The Polish grammar school in Bytom

The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (1939)
The Polish grammar school in Beuthen/Bytom

After the referendum that sealed the partition of Upper Silesia into Polish and German sections, the Union of Poles in Germany (Związek Polaków w Niemczech)[1] attempted to set up a secondary school on Polish lines in the area of the Reich, providing tuition up to A-level. As early as the 1920s the Polish-Catholic School Society in Opolan Silesia (Polsko-Katolickie Towarzystwo Szkolne dla Śląska Opolskiego), the local section of the Union, had for administrative reasons decided not to pursue its efforts to set up a Polish State Grammar School in the remaining German voting areas, although the Polish minority had been accorded such a right according to the 1922 Geneva Convention. The Committee for Celebrating the 21st Anniversary of the Struggle for a Polish School (Komitet Obchodu 25–lecia Walki o Szkołę Polską) was set up in February 1930 under the patronage of Ignacy Mościcki, the President of the Polish Republic, to mark the 25th anniversary of the first day of the school strike in the Prussian and Russian sectors. One of the primary objectives set by the committee was to begin preparations to set up a private Polish Grammar School in Germany. This would be financed by the Fund of the Union of Poles in Germany and the Polish government. In addition donations were to be collected from the Polish population. These flowed into the newly founded Fund for the Promotion of the Polish School System Abroad (Fundusz Szkolnictwa Polskiego Zagranicą) under the patronage of the then Marshal of the Senate, Władysław Raczkiewicz.[2]

 

The site of the Grammar School


Initially it was an open question as to where the Polish Grammar School should be sited. Both Silesia and Eastern Prussia came into consideration. There were two possible towns in Silesia: Opole and Bytom. Opole was the seat of the district government and the local headquarters of the Union of Poles, the Polish School Society (Polskie Towarzystwo Szkolne) and the Polish Boy Scouts. The fact that Bytom was near the border spoke in its favour. But in the end the decision proved accidental. “Katolik” (The Catholic), a publishing house in Bytom was declared insolvent and it was decided to put its building at the disposal of the Polish Grammar School. On 24th March 1932 the Opole section of the Polish Catholic School Society (Polsko-Katolickie Towarzystwo Szkolne) applied to the Bytom Building Office for its approval to restructure the building for school purposes. The application triggered off a wave of protest in the local press and objections were even sent to the Ministry of the Interior. The German side torpedoed the efforts of the Polish side  by trying to prove that a Polish minority did not exist in Upper Silesia, especially in Bytom.[3]

Nonetheless the application was granted. The comprehensive rebuilding measures caused the initiators of the Bytom school to apply to the Provincial College in Opole for permission to have a classical public Grammar School offering its students the chance of attaining A-levels. Subsequently a special conference was held in Berlin on 9th August 1932. The Ministry of Culture was represented by Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg, the Ministry of the Interior by privy counsellor, Gürich, and the Foreign Ministry by the Ministerial Director, Meyer. The Supreme President, Hans Lukaschek, represented the district government of Opole. The upshot was that the application by the Polish side was accepted, along with all the recommended teaching candidates except for the candidate for the post of director, Miłosz Sołtys. This latter decision was made because people considered that the head of the school should be a German citizen in order to ensure that the students would have a correct political outlook. In order to take the sting out of this problem the school counsellor, Dopke, from Bytom was appointed the trustee of the College and given the job of supervising the school. Furthermore people pointed to the name of the school which was officially called the Prywatne Gimnazjum Rozwojowe z polskim językiem nauczania (Private Grammar School under Construction with Lessons in Polish), since the German authorities thought that there was no good reason to set up a school with classes at all levels, i.e. including an A-level class. Originally the intention was to have three lower classes, from class 6 to class 4. And in order to assess the state of knowledge held by the future students in the Grammar School, Germans should carry out examinations before deciding whether or not to open the school.[4]

The three-storey building of the Polish Grammar School was in Kurfürstenstraße 21 (today’s aleja Legionów). It had classrooms for physics, chemistry, biology and drawing as well as an assembly hall, a gymnasium, a chapel and a library equipped with a film projector, a slide projector and a radio.[5]

 

