World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Free City of Danzig


Free City of Danzig

Free City of Danzig
Freie Stadt Danzig  (German)
Wolne Miasto Gdańsk  (Polish)
Free City under League of Nations protection



Flag Coat of arms
Für Danzig / Gdańsku
Danzig, surrounded by Germany and Poland.
Location of the Free City of Danzig in 1930 Europe.
Capital Danzig
Languages German
Religion 64.6% Lutheran
32.2% Catholic (1938)
Government Republic
High Commissioner
 •  1919–1920 Reginald Tower
 •  1937–1939 Carl Burckhardt
Senate President
 •  1920–1931 Heinrich Sahm
 •  1934–1939 Arthur Greiser
Legislature Volkstag
Historical era Interwar period
 •  Established 15 November 1920
 •  Invasion of Poland 1 September 1939
 •  Annexed by Germany 2 September 1939
 •  1923 1,966 km² (759 sq mi)
 •  1923 est. 366,730 
     Density 186.5 /km²  (483.1 /sq mi)
Currency Papiermark (before 1923)
Danzig gulden (from 1923)
Today part of  Poland

The Free City of Danzig (German: Freie Stadt Danzig; Polish: Wolne Miasto Gdańsk) was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) and nearly 200 towns in the surrounding areas. It was created on 15 November 1920[1][2] in accordance with the terms of Article 100 (Section XI of Part III) of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I.

The Free City included the city of Danzig and other nearby towns, villages, and settlements that had been primarily inhabited by ethnic Germans. As the Treaty stated, the region was to remain separated from post-World War I Germany (the Weimar Republic) and from the newly independent nation of the Second Polish Republic ("interwar Poland"), but it was not an independent state.[3] The Free City was under League of Nations protection and put into a binding customs union with Poland.

Poland was given full rights to develop and maintain transportation, communication, and port facilities in the city.[4] The Free City was created in order to give Poland access to a well-sized seaport. While the city's population was majority-German, it had a significant Polish minority as well.[5][6][7] The German population deeply resented being separated from Germany, and subjected the Polish minority to discrimination and ethnically based harassment. This was especially true after the Nazi Party gained political control in 1935-36.[8]

Since Poland still was not in complete control of the seaport, especially regarding military equipment, a new seaport was built in nearby Gdynia, beginning 1921.

In 1933, the City's government was taken over by the local Nazi Party which suppressed the democratic opposition. Due to anti-Semitic persecution and oppression, many Jews fled. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Nazis abolished the Free City and incorporated the area into the newly formed Reichsgau of Danzig-West Prussia. The Nazis classified the Poles and Jews living in the city as subhumans, subjecting them to discrimination, forced labor, and extermination. Many were sent to death at Nazi concentration camps, including nearby Stutthof (now Sztutowo, Poland).

During the city's conquest by the Soviet Army in the early months of 1945, many citizens fled or were killed. After the war, many surviving ethnic Germans were expelled and deported to the West when members of the pre-war Polish minority started returning. The city subsequently became part of Poland, as a consequence of the Potsdam Agreement. Polish settlers replaced the German population.


  • Establishment 1
    • Periods of independence and autonomy 1.1
    • Territory 1.2
    • Polish rights declared by Treaty of Versailles 1.3
    • League of Nations High Commissioners 1.4
  • Population 2
    • Religion 2.1
      • Regional Synodal Federation of the Free City of Danzig 2.1.1
      • Diocese of Danzig of the Roman Catholic Church 2.1.2
      • Jewish Danzigers 2.1.3
  • Politics 3
    • Government 3.1
    • German-Polish tensions 3.2
    • The Danzig crisis 3.3
  • Second World War and aftermath 4
  • In fiction 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Periods of independence and autonomy

Danzig had an early history of independence. It was a leading player in the Prussian Confederation directed against the Teutonic Monastic State of Prussia. The Confederation stipulated with the Polish king, Casimir IV Jagiellon, that the Polish Crown would be invested with the role of head of state of western parts of Prussia (Royal Prussia). In contrast, Ducal Prussia remained a Polish fief. Danzig and other cities such as Elbing and Thorn financed most of the warfare and enjoyed a high level of city autonomy. Danzig used the title Royal Polish City of Danzig.

