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Poles in Germany: Roads to visibility

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Bambini, 1998. Ausstellungsansicht in der St. Elisabeth-Kirche, Berlin, Gallery Weekend 2015, Galerie ŻAK | BRANICKA, Berlin

Mediathek Sorted

Media library
  • The Mausoleum of Queen Richeza at the Cathedral of Cologne
  • The coats-of-arms of Hedwig Jagiellonica and Georg the Rich of Bavaria-Landshut in the castle at Burghausen.
  • A stained glass painting in the Landshut town hall. The window is in the main staircase. The picture shows Georg the Rich and Hedwig of Poland.
  • Philips Galle (1537-1612): Joannes Alasco, 1567.
  • Count Athanasius Raczyński, 1826
  • The Raczynski Palace at Königsplatz (ca. 1875)
  • Empfang der Polen in Leipzig 1830
  • Transit routes taken by Polish fighters in the November uprising and the German organisations providing help to Poland 1831 – 1833 (overview). H. Asmus, 1981. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • The Most Memorable Days in the Year 1830, a memorial tablet in 12 tableaux, Verlag Johann Andreas Endter, Nürnberg, 1830, engraving, coloured, 30.3 x 43.5 cm
  • A special postage stamp

    A special postage stamp issued by the German Postal Service to mark the anniversary of “175 Years Hambach Festival”
  • Ludwik Mierosławski (1814-1878)
  • Józef Ignacy Kraszewski around the year 1879
  • Kraszewski-Museum in Dresden
  • „Chopin spielt im Salon des Fürsten Anton Radziwill in Berlin“
  • Wiarus Polski vom 3. Juli 1907
  • Sachsengänger bei der Ankunft in Berlin, 1909
  • Cover page of the first edition of “Narodowiec”
  • Carl Teufel: Künstleratelier Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski, München 1889
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf v. Menzel in the workshop of the painter Adalbert von Kossak.
  • Rosa Luxemburg speaking at the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, August 1907.
  • Helena und Stanisław Sierakowski, Hochzeitsfoto, 1910
  • Wedding telegram with two men in national costume and the cartouche with a white eagle, colour print, 1913.
  • Roman Witold Ingarden, study record Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg with signature Edmund Husserls, 1916
  • "Pola Negri - unsterblich", Dokumentation von 2017

    Eine Filmdokumentation über Leben und Schaffen eines der größten Stummfilmstars in Deutschland polnischer Herkunft.
  • Drei Tage im November. Józef Piłsudski und die polnische Unabhängigkeit 1918"

    Von Magdeburg in die Unabhängigkeit Polens - ein Film über einen polnischen Mythos.
  • The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • “Radziwill Palais”, view of the “Red Salon” and the winter garden of the building, ca. 1927.
  • The religious ceremony of "Days of Faith of Our Fathers" in Herne, 1930
  • Werbeplakat für den Film Ich liebe alle Frauen (1935) mit Jan Kiepura
  • Dziennik Berliński
  • The Jankowski Family – Ruhr Poles in Herne 1936
  • Polnischer Zwangsarbeiter beim Milchfahren, ca. 1943
  • Polish fashion magazine “Moda” in Niederlangen (Emsland), 1945
  • Soldat der polnischen 1. Panzerdivision
  • Józef Szajna in Maczków (Haren) on the Ems, 1946.
  • Friedhofskapelle im DP-Lager Flossenbürg, 1947
  • The film producer Artur "Atze" Brauner.
  • Artur Brauner - Ein Jahrhundertleben zwischen Polen und Deutschland

    Eine Filmdokumentation über die legendäre Persönlichkeit des deutschen und internationalen Films.
  • Tadeusz Nowakowski, ca. 1950

    Tadeusz Nowakowski, ca. 1950
  • Teresa Nowakowski (101) im Gespräch mit Sohn Krzysztof, London 2019.

    Teresa Nowakowski (101) im Gespräch mit Sohn Krzysztof, London 2019 (auf Polnisch).
  • Fronleichnam in der Siedlung für polnische Displaced Persons in Dortmund Eving, 1951
  • Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow. Photographer unknown, 1956.
  • Mieczysław Wejman, „Der Schlaf ist Bruder des Todes“, Wildflecken, 1971
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki in the ZDF studio Programme title: Aus gegebenem Anlass - Marcel Reich-Ranicki talks to Thomas Gottschalk
  • Karol Broniatowski

    Memorial to the Jews deported from Berlin, 1991
  • Historische Vereinsfahnen des Bundes der Polen in Deutschland in der St. Anna Kirche der Polnischen Katholischen Mission in Dortmund. Die Fahnen gehören zum Bestand der Porta Polonica.
  • Film "The Madman and the Nun" - St. Ignacy Witkiewicz, Filmstudio Transform, Director: Janina Szarek

    Film "The Madman and the Nun" - St. Ignacy Witkiewicz, Filmstudio Transform, Director: Janina Szarek
  • WORMHOLE, 2008

