Poles in Germany: Roads to visibility

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

Integration or separation?

 

After the Second World War, the cultural patterns of behaviour of the Polish migrants in Germany continued. Such was already the case for many emigrants: Anyone who was more Pole than German tried to find a way into German affluent society as quickly as possible after moving from Poland so that as Poles they could become largely invisible. For large sections of the German post-war society, Poland was seen as an unattractive country, its culture regarded as “inferior”. This belief that there was a cultural gap also had an impact on the migrants from Poland. Only a few actively held on to their native culture, getting involved in Polish associations or clubs. But for the majority, integration, success in the labour market and their children’s future were the number one priority.

This was also the reason why the Poles who had migrated to Germany were hardly identifiable in public as a closed group, particularly because outwardly they did not differ from the “average German”. Even the religious practices of the Poles fitted into the confessional landscape of Germany. Various indicators are testimony to their comparatively good integration in Germany. Compared to migrants from other countries, they are characterised by their low at-risk-of-poverty rate and higher average incomes, by good educational qualifications and a relatively high employment rate.

And whilst some Polish organisations were indeed founded in 1945 immediately after the war, even today Polish migrants are reticent to set up associations and clubs. Even the various umbrella associations have only very minor significance; what works more is the network of the Polish Catholic missions. Some towns have Polish associations which are usually quite small and which are concerned with teaching Polish children the language or promoting cultural matters. They usually work within the Polish community, sometimes they also succeed in reaching a larger public, mostly in the Ruhr area and in Berlin. Berlin as a whole differs significantly from the rest of the Republic: This is where, only 80 kilometres from the Polish border, not just labour migrants but also thousands of Poles, who are culturally active or who simply want to enjoy alternative lifestyles, have been gathering since the 1980s. Today, this has made the town an important centre for Polish culture, or more accurately, a centre for the cultural activities of people from Poland. This is because those people who have migrated from Poland or cultural mavens and intellectuals who have one leg here and the other there no longer subscribe to one nation, but see themselves instead as part of transnational communities, as world citizens or Europeans.

This trend is countered by associations who, even in Germany, want the world to experience Poland’s conservative nature. In some large cities “Klubs der Gazeta Polska” have been established that cultivate a Catholic national conservative world view. Ultimately, there is a range of ideologically neutral associations, for instance a growing number of Polish sports clubs, such as the football club FC Polonia Berlin, FC Polonia Wuppertal, SV Polonia Monachium or KS Polonia Braunschweig.

Today, almost every large German town and many regions have Polish Facebook groups in which sometimes hundreds and sometimes tens of thousands of people catch up on the important things of everyday life. The Polish community can draw upon a now well established ethnic economy providing Polish-speaking services, from doctors to lawyers, from nail studios to wedding chapels. And the more extensive this infrastructure becomes, the more visible it becomes as well. The times in which Poles simply wanted to hide from the majority society are largely consigned to the past now.

This has also been helped by the slowly growing number of people in public life with a recognisably Polish background. And today it is by no means just a couple of footballers, like Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, or a few personalities from the world of culture whose “foreign” way of speaking, like that of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who reminded Germans for decades just how closely Germany was intertwined with eastern Europe.

Today things are a bit different: The General Secretary of the CDU, Paul Ziemiak, came to Germany as a child, as did the actress Patrycia Ziółkowska, who uses all the special Polish characters in her name, something the earlier migrant generations liked to refrain from doing, the tennis player Angelique Kerber is committed to her Polish heritage as is the singer Mark Forster, who was born in the Palatinate as the son of a Polish mother and who surprised German television viewers with a Christmas carol sung in Polish. Margarete Stokowski is shaping the feminist debate in the country; Henryk M. Broder is still stirring up a journalistic storm with his recalcitrant commentaries, and the “Zeit” journalist Alice Bota makes a significant contribution to the presence of Poles in Germany. In German universities and in symphony orchestras, in large IT companies and in the media industry – everywhere today there are people who feel a biographical association with Poland.

