The “Narodowiec” – a Polish national newspaper in the Ruhr area

Cover page of the first edition of “Narodowiec”, Herne, 2 October 1909
Cover page of the first edition of “Narodowiec”, Herne, 2 October 1909

On 27 September 1909, Weinschenk, an administrative assistant, reported to the office in Linden-Dahlhausen (today a district of Bochum): “A new Polish newspaper for the industrial region is to be published in Herne from 1 October. Initially, it will appear three times a week. The sample issue of the greater Poland paper, which is already in circulation gave its assurance that the newspaper was not intended as competition for, the “Wiarus Polski”, the dear comrade in foreign lands. However, the “Wiarus Polski” might be of a different opinion. But that’s for those who mislead the Polish workforce to sort out amongst themselves.”[1] [underlining as in the original]

The first regular edition of the Polish-language “Narodowiec”, which means “The Nationally Conscious”, appeared in Herne from 2 October 1909. Within a few years it had become serious competition for the “Wiarus Polski”, the Polish national and Catholic-aligned daily newspaper which, until then, had been the only local Polish-language newspaper. All previous attempts to set up a second daily newspaper in the same vein had failed. In the first few months, the “Narodowiec” was published three times a week and daily from October 1911. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, 11,000 copies were published, approximately the same circulation as the “Wiarus Polski” published by Jan Brejski. The “Narodowiec” appeared regularly on Sundays with the Sunday supplement “Dodatek niedzielny” and fortnightly with the “Gazetka dla dzieci” (Newspaper for children) and “Polka na obczyznie” (Pole in a foreign land). From 1 October 1913, “Pochodnia” (The Torch), an illustrated weekly magazine, was also published by the “Narodowiec” publishing house and was soon able to attract 2,000 subscribers. With the publishing house and the editorial teams located near Bochum, Herne soon became another centre of the Ruhr Poles’ movement.

When the “Narodowiec” was founded, there were more than 200,000 Polish-speaking people with a Catholic background living in the industrial region of North Rhine-Westphalia. The majority of these people considered themselves Polish and could be grouped under the term Ruhr Poles[2]. Most of them believed that they were more or less well represented by the Polish national organisations of the Ruhr area. Their networks were well established thanks to the regular reports in the “Wiarus Polski”, which had dominated to that point, and to the formation of regional organisations which brought them together. However, as the years went by, it became clear that not everyone agreed with the political line the “Wiarus Polski” was taking. The success of the “Narodowiec”, which could rival the “Wiarus Polski” in terms of its organisational and cultural work among the Ruhr Poles, was built on the growing number of dissatisfied people in the Polish national enclave.

Interestingly, the two publishers Michał (Michael) Kwiatkowski and Josef Pankowski, like other employees before them at the “Wiarus Polski”, were employed as editors or were freelancers. At first glance, the two newspapers were not really that different in terms of content, so the fact that “Narodowiec” was set up at all could only really be understood by insiders. This is why the President of the police in Bochum said in 1914 that “personal vanities (seem) to dominate. Kwiatkowski and Brejski, the main leaders and stage managers of the Polish movement in the West, argue about who is the most radical ,and each of them claims to be the father of the Polish Congress in Holland. (They believe) that in this fight too, they are commending themselves to Polish nationals by continuing their hostility towards the German clergy, which will be credited as a special act in the “national interest”.[3] This view prevails today in the German history of these two newspapers.

 

[1] Report from administrative assistant Weinschenk to the Linden-Dahlhausen office on 27 September 1909, Bochum municipal archive, A L-D 67, without pagination

[2] For a differentiation of the Polish-language migration, see: Wulf Schade, Statt Integration organisierte Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung, Zur Diskussion über die “Integration” der “Ruhrpolen” [Organised exclusion and persecution instead of integration, discussion about the “integration” of the “Ruhr Poles”] in: Märkisches Jahrbuch für Geschichte, Band 117, 2018, S. 155-202, here: 7. Die polnischsprachige Zuwanderung in ihrer Unterschiedlichkeit [Polish-language migration in its diversity], p. 174-186

[3] ibid, page 134

Mediathek
  • Cover page of the first edition of “Narodowiec”

    Cover page of the first edition of “Narodowiec”

    Herne, 2 October 1909, from: “Polak w Niemczech”, Bochum 1972, p. 44
  • Brothers Marian and Michał Kwiatkowski

    Brothers Marian and Michał Kwiatkowski

    Brothers Marian and Michał Kwiatkowski, from “Polak w Niemczech”, Bochum 1972, p. 44
  • “Narodowiec” publishing house and print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne

    “Narodowiec” publishing house and print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne

    “Narodowiec” publishing house and print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Narodowiec”, anniversary edition 1959, see PDF Narodowiec 1972-1959, p. 91
  • Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop

    Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop

    Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Narodowiec”, anniversary edition 1959, see PDF Narodowiec 1972-1959, p. 91
  • Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop

    Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop

    Editors and typesetters in the “Narodowiec” print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Narodowiec”, anniversary edition 1959, see PDF Narodowiec 1972-1959, p. 91 in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Na...
  • At the printing press in the “Narodowiec”

    At the printing press in the “Narodowiec”

    At the printing press in the “Narodowiec” print shop in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Narodowiec”, anniversary edition 1959, see PDF Narodowiec 1972-1959, p. 91
  • The “Naród” editorial team in Bahnhofstraße in Herne

    The “Naród” editorial team in Bahnhofstraße in Herne

    The “Naród” editorial team in Bahnhofstraße in Herne, from “Narodowiec”, anniversary edition 1959, see PDF Narodowiec 1972-1959, p. 91
  • Cover page of the last edition of “Naród”

    Cover page of the last edition of “Naród”

    Cover page of the last edition of “Naród”, Herne, 1 September 1939, from: “Polak w Niemczech”, Bochum 1972, p. 44
  • Narodowiec 1954-1959

    Narodowiec 1954-1959
  • Narodowiec 1972-1959

    Narodowiec 1972-1959 with anniversary edition 1959 (page 89)