From Metapedia
(Redirected from Province of Silesia)
Jump to: navigation, search
Germania Magna (Greater Germany) from Ptolemaeus’ Geographia, 2nd Century AD. River Vistula is shown on the right.

Silesia (German: Schlesien) was formerly a number of small Duchies, a province of Bohemia and a province of Prussia and, from 1871, the German Empire, then divided into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Since 1945 it has been mainly occupied by Poland, with other fractions occupied by the Czech Republic and Germany. It was originally bounded in the east by Poland, on the west by Lower Lusatia and Bohemia, and in the south by a chain of mountains and forests which separated it from Hungary.[1] In 1815 the population stood at 1,821,065 and the language generally spoken was German.[2] In 1858 the population was estimated to be 3,269,000, comprising 2,580,000 Germans, 600,000 Poles, 39,000 Jews, and 50,000 others. Today it has approx. 8 million inhabitants and is, since mid-1945, entirely illegally occupied by Poland.


In 1335 the Crown of Poland formally relinquished all claims to Silesia.[3]

Anciently, before the movements of the Slav tribes northwards and westwards from the Pripet regions towards the Carpathian Mountains and across the European Great Plain, Silesia was the homeland of several Teutonic tribes, according to Roman historians such as Tacitus. The Romans considered the Vistula to be the eastern border of Greater Germania. By the 9th and 10th centuries various Slav tribes had arrived and the rulers of Saxony saw as their most pressing enemies the Slavs beyond the river Elbe as well as the Danes & Magyars who were also raiders.

Founder of the Saxon dynasty Henry I, Duke of Saxony from 912 and the King of East Francia from 919 until his death in 936, was at war with numerous Slav tribes (whom the famous Saxon chronicler Widukind of Corvey called "barbarians"), such as the Daleminzi tribe between the Mulde and the Elbe around Meissen (defeated in 928), the Redarii in northern Brandenburg (defeated in the Battle of Lenzen in 929, the land battle between a Saxon army of the Kingdom of Germany and the armies of the Slavic Redarii and Linonen peoples), and the Hevelli tribe in Brandenburg (defeated before 933). Otto I (d.973), crowned in 936, followed Henry in these wars and the 'united' Slavs (such as the Abodrites and Wahrii) between the Lower Elbe and the Oder were crushed in a pitched battle on October 16, 955 in the battle of the river Recknitz when the chief of their Abodrites tribe was killed and beheaded.

It is clear that in 965 over seven of the Elbe region Slav tribes were paying tribute to Otto I in silver, and other things such as honey. Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (d. 1002)[4] is shown in a late 10th century Gospel Book receiving homage and gifts from the Roma (Italian), Gallia (Gaul), Germania, and Sclavinia (Slav) peoples.[5]


Poland in 1370 under Casimir 'the Great', showing his annexations. Silesia and Sweidnitz were not part of Great Poland.

The western Slavs we know today as the Poles arrived in vicinity of the Oder-Vistula rivers in the later 9th or early 10th century, and in the latter they also established some settlements in large parts of eastern Silesia. The first Duke (later self-proclaimed 'king') of Poland, Mieszko (d.992), adopted Christianity and recognized the suzerainty of the Holy Roman Empire under Otto I.[6] The term Polonia first appears, for Sclavinia[7], during the reign of the second 'king' of Poland, the expansionist Boleslaw I 'the Brave' (r.992-1025). By 1000 AD Breslau, the principal town in Silesia, was founded, with a Bishopric directly responsible to the Pope. Under the first two Polish 'kings', Silesia became a de facto part of Poland west of what the Poles like to call "Great Poland" (including Posen), and "Little Poland" (including Cracow). But the Polish kings' conquests (which included two invasions of Pomerania) were short-lived in the west. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick 'Barbarossa' launched a campaign against Poland in 1157 which had over 175 major clashes recorded. Barbarossa compelled the Polish Duke Boleslav IV (d.1173) to reconfirm Imperial (HRE) suzerainty.

