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A Clean Sweep?: The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing in Western Poland, 1945-1960

by T. David Curp
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    A Clean Sweep?
    Book Description:

    A Clean Sweep? The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing in Western Poland, 1945-1960 examines the long-term impact of ethnic cleansing on postwar Poland, focusing on the western Polish provinces of Poznan and Zielona Góra. Employing archival materials from multiple sources, including newly available Secret Police archives, it demonstrates how ethnic cleansing solidified Communist rule in the short term while reshaping and "nationalizing" that rule. The Poles of Poznan played a crucial role in the postwar national revolution in which Poland was ethnically cleansed by a joint effort of the people and state. A resulting national solidarity provided the Communist-dominated regime with an underlying stability, while it transformed what had been a militantly internationalist Polish Communism. This book addresses the legacy of Polish-German conflict that led to ethnic cleansing in East Central Europe, the ramifications within the context of Polish Stalinism's social and cultural revolutions, and the subsequent anti-national counterrevolutionary effort to break the bonds of national solidarity. Finally, it examines how the Poznan milieu undermined and then reversed Stalinist efforts at socioeconomic and cultural revolution. In the aftermath of the Poznan revolt of June 1956, the regime's leadership re-embraced hyper-nationalist politics and activists, and by 1960 Polish authorities had succeeded in stabilizing their rule at the cost of becoming an increasingly national socialist polity. T. David Curp is assistant professor in the Department of History at Ohio University.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-684-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Hearts and Minds and Land: Ethnic Cleansing and the Stabilization of Postwar Poland
    (pp. 1-12)

    The relative stability of Polish society in the decades following World War II presents something of a puzzle. By 1970, that stability gave way to a series of crises that generated domestic and international instability for much of the following twenty years, during which Polish society was in a state of “permanent revolution,” deeply alienated from its government.² From the opposition’s perspective, this revolution was part of an ongoing struggle that Poles had waged since the end of the war against the ruling minority who supported the Soviet-backed Communist-dominated party-state. Eventually the Polish people, led by liberal and Catholic dissidents...

  5. Chapter 1 How the East Was Lost: Germany’s Struggle for the Polish-German Borderlands, 1870–1945
    (pp. 13-33)

    From the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, Poznań in western Poland was at the center of the Polish-German national struggle that culminated in the ethnic cleansing of East Central Europe after 1945. The chief causes of ethnic cleansing were the rapacity of German imperialism and the determination of the Grand Alliance to cut through the Gordian knot of entangling ethnographic and political frontiers that so constrained politics in interwar Europe. Yet Polish society embraced the Grand Alliance’s diktat to expel its German minority with enthusiasm. The Poles of Poznań took a leading role in rallying their countrymen to this task...

  6. Chapter 2 Who Won the West: The Colonists and Ethnic Cleansers of Poznań and Eastern Brandenburg in 1945
    (pp. 34-54)

    The ethnic cleansing and territorial reconfiguration of postwar Poland was a vast undertaking. It involved expelling millions of Germans who remained east of the Oder-Neisse line, in spite of the mass flight of the majority of the population in the last months of the war. In their place, the Polish state sought to settle millions of former slave laborers and colonists, as well as Polish expellees from the Kresy, while sorting through another million citizens of the Third Reich who claimed to be of Polish descent. Most of this work had to be carried out while integrating over 115,000 square...

  7. Chapter 3 Acts of Sacrifice: Poland’s Ethnic Cleansing and the End of Political Pluralism, 1945–47
    (pp. 55-79)

    In western Poland, the party-state confronted a society whose social structure, politics, and culture represented much that its most committed adherents desired to eliminate. In particular, the power of the Roman Catholic Church soon became a cause of ongoing concern for the authorities. Yet in Poznań, the need to stabilize the party-state’s control of the country’s prewar provinces and to sustain settlement further west into an East Brandenburg that slowly was being reshaped into Ziemia Lubuska saw Poland’s Communist regime drawn into a conflicted, yet important, grassroots partnership with the Catholic Church in 1945.

    The increasing influence of Catholicism throughout...

  8. Chapter 4 Counterrevolution from Above and Abroad: The Delocalization of Politics and the Beginning of Polish Stalinism’s Antinational Counterrevolution, 1947–49
    (pp. 80-106)

    Polish Communism’s wartime embrace of nationalist politics was not unique. By 1947, Communist parties throughout Europe enjoyed a great deal of success in proclaiming themselves to be not only the most progressive of political forces but also, by virtue of their role in the post-June 22, 1941 anti-Nazi resistance, to be the most patriotic of parties in their various countries.² In spite of this, in Poland as in most of the other states of the Soviet bloc, the identification of Communism with nationalism and ethnic cleansing produced deep internal tensions within the emerging People’s Democracies and between these countries and...

  9. Chapter 5 Waging Counterrevolution: The Party-State’s Struggle for Hearts, Minds, and Land in Wielkopolska, 1949–53
    (pp. 107-130)

    The party-state’s efforts to Sovietize Poland were as socially and culturally revolutionary as they were antinationally counterrevolutionary. The local authorities, and much of the population, believed that the collectivization of agriculture was the key to Poland’s Stalinization, particularly in Poznań.² Unlike most of Poland, however, where the party-state pursued collectivization with a slowness akin to sabotage, the authorities set high, yet specific, goals for Poznań, which they aggressively strove to achieve. In the imagined community of struggle that the PZPR created between itself and the “village rich,” the party-state waged a highly coercive, economically disastrous campaign against the peasantry that...

  10. Chapter 6 Revolutions before the Revolution: National Solidarity and the Long Retreat of Stalinism in Wielkopolska, 1953–56
    (pp. 131-152)

    Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 was not a major milestone for Polish Stalinism. In Wielkopolska it was an occasion of sincere mourning for some in the PZPR—and for the almost two hundred persons against whom the UB conducted preventative arrests to ensure that rites commemorating the passing of the Truest Ally and Greatest Friend of the Polish nation would be observed with due solemnity.² Many hoped that with Stalin’s death, the party-state would cease waging its social and cultural revolutions from above, but the authorities initially redoubled their ongoing efforts to Stalinize Poland.³ The year 1953 became the...

  11. Chapter 7 The Revolutions Betrayed? The Poznań Revolt and the Polish Road to Nationalist Socialism, 1956–60
    (pp. 153-185)

    On Thursday, June 28, 1956, the people of Poznań revolted against People’s Power. Like both the workers’ uprising in East Berlin almost three years earlier and the Hungarian revolution that followed, Poznań’s “Black Thursday” is a striking example of spontaneous national revolution. The people of Poznań demonstrated a unity of revolutionary purpose, based upon a shared belief in a common national identity and values, that led them to challenge the authorities. The spark of a single mass protest by workers in one of the city’s major factories led tens of thousands of people—without an agreed-upon ideological program, with no...

  12. Conclusion: A Near Run Thing: From National Solidarity to Solidarity
    (pp. 186-196)

    During martial law in the early 1980s, Teresa Torańska, a journalist affiliated with the Solidarity movement, interviewed a number of Polish Stalinist leaders. These leaders had long since been expelled from the PZPR and were objects of popular and even official vilification. In particular, she did a series of interviews with Jakub Berman, a veteran Polish Communist, whom many Poles widely regarded as the eminence grise of Polish Stalinism. He was expelled from the Central Committee of the PZPR after Bierut’s death in March 1956 and within a year from the PZPR itself. In the course of her interviews, Torańska...

  13. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 197-198)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 199-248)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-270)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)