Bismarck signed an informal alliance aimed at creating better cooperation between Poland and
Germany and by the end of his power, the effort to "Germanize" Poles as a method of maintaining
government order had pretty much died out. Some in the German Lutheran minority of Greater
Poland feared the Bismarck's concessions would lead to the Polish Catholic clergy gaining too much
power over their lives. The Ostmarkenverein, or German Eastern Marches Society, was formed in
response and only had 21,000 members by 1901, and 48,000 at its height in 1913. The raganization
also opposed any immigration of Poles from the Russian reaches into the area for fear that jobs for
the Germans would be lost.
|The Complexities of Nationalism
In contrast, two Polish universities in Austrian Poland were in Krakow and Lwow [Lviv] and the
only center of Polish culture for a time was in Austrian Poland, or Galicia. After Austria's defeat by
Prussia in 1866, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph agreed to a "Compromise" which created Austria-
Hungary, giving Hungary self-government and equal status with Austria. Polish nobles of Galicia
were rewarded for their loyalty to him by being granted home rule, although without the same status
as Hungary. The provincial legislature was located in Lwow (Lemberg).
Even though students were required to learn German as a second language in middle school and high
schools, Polish became the language of education. The universities in Cracow and Lwow could now
become Polish, and the Polish Academy of Sciences was founded in 1869 out of Cracow. The
atmosphere in Galicia allowed for the development of Polish art, literature, theater, and university
studies. Polish deputies formed An influential "Polish Circle" in the federal parliament was formed
by Polish deputies who worked from Vienna on behalf of Polish interests and they were much more
effective in Vienna than their peers both in the German parliament in Berlin and in the Russian
"Duma" which began to function in 1906.
Others who joined the Ostmarkenverein were landowners and businessmen with financial concerns
and others who worried about a loss of their own cultural identity, as it was generally feared that the
Poles would have to be Germanized or the Germans would end up being Polonized. The movement
had its zealots, however, like any other nationalistic organization and had its counterparts in Poland!
It supported the creation of a commission to buy land from the Poles and redistribute it among
German settlers, eventually becoming a rather nasty vehicle by which Polish property owners could
be evicted and their land taken by eminent domain. Called "the Exceptional Laws", these measures
provoked widespread Polish resistance and therefore the spread of national consciousness on all
levels of Polish society in Prussian Poland. The Polish National Democratic Party, which saw
Germany as the Poles' biggest enemy, had it largest following in Prussian Poland. These laws had
the undesired result of making the Poles more nationalistic, not less.
Moreover, this attack on private property rights did not agree with the Prussian aristocracy either,
as they feared losing their traditional Polish labor force and farmworkers. Lastly, the Germans who
were settled in these regions by the Ostmarkenverein found themselves socializing and amicably
dealing with (and even marrying) their Polish neighbors and they soon either ignored and even
opposed the ideas of the society. In its 27 years of life, the Settlement Commission of the
Ostmarkenverein succeeded in relocating only 25,000 German families to land in Greater Poland and
Pomerania, while in reaction, similar Polish societies managed to plunk 35,000 new Polish farmers in
the same amount of land! In any case, the Allies exaggerated its size, its importance and its popularity
within Germany and it therefore provided fodder for First World War Allied propaganda aimed at
making Germany seem "expansionistic". The Society was shut down in 1934.
In the period 1870-91, great waves of Russian Poles had emigrated into Germany. They were fleeing
from the Russification policies in place in their homeland. In Polish Russia after 1864, even
elementary education was in Russian and private education in Polish was forbidden. If young Polish
men failed to pass Russian High School exams, they were not allowed into the civil service jobs or
universities in the Russian Empire and were usually conscripted into the Russian army. Warsaw
University became a Russian university in 1869, and its administration was Russian, as was the
language of the judicial system. All street names had to be in Russian. While Polish newspapers,
plays, periodicals and books could be published, they were subject to strict censorship. The Russian
Empire was the only market for 72% of Russian Poland's thriving textile industry, but after 1890
tariffs were introduced to protect Russian textile industry, which hurt the economy of Russian
Poland. Classes in subjects such as Polish History and Literature were forbidden from the 1880s to
1914 and were available only in underground groups called "Flying Universities" because they moved
from place to place to avoid detection by the Russian authorities.
The late 19th century was an era of intense nationalism just about everywhere and Germany was no
exception. However, the propagandists did their best to present German nationalism as an anomaly, a
dangerous force which threatened the peace of the world and should not be allowed to exist. The
importance and popularity of even small, single-issue oriented German nationalistic groups was
purposely exaggerated by the Allies.