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Union of Upper Silesians

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Union of Upper Silesians

The Union of Upper Silesians (German: Bund der Oberschlesier, Polish: Związek Górnoślązaków) was a movement for the independence of Upper Silesia.


The movement was founded by the secret Upper Silesian Committee (German: Oberschlesisches Komitee, Polish: Komitet Górnośląski), started on November 27, 1918 in Rybnik by three Catholic politicians: Ewald Latacz, the chairman of Workers Council in Wodzisław Śląski as well as lawyer, and civil law notary, Thomas Reginek, a priest from Mikulczyce (today the district of Zabrze), and teacher Jan Reginek, chairman of Workers' and Soldiers' Council in Racibórz. The Upper Silesian Committee in Rybnik demanded "independent political stance" from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany and guaranteed neutrality similar to that found in countries such as Switzerland and Belgium. The committee had no structures and no political program.[1] On December 5, 1918, a German-language brochure titled "Upper Silesia – independent/autonomous free state" ("Oberschlesien – ein Selbständiger Freistaat") was published by the Committee for the Creation of the Upper Silesian Free State in Katowice (German: Komitee zur Vorbereitung eines oberschlesischen Freistaates in Kattowitz) and was probably written by priest Thomas Reginek. The brochure was a secret Upper Silesian Committee appeal to Silesians to take the lead in political, economic, and social questions, as well as to create an independent state like Switzerland, in which all language groups would be equal in rights. The author predicted that incorporation of Upper Silesia into Poland would be an economic catastrophe for the land, stating that it would be only "a source of incomes and taxes" for the Polish state, and that Silesians would be treated as "second category citizens" by officials from Poland.[2]

Conference in Kędzierzyn

On December 9, 1918 in Kędzierzyn a conference of some political parties in Upper Silesia was held, organized by Carl Ulitzka, the leader of the Upper Silesian structures of the Catholic Centre Party (Germany). The leaders of Upper Silesian communists (KPOS), Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), and the Polish party of Wojciech Korfanty did not attend the conference. In this conference the leader of the Upper Silesian Committee, Ewald Latacz spoke of the resolution of creating an independent and neutral Upper Silesian Republic. Representatives of all present parties founded the Silesian Commission with Hans Lukaschek from Centre Party as chairman. The commission had to implement the Upper Silesian Committee and "to direct and expand the separatist visions in Upper Silesia".[3]

Negotiations with neighbours

In December leaders of the Upper Silesian Committee, Górnośląskiego, made journeys to sound out the stance of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Germany on the question of Upper Silesian independence. Only authorities in Prague, after consultation with the Western allies, informed the representatives of the Upper Silesian Committee, Ewald Latacz, Thomas Reginek, Jan Reginek and Fritz Wenske, that the Western allies would take the creation of an independent Upper Silesian state into consideration; Czechoslovakia supported this resolve. Jan Reginek, as representative of the Upper Silesian councils, requested recognition for the new status in Berlin. However, among German authorities, only two politicians, Hugo Haase and Helmuth von Gerlach, allowed for the independence of Upper Silesia. Priest Thomas Reginek made a journey to Poznań, the seat of the Polish Head People's Council, where he attempted but failed to persuade Kazimierz Czapla (Upper Silesian member of the Polish authorities) to support Upper Silesian's independence. The next unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Germans was made by Thomas Reginek, Ewald Latacz, and Werner (representative of Upper Silesian industrialists).[4][5]

On December 19 and 20, 1918 the Upper Silesian Committee expanded the bilingual brochure "Appeal for the creation of an independent Upper Silesian free state" as a supplement to two popular newspapers of the Catholic Centre Party. There were 294 editions of "Oberschlesischer Kurier" in Chorzów and 293 editions of "Oberschlesische Zeitung" in Bytom, edited by brothers at the Wenske's edition office.[6] On December 19, 1920 the Poles broke up a liberation meeting, organized by Ewald Latacz in Rybnik and held under the slogan "Upper Silesia for Upper Silesians". Organisers of the meeting were beaten up by sticks and aggressors transformed it into "Polish propaganda".[7][8][9]