Independent Duchy

Silesia in 1757

Unable to control the feuding and warring factions, Boleslav III of Poland had divided Silesia into duchies (not that it was legally his to do so), settling the two principal parts on two of his sons, Wladislaw II, Duke of Silesia, 'The Exile' (1105-1159) and Mieszko, Duke of Posen (d.1202). The latter had married into the Hungarian House of Arpad, and Wladislav married Agnes, daughter of Leopold III von Babenberg, Margrave of Austria, both foreign. Following Wladislav's death Silesia became a independent Duchy, in 1163. Greater German immigration than before was now encouraged by successive Dukes into a relatively empty Silesia[8], and in 1263 Duke Heinrich of Silesia introduced the municipal law of Magdeburg to Breslau. Over subsequent periods Silesia had several petty dukes who by degrees became subject to the kings of Bohemia, commencing with Wenceslas II (1278-1305) who had acquired Silesia[9] In 1335 the last Duke of Silesia died, following which King Charles IV of the German House of Luxemburg, incorporated the whole of Silesia into Bohemia, with Poland's King Casimir III abandoning Poland's claims over Silesia in the Treaty of Vyšehrad (in Prague) in 1339.[10] Thus it continued after the crown of Bohemia passed to the Habsburgs in 1526, during which decade the Reformation was also embraced in Silesia.

Silesia after 1920, with the Polish-occupied parts of Upper Silesia in red; In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1 April 1938 to 27 January 1941 as a province of National Socialist Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.


The Prussian King Frederick The Great, taking advantage of the troubles that ensued upon the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, conquered a great part of Silesia, together with Glatz, in 1742. In support of his invasion of Silesia, Frederick used his interpretation of a 1537 treaty between the Hohenzollerns and the Piasts of Brieg as a pretext. A small southern part (around Troppau) was left with the heirs of the Empress Maria Theresa. Silesia thus became part of Prussia, and later the German Empire.[11] This was a natural progression as originally Silesia was a peripheral territory of Germania, and since the 1100s had again been largely colonised and developed by the Teutonic peoples.

The coronation of Maria Theresa as queen regnant of the Kingdom of Bohemia immediately triggered an invasion of the region of Silesia by King Frederick the Great of Prussia, thereby starting the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). By the end of the First Silesian War in 1742, the Prussian forces had conquered almost all of the Habsburg crown lands in Silesia, while according to the peace treaties of Breslau and Berlin, only some smaller parts in the extreme south-east, like the Duchy of Teschen as well as the southern parts of the duchies of Troppau and Nysa, remained possessions of the Habsburg monarchy as 'Austrian Silesia'. Attempts by Maria Theresa to regain the crown lands in the Second Silesian War (1744–1745) failed and she ultimately had to relinquish her claims over Silesia by the Treaty of Dresden.[12]

Province of Silesia

The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province which existed from 1815 to 1919. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1 April 1938 to 27 January 1941 as a province of National Socialist Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) confirmed Prussian control over most of Silesia. After the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 (Siebter Koalitionskrieg), the German language became one of choice in Lower Silesia, whereas Polish and Czech dialects were [also] spoken in the countryside of Upper Silesia. German was the common language in the majority of Silesian cities. As a Prussian province, Silesia became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871. Upper Silesia became a target for migration during the industrialization period. The overwhelming majority of the population of Lower Silesia was by then German-speaking and many were Lutheran, while rural Upper Silesia spoke mostly Slavic languages and adhered to Roman Catholicism. Many Poles headed to Germany via Silesia to escape the volatile Russian-Polish belt.[13]

The Great War treaties

Any attempt to identify Silesia with Poland’s pre-1772 status is entirely unjustified and fallacious. It implies no more nor less than an attempt at new booty…. ~ Roman Catholic Archbishop of Posen and Gnesen, Florian Stablewski, in Kurjer Poznanski, 9 October 1892.

