The Silesian Crisis
Timeline: (wilborh)

    • August 15, 1919
      • First Silesian Uprising
    • August 19, 1920
      • Second Silesian Uprising
    • March 20, 1921
      • Upper Silesian Plebiscite- Majority of citizens in Upper Silesia voted to remain a part of Germany rather than joining Poland
    • May 2, 1921
      • Third Silesian Uprising- Adalbert Korfanty led a Polish uprising in Upper Silesia to prevent the region from returning to German sovereignty
    • August 29-October 12, 1921
      • Fourteenth League Council Session- League of Nations Council held its fourteenth session in Geneva to discuss the Upper Silesia Question between Germany and Poland.
    • October 12, 1921
      • Upper Silesian Settlement- League of Nations settled the Upper Silesia dispute by dividing the disputed territory between Germany and Poland
    • October 26, 1921
      • German acceptance of Upper Silesian Partition- The German government accepted the League of Nations’ decision to divide Upper Silesia between Germany and Poland.
    • November 23-26, 1921
      • German-Polish Conference on Upper Silesia- The League of Nations hosted a conference between Germany and Poland in Geneva to prevent outbreak of war over the control of Upper Silesia.
    • February 14-May 22, 1922
      • German-Polish Conference on Upper Silesia- League of Nations hosted a second conference as a continuation and end to the conference in November 1921. German and Polish representatives were present to discuss the future of Upper Silesia.


Central Issue in the Crisis and How The League of Nations Handled It (by PearsLa)
After World War One, there were many issues in the division of land and self-determination of ethnic groups. One such issue occurred in Upper Silesia, an area between Germany and Poland along the Oder River. It had historically belonged to Poland, Austria-Hungary, and, most recently, Prussia, but was made up of Poles, Germans, and another ethnic group entirely known as Szlonzoks, who spoke a mixture of Polish and German and were usually identified as Polish. Many of these people were Catholic, with a very small (10%) Protestant population. The German government controlled the area at the end of World War One, but different Allies had different ideas about where it would end up. France wanted the area to be given to Poland, to weaken Germany. Great Britain and Italy, however, were eager to keep Poland small to reconcile with Germany. The United States, under Wilson, supported Polish self-determinism, and feared Russian Bolshevism and German domination of Poland.

A plebiscite (a direct vote of the people) was mandated by the Versailles Treaty to determine which country would gain the land. Until that was decided, the German government remained in place. Massive propaganda was spread by both Germany and Poland, and eventually terror tactics were used. This caused the Silesian Poles to revolt in August of 1919. In response, the government adopted Polish representatives, to calm the revolters. In February 1920, the Allied Plebiscite Commission came to the area, to try to restore order; this failed, however, because British and Italian leaders favored the Germans, while the French favored the Poles.

This continued through to August of 1920, when German-spread rumors led Germans to attack the Polish, which caused the Second Polish Uprising. Soon the plebiscite was held, but neither the Germans nor the Poles were happy with the results. "Outvoters" came in (citizens who no longer lived in the area but had previously), and both sides said too many had come in from the other side for the outcome to be fair. Also, most Szlonzoks didn't want to join either Germany or Poland, but rather wanted their own country. Furthermore, Great Britain and France couldn't agree on the outcome either, mainly in the region called the Industiral Triangle, which produced much of the area's coal and steel and was East of the Oder River, where much of the Polish population lived. France wished to weaken Germany's industrial base by giving the area to Poland; Great Britain sympathized with Germany, who said it couldn't pay its war reparations without the area. Finally, from May to July of 1921, there was the Third Polish Uprising, based on rumors that Great Britian and Italy would beat the French. No agreement could be reached, so Great Britian suggested that they let the League of Nations handle the conflict.

The League of Nations appointed a special commission to gather its own data and decided to settle the issue by self-determination. In October of 1921, the League of Nations gave most of Eastern Upper Silesia to Poland (about 100,000 Germans left, to go to the German side; about 100,000 Poles left the German side to go to the Polish side). By May 1922, The Upper Silesian (Geneva) Conference was set up by the League to preserve the economy of the area. Poland shipped coal to Germany at reduced prices, and the area retained close economic ties.

In a conflict that had been going on for years, the League of Nations dealt with it relatively quickly and in a way that prevented major problems until World War II. In this situation, the League of Nations was very effective; much more effective and objective than the other countries (Germany, Poland, France, Great Britain, and Italy) that had tried to resolve the conflict previously.

Visual Primary Source (by PearsLa)
League_of_Nations_cartoon_from_Punch_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16619.png
This cartoon was orignally captioned, "The Rabbit. 'My offensive equipment being practically nil, it remains for me to fascinate him with the power of my eye.' " It originated in Punch Magazine in the United States. The United States was not, however a member of the League of Nations; thus, it is limited to an outsider's perspective, and does not necessarily represent the views of those who the League of Nations helped, such as the Silesians. One of its values, however, is that it does provide an outside perspective to the activities of the League of Nations and how it handled crises. The purspose of this cartoon was to demonstrate how the League of Nations was ineffective because it had no real power.

Textual Primary Source (wilborh)
“Plebiscite contributions for benefit of uniting Warmia and Masuria, Spisz and Orawa, Cieszyn Silesia”. State Archive in Lodz, Plebiscite Committee of Lodz District, cat. no. 77, s. 78-79. http://www.poland.pl/archives/interwar/article,,id,284219.htm. 2010. October 17, 2010.

Textual Document Analysis: (wilborh)

This document originated from the Lodz State Archive, Lodz being a state of Poland. The document gives a basic, factual account of the Upper Silesian question and the Plebiscites that took place in and around Upper Silesia. Particularly, the first plebiscite it mentions is the one that took place in Upper Silesia on March 20, 1921 (mentioned in timeline). It explains that the majority of Silesians preferred to become a part of Germany rather than Poland, and gives the names of the few counties that would be given to Poland. The document also mentions the Poland plebiscite in 1920, which resulted in a defeat and little benefit for Poland. However, more importantly, it expresses the significance of plebiscites during this crisis.

Some of the values of this particular document relate to its origin, which is the country of Poland. Poland is very close to the disputed territory of Upper Silesia, and it therefore receives some credibility. Secondly, the facts conveyed in the document are supported by other historical and other sources, which agree on the dates and events mentioned. The origin of Lodz, Poland also allows some insight into the specific division and distribution of the territory.

Unfortunately, the document holds limitations within the content. Although the document provides important details in relation to the Silesian Crisis, it provides only that. It does not, however, give much outside knowledge pertaining to the subject, such as more descriptive or further relevant details.


Works Cited
Cienciala, Anna M. "The Rebirth of Poland--History 557 Lecture Notes."
University of Kansas Information Technology.
University of Kansas, Fall 2007. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. http://web.ku.edu/~eceurope/hist557/lect11.htm. (PearsLa)
Punch Magazine. "Moral Suasion." Cartoon. Wikimedia Commons---Project Gutenberg. Web. 16 Oct 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:League_of_Nations_cartoon_from_Punch_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16619.png. (PearsLa)
"Chronology 1921." Indiana University. Oct. 2002. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. http://www.indiana.edu/~league/1921.htm.
"Chronology 1920." Indiana University. Oct. 2002. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. http://www.indiana.edu/~league/1920.htm.