Mediathek Sorted

Mediathek
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    Mausoleum

    The Mausoleum of Queen Richeza at the Cathedral of Cologne
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    The coats-of-arms of Hedwig Jagiellonica and Georg the Rich

    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.

    A stained glass painting in the Landshut town hall.

    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.
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    Count Athanasius Raczyński

    Count Athanasius Raczyński, 1826
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    The Raczynski Palace

    The Raczynski Palace at Königsplatz (ca. 1875)
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    Empfang der Polen in Leipzig 1830

    Guillaume Thierry, Lithographie nach einer Zeichnung von Charles Malankiewicz, 39,8 x 48,7 cm, 1830/31
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    Transit routes (overview)

    Transit routes taken by Polish fighters in the November uprising and the German organisations providing help to Poland 1831 – 1833 (overview). H. Asmus, 1981
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    Memorial tablet in 12 tableaux

    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
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    A special postage stamp

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    Ludwik Mierosławski

    Ludwik Mierosławski (1814-1878), photo ab. 1850
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    Józef Ignacy Kraszewski

    Józef Ignacy Kraszewski around the year 1879
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    Kraszewski-Museum

    Kraszewski-Museum in Dresden
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    Ein Gemälde von Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902), um 1880, Sankt Petersburg, Staatliches Russisches Museum
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    Wiarus Polski, Bochum

    Ausgabe vom 3. Juli 1907
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    Sachsengänger

    Sachsengänger bei der Ankunft in Berlin, 1909
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    Atelier von Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski in München, 1889

    Carl Teufel: Künstleratelier Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski, München 1889. Schwarzweiß-Fotografie vom Glasnegativ, 18 x 24 cm 
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    In the workshop of Kossak

    Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf v. Menzel in the workshop of the painter Adalbert von Kossak.
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    International Socialist Congress

    Rosa Luxemburg speaking at the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, August 1907.
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    Helena und Stanisław Sierakowski, Hochzeitsfoto, 1910

    Stanisław Sierakowski - der erste Vorsitzender des Bundes der Polen in Deutschland "Rodło"
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    Wedding telegram, 1913

    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

    Study record Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg

    Roman Witold Ingarden, study record Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg with signature Edmund Husserls, 1916
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    The House in the Magdeburg Fortress

    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.

    “Radziwill-Palais”

    “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

    The religious ceremony in Herne, 1930

    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

    Werbeplakat für den Film "Ich liebe alle Frauen" (1935) mit Jan Kiepura

    Werbeplakat für den Film "Ich liebe alle Frauen" (1935) mit Jan Kiepura in der Hauptrolle
  • Dziennik Berliński

    Dziennik Berliński

    Ausgabe vom 10. November 1937 mit der Titelgeschichte über die Eröffnung des Polnischen Gymnasiums im ostpreußischen Marienwerder (polnisch Kwidzyń).
  • Familie Jankowski – Ruhrpolen in Herne 1936

    Familie Jankowski – Ruhrpolen in Herne 1936

    Familie Jankowski, Eltern mit Kindern, 1936 in Herne
  • Polnischer Zwangsarbeiter beim Milchfahren, ca. 1943

    Polnischer Zwangsarbeiter beim Milchfahren, ca. 1943

    Polnischer Zwangsarbeiter vom Hof Schweers (Kr. Borken) beim Milchfahren, ca. 1943, Sammlung Ignaz Böckenhoff: Das Dorf Raesfeld in den 1930er bis 1960er Jahren
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    Polish fashion magazine “Moda” in Niederlangen (Emsland), 1945

    The cover page of the magazine, which was created in the former prisoner of war camp for those involved in the Warsaw Uprising, announced a new fashion collection for summer 1945 (some of which were m...
  • Soldat der polnischen 1. Panzerdivision

    Wilhelmshaven, 1945

    Soldat der polnischen 1. Panzerdivision des Generals Stanissław Maczek auf dem Hof der Kaserne in Wilhelmshaven, Mai 1945.
  • Józef Szajna in Maczków (Haren) on the Ems, 1946.