After The Great War the overwhelming bulk of Silesia remained part of Germany. The eastern-most part of Upper Silesia was occupied by the new state of Poland following violent insurrections inspired and assisted from across the border in Poland, and by France. Meanwhile most of the small remaining Austrian parts of southern Silesia became part of another new, and artificial state[14][15][16], Czechoslovakia, and are today part of the Czech Republic.

World War II

Silesia had a quiet war until its invasion by the Soviet Union's Red Army in 1945. Its capital, Breslau (see that page), held out almost until Germany's surrender.

During World War II Silesia was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union and fell into the Allies Soviet Zone of Occupation. Without any attempt at consulting their Allies, the Soviets illegally handed over to their puppet Communist Polish Government the administration of the entire area up to to the Oder and Western Neisse rivers, which included Silesia. At the Potsdam Conference this was presented by the Soviets as their fait accompli.[17] Poland still claims today that this was agreed at the Potsdam Conference. This is untrue. Byrnes (who was present) wrote: "It is difficult to credit with good faith any person who asserts that Poland's western boundary was fixed by the conference, or that there was a promise that it would be established at some particular place."[18] The indigenous German population were then raped, murdered and expelled[19][20] and replaced by imported Poles from central and eastern Poland. On 18 October, 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower telegraphed the War Office in Washington D.C.:

In Silesia, Polish administration and their methods are causing a mass exodus of German inhabitants. Germans are being ordered out of their homes and told to evacuate 'Poland'. Many unable to move are [forcibly removed and] placed in [concentration] camps on meagre rations and under poor sanitary conditions. Death and disease rates in [these] camps is extremely high. The methods used by the Poles definitely do not conform to [anything in] the Potsdam Agreement....Breslau death rate increased tenfold and death rate reported to be 75% of all births. Typhoid, typhus, dysentery, and diphtheria are spreading. Total number potentially involved in westward movements from the Russia zone in the range of 10 million....[21]

Silesia remains under the illegal occupation of Poland.


Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest cities are Breslau, its ancient capital, and Katowitz, both now in Poland, and Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Its main river is the Oder.

Silesians spoke an ancient dialect. Most inhabitants of Silesia today speak the national languages of their respective occupiers, (Polish or Czech) with some remaining German language, although there is a recognized Silesian language, a Slav dialect, considered by some to be a dialect of Polish, with about 60,000 declared speakers in Upper Silesia. There also exists a Silesian German or Lower Silesian language (or group of German dialects), though this is today been made almost extinct.

Notable people from Silesia

  • August Kiss (1802-1865) born in Paprotzan, Silesia, famous sculptor.
  • Ferdinand Lassalle (1825 - 1864) born & buried in Breslau, Jewish Marxist founder of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
  • Eugene Spiro (1874 - 1972) born in Breslau, died in New York City. Jewish artist/painter.
  • Erwin von Witzleben (1881-1944) born in Breslau, German Field-Marshall, convicted of high treason & executed.
  • Paul Nikolaus von Falkenhorst (1885-1968) born in Breslau, a Wehrmacht General.
  • Heinrich Wosch (1888-1959) born in Breslau, a Wehrmacht Lieutenant General.
  • Uto Gallwitz (1892-1943) born at Reichenbach, a Wehrmacht Major-General commanding artillery.
  • Werner von Gallwitz (1893-1944) born at Glogau, Silesia, a Wehrmacht Lieutenant-General and mountain artillery commander.
  • Karl August Hanke (1903- June 1945) born in Lauban, Silesia, was Gauleiter and Oberpräsident of Lower Silesia from 1941 to 1945. Responsible for the heroic defence of Festung Breslau almost until the end of WWII. He was brutally murdered by Czech communists after the war had ended.
  • Hanna Reitsch (1912 - 1979) born in Hirschberg, Silesia, a famous pilot and female test-pilot nicknamed "Queen of the Air".
  • Hans-Ulrich Rudel (1916 - 1982) born in Konradswaldau, in Lower Silesia, Prussia. Famous German Luftwaffe air ace.
  • Inge née Spilcker (1916-1942), born in Breslau, wife of Chemist Dr.Robert Ley, Leader of the German Labour Front.
  • Hans Erdmann-Schönebeck (1922 -) born in Breslau, Panzer officer in WWII, celebrated his 100th birthday in 2022.
  • Wilhelm "Willi" Hubner (1929 - 2010) born in Lauban, Silesia, was a Hitler Jugund messenger in the Führer-Grenadier-Division during the Soviet siege of Lauban in 1945. He was decorated with the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, for his bravery and subsequently congratulated personally by both Goebbels, and Hitler.
  • Alfred Czech (1932-2011) born in Goldenau, Silesia, was a 13 year-old Hitler Jugund volunteer who rescued 12 wounded soldiers using his father's farm cart under heavy fire; and captured at gunpoint a Soviet spy whom he turned over to the Police. He was awarded the Iron Cross, 2nd Class for bravery, and was subsequently congratulated personally by Hitler.

