Upper Silesia


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Upper Silesia is Number 40 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Upper Silesia, also known as Oppeln, was one of three government districts in the Prussian province of Silesia, the others being Breslau and Liegnitz. According to the 1910 census, the total population of Upper Silesia was about 2,207,000, of whom some 1,250,000 people were ethnic Poles. An independent Poland did not exist at this time, and the study quotes a passage from the memoirs of former Chancellor Otto von Bismarck explaining that concern about the Polish minority in Silesia was one of the reasons that “compel us to retard, as far as possible, the opening of the Polish question.” The section on economic conditions emphasizes Upper Silesia’s importance for German industry, which rested mainly on the production of coal from the large coalfield extending across the frontiers into what were then Austrian Silesia and Russian Poland. After World War I, Upper Silesia became part of the reconstituted Polish state.

Last updated: July 21, 2014