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8131-1803-4
  10. The German Minority in Interwar Poland by Professor Winson Chu, Cambridge University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-107-00830-4
  11. The Polish Atrocities Against the German Minority in Poland, 2nd revised edition, German Foreign Office, Berlin, 1940 p.17-18
  12. Jung Kirche periodical magazine, 4 Nov 1939.
  • Northern Germany by Karl Baedeker, Leipzig & London, 1904, p.163.
  • Death in Poland - The Fate of the Ethnic Germans in September 1939, by Edwin Erich Dwinger, Jena, Germany, 1940, English-language edition 2004, second printing 2021.