Poland From the Inside.

Composition of Population

The population of Poland is 34,900,000 (excluding foreign residents), but one must not assume that there are as many Poles in that country. The inhabitants are made up of 7 million Ukrainians, some 2 million White Russians, 3,200,000 Jews, 1,500,000 Germans, and 200,000 Lithuanians, leaving 21,000,000 Poles. The Poles dominate., however, so that it may safely be assumed that many non-Poles record their national group as Polish in order to avoid difficulties, and that there are really much bigger minorities. One might perhaps put the number of Poles at 20 million without any fear of underestimating. The Jews are a minority, according to Polish statistics. This must not be regarded as my invention. Warsaw quotes them in this category. There were originally altogether 3,200,000 Germans in the area now composing Poland, of whom 1,700,000 left after the plebiscite in Upper Silesia owing to the oppression under the Poles. I quote more precise details of this modern migration of so many people in a later chapter.

The Ukrainians, the biggest minority, are only a part of a great nation overlooked or forgotten at [25] Versailles. They proclaimed their independence, but it was short-lived. Their representatives at Versailles attracted no attention. Most of the Ukrainians live in Russia, a few in Rumania, and the rest in Poland. They differ in race and language from the Poles, with whom, indeed, they have nothing in common. The White Russians are also Slavs, but also of a different group, while the Germans belong to the Teutonic race, and speak an absolutely different language.

The 1,500,000 Germans do not, of course, include the 400,000 in Danzig. Danzig comes in a different category, being entirely German. In fact, it is as German as Liverpool is English, and has a somewhat lower percentage of non-Germans than some English cities have of non-English.

It must not be forgotten that the German minority in Poland is only one of several. It would be a mistake to regard the German problem as the only one to be settled. Poland has never been a national State. Even in 1815, when she was divided with the express approval of France and Britain, there were non-Polish citizens within the country's boundaries, and minority problems existed.

It may safely be asserted that the repeated and long-drawn-out struggles between the minorities on the one hand, and the Poles on the other, led to the threefold partition of the country, robbing the State of its powers of resistance until the other countries had an easy task. In fact, dissolution seemed almost natural [26] in view of the internal dissension. In each case, Russia was the driving force, so that it was interesting to learn that she was to guarantee Poland in 1939.

The Poles are not appealing to the world for the first time in history. I have already mentioned one previous example. But they forgot the lessons of history when their present State was founded.

The first official step towards the re-establishment of a new Polish State was taken by Germany, a fact often forgotten. Germany proclaimed Polish independence in 1916, and Pilsudski made a pact with the Reich before the War came to an end.

But, of course, Berlin had not intended to add such areas as Upper Silesia and the Corridor to Poland, or to found a new minority State. The Jewish minority of 3,200,000 is confessional, there being another half-million Jews of Christian religion. They thus make up ten per cent. of the entire population. In regarding them as a national minority, the Poles are not alone, for this is general in Eastern Europe, including Rumania.

The bare figure does not convey the full significance of this group, 70% of the Jews residing in the towns, particularly of Central, East and South Poland. In Warsaw, for example, there are 820,000 Christians and over 350,000 Jews, the baptised Jews being included among the Christians.

There are thus more Jews in Warsaw alone than in [27] the whole of Palestine. Lodz is the next biggest city with 400,000 Christians and 202,000 Jews. There are actually areas with a clear Jewish majority. In the Lublin province 44% of the inhabitants are Jewish, in the Bialystok province 38%, and in the province of Polesian, 49% are recorded as of the Hebrew faith. It is only in the towns which formerly belonged to Germany that there is a big majority of Christians.

The general standard of Jewish life is not upheld by the Jews of Poland. The Jews who left Germany and Austria were rich in comparison. Dirt and misery are the accompaniments. There are 250,000 Jewish craftsmen and 90,000 clerks, while the rest are either in business or act as agents, touts, and the like. Hundreds of thousands have no fixed occupation, but try to live on their wits. Many of them fail, presumably because the competition is too great. When a small number of citizens exercise their wits, they may be able to live comfortably, but when one-quarter of the population of a town attempts to make an existence in this manner, especially in a country where the general purchasing power is low, there is apt to be little opportunity for the individual.

The Jewish workers have a lower standard of living than their Polish colleagues, while the Jewish traders are, taken en masse, not to be compared with ordinary tradesmen elsewhere. They come into the same financial category as our street traders, and, as every police officer knows, most of these only [28] carry a tray of wares to hide the fact that they are begging.

The streets of the Polish towns and villages are full of people with no visible means of support. Most of the Jews in this class collect rags, offer their services in an advisory capacity to any foreigners visible, carry a few pairs of bootlaces in their hands, or walk about with a little garlic which they hope to sell. In between they just hang about.

