[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Poland]: Jasiński on Polak-Springer, 'Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919-1989'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Thu Jul 5 00:30:10 MDT 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: July 5, 2018 at 2:18:23 AM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Poland]:  Jasiński on Polak-Springer, 'Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919-1989'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Peter Polak-Springer.  Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict
> over Land and Culture, 1919-1989.  New York  Berghahn Books, 2015.
> xxi + 280 pp.  $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78238-887-6.
> Reviewed by Łukasz Jasiński (Muzeum Miasta Gdyni, Museum of the
> City of Gdynia)
> Published on H-Poland (July, 2018)
> Commissioned by Anna Muller
> An In-depth View on Language, Propaganda, and Architecture in
> Polish-German Relations during Borderland Conflict
> A tangled web of Polish-German relations in the twentieth century has
> been one of the main areas of scholarly interest in both countries.
> Despite a significant number of publications and scientific projects
> dealing with relations between these two states, there are still
> areas that require in-depth studies in terms of both microhistory and
> wider examinations dealing with crucial political events and social
> phenomena. Peter Polak-Springer's _Recovered Territory: A
> German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919-1989 _is an
> attempt to combine regional history with broader political and social
> analysis. Polak-Springer focuses on reconstructing the history of
> Polish-German rivalry over the Upper Silesia region, which, after the
> end of World War I, became a new borderland, torn by rivalry between
> the reborn Polish state and both the Weimar Republic and, after 1933,
> the Third Reich. The author conducts a reconstruction of nationalist
> movements in two parts of Upper Silesia supported and even championed
> by central and local authorities, which aimed to prove that only one
> of the protagonists had a right to Silesia.
> Polak-Springer presents a transnational history of irredentism as
> popular culture and its promotion at the grassroots. Through a wide
> variety of examples, he covers Polish-German disputes and conflicts
> not only over the territory itself but also in the sphere of symbols,
> language, and culture. He also presents this rivalry as based on a
> wide scope of propaganda mechanisms and tools, which often were
> rooted in nationalist approaches that aimed to prove either that
> Upper Silesia could only be treated as a fully German land or that it
> was a perennial part of Polish territory. This book, however, is not
> simply limited to mere description of propaganda campaigns conducted
> in Upper Silesia by Poles and Germans starting from the end of World
> War I and ending with the collapse of Communism in Poland. Instead,
> Polak-Springer shows how two nationalist-rooted camps did not only
> compete against each other but also interacted, showing a great deal
> of similarities in such areas as culture, architecture, language, and
> political rallies.
> The chronological frame of this book is 1919 to 1989. These seven
> decades were marked by many events to which the author refers: for
> example, three anti-German uprisings in Upper Silesia, which broke
> out between 1919 and 1921; the division of Upper Silesia between
> Poland and Germany, followed by political and social rivalry over
> this region; World War II and the German occupation of Poland; the
> end of the war and expulsion of the German population from Poland in
> 1945; and the politics of Communist authorities toward Upper Silesia
> and its inhabitants. Every event is here a subject of analysis from
> the prism of conflict over land, culture, and actions conducted by
> the two protagonists, which aimed to prove their "exclusive rights"
> to this region.
> Polak-Springer divides his book logically into five major chapters
> and a short epilogue. The chapters are arranged in chronological
> order focusing on the origins and course of the conflict over Upper
> Silesia between 1871 and 1939, border rallies as a method of
> mobilization of supporters between 1922 and 1934, Polish attempts to
> acculturize Upper Silesia as a typical Polish province between 1926
> and 1939, German attempts to "re-germanize" this land between 1939
> and 1945, and expulsions of Germans and the politics of
> "re-polonization" of Upper Silesia conducted by Polish Communists
> between 1945 and 1956. The epilogue focuses on brief reconstructions
> of the German minority in Silesia and consecutive waves of migration
> to West Germany, as well as propaganda campaigns conducted by
> authorities in Warsaw until 1989.
> The author bases his book on significant research in Polish and
> German central and local archives. He conducted research in such
> different Polish archives as the Central Archives of Modern Records
> in Warsaw (Archiwum Akt Nowych w Warszawie), the State Archives
> (Archiwa Państwowe) in Katowice and Opole, and the local Archives of
> the Institute of National Remembrance (Oddziałowe Archiwa Instytutu
> Pamięci Narodowej) in its Katowice and Wrocław branches. In
> Germany, he conducted research in the Federal Archive in
> Berlin-Lichterfelde (Bundesarchiv Berlin Lichterfelde) and the
> Political Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Politisches
> Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes) in Berlin. He also used documents from
> the Russian State Military Archive (Rossiski Gosudarstvennyi Voennyi
> Arkhiv) in Moscow, as well as articles from the Polish and German
> press, and Polish, English, and German publications.
