National Identity and Experiences of Nationalism in Germany’s ‘Lost Territories’
: Danzig/Gdańsk and Kattowitz/Katowice, 1919-1930

  • Joe Gorecki

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This thesis investigates the role of nationalism and national identity in Danzig/Gdańsk and Kattowitz/Katowice, two German-speaking cities detached from the German Empire as part of the post-First World War peace settlement. Danzig became an internationalised quasi- independent ‘Free City’ guaranteed by the League of Nations to provide the newly reconstituted Polish Second Republic access to the sea. In contrast, Kattowitz and its surrounding industrial heartland were incorporated into Poland, as much for economic reasons as national self-determination.

This thesis explores the role national identity played in these two cities and how their citizens negotiated the change in status imposed from above. In Danzig the ‘Free City compromise’ was viewed as illegitimate but in the absence of treaty revision, the city created a civic identity built on a German nationalist reading of its Hanseatic past. Not even a new ‘Verständigungspolitik’ (‘policy of understanding’) after 1927 could genuinely reset its relationship with Poland. The city of Kattowitz, on the other hand, was transformed as it became a new Polish administrative centre. However, despite the region’s special status, a stalemate emerged between the Polish authorities and this ‘new’ German minority.

In focussing on these two case studies, this thesis builds on recent scholarship which explores the effects of nationalism in contested borderland spaces, incorporating, in particular, the framework of ‘national indifference’. This thesis contributes to the historiographical debate on the role of nationalism in East Central Europe, contending that the negotiation of new ‘detached’ national identities in both cities was more complex and contingent than just ‘inevitable’ German irredentism. Studies on these German communities during the early interwar period have often focussed on them as the prelude to expulsion after 1945 but this thesis instead relates their experience to wider transnational processes unleashed by the imperial collapse of 1918.
Date of Award11 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMark A Allinson (Supervisor) & Debbie M Pinfold (Supervisor)

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