Although the Silesian Voivodship was the smallest administrative unit in the country, it accounted for the vast majority of industrial output. Moreover, coal reserves, estimated at 170 billion tonnes, enabled Poland to join the largest holders of this essential energy resource in the world at the time. The Upper Silesian heavy industry within the Second Republic of Poland also positively stimulated economic growth throughout the whole country.
Numerous steelworks and machine factories provided the opportunity to purchase many types of goods on the domestic market. Among them were harbour cranes, steel supporting structures, pipes or refrigeration equipment. Upper Silesia was also a source of technological innovation. Examples include the construction of a chemical plant in Mościce, which originated from a nitrogen plant in Chorzów, and the establishment of a steelworks in Stalowa Wola, co-created by workers connected with Silesian steelworks. Upper Silesian corporations initiated a number of geological surveys in the south-eastern part of the country, including coal and ore exploration with a view to establishing new industrial districts in the future. As a result of this effort, the Lublin Coal Basin was established in the post-war years.
Throughout the interwar period, efforts were taken to re-Polonise major industrial plants controlled by foreign capital. During the great economic crisis, the Polish authorities managed to buy back the largest Upper Silesian companies, including the Upper Silesian “Królewska” and “Laura” Steelworks, Katowicka Spółka Akcyjna and the “Pokój” Steelworks.
+ General view of the “Chwałowice” mine, currently located within Rybnik (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ The great economic crisis in the early 1930s was one of the reasons behind a significant rise in unemployment in the Silesian Voivodship. As a result, many miners who lost their jobs took up illegal mining of coal deposited in shallow seams in informal mineshaft. In the photo: Informal mineshafts operating in Wełnowiec, today a district of Katowice. Photo by Max Steckel (OWNED BY MUZEUM ŚLĄSKIE W KATOWICACH)
(NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ As mining technology progressed, so did mine rescue methods. The photo shows a mine rescue team during drills in the “Barbara” experimental mine in Mikołów (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ Women working at the segregation of zinc ore in the “Biały Szarlej” mine in today’s Piekary Ślaskie (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ Release of steel from an open hearth furnace in one of the Upper Silesian steelworks (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ General view of the “Uthemann” zinc smeltering plant in Szopienice, currently a district of Katowice (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
+ One of the greatest challenges accompanying the incorporation of a part of Upper Silesia into Poland was the inclusion of its extensive industrial “organism” into Poland’s economy. This process was supervised by Józef Kiedroń, who joined the Polish Plebiscite Committee at the end of 1920, and served as Director of the Silesian Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade from 1922 onwards. Later, he also took up the post of Minister of Industry and Trade, and initiated, among other things, the construction of a main railway line for coal transport, connecting Upper Silesia with the port of Gdynia (NATIONAL DIGITAL ARCHIVES OF POLAND)
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