Further reading

  • Ripley, Professor Dr. William Z., PhD., The Races of Europe, London, 1899.
  • Baedeker, Karl, Northern Germany, Leipzig and London, 1904.
  • Barraclough, Geoffrey, Mediaeval Germany 911 - 1250, Oxford UK, 1938.
  • Leyser, K.J., Mediaeval Germany and its Neighbours 900-1250, London, 1982, ISBN 0-907628-08-7

External links



  1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 5th edition, Edinburgh, 1815, vol.xix, p.354-5.
  2. Britannica, 1815.
  3. Source: An original or an older handwritten template. Older prints in Lünig's Reich Archive I. , 1,16, Louis, Reliqn. MSS. V, 600, Sommersberg, SS register. Sil. 1.774; newer prints i. Codex diploma Morav. VII. 56, Silesia's lease and possession certificates edd. Greenhagen and Markgrave 1,3 and Regista Bob. et mor; ed. Empler IV, 74/75.
  5. Gospel Book of Reichenau, 10th century, in Bavarian State Library, Munich (Clm 4453)
  6. Gurney, G., Kingdoms of Europe, New York, 1982, p.507.
  7. Fuhrmann, Horst, Germany in the High Middle Ages c1050-1200, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p.22, ISBN 0-521-26638-6
  8. Fuhrmann, 1986, p.150-1.
  9. Britannica, 1815.
  10. Previté-Orton, C.W., The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1952, vol.ii, pps: 742 & 924.
  11. Britannica, 1815.
  12. Schlesien: Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert.
  13. Silesia, New World Encyclopedia
  14. The Tragedy of Trianon by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.B., London, 1928, pps: 25-6, 57-8.
  15. Czecho-Slovakia Within by Count Bertram de Colonna, London, 1938, p.9.
  16. The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor, London, 1961, p.201.
  17. Balfour, Michael, Four-Power Control in Germany and Austria 1945-1946, Oxford University Press, U.k., 1956, p.78.
  18. Speaking Frankly by James F. Byrnes, New York & London, 1947, p.79-81. Byrnes, a Judge and former State Governor, served as a close adviser to President Truman and became US Secretary of State in July 1945. In that capacity, Byrnes attended the Potsdam Conference and the Paris Conference.
  19. The Expulsion of the German Population from the Territories East of the Oder-Neisse-Line, editor, Professor Theodor Schieder, University of Koln, et al, with translations by Professor Dr. Vivian Stranders, M.A., University of London, FDR Ministry for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims, Bonn, 1954.
  20. Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself - The Downfall of Ordinary Germans in 1945 by Florian Huber, Allen Lane publishers, U.K., 2019, ISBN: 978-0-241-39924-8
  21. Cited in de Zayas, Professor Alfred Maurice, A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans Second edition, revised & updated, Palgrave Macmillan, London, May 2006, p.115. See also p.96-7 "Internment Camps in Poland and Czechoslovakia".