The political belief that Silesians are a separate nation was not new in Prussian Upper Silesia - it appeared on a wave of the Spring of Nations. In April 1849, painter and folk poet Jan Gajda published in the Polish-language newspaper Dziennik Górnośląski (Upper Silesian Journal) an appeal "To Upper Silesian people", in which he spoke that the times came when Silesians will be count "to enlightened nations" and appealed to the creation of the Silesian League, which had "to support Silesian nationality". He was not alone in this politics, because at the meetings of deputy Józef Szafranek there was chanted: "Let live Silesian nationality". From this time politics about national separations of Silesians and aspiring to create its own Silesian political organization, still came back in Prussian Upper Silesia and Austrian Silesia too. These aspirations came forth as the Silesian People's Party in Cieszyn Silesia in 1909 and just the Union of Upper Silesians in Prussian Upper Silesia.[10]

According to the decree of the president of the Regency of Opole from December 31, 1918, the postulate of creating an independent Upper Silesian Republic was presumed as high treason by German authorities, which announced act about the state of emergency. Clause 96 of this act forbade public raising of the matter of the independence of Upper Silesia. Next, German authorities suspended activity of the Union of Upper Silesians and arrested its leaders. Ewald Latacz and Jan Reginek became Political prisoners, Joseph Musiol was saved by immunity of Prussian parliament. Thomas Reginek escaped to Paris, by Poznań and with Polish passport by Berlin. In Paris, the leader of the Polish National Party persuaded him that France supported Polish demands to Upper Silesia to never agree for the independence of this country.

Ewald Latacz, thanks to his wide connections among German politicians in Upper Silesia, was released from prison on probation in spring 1919, but was absolutely forbidden "verbal and written" announcements of the idea of Upper Silesia's independence. Against this prohibition, the leader of the Upper Silesians, published the anonime edited German-language brochure Oberschlesien auf Subhasta!, in which it premised the shrinking German majority at the time a plebiscite and showed the need for the creation of an independent Upper Silesian state with the argument that Upper Silesian nation is homogeneous people about mixed blood.[11]

In spring 1919, the chairman of the Catholic People's Party (Katholische Volkspartei) of Upper Silesia – Carl Ulitzka, after international negotiations in Paris, London and Rome, rejected postulate of independence of Upper Silesia as "utopia impossible to realisation". At the same time Ulitzka committed a campaign for preservation belonging Prussian Upper Silesia in Germany, but demanded exclusion of this country from Prussia and transformation of it in autonomous free state of Germany like Bavaria. He was supported by four members of authorities Catholic People's Party, but two other members this authorities: Joseph Musiol and Heinrich Skowronek, being head activists of the Union of Upper Silesians also, remained freedom fighters.[12]

Under wings of Western Allies

In the final peace conditions passed during the Paris Peace Conference for the German delegation on June 16, 1919, Western allies decided to grant the southern part of Racibórz county for Czechoslovakia. Whereas about a future another Upper Silesian lands had to decide plebiscite between Poland and Germany. During summer 1919 the Union of Upper Silesians directed a petition to the Paris Peace Conference. There was criticism of the peace treaty because of the limitation of Upper Silesian plebiscite options to Poland and Germany. In the name of "many hundred thousands of Upper Silesians" the union demanded to change article 88 this treaty, that in Upper Silesian plebiscite would be "option of neutral free state". In the petition was written: "Upper Silesian nation in majority wish oneself indivisibility and independence of Upper Silesia".[13] During the second half of 1919 in Upper Silesia was activated an international coal commission of American – colonel Goodyear. Under the influence of this commission American diplomacy forced creation of a "coal and steel state" under international protection, including Upper Silesian Industrial Circle (Oberschlesische Industriebezirk) and Ostrava-Karvina basin in former Austrian Silesia.[14] Because of France's negative stance, finally the United States retired from the idea of a Silesian state. In Autumn 1919, the Reginek brothers accepted projected autonomy for all Silesian lands, which would be included into Poland, left Union of Upper Silesians and joint to Polish Plebiscite Commission. At the time, the chairman of the Union of Upper Silesians was Ewald Latacz, who cut out from Reginek brothers. His assistant was Joseph Musiol.