Many of the Jews go about dressed in a caftan and black cap of peculiar type. These usually live in ghettos which are of their own making, and they are the least disliked. Some are Zionists, while a fair percentage try to hide their Jewish characteristics and to pass as Poles. There are three unemployed Poles for each four at work, but statistics show that there are eight Jewish unemployed for each four with work.

The Jews welcomed the Polish State when it was founded. Pilsudski was not an anti-Semite. Some of the leading generals in the army are of Jewish origin, while not a few high officials have Jewish wives. Anti-Semites have only attained official importance since Pilsudski's death. The Poles have of late attacked the Jews wherever they could, but the Jews have parried most of the blows.

The White Russians are generally poorer than the Poles. They are Russian, but not Bolsheviks, and, although they are not satisfied with their situation in Poland, they do not desire to join Russia; that is, they [29] are Russian in their feelings, but they do not wish to come under Soviet rule. They are mainly Greek Catholics, while the Poles are Roman Catholics. Their complaint is that they have not full facilities for teaching their children their own language. The Poles, who try to minimise the patchwork character of the country, do their best to assimilate this big minority, but they have not met with much success.

The Ukrainians make up the main minority. They are subjected to considerable difficulties and refuse to be assimilated. The Poles seldom give them passports if they can avoid it. Even when a Polish Ukrainian was appointed by his firm to act as representative in a big Continental capital recently, he was only given a passport valid for that one country. I examined this document myself.

The Ukrainians are the biggest nation without a country in the whole of Europe, but strangely enough their existence was unknown in Western Europe until the last half of the 19th century. Interest in them did not become general until after the Great War. An important feature of the Ukrainians is that they are settled in a compact area, largely in Russia; but the Galician districts of Stanislawow and Tarnopol are also almost entirely Ukrainian. They claim over 80,000 square miles in Poland, and in a part of this area, at least, they have resided since the fifth century. The Mongols massacred the Ukrainian inhabitants of the Eastern part of their realm, and burnt their capital, Kiev, in [30] 1240. The Poles gained control of a part of the Ukrainian land in 1569, beginning a long series of brutal and oppressive acts. The Ukrainians were forbidden to talk of the former greatness of their people, or tell of their traditions. Many gave up their religion and nationality to avoid ruin. There were repeated revolts against the Poles, while the Tartars raided the Ukrainian areas periodically in search of booty and slaves. But the Ukrainians survived in some mysterious manner, making bows and arrows to defend themselves, and fighting with great tenacity. Autonomy and oppression alternated. What is regarded as luck for most peoples has proved a source of distress for the Ukrainians - their territory is rich, and other nations covet it, and have taken it. The Ukrainians now live in a state of subjugation in Poland, but they have their own organisation, and, seeing that they have withstood centuries of persecution, are not likely to abandon their hopes.

The German minority is equally subjected to oppressive methods, but its position is rather different. Whereas the Ukrainian and White Russian minorities lived in comparatively poor circumstances before the War, under the Czar, the Germans were prosperous. They were still the richest citizens when present Poland was founded.

There are German enclaves sprinkled all over Poland, but the main areas where they live are in the West, adjoining the Reich frontier, and in the Corridor. [31] Their purchasing power is still relatively high, but they have been robbed of much of their land, and the process is still going on. They inhabit the richest areas which were handed to post-War Poland. Expropriation of the land is carried on with the ostensible object of assuring the landless of homes, and of adding to the extremely small holdings. In reality, however, little Polish and much German land is taken from big farmers. In Posen and the Corridor, for example, the Polish big-scale landed property has been reduced by 19% for the benefit of Polish settlers, while the German property was robbed of 63% of its area. Practically none but Poles are settled on the expropriated land. One reason for this measure is to obtain more Polish votes, and to reduce the percentage of Germans, in these areas. Despite all these measures, Posen and the Corridor are still predominantly German. In the Western provinces, some 50% of the children of Germans have no instruction in their own language, while in the Olsa district this figure is actually 88%. One school after the other has been closed by the authorities, in the hope that the coming generation will be compelled to speak only Polish, and thus be assimilated.

A fight is also waged against the Protestant Church, to which most of the Germans in Poland belong. Nearly all the Poles are Roman Catholics, but there are a few Protestants, and they have seized control of many of the German Protestant churches under various pretexts.

[32] The Germans in the Corridor - and we must not forget that they make up the vast majority of the people there - are between two German provinces. On either side they see Germans who belong to the Reich, but they themselves are treated as second-class citizens. It is clear that they are dissatisfied. Their children often have to attend Polish schools, where they learn how Poland stretches ethnographically to Berlin. They form a solid block of Germans wedged in between the two parts of Germany, with the Baltic on the North, and the Poles in the South. But the officials who exercise control are Poles.

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Poland From the Inside