    A video installation in a public space. Steel construction, glass, video, monitor, DVD player. Ø = 100 cm, H = 110 cm. Copyright: Karina Smigla-Bobinski.
  • Andrzej Wirth in his apartment in Berlin.
  • Interview with Leszek Zadlo

    Interview with Leszek Zadlo

    Interview with Leszek Zadlo
  • Köln, Hohenzollernbrücke
  • ZEITFLUG - Hamburg

    © all films: Stefan Szczygieł. Courtesy: Claus Friede*Contemporary Art, Hamburg.
  • Lech Wieleba on the double bass.
  • Empty Images, 2000/2006. Bild (Berlin), 12th January 2006
  • Monika Czosnowska, Johanna
  • Polonia Dortmund 2012
  • In Blau, Małgosia Jankowska, 2015, Aquarell, Filzstift auf Papier, 100 x 150 cm.
  • Katarzyna Myćka
  • Der Planet von Susanna Fels

    Ein Kunstfilm von Susanna Fels mit den Fotos von u.a. Annette Hudemann, 2019.
  • Agata Madejska, RISE, 2018. Installation view, ∼ =, Impuls Bauhaus, Zeche Zollverein, Essen, 2019.
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Bambini, 1998
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Bambini, 1998. Ausstellungsansicht in der St. Elisabeth-Kirche, Berlin, Gallery Weekend 2015, Galerie ŻAK | BRANICKA, Berlin

Forced migration: The period of the world wars

Whilst, to this point, Poles had migrated voluntarily or had felt compelled to migrate at most out of economic necessity, the First World War was a turning point: By the end of the war, more than half a million Poles living abroad were recruited for the economy in the Empire, increasingly through coercion as well. Sometimes they also fled from the events of war or, as was the case with Polish Jews, for fear of anti-semitic riots. Directly after the war, there were around 3,500 “East European Jews” in Frankfurt am Main, who for the most part stayed here initially, as was the case in other parts of Germany. Often, however, their mother tongue was not Polish but Yiddish; some spoke German or Russian better.

As a result of new borders being drawn in the wake of the Treaty of Versailles and some referenda that followed, Germany lost a large part of the Polish settlement areas in the East. At the same time, because some of the Polish economic migrants from the Ruhr area and from other places were migrating back to an independent Poland or were looking for work in other countries, the number of Polish-speaking residents fell quickly. In the 1920s, there must have been around 1.5 million Polish-speaking people and this number continued to fall until 1939, particularly as a result of the gradual assimilation to the German majority of the population, which was later enforced by the Third Reich. There were now hardly any centres of Polish life left in Germany; but Berlin, Westphalia and western Upper Silesia still had a considerable group of people who were prepared to stand up for Polish issues. Generally speaking, because of the poisonous atmosphere between Germany and Poland, many Poles preferred to make themselves “invisible” and not stand out in German society. The “Union of Poles in Germany”, which was founded in 1922, was unable to stop this development. Incidentally, Poles only had minority status in the part of Upper Silesia that had remained German, and they only had that until 1937.

Poles living in the Empire had several press bodies which, however, suffered considerable financial difficulties. For this reason, “Wiarus Polski”, which had been published in Bochum since 1890, moved its head office to the industrial region of northern France which had a large-scale Polish migration, and “Narodowiec”, which had been published in Herne since 1909, followed in 1924. This meant that the only daily newspaper remaining was the “Dziennik Berliński”, which was founded in Berlin in 1897 and which existed with the support of the “Union of Poles” until war broke out in 1939.

But Poles did not disappear from public life in Germany completely: The film stars Pola Negri and Jan Kiepura enjoyed great success. And Polish Jews also played an important role in music culture and in the entertainment industry, like the band leader Marek Weber. And if you search a little further, you come across a large number of virtually forgotten traces of people. Such as the Bauhaus student Jesekiel David Kirszenbaum or the photographer Stefan Arczyński.

However, this German-Polish-Jewish symbiosis was destroyed by the Nazis: At the end of October 1938, they deported all Polish citizens of Jewish origin to Poland; around 17,000 people were thrown out of their houses overnight. This was a “prelude to the extermination” which was to start soon after.

The Second World War turned Europe on its head. The senior-level representatives of Poland that lived in the Empire were persecuted and some were murdered in concentration camps. A large proportion of conquered Poland was joined to the Empire, the Polish people – Jews and non-Jews – were persecuted, enslaved, expelled and exterminated. Depending on the region, many Poles were forced to sign the “German People’s List”, many young men were then conscripted to the Wehrmacht. Polish officers who were prisoners of war spent the war in camps, simple soldiers were used as forced labour. Around 2.8 million Poles worked for varying lengths of time as forced labourers in industry or agriculture, sometimes under inhuman conditions. Hundreds of thousands were taken to the concentration camps; Jewish Poles were often taken directly to the extermination camps.