Cooperation with Silesian People's Party

In the winter of 1920, Ewald Latacz went to Cieszyn, where he took part in an assembly of the Silesian People's Party and delegations of German parties, with the aim of the creation of an independent Silesian state, or autonomy in the Czechoslovak state. Because of the same mixed Slavic-Germanic Silesian people and similar industrial structure in Cieszyn Silesia, its demands to unite with Prussian Upper Silesia allowed Ewald Latacz to think about an economically strong united Silesian state like Belgium.[15] During this assembly Józef Kożdoń – chairman of Silesian People's Party - gave advise to the chairman of the Union of Upper Silesians. In thanks for this advice, on March 17, 1920, editor Georg Cibis from Bytom started edition, followed "Ślązak" (Silesian) - newspaper of Silesian People's Party - example, bilingual weekly Der Bund – Związek (The Union), printed by Fritz Weske's edition office – Kurier GmbH in Chorzów. Der Bund – Związek acted in solidarity with activity of Silesian People's Party. In the article "Free Upper Silesian state midpoint of all world policy" was written: Upper Silesian people in large majority demand independence and indivisibility of their own country and connection with brothers in Austrian Silesia separated from it over 150 years ago. […] Upper Silesian people are strongly connected by few hundred of years commonwealth of life on a field of a culture and job, own-blood, homogeneous people of Slavic-Germanic origin almost 3 millions souls, from which 600,000 are in Austrian district.[16]

Expansion of the freedom fighters structures

On August 18, 1920 in headquarter of the union in Bytom was place a conference of 68 assistants of the Union of Upper Silesians Związku Górnoślązaków-Bund der Oberschlesier. Assistants chose management of headquarter: chairman Joseph Musiol from Bytom, secretary Hugo Kotulla from Tarnowskie Góry and two aldermen Mathonia from Bytom and Maczinga from Mikulczyce (today district of Zabrze). November 17, 1920 in a rooms of Catholic Trade Union in Bytom was place second conference of 300 representants of the Union of the Upper Silesians, reprezented 175 local groups of this organization in the time couts about 300,000 members.[17] The conference led Ewald Latacz from Wodzisław Śląski, Joseph Musiol from Bytom, priest Wiktor Durynek from Tarnowskie Góry and Hubert Kraft count Strachwitz from Lądek Zdrój. There was established that Upper Silesian national symbol and eventually the national emblem of Upper Silesian Republic will be coat of arms of Upper Silesian line of Piast dynasty – golden eagle on blue shield, which by decision of this conference, was placed into headlines of its weekly bilingual newspaper Der Bund – Związek, with a circulation of 20,000 copies as of 1920, 40,000 copies as of winter 1921 and few hundred thousands copies as of 1921. The organisation was the most influential Silesian organisation of its time; in February 1921 it had 198 local chapters with 400,000 members. On autumn 1920 editor Georg Cibis retired from Union of Upper Silesians to German Plebiscite Commission. New editor of Der Bund – Związek was priest Wiktor Durynek.

After the plebiscite

The Plebiscite na March 20, 1921 won Germany with 59.6% votes. Ewald Latacz preminited emergencies and edited an appeal: Upper Silesians!! Upper Silesia stay undivided! […] Who want to chop to pieces our country, he think that economic to kill us with intention to inherit something after us. But we want to live my żyć. We Polish-language and German-language Upper Silesians want to live together with agreement and peace and we want to lead our country to prosperity. And this is possible only when Upper Silesia will individed. Otherwise we demand a plebiscite, or Upper Silesia would be divided or not […] Korfanty answered, that himself plan of dividing up he'll be defend to last drop of blood. Uppersilesians we warn you. You don't let to change our homeland in a desert. If it would be bloodshed, it would not Upper Silesian blood and not in Upper Silesia. Upper Silesians don't let us to use for terroristic acts. Every terror need to nip in the bud. Upper Silesians let's remember that we are homogeneous, fraternal nation. Let's shake hands with ourself, let's leave a peace and we'll range free and individed Upper Silesia. (…) In the time council of coalition will know that one dissolving of Upper Silesian question is neutralization of disputable seat. Then we'll celebrate our resurrection as free citizens in Free Upper Silesian State.[18]

On May 2, 1921 broke out third Polish uprising in Upper Silesia (in Polish literature: Third Silesian Uprising), which was blooded civil war. In the time of this war all uprising commanders demand "proclamation of sovereign Silesian state" from Wojciech Korfanty.,[19] but he rejected this demands. The only consequence of this war was dividing up of Upper Silesia, more proftable for Poland, than results of the plebiscite. In the time in every number of weekly Der Bund – Związek was the information printed in large and bold type: "everybody second Upper Silesian is open or hidden member of the Union of Upper Silesians". According to data this organization, on autumn 1921 it counted about 500,000 members.[20]

On April 1921 Joseph Musiol, Heinrich Skowronek and Wiktor Durynek, referring to big mix of the votes, demand independence of Upper Silesia. In them negotiations with authorities of Poland mediated Adam Napieralski. Later Ewald Latacz lead conversations with head German politicians, September 4, 1921 with Interior Minister of Germany - Georg Gradnauer and next with chancellor of GermanyJoseph Wirth.[21]

