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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

July 1950: Communists first give away one fifth of Germany

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The eastern part of the Western Silesian city of Görlitz had been annexed by the Poles in 1945 and renamed Zgorzelec. In the local cultural center, two Soviet puppet states, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the People’s Republic of Poland, on July 6th, 1950 signed the Görlitzer Abkommen or Treaty of Zgorzelec, short for The Agreement Concerning the Demarcation of the Established and the Existing Polish-German State Frontier.

Concerning the Polish-German border at the rivers Oder and Neisse and materialized under pressure from Josef Stalin, it was inked by the prime minister of the still non-sovereign GDR, Otto Grotewohl (1894-1964) and Polish premier Józef Cyrankiewicz (1911-1989), not very independent himself either.

It recognized the decisions taken at the Potsdam Conference in summer 1945 regarding Poland being moved westwards at the cost of Germany. The terms referred to the defined border which run west of Swinemünde, a world-famous German resort at the Baltic Sea, following first the Oder and then the Lusatian Neisse to the Czechoslovak border. The German Communists therefore accepted the division of cities located at both sides of those rivers like Küstrin, Frankfurt, Guben, Forst and Görlitz.

Stettin, capital of the Prussian province of Pomerania and Germany’s second biggest port, located west of the Oder, wasn’t mentioned. Its final destiny hadn’t been clearly decided upon in Potsdam, but there seems to have been a general understanding about a cession to Poland. It changed hands on July 5th, 1945 due to a secret arrangement between the Soviet Union and the Soviet-controlled Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) in Lublin on July 26th, 1944.

According to the frontiers of 1937, this border drawing gave Poland about 20% of Germany’s territory, whose overwhelmingly German-speaking population had mostly been expelled since 1945, including Breslau, the third largest metropolis. Combined with all losses after World War I, Germany in total shrank by about one third in 25 years.

Expectedly, the treaty was deemed illegitimate by the also non-sovereign Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Bonn pointed out that the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse-line were only under the temporary administration of Poland and that the final course of the Polish Western border would be decided by a peace conference. It never materialized due to the growing antagonism among those who had defeated Germany and which resulted in the Cold War.

Willy Brandt (1913-1992), which had embarked on a controversial rapprochement policy with Eastern Europe since being elected West German Chancellor in October 1969, signed the Treaty of Warsaw on December 7th, 1970, which against the will of millions of expellees from East Germany basically implied a recognition of the status quo.

The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France as well as the FRG and the GDR can be considered the final step to total relinquishment. The still existing two German states on September 12th, 1990 formally relinquished all claims to any of the formerly disputed land, not to put in danger the ongoing reunification process of what was left of Germany. At the same time, the Allies gave up their special rights and a much smaller Germany regained its full sovereignty.

After the FRG and the GDR became one country on October 3rd, 1990, the foreign ministers of Germany, Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1927-2016) and Poland, Krzysztof Skubiszewski (1926-2010) on November 14th inked the German–Polish Border Treaty, which finally settled the issue. 800 years of German history had also officially come to an end.

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