> Despite the large number of sources on which this book is based,
> Polak-Springer remains under control of his sources in terms of both
> analysis and narrative. The narrative, containing many facts and
> individual examples, is interesting and coherent. The author also
> incorporates photos and scans of postcards that further emphasize his
> main themes, such as the organization of propaganda rallies by both
> Poles and Germans, and the treatment of architecture as a symbol of
> domination over Upper Silesia.
> A significant merit of the book is undoubtedly its broad scope of
> social and political actors. Polak-Springer presents not only
> theoretical works of academic centers and scholars from both
> countries but also such actors as various borderland leagues,
> regional governors, political party leaders, and organizations that
> represented Polish and German national minorities. This
> multi-perspective approach enables him to go far beyond mere
> historical description of political events, to emphasize, which I
> already mentioned, the similarities and differences between ways in
> which the main political and social actors on both sides of the
> border used various propaganda methods to mobilize their supporters.
> Throughout the book, Polak-Springer unveils similarities between
> Poles and Germans. He rightly shows that the two sides used similar
> patterns of proving their "exclusive right" to this borderland
> territory. Particularly interesting in this context is the use of
> architecture by both. Modern administrative buildings erected in the
> center of Katowice (Kattowitz), serving in the 1930s as a capital of
> the voivodeship, the main regional center, were to be proof of the
> Polish character of this town, which was officially to flourish under
> Polish rule. On the other hand, Germans, by erecting monumental
> buildings in Bytom (Beuthen) and Racibórz (Ratibor), wanted to
> stress that Silesia was a perennial part of their territory, and
> treated these buildings as proof of German cultural superiority. This
> motive of a German sense of economic and cultural superiority is one
> of the aspects that the author analyzes carefully. He correctly
> notices and emphasizes the fact that this old sense of superiority
> was confronted with entrenched  anti-German stereotypes among Poles.
> To make things worse, these antagonisms were given a new energy after
> Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany. Polak-Springer gives a handful
> of similar examples, such as attempts by both Polish and German
> scholars to prove historical, economic, and ethnological terms.
> Through such examples, he proves that a borderland conflict based on
> nationalism and irredentism is based on actions and reactions,
> despite the fact that usually both sides use similar methods of
> mobilization of their supporters.
> An interesting case that Polak-Springer includes is the use of
> museums and musealizations in creating a myth of exclusively Polish
> or respectively German character of Silesia. He describes here a
> history of the Silesian Museum in Katowice and the Upper Silesian
> Museum in Bytom, which were used as tools of the peculiarly
> understood "politics of memory," showing respectively fully Polish or
> fully German roots of this borderland. What is more, the Katowice
> museum was closed by the Nazis in the wake of the German occupation
> in 1939, as symbolic evidence of German domination over this
> territory. This focus on museums in terms of Polish-German relations
> in the twentieth century is innovative.
> Polak-Springer emphasizes not only the big historical and
> ethnological issues but also the situation of ordinary inhabitants of
> Silesia, who had a mixed Polish-German identity or felt themselves
> simply as locals, without possessing any general national identity.
> He includes individual cases of people who opposed forced actions of
> giving Upper Silesia a one-dimensional Polish or German "face"
> without taking into account its complicated origins and character.
> This individual approach enables readers to understand how political
> actions influence the life of inhabitants of different regions.
> The book does have some weaknesses. Perhaps the author should have
> focused more on postwar propaganda actions officially described as
> "regaining Polish Silesia." Although the title indicates that the
> time frame this book covers is from 1918 to 1989, it focuses mostly
> on the prewar era and World War II. The postwar years are treated as
> a kind of supplement to the main narrative. In my opinion, the years
> 1956-89 are described rather briefly and require more attention. By
> painting a broader panorama of Polish-German relations after 1956 and
> destalinization in Poland, this book could have been even more
> in-depth and interesting.
> All in all, Polak-Springer took up a serious and demanding challenge.
> He gives a multi-perspective analysis combining big history and
> politics with local experiences. Thanks to his broad research and
> high-quality analysis of resources, he provides a book that gives
> readers an opportunity to get to know the complicated and
> wide-ranging Polish-German conflict over Upper Silesia. Hopefully,
> this book will be an inspiration for other scholars to write such
> books concerning other borderlands, such as the Pomeranian region.
> Citation: Łukasz Jasiński. Review of Polak-Springer, Peter,
> _Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture,
> 1919-1989_. H-Poland, H-Net Reviews. July, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=51191
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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