In 1569, when Royal Prussia's estates agreed to incorporate the region into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the city insisted on preserving its special status. It defended itself through the costly Siege of Danzig in 1577 in order to preserve special privileges, and subsequently insisted on negotiating by sending emissaries directly to the Polish king.

Although Danzig became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in the Second Partitition of Poland in 1793, Prussia was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, and in September 1807 Napoleon declared Danzig a semi-independent client state of the French Empire, known as the Free City of Danzig. It lasted seven years, until it was re-incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1814, after Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig (Battle of Nations by a coalition that included Russia, Austria, and Prussia.


1,000 Danzig gulden (1924) depicting City Hall
1,000 Danzig gulden (1924) depicting City Hall

The interwar Free City of Danzig (1920–39) included the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), the towns of Zoppot (Sopot), Oliva (Oliwa), Tiegenhof (Nowy Dwór Gdański), Neuteich (Nowy Staw) and some 252 villages and 63 hamlets, covering a total area of 1,966 square kilometers (754 sq mi).

Polish rights declared by Treaty of Versailles

The Free City was to be represented abroad by Poland and was to be in a customs union with it. The German railway line that connected the Free City with newly created Poland was to be administered by Poland, as were all rail lines in the territory of the Free City. On November 9, 1920, a convention that provided for the Presence of a Polish diplomatic representative in Danzig was signed between the Polish government and the Danzig authorities. In article 6, the Polish government undertook not to conclude any international agreements regarding Danzig without previous consultation with the Free City's government.[9]

A separate Polish post office was established, besides the existing municipal one.

League of Nations High Commissioners

Passport of the Free City of Danzig.

Unlike Mandatory territories, which were entrusted to member countries, the Free City of Danzig (like the Territory of the Saar Basin) remained directly under the authority of the League of Nations. Representatives of various countries took on the role of High Commissioner:[10]

Name Period Country
1 Reginald Thomas Tower 1919–1920  United Kingdom
2 Edward Lisle Strutt 1920  United Kingdom
3 Bernardo Attolico 1920  Italy
4 Richard Cyril Byrne Haking 1921–1923  United Kingdom
5 Mervyn Sorley McDonnell 1923–1925  United Kingdom
6 Joost Adriaan van Hamel 1925–1929  Netherlands
7 Manfredi di Gravina 1929–1932  Italy
8 Helmer Rosting 1932–1934  Denmark
9 Seán Lester 1934–1936  Irish Free State
10 Carl Jakob Burckhardt 1937–1939   Switzerland

The League of Nations refused to let the city-state use the term of Hanseatic City as part of its official name; this referred to Danzig's long-lasting membership in the Hanseatic League.[11]


Population density of Poland and the Free City of Danzig (Gdansk), 1930.

The Free City's population rose from 357,000 (1919) to 408,000 in 1929; according to the official census, 95% were Germans,[12]:5, 11 with the rest mainly either Kashubians or Poles. According to E. Cieślak, the population registers of the Free City show that in 1929 the Polish population numbered 35,000, or 9.5% of the population.[13]

Henryk Stępniak estimates the 1929 Polish population as around 22,000, or around 6% of the population, increasing to around 13% in the 1930s.[6] Based on the estimated voting patterns (according to Stępniak many Poles voted for the Catholic Zentrumspartei instead of Polish parties), Stępniak estimates the number of Poles in the city to be 25–30% of Catholics living within it or about 30–36 thousand people.[14] Including around 4,000 Polish nationals who were registered in the city, Stępniak estimated the Polish population as 9.4–11% of population.[14] In contrast Stefan Samerski estimates about 10 percent of the 130,000 Catholics were Polish.[15] Andrzej Drzycimski estimates that Polish population at the end of 30s reached 20% (including Poles who arrived after the war)[16]

The Treaty of Versailles required that the newly formed state have its own citizenship, based on residency. German inhabitants lost their German citizenship with the creation of the Free City, but were given the right to re-obtain it within the first two years of the state's existence. Anyone desiring German citizenship had to leave their property and make their residence outside of the Free State of Danzig area in the remaining parts of Germany.[4]

