Province of Upper Silesia

Province of Upper Silesia
Provinz Oberschlesien
Province of Prussia




Flag Coat of arms
Upper Silesia (red)
within the Free State of Prussia (dark blue).
Capital Oppeln (19191938)
Kattowitz (19411945)
  Established 1919
  Merged with Lower Silesia 19381941
  Disestablished 1945
  1925 9,702 km2 (3,746 sq mi)
  1925 1,379,408 
Density 142.2 /km2  (368.2 /sq mi)
Political subdivisions Kattowitz region
Oppeln region
Province of Upper Silesia during World War II, composed of merged German and Polish territories.

The Province of Upper Silesia (German: Provinz Oberschlesien; Silesian German: Provinz Oberschläsing; Polish: Prowincja Górny Śląsk; Silesian: Prowincyjŏ Gůrny Ślůnsk) was a province of the Free State of Prussia from 1919 to 1945. It comprised much of the region of Upper Silesia and was eventually divided into two administrative regions (Regierungsbezirke) called Bezirk Kattowitz, and Oppeln. The provincial capital was Oppeln (19191938) and Kattowitz (19411945), while other major towns included Beuthen, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg O.S., Neiße, Ratibor and Auschwitz (the place of future extermination of Jews in World War II).[1] Between 1938 and 1941 it was reunited with Lower Silesia as the Province of Silesia.


Historical population

Perhaps the earliest exact census figures on ethnic or national structure (Nationalverschiedenheit) of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln (Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz did not yet exist) are from year 1819.

In year 1819 Regierungsbezirk Oppeln had 561,203 inhabitants, including the following "Nationalverschiedenheit":[2]

Poles (Polen) ------------- 377,100 (67,2%)
Germans (Deutsche) --- 162,600 (29,0%)
Moravians (Mährer) ----- 12,000 (2,1%)
Jews (Juden) ------------- 8,000 (1,4%)
Czechs (Tschechen) --- 1,600 (0,3%)

The population more than doubled during the next five decades, reaching over 1,2 million inhabitants by year 1867, including around 742 thousand Poles and around 457 thousand Germans.[3]

Weimar Republic

Within Weimar Germany, the Prussian Province of Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. Silesian Uprisings of Poles against Germans occurred in Upper Silesia from 1919 and 1920. Uproar over the Upper Silesia plebiscite of 1921 led to a third uprising, which culminated in the Battle of Annaberg. According to the German-Polish Accord on Upper Silesia (Geneva Agreement),[4] signed in Geneva on May 15, 1922, the eastern Upper Silesian lands were transferred from Germany to the Second Polish Republic on June 20 and became part of the Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship. The territory remaining in Prussian Upper Silesia was administered within Regierungsbezirk Oppeln and - according to Polish sources - had 530,000 Poles within it.[5]

Nazi Germany

After the Nazis' takeover in Germany, the German-Polish Accord on East Silesia was signed. Among other stipulations, according to the treaty each contractual party guaranteed in its respective part of Upper Silesia equal civil rights for all the inhabitants. The German Upper Silesian Franz Bernheim succeeded in convincing the League of Nations to force Nazi Germany to abide by the Accord.[6] Accordingly, in September 1933 the Reich's Nazi government suspended in Upper Silesia all anti-Semitic discrimination laws already imposed and excepted the province from all new such future decrees, until the Accord expired in May 1937.[7]

The Province of Upper Silesia was joined to Lower Silesia to form the Province of Silesia in 1938.

World War II

After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Polish Upper Silesia, including the Polish industrial city of Kattowitz, was directly annexed into the Province of Silesia. This annexed territory, also known as East Upper Silesia (Ostoberschlesien), became part of the new Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz.

German occupation forces began a policy of repression against the Polish population of eastern Upper Silesia, which started as early as September 1939[8] based on lists made before the war that pointed out Poles active in social and political life.[8] A second wave of arrests happened during October and November in Intelligenzaktion Schlesien, aimed against Polish intellectuals, many of whom perished in prison camps. A third wave of arrests came in April and May 1940 during the AB Aktion.

