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The Ruhr Poles

Associations of Polish Youth in Herne-Horsthausen, 1916-1919
Associations of Polish Youth (Towarzystwa Modzieży Polskiej) in Herne-Horsthausen, 1916-1919
Introduction


A glance at the two-volume encyclopedia of surnames of Polish origin in the Ruhr area is enough to get an idea of how close the genealogical relationship between Germans and Poles is - especially in the Rhine and Ruhr regions. On the basis of telephone directories from 1994 to 1996 alone, the authors identified more than 30,000 Polish surnames in the Ruhr area. This does not take into account German variants of Polish surnames and name transformations, or Germanised forms of originally Polish surnames, not to speak of family members and persons with no telephone connection or with a telephone number hidden behind the individual telephone directory entries during the said period.[1]

The background to this close relationship is made up of several westward migration phases from areas with an ethnic Polish population, or from a Polish state between the middle of the 19th century and the present day. The most comprehensive of these migrations took place in the Rhineland Westphalian industrial area between 1870 and the start of the 1920s. In contrast to overseas emigrations that took place at the same time and were also designated as migration processes, this migration movement, which was known under the heading "Ost- bzw. Landflucht" (migration from Eastern resp. rural Prussia), was an internal migration within Prussia and the German Reich: i.e. the emigrants were Prussian citizens who were free to choose their place of work and life on the basis of the Reich Law on Freedom of Movement passed in November 1867. According to calculations made by researchers on the basis of Prussian statistics, during this period up to half a million Polish-racial or Polish-speaking people emigrated from rural eastern provinces in Prussia to the Rhine-Ruhr industrial area.[2] That said, the most recent studies and comparisons of individual emigration figures from certain regions (including Upper Silesia, as well as the inaccuracy and, at times, deliberate manipulation of Prussian statistics and the high fluctuation of immigration, repatriation and onward migration that is not reflected in these statistics), point to a considerably higher number of persons who were living and working in the Rhine and Ruhr around 1900, at least for on a temporary basis.[3]

About one third of the migrants, for whom the term Ruhr Poles has established itself in research, came from each of the provinces of Poznan and East Prussia, above all from the Masurian provinces (Polish-speaking Protestants),[4] and southern Warmia, which was also largely Polish-speaking but Catholic. In addition to the two largest groups, several tens of thousands of immigrants each came from West Prussia, Kashubia and the province of Silesia, especially from the southern part of the administrative district of Opole (Polish-speaking Catholic Upper Silesians). The main reasons for migration were economic. The population growth that gained momentum in the 19th century had led to overpopulation in the rural regions of origin. Moreover, these regions were industrially underdeveloped or not developed at all (with the exception of Upper Silesia). Above all they offered young men few job opportunities, poor living conditions and hardly any future prospects.[5]

 

[1] Rymut, Kazimierz/Hoffmann, Johannes (eds.): Lexikon der Familiennamen polnischer Herkunft im Ruhrgebiet, 2 volumes, Kraków 2006, pages XXXV–XXXVI. 

[2] cf. amongst others: Murzynowska, Krystyna: Die polnischen Erwerbsauswanderer im Ruhrgebiet während der Jahre 1880–1914, Dortmund 1979, pp. 25–26. Also other scholars like Witold Matwiejczyk and Valentina-Maria Stefanski, refer to Murzynowska's presentation and Prussian statistics.

[3] Skrabania, David: Keine Polen? Bewusstseinsprozesse und Partizipationsstrategien unter Ruhrpolen zwischen der Reichsgründung und den Anfängen der Weimarer Republik, pp. 45–47 (unpublished thesis, Bochum 2018, The thesis can be seen at Porta Polonica).

