This book is a translation from the Polish. The author places the Polish struggle against Bismarck's KULTURKAMPF in the broader context of German attempts to centralize the post-unification government power of the new Second Reich, and to counteract the perceived political ambitions of the papacy in the wake of the 1870 dogma of papal infallibility, notably that of ultramontanism. In my review, I focus on the anti-Polish aspects of German rule over occupied northwest Poland, and how the Poles thwarted it.
Some of the quoted German thinkers were unambiguously bigoted against all things Polish. For instance, Trzeciakowski comments, (quote) ...Heinrich von Treitschke...avidly supported Bismarck's policies, which strove to unify the Reich under the Prussian banner...a well-known historian, propagated a cult of war and violence through his university lectures and publications...He did not hide his aversion to the Poles...(unquote)(p. 15).
The attempt to denationalize the Poles through the KULTURKAMPF began in 1872, when the German government removed local church oversight over the schools and replaced it with Prussian government control. (p. 6). The ensuing German drive to remove the Polish language from schools exacted a heavy toll. A large number of Polish priests were banished for refusing to comply with orders for classroom instruction to be in German. The author tabulates these losses. (pp. 82-83).
For Poles to fight back effectively, they had to change some of their attitudes. Lyskowski and his Society for Moral Interests taught the Poles to engage in productive activity instead of such things as morbid idealism, feverish outbursts, abstractions and miracles, quietism, and indifference. (p. 24).
The line between organic work and patriotic revolutionary activity is not always clear-cut. The Polish subject peoples of Prussia, noted for their organic work, had tried an abortive insurrection in 1846. (p. 17). The Prussian-ruled Poles managed to send hundreds of volunteers to take part in the ill-fated January 1863 Insurrection by the Russian-ruled Poles. (p. 23). After the ensuing wave of repression conducted by all three partitioning powers, the Prussian-ruled Poles rebuilt and intensified their organic work. (p. 23).
The Germans tried to humiliate the Poles by belittling their culture. This delegitimization of Poland served to justify both the Partitions and the continued nonexistence of the Polish state in favor of perpetual Prussian rule. One way that Poles countered it was to organize mass rallies to commemorate the anniversaries of leading Polish personages, such as the 400th anniversary of the birth of Copernicus (1873).
Some rallies were conducted by Poles to protest the heavy-handed German policies (e. g, p. 152). These included protests against government-appointed Prussian-serving priests, some of which turned violent, and included the use of firearms. (pp. 93-95). Other rallies were in support of Polish politicians seeking elective offices (e. g, p. 168).
The spread of Polish books and newspapers by Poles was an important part of their strategy for resisting Germanization, and increasing national consciousness. (p. 128). The Society for Folk Education (TOWARZYSTWO CSWIATY LUDOWEJ) set up public libraries. (p. 68). The Germans were unsuccessful in stifling Polish newspapers by fining or arresting Polish editors, seizing print runs, etc. (p. 147). The Polish newspapers flourished anyway. (p. 149).
The Poles developed their own economic infrastructure, and this confounded German expectations in many ways. The author comments, (quote) Polish organizations developed along two lines: One stressed the need for strengthening the national economy, the other concentrated on propagating education and culture. From the perspective of their role in the antigermanization struggle, both the economic societies and the cultural-cum-social groups were important...The success of various Polish economic enterprises contradicted any theory of the Poles' inferiority, the infamous `POLNISCHE WIRTSCHAFT' spread about by the Germans. (unquote)(p. 159).
None other than Bismarck himself admitted the failure of his policy of suppressing the Prussian-ruled Poles. Trzeciakowski comments, (quote) Bismarck himself is the author of the best assessment of the germanization policy of the KULTURKAMPF; in his letter to Minister of the interior Puttkamer, of December 1881 he wrote, "In the course of the past ten years I have frequently been under the impression that the Polish cause in Silesia and West Prussia, and particularly near Grudziadz, has made much progress at the cost of the German one." (unquote)(p. 182).
This book covers the period from the 1870's through the 1880's. For a "sequel", that is, information on the German attempts to suppress Polish-ness in the 1890's and early 1900's, as by the Hakata, please click on, and read the Peczkis review, of: Germanizing Prussian Poland: The H-K-T Society And The Struggle For The Eastern Marches In The German Empire, 1894-1919.