In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, Upper Silesia was the site of the largest formal exercise in self-determination in European history, the 1921 Plebiscite. This asked the inhabitants of Europe’s second largest industrial region the deceptively straightforward question of whether they preferred to be Germans or Poles, but spectacularly failed to clarify their national identity, demonstrating instead the strength of transnational, regionalist and sub-national allegiances, and of allegiances other than nationality, such as religion. As such Upper Silesia, which was partitioned and re-partitioned between 1922 and 1945, and subjected to Czechization, Germanization, Polonization, forced emigration, expulsion and extermination, illustrates the limits of nation-building projects and nation-building narratives imposed from outside. This book explores a range of topics related to nationality issues in Upper Silesia, putting forward the results of extensive new research. It highlights the flaws at the heart of attempts to shape Europe as homogenously national polities and compares the fate of Upper Silesia with the many other European regions where similar problems occurred.
Introduction: Between the Non-National, the National and (Post-National) Europeanness
1. Upper Silesia in Modern Central Europe: On the Significance of the Non-National in the Age of Nations Tomasz Kamusella
2. Fatal Violence in Upper Silesia, 1918-1922 Timothy Wilson
3. ‘Scoundrels’ and Desperate Mothers: Gendering German and Polish Propaganda in the Upper Silesian Plebiscite, 1919-1921 Allison Rodriguez
4. Bilingual Publics and Imagined Communities: The Upper Silesian Plebiscite of 1921 James Bjork
5. Creating a Citizen: Politics and the Education System in the Post-Plebiscite Silesian Voivodeship Anna Novikov
6. National Indifference and National Radicalism in Weimar Upper Silesia Brendan Karch
7. A ‘Volksdeutsche Resistance Movement?’ Local Responses to Nazi Policies Towards the ‘Nationally Indifferent’ in Eastern Upper Silesia, 1939-1945 Peter Polak-Springer
8. Upper Silesia in the age of the ethnically homogenous nation-state, 1945-9 Hugo Service
9. Writing Identity: The Upper Silesian Plebiscite and Uprisings in Historiography and Collective Memories
'Benefitting from deep research, essays in this collection introduce students and researchers alike to stakes surrounding national indifference in a key borderland. In conversation with each other, they will hopefully encourage continued scholarly discussion that transcends nationally partisan polemics and facilitates historical understanding about how human beings have adopted identities that transcend national categories'
Andrew Demshuk, American University, Slavic Review 2018.