The “Narodowiec” – a Polish national newspaper in the Ruhr area
The “Narodowiec” was considerably more reserved towards the political development in the new, now republican Germany than the “Wiarus Polski”, although both welcomed the fall of the German empire and the establishing of a parliamentary democracy, not least because it expanded the political areas of action for the Polish national organisations. The greater distancing of the “Narodowiec” was demonstrated in the cautious loyalty to the new Germany and matched the distancing that was also becoming apparent among a growing proportion of the population of Ruhr Poles. This increasing distance was fundamentally a reaction to the discrimination by the state and local authorities that continued to be practised in the new Germany and by the German national forces towards people that identified as Poles. The “Narodowiec” very quickly took account of the fact that although many Polish workers were relocating to the new Poland, an ever increasing proportion were relocating with their families to France and Belgium and, as early as 1922, set up a branch of its editorial office in Lens in northern France, home to the largest coal region in France. Just how significant the political differences were between the Polish national movements represented by the two newspapers the “Wiarus Polski” and the “Narodowiec”, could be seen in the occupation of the Ruhr area by French and Belgian troops. Whilst on 16 January 1923, the “Wiarus Polski” published a call to all Poles in Westphalia and in the Rhineland reminding Polish workers of their duties associated with their German nationality, and the Polish trade union ZZP (Zjedoczenie Zawodowe Polskie - Polish professional association), which was affiliated with the paper, spoke out in a joint declaration with the German trade unions against the occupation of the Ruhr and for boycotting measures, the “Narodowiec” did exactly the opposite. In its anniversary edition in 1959 it stated the following and, in doing so, unduly spoke for all Ruhr Poles: “The Germans persistently used sabotage and strikes to shirk this obligation [the agreed amounts of coal supplies to France and Belgium] because soon after the war the Treaty of Versailles was just a piece of paper to them. France’s intentions were frustrated by the defeated Germany. This situation was helped by a call by the “Narodowiec” to the numerous Poles working in mines in the Ruhrgebiet, who openly supported the French army, which is why the Germans were furious. The Polish workers continued to work in the mines and boycotted the German strikes; their aim was to reduce the profitability of German industry in the Ruhrgebiet.”
In 1924, in the middle of the “occupation of the Ruhr”, Michał Kwiatkowski, with the agreement of the French occupying power in the Ruhr area and the central French government, finally moved the “Narodowiec” editorial office to Rue Émile Zola in Lens, where it was published from 12 October to its final issue in 1989. However, the newspaper published by his brother, the “Naród” (People) which had the same basic political focus as the “Narodowiec”, remained in Germany. This daily newspaper, which was also in the Polish language and had a significantly smaller circulation than the “Narodowiec”, had been published since 1912, initially in Oberhausen, then later in Herne, until it was banned by the National Socialists in Germany in 1939. The publisher and editor-in-chief, Marian Kwiatkowski, was arrested and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he died in the hospital on 4 December 1941.
Wulf Schade, February 2020
Wulf Schade, Wiarus Polski – Eine polnische Zeitung aus dem Ruhrrevier, https://www.porta-polonica.de/de/atlas-der-erinnerungsorte/wiarus-polski-eine-polnische-zeitung-aus-dem-ruhrrevier?page=1#body-top
Jerzy Kozłwski, Rozwój organizacji społeczno-narodowych wychodźstwa polskiego w Niemczech 1870-1914, Biblioteka Polonijna 18, Wrocław 1987