The time of uprisings and plebiscite
In 1918, Poland regained its independence. The question of which country Upper Silesia will be part of remained unresolved. According to the Treaty of Versailles, a plebiscite was to decide its fate.
However, Polish society in Upper Silesian was disappointed with this decision. The terror from the Germans was increasing. The Polish Military Organisation of Upper Silesia had about 23,000 members just before the First Uprising. The First Uprising broke out on the night of 16–17 August 1919. It failed due to significant disproportions between the forces, lack of a unified command and poor armament.
In mid-February 1920, the allies arrived in Upper Silesia, setting a target of 20,000 soldiers. The Second Uprising began on the night of 17-18 August 1920. The German Sicherheitspolizei was dissolved and the Upper Silesia Parity Police (Apo) was formed.
On 20 March 1921, a plebiscite was held. More than 1.2 million people were eligible to vote, among them 200,000 emigrants. A total of 479,365 voters voted for Poland (40.3%), and 707,393 voted for Germany (59.4%). Contrary to the Treaty of Versailles, the results of the plebiscite were given in global figures, and not, as originally envisaged, by district.
As a result, the Third Silesian Uprising broke out (3 May to 5 July 1921). The final division of the disputed territory was made by the Council of Ambassadors on 20 October 1921. Poland received the districts of Katowice, Pszczyna, Rybnik, most of Tarnogóra and Lubliniec, as well as parts of Bytom, Zabrze and Racibórz districts.
The Third Uprising can be divided into several phases:
Characterised by a clear initiative of the insurgent army, development of effective offensive actions, blocking of significant German forces.
Permanent stabilisation, especially in the operational areas of the “East” and “South” groups and, to a lesser extent, in the area of the “North” group, where German attacks near Olesno happened already on 11 and 12 May.
21 May – 6 June
The initiative was taken over by the Germans. There were fierce fights, among others in the area of St. Anna Hill, near Zębowice, Olesno and Gorzów Śląski, on the Olza River. The insurgents lost Kedzierzyn.
Combat operations faded away as a result of truce talks and interference by the Allies, who began to create a neutral belt separating the two sides.
25 June – 5 July
Evacuation of the fighting forces from the Upper Silesia’s plebiscite area
+ Ludwik Wacławek (1905–1967), liaison, courier of the “Wschód” group, one of the youngest Silesian insurgents, 1921. Also 14- and 15-year-olds served in the frontline formations, i.e. those born in 1906–1907. They constituted approx. 0.5% of all insurgents. For example, Jan Orlik from the 4th (15th) infantry regimen (Racibórz), Maks Swiczka from the 2nd (13th) infantry regimen (Żory) and Jan Słupik from the 2nd infantry regimen (Zabrze) were born in 1906. However, even younger insurgents fought there, e.g. Franciszek Meisel (born in 1908), Stefan Wesołowski (born in 1909), as well as Franciszek Szymiczek (born in 1911) and Józef Kachel (born in 1913). Basically, they served as ad hoc insurgent messengers or food carriers. (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Upper Silesian women and men in folk costumes with Polish banners during a march, Mysłowice (?), spring/summer of 1920 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group shot of the 2nd company of one of the insurgent units, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Participants of the First Silesian Uprising and refugees during military training at the training ground in Biedrusko near Poznań. Most of them are wearing Wielkopolska Army uniforms, autumn 1919 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group of participants in the First Silesian Uprising (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group of insurgents, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group of insurgents in a car, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Heavy machine gun section (Maxim MG 08) commanded by second lieutenant Blana from the crew of the No. 14 “Zygmunt Powstaniec” insurgent armoured train, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ General Józef Haller surrounded by soldiers of 1st Bytom Rifle Regiment, on the right: Rev. Jan Brandys, 1920 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group photograph of insurgents, some of them orchestra members, probably from the 5th Tarnogórski Battalion in Dobrodzień, probably in early May 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Wojciech Korfanty, Polish plebiscite commissioner and dictator of the Third Uprising. Number “3” on the calendar in the background proves that the photo was taken on 3 May 1921, in the first hours of the Third Silesian Uprising (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Field artillery unit of the insurgent army on its way to the front, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group photo of an insurgent unit. The unit was armed with Maxim heavy machine guns, MG 08, two of them on tripods, and a light grenade launcher with a loaded grenade, May–July 1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ A group of insurgents and refugees in a forest near Praszka after the fall of the First Silesian Uprising. Second from right: Stanisław Ligoń, national activist, subsequently editor of the “Kocynder” satirical magazine, August–September 1919 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group of participants of the First Silesian Uprising and refugees during their march to the training ground in Biedrusko near Poznań. Most of them are wearing Wielkopolska Army uniforms, autumn 1919 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Second Lieutenant of the Navy Robert Oszek (in pale shirt) with his subordinates, sailors, members of a storm unit, with an armoured car in the background, May–July 1921 1 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
+ Group photograph of members of the Polish Plebiscite Committee with Wojciech Korfanty (second row, centre,), plebiscite commissioner, Lomnitz Hotel in Bytom, 1920–1921 (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
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