The end of activity

On November 1921 priest Wiktor Durynek resigned from function editor of Der Bund – Związek and retired from political activity. His duties took Joseph Musiol and architect Bruno Petzel – former member of Polish Head People's Council. On December 4, 1921 in the time assembly of the Union of Upper Silesians in Chorzów, Ewald Latacz resigned from leading of this organisation and retired from politics. His function took deputy Joseph Musiol. In consequence sudden cut out sponsoring of the Union of Upper Silesians by Upper Silesian industrialists, from March 1922 weekly Der Bund – Związek was edited irregularly and two months later edition was over, but even last numbers nawet in May spread in 40,000 copies.[22]

On November 1922 Heinrich Skowronek in the time of the election to regional assembly of Upper Silesian Province (Provinziallandtag) show own election list. In the place of good known name: Union of Upper Silesians, gave new name: Upper Silesian Catholic People's Party (German: Oberschlesische Katholische Volkspartei, Polish: Górnośląska Katolicka Partia Ludowa). Creation Catholic party of Silesian nationality in opposition to Catholic parties of German and Poles was not a bad idea, but without known names of organizations, noble leaders, own newspaper, rich sponsors it can not be successful. Joseph Musiol even did not start in this election. The list had almost no supporters and his candidates came back to Catholic People's Party (German: Katolische Volkspartei - Zentrum) – Centre Party (Germany).[23]

After election on November 1922. Adam Napieralski – editor Polish-language newspaper Katolik (The Catholic) founded a law defence office, the activity of which was defence of Polish-language Upper Silesians in German part of Upper Silesia. Manager of this office was Joseph Musiol – chairman of the Union of Upper Silesians and former deputy of the Prussian parliament, who just lost his seat. He represented there the Catholic People's Party – division of Centre Party (Germany), from which was rejected on April 1921, because of his freedom activity. Joseph Musiol sent questionnaires in question of discrimination of Polish-language Upper Silesians in covers with overprint "Union of Upper Silesians". He was chairman of this organization to 1924, when was self-dissolved.

In spite of the breakdown of the Union of Upper Silesians, the idea of Upper Silesian nation and independence of Upper Silesia was not dead. In 1925 the president of police in Gliwice informed president of Province Upper Silesia – Alfons Proske, that idea of free state is still alive in German Upper Silesia. In borders of Poland former activists of the Union of Upper Silesians came back into political parties. Mainly into the Catholic People's Party (German: Katholische Volkspartei), which stayed on the stance, that it represents Germans and "German-disposed Silesians" in Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship, accenting known slogan freedom fighters: "Upper Silesia for Upper Silesians". Identical slogan announced Union of Upper Silesians Defence, founded in 1925 by former Polish activists with Jan Kustos as chairman.[24] "Right of Upper Silesia to self-standing" announced Communist Party of Upper Silesia, too.

After World War II, Carl Ulitzka, Karl Schodrok and Adolf Kaschny gave idea to change Silesia into "East-European Switzerland". In the 1990s was activated Union of Upper Silesians in Opole. Since 2008 active Silesian Separatistic Movement, which refer to the tradition of Ewald Latacz's organisation. Union People of Silesian Nationality founded in 1996 by activists of Silesian Autonomy Movement refer to activity of the historical Union of Upper Silesians too.

See also

Notes and references



  • Dariusz Jerczyński, Historia Narodu Śląskiego. Prawdziwe dzieje ziem śląskich od średniowiecza do progu trzeciego tysiąclecia. (History of Silesian Nation), second edition (implemented and corrected), Zabrze 2006 ISBN 978-83-60540-55-8.
  • Andrea Schmidt-Rösler, Autonomie und Separatismusbestrebungen in Oberschlesien 1918-1922, „Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa” Forschung 1999, Heft 1.
  • Guido Hitze, Carl Ulitzka (1873–1953) oder Oberschlesien zwischen den Weltkriegen, Düsseldorf 2002.
  • Tomasz Kamusella, Silesia and Central European Nationalisms: The Emergence of National and Ethnic Groups in Prussian Silesia and Austrian Silesia, 1848-1918 (Ser: Central European Studies; Foreword by Professor Charles W. Ingrao). 2007. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 386 pp. ISBN 978-1-55753-371-5
  • Upper Silesia 1870-1920: Between Region, Religion, Nation and Ethnicity: journal article by Tomasz Kamusella; East European Quarterly, Vol. 38, 2004

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