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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

They supported government bills in the Reichstag


their incorporation in the empire.

Bismarck, influenced by the older Prussian traditions, always adopted towards them an attitude of uncompromising opposition. The growth of the Polish population has caused much anxiety; supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the Polish language has advanced, especially in Silesia, and this is only part of the general tendency, so marked throughout central Europe, for the Slavs to gain ground upon the Teutons. The Prussian government has attempted to prevent this by special legislation and severe administrative measures. Thus in 1885 and 1886 large numbers of Austrian and Russian Poles who had settled in these provinces were expelled. Windthorst thereupon raised the question in the Reichstag, but the Prussian government refused to take any notice of the interpolation on the ground that there was no right in the constitution for the imperial authority to take cognizance of acts of the Prussian government. In the Prussian parliament Bismarck introduced a law taking out of the hands of the local authorities the whole administration of the schools and giving them to the central authority, so as to prevent instruction being given in Polish. A further law authorized the Prussian government to spend L5,000,000 in purchasing estates from Polish families and settling German colonists on the land. The commission, which was appointed for the purpose, during the next ten years bought land to the amount of about 200,000 acres and on it settled more than 2000 German peasants. This policy has
not, however, produced the intended effect; for the Poles founded a society to protect their own interests, and have often managed to profit by the artificial value given to their property. It has merely caused great bitterness among the Polish peasants, and the effect on the population is also counteracted by the fact that the large proprietors in purely German districts continue to import Polish labourers to work on their estates.

In the general change of policy that followed after the retirement of Bismarck an attempt was made by the emperor to conciliate the Poles. Concessions were made to them in the matter of schools, and in 1891 a Pole, Florian von Stablewski (1841-1906), who had taken a prominent part in the Kulturkampf, was accepted by the Prussian government as archbishop of Posen-Gnesen. A moderate party arose among the Poles which accepted their position as Prussian subjects, gave up all hopes of an immediate restoration of Polish independence, and limited their demands to that free exercise of the religion and language of their country which was enjoyed by the Poles in Austria. They supported government bills in the Reichstag, and won the commendation of the emperor. Unfortunately, for reasons which are not apparent, the Prussian government did not continue a course of conciliation; in 1901 administrative edicts still further limited the use of the Polish language; even religious instruction was to be given in German, and an old royal ordinance of 1817 was made the pretext for forbidding private instruction in Polish.

All these efforts have been in vain. The children in the schools became the martyrs of Polish nationality. Religious instruction continued to be given to them in German, and when they refused to answer questions which they did not understand, they were kept in and flogged. In 1906, as a protest, the school children to the number of 100,000 struck throughout Prussian Poland; and, as a result of a pastoral issued by the archbishop, Polish parents withdrew their children from religious instruction in the schools. The government responded by fining and imprisoning the parents. The efforts of the government were not confined to the forcible Germanization of the children. Polish newspapers were confiscated and their editors imprisoned, fines were imposed for holding Polish meetings, and peasants were forbidden to build houses on their own land. The country gentlemen could not have a garden party without the presence of a commissary of police.


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