[4] The group of Ruhr Poles also included Masurians, whose specific characteristics mean that they will not be included in the rest of this text. The circumstances and causes of the Masurian migration process to the Rhine and Ruhr were very similar to those of the other Prussian eastern provinces. They, too, were a Polish-speaking and Slavic people who, although they had been politically integrated into the Kingdom of Prussia since the 17th century, retained their own characteristics even into the 20th century, for example with regard to Protestantism strongly interspersed with elements of Catholicism or their spoken dialect, an old Polish dialect. In the Rhineland-Westphalian industrial area, Masurians were often set apart from other Polish-speaking migrants as well as from the German-speaking majority society. At least partially, their religious denomination and a fundamental Prussian royalism facilitated their integration and assimilation in the Rhineland-Westphalian industrial area. However, two factors seem to have played a more significant role. Firstly, the agrarian, very sparsely populated and economically extremely weak Masuria offered hardly any opportunities to return and earn a living. Secondly, dozens of Masurian villages were de facto dissolved as a result of migration to the Rhine and Ruhr, and entire villages often suffered severe population losses, including preachers. Thus, it was practically impossible for many Masurians to return during or shortly after migrating. See Kossert, Andreas: Masuren. Ostpreußens vergessener Süden, Berlin 2001; Jasiński, Grzegorz: Mazurzy w drugiej połowie XIX wieku. Kształtowanie się świadomości narodowej, Olsztyn 1994.

[5] Kleßmann, Christoph: Polnische Bergarbeiter im Ruhrgebiet 1870–1945. Soziale Integration und nationale Subkultur einer Minderheit in der deutschen Industriegesellschaft, Göttingen 1978, pp. 24–27.

Mediathek Sorted

Mediathek
  • The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church in Radlin II (Wodzisław Śląski)

    The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church

    The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church in Radlin II (Wodzisław Śląski)
  • The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church in Radlin II (Wodzisław Śląski)

    The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church

    The church cross to the right of the main entrance of St. Mary Magdalene´s Church in Radlin II (Wodzisław Śląski), donated by emigrants
  • Call of an agent from 1887 for the recruitment of miners in Masuria

    Call for the recruitment of miners in Masuria

    Call of an agent from 1887 for the recruitment of miners in Masuria
  • Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving (Dortmund) from 1898, with a cross, mallets and iron on the front and the inscription: "Tow. Katolickie polskich Górników pod opieką św. Barbary w Eving"

    Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving, front

    Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving (Dortmund) from 1898, with a cross, mallets and iron on the front and the inscription: "Tow. Katolickie polskich Górników pod opieką św. Barbar...
  • Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving (Dortmund) from 1898, with a cross, mallets and iron on the front and the inscription: "Tow. Katolickie polskich Górników pod opieką św. Barbary w Eving"

    Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving, reverse

    Flag of the Polish-Catholic miners´ association of Eving (Dortmund) from 1898, with a cross, mallets and iron on the front and the inscription: "Tow. Katolickie polskich Górników pod opieką św. Barbar...
  • Flag of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, founded on August 1, 1906, Patron Saint: Saint Joseph - Motto: Pray for us

    Flag of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, front

    Flag of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, founded on August 1, 1906, Patron Saint: Saint Joseph - Motto: Pray for us
  • Flag of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, founded on August 1, 1906, Patron Saint: Saint Joseph - Motto: Pray for us

    Flag of the brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, back

    Flag of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary of Women in Suderwich, founded on August 1, 1906, Patron Saint: Saint Joseph - Motto: Pray for us
  • Flag of the choral society "Mickiewicz" from Oberhausen, founded on 30 May 1898, inscription on the back: "Cześć Pieśni" [honour to the song]

    Flag of the Mickiewicz Choral Society from Oberhausen 1898, front

    Flag of the choral society "Mickiewicz" from Oberhausen, founded on 30 May 1898, inscription on the back: "Cześć Pieśni" [honour to the song]
  • Flag of the choral society "Mickiewicz" from Oberhausen, founded on 30 May 1898, inscription on the back: "Cześć Pieśni" [honour to the song]

    Flag of the Mickiewicz Choral Society from Oberhausen 1898, reverse

    Flag of the choral society "Mickiewicz" from Oberhausen, founded on 30 May 1898, inscription on the back: "Cześć Pieśni" [honour to the song]
  • Membership card of the gymnastics organisation Sokół (Falcon) by Ludwik Najdecki from Herne, department Eickel II and Holsterhausen, taken on 3.4.1921 with stamp