Total population by language, November 1, 1923, according to the Free City of Danzig census[12]:11
Nationality German German and
Polish, Kashub,
Unclassified Total
Danzig 327,827 1,108 6,788 99 22 77 335,921
Non-Danzig 20,666 521 5,239 2,529 580 1,274 30,809
Total 348,493 1,629 12,027 2,628 602 1,351 366,730
Percent 95.03% 0.44% 3.28% 0.72% 0.16% 0.37% 100.00%


In 1924, 54.7% of the populace was Protestant (220,731 persons, mostly Lutherans within the united old-Prussian church), 34.5% was Catholic (140,797 persons), and 2.4% Jewish (9,239 persons). Other Protestants included 5,604 Mennonites, 1,934 Calvinists (Reformed), 1,093 Baptists, 410 Free Religionists, as well as 2,129 dissenters, 1,394 faithful of other religions and denominations, and 664 irreligionists.[17][18] The Jewish community grew from 2,717 in 1910 to 7,282 in 1923, and 10,448 in 1929, many of them immigrants from Poland and Russia.[19]

Regional Synodal Federation of the Free City of Danzig

The then-Lutheran Supreme Parish Church of St. Mary's in Danzig's Rechtstadt quarter.

The mostly Lutheran and partially Reformed congregations situated in the territory of the Free City, which previously used to belong to the Ecclesiastical Province of West Prussia of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union (EKapU), were transformed into the Regional Synodal Federation of the Free City of Danzig after 1920. The executive body of that ecclesiastical province, the consistory (est. 1 November 1886), was seated in Danzig. After 1920 it was restricted in its responsibility to those congregations within the Free City's territory.[20] General Superintendent Paul Kalweit (1920–1933) and Bishop Johannes Beermann (1933–1945) presided over the consistory, one after another.

Unlike the Second Polish Republic, which opposed the cooperation of the United Evangelical Church in Poland with EKapU, Volkstag and Senate of Danzig approved cross-border religious bodies. Danzig's Regional Synodal Federation — just as the regional synodal federation of the autonomous Memelland — retained the status of an ecclesiastical province within EKapU.[21]

After the German annexation of the Free City in 1939, the EKapU merged the Danzig regional synodal federation in 1940 into the Ecclesiastical Region of Danzig-West Prussia. This included the Polish congregations of the United Evangelical Church in Poland in the homonymous Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and the German congregations in the West Prussia governorate. Danzig's consistory functioned as an executive body for that region. With the flight and expulsion of most German Protestant parishioners from the area of the Free City of Danzig between 1945 and 1948, the congregations vanished.

In March 1945, the consistory had relocated to Lübeck and opened a refugee centre for Danzigers (Hilfsstelle beim evangelischen Konsistorium Danzig) led by Upper Consistorial Councillor Gerhard M. Gülzow. The Lutheran congregation of St. Mary's Church could relocate its valuable parament collection and the presbytery granted it on loan to St. Annen Museum in Lübeck after the war. Other Lutheran congregations of Danzig could reclaim their church bells, which the Wehrmacht had requisitioned as non-ferrous metal for war purposes since 1940, but which had survived, not yet melted down, in storage (e.g. Glockenfriedhof) in the British zone of occupation. The presbyteries granted them usually to Northwestern German Lutheran congregations which had lost bells due to the war.

Diocese of Danzig of the Roman Catholic Church

The 36 Catholic parishes in the territory of the Free City in 1922 used to belong in equal shares to the Diocese of Culm, which was mostly Polish, and the Diocese of Ermland, which was mostly German. While the Second Polish Republic wanted all the parishes within the Free City to form part of Polish Culm, Volkstag and Senate wanted them all to become subject to German Ermland.[22] In 1922 the Holy See suspended the jurisdictions of both dioceses over their parishes in the Free State and established an exempt apostolic administration for the territory.[22]

The first apostolic administrator was Edward O'Rourke who became Bishop of Danzig on the occasion of the elevation of the administration to an exempt diocese. He was naturalised as Danziger on the same occasion. In 1938 he resigned after quarrels with the Nazi-dominated Senate of Danzig on appointments of parish priests of Polish ethnicity.[23] The senate also instigated the denaturalisation of O'Rourke, who subsequently became a Polish citizen. O'Rourke was succeeded by Bishop Carl Maria Splett, a native from the Free City area.