    Józef Szajna in Maczków

    Józef Szajna in Maczków (Haren) on the Ems, 1946.
  • Friedhofskapelle im DP-Lager Flossenbürg, 1947

    Friedhofskapelle im DP-Lager Flossenbürg, 1947

    Ein Kirchenfenster aus der durch polnische Displaced Persons 1946-47 erbauten Friedhofskapelle auf dem Gelände des ehemaligen KZ Flossenbürg (Detail) nach dem Entwurf von Władysław Płoskoń, 1947.
  • The film producer Artur "Atze" Brauner.

    The film producer Artur "Atze" Brauner.

    The film producer Artur "Atze" Brauner. The photo was taken on 25th January 2002 in Leipzig when he was there for the mdr talkshow "Riverboat".
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    Eine Filmdokumentation über die legendäre Persönlichkeit des deutschen und internationalen Films.
  • Tadeusz Nowakowski, ca. 1950

    Tadeusz Nowakowski, ca. 1950

    ca. 1950
  • Audiodatei

    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

    Fronleichnam in der Siedlung für polnische Displaced Persons in Dortmund Eving, 1951

    Ein durch die polnische DP-Familie Sokołowski angefertigter Alter für die Fronleichnamsprozession, Dortmund Eving, 1951.
  • Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow. Photographer unknown, 1956.

    Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow, 1956

    Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow. Photographer unknown, 1956.
  • Mieczysław Wejman, „Der Schlaf ist Bruder des Todes“, Wildflecken, 1971

    Mieczysław Wejman, „Der Schlaf ist Bruder des Todes“, Wildflecken, 1971

    Ein Fresco des Professors der krakauer Kunstakademie (Fragment) zum Gedenken an 428 polnische Kinder und 116 Erwachsene, die im DP-Lager Wildflecken 1945-48 verstorben sind, Friedhofskapelle Wildfleck...
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki in the ZDF studio Programme title: Aus gegebenem Anlass - Marcel Reich-Ranicki talks to Thomas Gottschalk

    Marcel Reich-Ranicki in the ZDF studio

    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.

    Historische Vereinsfahnen des Bundes der Polen in Deutschland

    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 "Narr und Nonne" - St. Ignacy Witkiewicz, Filmstudio Transform, Regie: Janina Szarek

    Film "Narr und Nonne" - St. Ignacy Witkiewicz, Filmstudio Transform, Regie: 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.

    Andrzej Wirth in his apartment in Berlin

    Andrzej Wirth in his apartment in Berlin.
  • Audiodatei

    Interview with Leszek Zadlo

    Interview with Leszek Zadlo
  • Köln, Hohenzollernbrücke

    Köln, Hohenzollernbrücke

    From the series “Urban Spaces”, 2005-2009, “Cologne, Hohenzollern bridge”, Inkjet photo print, 85 x 240 cm.
  • ZEITFLUG - Hamburg

    © all films: Stefan Szczygieł. Courtesy: Claus Friede*Contemporary Art, Hamburg.
  • Lech Wieleba on the double bass.

    Lech Wieleba

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  • Empty Images, 2000/2006. Bild (Berlin), 12th January 2006

    ill. 17b: Empty Images, 2000/2006

    Empty Images, 2000/2006. Bild (Berlin), 12th January 2006
  • Monika Czosnowska, Johanna

    Monika Czosnowska, Johanna

    Monika Czosnowska, Johanna , 2004, C-Print, 78 x 66 cm, Sammlung Marta Herford, Zugangsjahr: 2005
  • Polonia Dortmund 2012

    Polonia Dortmund 2012

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  • In Blau, Małgosia Jankowska, 2015, Aquarell, Filzstift auf Papier, 100 x 150 cm.

    Małgosia Jankowska

    In Blau, 2015, Aquarell, Filzstift auf Papier, 100 x 150 cm.
  • Katarzyna Myćka

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  • Agata Madejska, RISE, 2018. Installation view, ∼ =, Impuls Bauhaus, Zeche Zollverein, Essen, 2019.

    Agata Madejska, RISE, 2018

    Agata Madejska, RISE, 2018. Installation view, ∼ =, Impuls Bauhaus, Zeche Zollverein, Essen, 2019.