    Membership card of Sokół by Ludwik Najdecki

    Membership card of the gymnastics organisation Sokół (Falcon) by Ludwik Najdecki from Herne, department Eickel II and Holsterhausen, taken on 3.4.1921 with stamp
  • Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki from 1923, district Gelsenkirchen, department Wanne-Eickel II, with stamp

    Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki

    Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki from 1923, district Gelsenkirchen, department Wanne-Eickel II, with stamp
  • Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki from 1923, district Gelsenkirchen, department Wanne-Eickel II, with stamp

    Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki

    Membership card of the Union of Poles in Germany by Josef Najdecki from 1923, district Gelsenkirchen, department Wanne-Eickel II, with stamp
  • Miners´ hymnal, published by the miners´ department of the "Polish Professional Association" in Bochum.

    Miners´ hymnal

    Miners´ hymnal, published by the miners´ department of the "Polish Professional Association" in Bochum.
  • State of the Polish movement in Westphalia, report from 1912

    Report on the state of the Polish movement in Rhineland and Westphalia and other areas of the German Reich and neighbouring countries in 1912, author: Bochum Police Commissioner Gerstein.
  • Amateur theatre group with plaque (inscription: From the Polish Theatre in Husen on 23.3. 1919), marked: Viktoria Wasielewski

    Polish amateur theater group from Husen

    Amateur theatre group with plaque (inscription: From the Polish Theatre in Husen on 23.3. 1919), marked: Viktoria Wasielewski
  • Choral society in Bochum-Hamme, 1910-1939.

    Choral society in Bochum-Hamme, 1910-1939.

    Choral society in Bochum-Hamme in Westphalia, 1910-1939.
  • Polish children from Westphalia on their way to the holiday camp, 1925

    Polish children from Westphalia on their way to the holiday camp, 1925

    Polish children from Westphalia on their way to the holiday camp in Poland, 1925.
  • Polish children from Westphalia at the holiday camp, 1925-1939

    Polish children from Westphalia at the holiday camp, 1925-1939

    Polish children from Westphalia at the holiday camp in Jędrzejów, 1925-1939.
  • Polish Artists in Westphalia, 1928

    Polish Artists in Westphalia, 1928

    Polish Artists in Westphalia, 1928
  • A group of Polish artists in Westphalia, before 1939

    A group of Polish artists in Westphalia, before 1939

    A group of Polish artists in Westphalia. Among others: Zofia Barwińska. Before 1939.
  • 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
  • Delegates to the II Congress of Poles from abroad, on a Street in Dortmund, 1934.

    Delegates to the II Congress of Poles from abroad, on a Street in Dortmund, 1934

    Delegates to the II Congress of Poles from abroad, on a Street in Dortmund, 1934.
  • Bank Robotników (The Workers' Bank) at Klosterstraße 2 in Bochum, 1917-1939

    Bank Robotników (The Workers' Bank) at Klosterstraße 2 in Bochum, 1917-1939

    Bank Robotników (The Workers' Bank) at Klosterstraße 2 in Bochum, founded by the German Polish community 1917-1939. 
  • Sokół gymnastic club 1920-1939.

    Sokół gymnastic club 1920-1939

    Members of the "Sokół" gymnastic club at the rally 1920-1939.
  • Polish secondary school students from Westphalia at the summer holiday camp, 1936-1937

    Polish secondary school students from Westphalia at the summer holiday camp, 1936-1937

    Polish secondary school students from Westphalia at the summer holiday camp in Ustroń, 1936-1937.
  • Polish amateur theatre in Westphalia, 1929.

    Polish amateur theatre in Westphalia, 1929

    Polish amateur theatre in Westphalia, 1929.
  • Congress of Poles from Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1935.

    Congress of Poles from Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1935

    Congress of Poles from Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1935.
  • Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935 with inscription on the back

    Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935, front

    Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935 with inscription on the back.
  • Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935 with inscription on the back

    Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935, reverse

    Postcard from the Congress of the Poles in Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum 1935 with inscription on the back
  • Congress of the Youth Section of the Polish-Catholic Societies of Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1927.

    Congress of the Youth Section of the Polish-Catholic Societies of Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1927

    Congress of the Youth Section of the Polish-Catholic Societies of Westphalia and Rhineland in Bochum, 1927.
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