Splett remained bishop after the German annexation of the Free City. In early 1941, he applied for admitting the Danzig diocese as member in Archbishop

  • Extensive Prussian/ Danzig Historical Materials (many in German)
  • Map of the Free City
  • Jewish community history
  • History of Gdańsk / Danzig
  • Danzig Online
  • Gdańsk history
  • Celebration of Gdańsk's centenary in 1997
  • History & Hallucination, Wanderlust,, January 5, 1998.
  • The power of Gdansk at the Wayback Machine (archived September 30, 2007)
  • 1933 Danzig passport, from
  • First hand account of growing up in Danzig in the 1930s, a video interview.

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Zapiski historyczne: Volume 60, page 256, Towarzystwo Naukowe w Toruniu. Wydział Nauk Historycznych – 1995
  7. ^ he Danzig Dilemma; a Study in Peacemaking by Compromise John Brown Mason page 4-5
  8. ^ Levine, Herbert S., Hitler's Free City: A History of the Nazi Party in Danzig, 1925-39 (University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 102.
  9. ^ Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 6, pp. 190–207.
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ a b c d
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^ Cieślak, E Biernat, C (1995) History of Gdánsk, Fundacji Biblioteki Gdanskiej, P455
  14. ^ a b Ludność polska w Wolnym Mieście Gdańsku, 1920–1939, page 37, Henryk Stępniak, Wydawnictwo "Stella Maris", 1991, "Przyjmując, że Polacy gdańscy stanowili 25 — 30% ogólnej liczby ludności katolickiej Wolnego Miasta Gdańska, liczącej w 1920 r. około 110 000 osób, można ustalić, że w liczbach bezwzględnych stanowiło można ustalić, że w liczbach bezwzględnych stanowiło to 30- – 36 tyś. osób. Jeśli do liczby tej dodamy ok. 4 tyś. ludności obywatelstwa polskiego, otrzymamy łącznie ok. 9,4–11% ogółu ludności."
  15. ^
  16. ^ Stuthoff Zeszyty 4 4 Stanislaw Mikos Recenzje i omówienia Andrzej Drzycimski, Polacy w Wolnym Mieście Gdańsku /1920 – 1933/. Polityka Seantu gdańskiego wobec ludności polskiej Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków – Gdańsk 1978,
  17. ^ Die Freie Stadt Danzig(German)
  18. ^ Dr. Juergensen, Die freie Stadt Danzig, Danzig: Kafemann, 1925.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Those congregations in Polish-annexed West Prussia (Pomeranian Voivodeship) merged into the new United Evangelical Church in Poland, which emerged from the old-Prussian Posen ecclesiastical province, with its consistory seated in Poznań.
  21. ^ In June 1922 the Senate of Danzig and the old-Prussian ecclesiastical executive, the Evangelical Supreme Ecclesiastical Council (Evangelischer Oberkirchenrat, EOK), concluded a contract to that end. Cf. Adalbert Erler, Die rechtliche Stellung der evangelischen Kirche in Danzig, Berlin: 1929, simultaneously Univ. of Greifswald, Department of Law and Politics, doctor thesis of 21 February 1929, pp. 36 seqq.
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c
  27. ^
  28. ^ Gdansk at the Jewish Virtual Library.
  29. ^
  30. ^ (German) Constitution of Danzig
  31. ^ Matull, "Ostdeutschlands Arbeiterbewegung", p. 419.
  32. ^ (German) Die Freie Stadt Danzig, Wahlen 1919–1935
  33. ^
  34. ^ Sodeikat, p.170, p. 173, Fn.92
  35. ^ Matull, "Ostdeutschlands Arbeiterbewegung", p. 440, 450.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Matull, "Ostdeutschlands Arbeiterbewegung", pp. 417, 418.
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Eugene van Cleef, "Danzig and Gdynia," Geographical Review, Vol. 23, No. 1. (Jan., 1933): 106.
  52. ^ Cieślak, E Biernat, C (1995) History of Gdańsk, Fundacji Biblioteki Gdanskiej. p. 436
  53. ^ By a decision of the League Council in December 1925, the guard which the Poles were entitled to maintain on this spot [Westerplatte peninsula] was limited to 88 men, though the number might be increased with the consent of the High Commissioner. Geoffrey Malcolm Gathorne-Hardy. A Short History of International Affairs, 1920 to 1934. Royal institute of international affairs (1934). Oxford University Press. p. 384.
  54. ^ Mit Gdańska, mit Grassa Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Rzeczpospolita
  55. ^ PCIJ, Advisory Opinion No. 11
  56. ^ PCIJ, Advisory Opinion No. 22
  57. ^ PCIJ, Advisory Opinion No. 18
  58. ^
  59. ^ Hargreaves, R (2010) Blitzkrieg Unleashed: The German Invasion of Poland, 1939 P31-2
  60. ^ Epstein, C (2012) Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland, Oxford University Press P58
  61. ^ Hurst Hannum, p. 377.
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ Prazmowska, p. 80.
  65. ^ Prazmowska, p. 81.
  66. ^ Prazmowska, p. 85.
  67. ^ Prazmowska, p. 83.
  68. ^
  69. ^ Woodward, E.L., Butler, Rohan, Orde, Anne, editors, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919–1939, 3rd series, vol.v, HMSO, London, 1952:25
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ Dieter Schenk, Die Post von Danzig
  73. ^ [1]
  74. ^ Służba Więzienna / Okręgowy Inspektorat Służby Więziennej Gdańsk / Areszt Śledczy Gdańsk
  75. ^ Eksterminacyjna i dyskryminacyjna działalność hitlerowskich sądów okręgu Gdańsk-Prusy Zachodnie w latach 1939-1945 "W wyrokach używano często określeń obraźliwych dla Polaków w rodzaju: „polscy podludzie" Edmund Zarzycki Wydawn. Uczelniane WSP, 1981
  76. ^ The History of Poland Since 1863 By Robert F. Leslie page 281
  77. ^ a b