[1] The Union of Poles in Germany was set up in Berlin in August 1922 at a meeting of representatives of Polish centres in Germany. It was officially registered on 6th November 1923. One of its main aims was to ensure the rights of the Polish minority and protect Polish economic, social and cultural interests. The Union comprised five regions, including region number I - Opolan Silesia. The regional headquarters of the Union in Bytom was set up at the assembly on the 18th November 1928. The board of management consisted of the following persons: Kazimierz Malczewski, Pfarrer Czesław Klimas, Pfarrer Karol Koziołek and Franciszek Myśliwiec (H. Müller, Die polnische Volksgruppe im Deutschen Reich, Warschau 1941, pp. 159 and 196; J. Perdelwitz, Die Polen in Deutschland, Schwerin 1932, p. 9; T. Musioł, Polacy w Niemczech w latach 1918–1939, Opole 1963, pp. 26–27).

[2] J. Lubos, Dzieje polskiego gimnazjum w Bytomiu w świetle dokumentów i wspomnień, Opole 1971, p. 15; Walka o szkołę narodową dla Polaków Zagranicą. Zeszyt Propagandowy Funduszu Szkolnictwa Polskiego Zagranicą, 1934, pp. 19–21; J. Lusek, Niemieckie i polskie szkolnictwo w Bytomiu (1740–1945), Opole 2010, p. 155. Vgl. Komitet Obchodu 25-lecia Walki o Szkołę Polską: sprawozdanie, Warszawa 1934.

[3] The German Institute for International Pedagogical Research. Library of Education History in Berlin (designated in the following as “BB“), private estate. Files from the Private School in Bytom. Polish grammar school, Sign. 140, correspondence. Syllabuses. Lists of school books (1931–1933), Polish and German newspaper articles (1932–1933); Archiwum Akt Nowych, Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych [Archive of recent files, Ministry of Foreign Affairs], Sign. 7226, Instytut Śląski w Katowicach [Silesian Institute in Katowice] (Kommuniqué Nr. 15: E. Zdrojewski, Szkolnictwo polskie, op. cit.; Kommuniqué Nr. 16: E. Zdrojewski, Szkolnictwo polskie na Śląsku Opolskim. Nowe widoki rozwoju. Gimnazjum polskie, Katowice 1934); L. Ręgorowicz, Wykonanie niemiecko-polskiej Górnośląskiej Konwencji zawartej w Genewie 15 maja 1922 roku w zakresie szkol­nictwa, Katowice 1961, pp. 99–100; J. Lusek, Szkolnictwo niemieckie i polskie…, p. 161–163. 

[4] Archiwum Państwowe w Opolu (APO) [State Archive in Opole, designated in the following as APO], 1, Nadprezydium Prowincji Górnośląskiej w Opolu [Supreme Presidium of the province of Upper Silesia in Opole], Sign. 136, The Polish Grammar School in Bytom OS, Bl. 5–7.

[5] Państwowe w Katowicach (APK) [State Archive in Katowice, designated in the following as APK], 683, Prywatne gimnazjum z polskim językiem nauczania [Private Grammar School with lessons in Polish], Sign. 316, Album (1933), contains photos and brief description of the rooms in the school building.

Mediathek
  • The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (1939)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (1939)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (1939)
  • A common learning space in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. The students at work (in the 1930s)

    A common learning space in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. The students at work (in the 1930s)

    A common learning space in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. The students at work (in the 1930s)
  • A corridor of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A corridor of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A corridor of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • The library in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    The library in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    The library in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • A classroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A classroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A classroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • The official opening of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. President Felix Calonder signs the Remembrance Chronicle (1932)

    The official opening of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. President Felix Calonder signs the Remembrance Chronicle (1932)

    The official opening of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom. President Felix Calonder signs the Remembrance Chronicle (1932)
  • A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • A corridor in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A corridor in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A corridor in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • Physik- and Chemieraum, Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    Physik- and Chemieraum, Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    Physik- and Chemieraum, Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A recreation room in the student home of the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • A washroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A washroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)

    A washroom in the Polish Grammar School in Bytom (in the 1930s)
  • The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)
  • Commemortive plaque of The Polish Grammar School in Bytom from 23.10.1960 (view 2016)

    Commemortive plaque of The Polish Grammar School in Bytom from 23.10.1960 (view 2016)

    Commemortive plaque of The Polish Grammar School in Bytom from 23.10.1960 (view 2016)
  • The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)

    The Polish Grammar School in Bytom (2016)
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