In Katowice, according to the historian Czesław Madajczyk, one of the harshests centres of oppression was the prison on Mikołowska street where people were reported to be murdered by Germans through the use of guillotine.[8] A prison and penal camp were also established in the region in which Polish activists from Upper Silesia were held.[8]

At the same time, the Polish population was expelled from eastern Upper Silesia; from 1939 until 1942, 40,000 Poles were expelled.[9] In their place, ethnic Germans from Volhynia and the Baltic countries were settled in Upper Silesia's urban areas. Until 1943, about 230,000 ethnic Germans were located on the Polish territories of eastern Upper Silesia and the Wartheland.[10][11] The death toll of the Polish population in Upper Silesia at the hands of Germans is about 25,000 victims, with 20,000 of them being from urban population.[8]

In 1941, the Province of Silesia was again divided into the Provinces of Upper and Lower Silesia; Kattowitz (Katowice, in the former Autonomous Silesian Voivodeship of pre-war Poland) was made the capital of Upper Silesia instead of the smaller town of Oppeln.

The German province of Upper Silesia was conquered by the Soviet Red Army from February until the end of March 1945 during World War II's Lower and Upper Silesian Offensives. The post-war Potsdam Agreement granted the entire province's territory to the People's Republic of Poland; the territory is now in the Polish Opole and Silesian Voivodeships. Most Germans remaining in the territory were expelled westward. The Landsmannschaft Schlesien represents German Silesians from Upper and Lower Silesia. Near and in Opole, a German minority remains.

Upper Silesia was known to be a poor, but heavily industrialised and polluted area. This was one of the Areas that P. G. Wodehouse was sent to after he was captured in the South of France as an Enemy Alien. He was said to have commented on the state of the area "If this is Upper Silesia, one has to wonder what Lower Silesia is like."

Administrative regions

(As of January 1, 1945)

Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz

Urban districts (Stadtkreise)
  1. City of Beuthen
  2. City of Gleiwitz
  3. City of Hindenburg in Oberschlesien
  4. City of Kattowitz
  5. City of Königshütte
Rural districts (Landkreise)
  1. Landkreis Bendsburg
  2. Landkreis Beuthen-Tarnowitz
  3. Landkreis Bielitz
  4. Landkreis Kattowitz
  5. Landkreis Krenau
  6. Landkreis Ilkenau
  7. Landkreis Pless
  8. Landkreis Rybnik
  9. Landkreis Saybusch
  10. Landkreis Teschen
  11. Landkreis Tost-Gleiwitz

Regierungsbezirk Oppeln

Urban districts (Stadtkreise)
  1. City of Nysa (Neisse)
  2. City of Opole (Oppeln)
  3. City of Racibórz (Ratibor)
Rural districts (Landkreise)
  1. Landkreis Blachstädt
  2. Landkreis Cosel
  3. Landkreis Falkenberg in Oberschleisen
  4. Landkreis Groß Strehlitz
  5. Landkreis Grottkau
  6. Landkreis Guttentag
  7. Landkreis Kreuzburg in Oberschlesien
  8. Landkreis Leobschütz
  9. Landkreis Lublinitz
  10. Landkreis Neisse
  11. Landkreis Neustadt in Oberschlesien
  12. Landkreis Oppeln
  13. Landkreis Ratibor
  14. Landkreis Rosenberg
  15. Landkreis Warthenau


  1. Dwork, Debórah; van Pelt, Robert Jan (2002). Auschwitz. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-32291-2.
  2. Hassel, Georg (1823). Statistischer Umriß der sämmtlichen europäischen und der vornehmsten außereuropäischen Staaten, in Hinsicht ihrer Entwickelung, Größe, Volksmenge, Finanz- und Militärverfassung, tabellarisch dargestellt; Erster Heft: Welcher die beiden großen Mächte Österreich und Preußen und den Deutschen Staatenbund darstellt. Verlag des Geographischen Instituts Weimar. p. 34.
  3. Böckh, Richard (1869). Der Deutschen Volkszahl und Sprachgebiet in den europäiches Staaten; Table: Die deutsche und polnische Bevölkerung Oberschlesiens (1828-1867).
  4. Cf. „Deutsch-polnisches Abkommen über Oberschlesien“ (Oberschlesien-Abkommen, OSA) of 15 May 1922, in: Reichsgesetzblatt, 1922, part II, pp. 238ff.
  5. Nowa Encyklopedia Powszechna PWNPaństwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe=Warszawa 2004 pages 117-118 volume 8
  6. Cf. Bernheim-Petition
    • Cf. Philipp Graf, Die Bernheim-Petition 1933: Jüdische Politik in der Zwischenkriegszeit, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, (Schriften des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts; 10), 342 pp., ISBN 978-3-525-36988-3.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Czesław Madajczyk "Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce" Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa 1970 volume 1, page 384
  8. Czesław Madajczyk "Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce" Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, volume 1 pages 424-426
  9. Czesław Madajczyk "Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce" Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, volume 1 page 352
  10. Czesław Madajczyk "Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce" Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warszawa, volume 1 page 249

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