See also

Historical Danzig forms the setting for several major works of Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass, including his acclaimed Danzig Trilogy novels The Tin Drum and Dog Years, as well as in his memoirs. Grass grew up in the Danzig suburb of Langfuhr (now Wrzeszcz).

In fiction

By 1950, around 285,000 fled and expelled citizens of the former Free City were living in Germany, and 13,424 citizens of the former Free City had been "verified" and granted Polish citizenship.[77] By 1947, 126,472 Danzigers of German ethnicity were expelled to Germany from Gdańsk, and 101,873 Poles from Central Poland and 26,629 from Soviet-annexed Eastern Poland took their place.[77]

At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies agreed that the city would become part of Poland.[76]

World War II began with the shelling of the Westerplatte on 1 September 1939. Gauleiter Forster entered the High Commissioner's residence and ordered him to leave the City within two hours,[70] and the Free City was formally incorporated into the newly formed Reichsgau of Danzig-West Prussia. Polish civilian Post Office employees had received military training and were in possession of a cache of weapons – mostly pistols, three light machine guns, and some hand grenades – and were thus able to defend the Polish Post Office for fifteen hours. Upon their surrender, they were tried and executed. (The sentence was officially revoked by a German court as illegal in 1998.)[71][72] The Polish military forces in the city held out until 7 September. Up to 4,500 members of Polish minority were arrested with many of them executed[73] In the city itself hundreds of Polish prisoners were subjected to cruel Nazi executions and experiments, which included castration of men and sterilization of women considered dangerous to the "purity of Nordic race" and beheading by guillotine[74] Judicial system was one of the main tools of extermination policy towards Poles led by Nazi Germany in the city and verdicts were motivated by statements that Poles are subhuman[75] By the end of the Second World War, nearly all the city had been reduced to ruins. On 30 March 1945, the city was taken by the Red Army. It is estimated that nearly all the pre-war inhabitants were either dead or had fled. A number of inhabitants of the city perished when the military training ship Wilhelm Gustloff used for evacuation was sunk. It had up to 10,000 refugees on board at the time, including about 1,000 seriously wounded soldiers and sailors.

