|The Treaty of Versailles had given the people of Upper Silesia the right to have a referendum on
whether they wanted to be part of Germany or part of Poland. Up to the day of the plebiscite, the
supreme authority was invested in one representative each of France, Great Britain and Italy, and
Allied troops occupied the voting district. The local German officials were allowed only as observers.
Germans in the southern and eastern districts were harassed and on Aug. 19, 1920, a number of
them were murdered. After weeks of violence and an exchange of notes between Germany and the
Entente relating to the manner in which the plebiscite should be taken, it was even suggested by the
Entente that the non-resident Upper Silesians of the German Reich should vote in Cologne! Germany
protested this, and it was dropped. The plebiscite was slated for March 20, 1921, and again there
were instances of terrorism against Germans.
As for population figures, when it came down to the vote, the purely German districts of Falkenberg
(pop. 37,526), Grotthau (pop. 40,610), Neisse (pop. 7,781), part of Neustadt (pop. 25,000) and
Hultschin (pop. 45,552), situated in the northern and western parts of Upper Silesia and representing
a total population of about 156,469, were excluded. The vote, when it came (despite all obstacles,
intentional and otherwise), showed 717,122 votes for Germany and 483,514 for Poland. Except for a
Polish majority in the districts of Rybnik, Pless, Beuthen, Tarnowitz and Gross-Strehlitz, the
majority of towns voted for Germany. Alas, the results were snagged by Allied bitterness at the result
which gave way to bickering, France wanting all of southern and eastern Upper Silesia to go to the
Poles, while the English and Italian representatives were willing to grant the industrial region to
Germany, and none were pleased with the outcome of the vote.
By the end of April, they were still arguing while Polish troops under Korfanty decided to occupy the
whole south-eastern part of Upper Silesia. The inept and feuding Inter-Allied Commission couldn't
stop the violence, and when Korfanty lost control over his men, they formed individual gangs which
raped, plundered, robbed and injured many Germans and disrupted the economy. The work in mines
and iron works came to a halt in the turmoil. Finally, in August of 1921, the mess was sent to a
"Commission of the Council" comprised of representatives from Japan, Brazil, China, Spain and
Belgium under the League of Nations. They published a text on the partition: "Upper Silesia Frontier,
1921". They ignored the plebiscite and divided the boundary the way that they wanted to anyway!
This took away sections of mines, mills and furnaces and put 350,000 German under Polish rule.
Ethnic Germans in these areas began to experience even more violent attacks and discrimination
once German protection was removed, and a worse mess was created, one which would fester and
inevitably lead to other conflicts.
In post war "Austrian Silesia", the Allies began to partition past lands according to ethnic lines, but
this was not approved by the government of the newly hatched country of Czechoslovakia and they
invaded the lands of Cieszyn, Silesia ( January 23, 1919 - January 30, 1919). The planned plebiscite
was not organized and the division of Cieszyn, Silesia was decided on July 28, 1920 by the
Ambassadors' Council at the Treaty of Versailles who drew up the present-day border between
Poland and the Czech Republic. An area around Hultschiner Ländchen, was given away to
Czechoslovakia in 1920 without a plebiscite despite having a German majority.
The disingenuous plebiscites which were concocted to give the appearance of legitimacy were
immediately and predictably abused. In areas of both Poland and the newly hatched Czechoslovakia,
truckloads of outsiders were brought in to ensure a false majority in coveted areas. This ensured civil
strife and future conflicts in which nobody was happy. And while the British government merrily
proposed plebiscites (the results of which it was more than happy to ignore if contrary to their
expectations) on the German-Polish border and in upper Silesia, the British themselves were reluctant
to use referenda in their own colonies because they felt that referenda were likely to undermine the
system, or the people in question were not "ready" or there were the difficulties of providing fair
protection for ethnic groups when various groups lived in the same country.
|The Vote ~ The Treaty Of Versailles