1 September 1939: German troops remove Polish insignia at the Polish–Danzig border near Zoppot.
Schleswig-Holstein firing at Westerplatte

Second World War and aftermath

The German policy openly changed immediately after the Munich Conference in October 1938, when German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop demanded the incorporation of the Free City into the Reich.[68] In April 1939, High Commissioner Burckhardt was told by the Polish Commissioner-General that any attempt to alter its status would be answered with armed resistance on the part of Poland.[69] Tensions escalated into the Danzig crisis during the summer of 1939.

The Danzig crisis

While the Senate appeared to respect the agreements with Poland, the "Nazification of Danzig proceeded relentlessly"[66] and Danzig became a springboard for anti-Polish propaganda among the German and Ukrainian minority in Poland.[67] The Catholic Bishop of Danzig, Edward O'Rourke, was forced to withdraw after he had tried to implement four additional Polish nationals as parish priests in October 1937.[23]

When Carl J. Burckhardt became High Commissioner in February 1937, both Poles and Germans openly welcomed his withdrawal, and Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Józef Beck notified him not to "count on the support of the Polish State" in the case of difficulties with the Senate or the Nazi Party.[65]

"... that a National Socialist Senate in Danzig is also most desirable from our point of view, since it brought about a rapprochement between the Free City and Poland, I would like to remind him that we have always kept aloof from internal Danzig problems. In spite of approaches repeatedly made by the opposition parties, we rejected any attempt to draw us into action against the Senate. I mentioned quite confidentially that the Polish minority in Danzig was advised not to join forces with the opposition at the time of elections."

In the aftermath of the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934, Danzig–Polish relations improved and Adolf Hitler instructed the local Nazi government to cease anti-Polish actions.[63] In return, Poland did not support the actions of the anti-Nazi opposition in Danzig. The Polish Ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipski, stated in a meeting with Hermann Göring[64]

Until June 1933, the High Commissioner decided in 66 cases of dispute between Danzig and Poland; in 54 cases one of the parties appealed to the Permanent Court of International Justice.[61] Subsequent disputes were resolved in direct negotiations between the Senate and Poland after both had agreed to abstain from further appeals to the International Court in the summer of 1933 and bilateral agreements were concluded.[62]

Several disputes between Danzig and Poland occurred in the sequel. The Free City protested against the Westerplatte depot, the placement of Polish letter boxes within the City[55] and the presence of Polish war vessels at the harbour.[56] The attempt of the Free City to join the Permanent Court of International Justice at the League of Nations after protests of the Polish ILO delegate.[57][58] After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, the Polish military doubled the number of 88 troops at Westerplatte in order to test the reaction of the new chancellor. After protests the additional troops were withdrawn.[59] Nazi propaganda used these events in the Volkstag elections of May 1933, in which Nazis won absolute majority.[60]

During the interwar period Polish minority was heavily discriminated by the German population, which openly attacked its members using racist slurs and harassment, and attacks against Polish consulate by German students were praised by authorities[54]

Throughout the Polish–Soviet War, local dockworkers went on strike and refused to unload ammunition supplies for the Polish Army. While the ammunition was finally unloaded by British troops,[49] the incident led to the establishment of a permanent ammunition depot at the Westerplatte and the construction of a trade and naval port in Gdynia,[50] whose total exports and imports surpassed those of Danzig in May 1932.[51] In December 1925, the Council of the League of Nations agreed to the establishment of a Polish military guard of 88 men on the Westerplatte peninsula to protect the war material depot.[52][53]

The rights of the Second Polish Republic within the territory of the Free City were stipulated in the Treaty of Paris of 9 November 1920 and the Treaty of Warsaw of 24 October 1921.[47] The details of the Polish privileges soon became a permanent matter of disputes between the local populace and the Polish State. While the representatives of the Free City tried to uphold the City's autonomy and sovereignty, Poland sought to extend its privileges.[48]

German Nazi propaganda poster: "Danzig is German".

German-Polish tensions

As in Germany, the Nazis introduced an "Enabling Act" and the racist Nuremberg laws (November 1938);[44] existing parties and unions were gradually banned. The presence of the League of Nations however still guaranteed a minimum of legal certainty. In 1935, the opposition parties, except for the Polish Party, filed a lawsuit to the Danzig High Court in protest against the manipulation of the Volkstag elections.[11][26] The opposition also protested to the League of Nations, as did the Jewish Community of Danzig.[45][46]

Rauschning was removed from his position by Forster and replaced by Arthur Greiser in November 1934.[26] He later appealed to the public not to vote for the Nazis in the 1935 elections.[11] Political opposition to the Nazis was repressed[33] with several politicians being imprisoned and murdered.[34][35] The economic policy of Danzig's Nazi-led government, which increased the public issues for employment-creation programs[36] and the retrenchment of financial aid from Germany led to a devaluation of more than 40% of the Danziger Gulden in 1935.[12][37][38][39][40][41] The Gold reserves of the Bank of Danzig declined from 30 million Gulden in 1933 to 13 million in 1935 and the foreign asset reserve from 10 million to 250,000 Gulden.[42] In 1935, Poland protested when Danzig's Senate reduced the value of the Gulden so that it would be the same as the Polish Zloty.[43]

Initially, the Nazi Party had only a small amount of success (0.8% of the vote in 1927) and was even briefly dissolved.[11] Its influence grew with the onset of difficult economic times and the increasing popularity of the Nazi Party in Germany proper. Albert Forster became the Gauleiter in October 1930. The Nazis won 50 percent of votes in the Volkstag elections of 28 May 1933, and took control of the Senate in June 1933, with Hermann Rauschning becoming President of the Senate of Danzig.

The Free City was governed by the Senate of the Free City of Danzig, which was elected by the parliament (Volkstag) for a legislative period of four years. The official language was German,[29] although the usage of Polish was guaranteed by law.[30][31] The political parties in the Free City corresponded with the political parties in Weimar Germany; the most influential parties in the 1920s were the conservative German National People's Party, the Social Democratic Party of the Free City of Danzig and the Catholic Centre Party. A Communist Party was founded in 1921 with its origins in the Spartacus League and the Communist Party of East Prussia. Several liberal parties and Free Voter's Associations existed and ran in the elections with varying success. A Polish Party represented the Polish minority and received between 3% (1933) and 6% (1920) of the vote (in total, 4,358 votes in 1933 and 9,321 votes in 1920).[32]

Heads of State of the Free City of Danzig[10]
Name Took office Left office Party
Presidents of the Danzig Senate
1 Heinrich Sahm 6 December 1920 10 January 1931 None
2 Ernst Ziehm 10 January 1931 20 June 1933 DNVP
3 Hermann Rauschning 20 June 1933 23 November 1934 NSDAP
4 Arthur Karl Greiser 23 November 1934 23 August 1939 NSDAP
State President
5 Albert Forster 23 August 1939 1 September 1939 NSDAP
Danzig coat of arms depicted on a 100 gulden note (1931)
Danzig coat of arms depicted on a 100 gulden note (1931)
Flag of the Danzig Senate.



[28] After the anti-Jewish riots of

With a Nazi majority in the Volkstag and Senate, anti-Semitic persecution and discrimination occurred unsanctioned by the authorities. In contrast to Germany, which exercised capital outflow control since 1931, emigration of Danzig's Jews was nonetheless somewhat easier, with capital transfers enabled by the Bank of Danzig. Moreover, the comparatively-few Danzig Jews were offered easier refuge in safe countries because of favorable Free City migration quotas.

Danzig became a centre of Polish and Russian Jewish emigration to North America. Between 1920 and 1925 60,000 Jews emigrated via Danzig to the US and Canada. At the same time, between 1923 and 1929, Danzig's own Jewish population increased from roughly 7,000 to 10,500.[25] Native Jews and newcomers established themselves in the city and contributed to its civic life, culture and economy. Danzig became a venue for international meetings of Jewish organisations, such as the convention of delegates from Jewish youth organisations of various nations, attended by Hechalutz from all over for the first conference in Danzig using Hebrew as common language, also attended by Ben Gurion.

Since 1883 most of the Jewish congregations in the later territory of Free State had merged into the Synagogal Community of Danzig. Only the Jews of Tiegenhof ran their own congregation until 1938.

Great Synagogue on Reitbahn Street in Danzig's Rechtstadt quarter.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.