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West Prussia
Province of Prussia






Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of West Prussia
West Prussia (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire, as of 1878.
Capital Danzig
 - Established 1773
 - Division by Napoleon 1806
 - Restored 1815
 - Province of Prussia 1824 - 1878
 - Treaty of Versailles 1919
 - Disestablished 1922
 - 1890 25,534 km² (9,859 sq mi)
 - 1890 1,433,681 
     Density 56.1 /km²  (145.4 /sq mi)
Political Subdivisions Danzig

West Prussia (German: Westpreußen; Polish: Prusy Zachodnie) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia. After Germany was defeated in 1918, in February 1920 it handed over West Prussia's central parts to become the so-called Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig, while the parts remaining with the German Weimar Republic became the new Posen-West Prussia or were joined to the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia. The territory was included within Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia from 1939–45, after which it became part of Poland. The territory of former West Prussia is currently divided between Poland's Pomeranian and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeships.

West Prussia is also used as a general name for the region in historical context from the 13th century to 1945. Inhabited by Old Prussians and Pomeranians during the Middle Ages, the population became mixed over centuries of immigrations by Germans, Poles, Slovincians, Kashubians, Huguenots, Mennonites, and Scots, among others.



In the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466), the towns of Pomerelia and western Prussia rebelled against the Teutonic Knights and sought the assistance of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland. By the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), Pomerelia and western Prussia became the Polish province of Royal Prussia, which received several special rights, especially in Danzig (Gdańsk). Royal Prussia became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 and retained self-government by Prussian natives. Eastern Prussia, on the other hand, remained with the Teutonic Knights, who were reduced to vassals of Poland by the Peace of Thorn. This territory became the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and removed the Polish suzerainty in 1657 Treaty of Wehlau.

Most of Royal Prussia was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in the 1772 First Partition of Poland, and became the Province of West Prussia the following year, with the exception of Warmia, which became part of the Province of East Prussia. King Frederick II of Prussia quickly began improving the infrastructure of the new territory. The Polish administrative and legal code was replaced by the Prussian system, and education improved; 750 schools were built from 1772-1775.[1] Both Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers taught in West Prussia, and teachers and administrators were encouraged to be able to speak both German and Polish. He also advised his successors to learn Polish, a policy followed by the Hohenzollern dynasty until Frederick III decided not to let William II learn the language.[1]

However, Frederick looked upon many of his new citizens with scorn. He had nothing but contempt for the szlachta, the numerous Polish nobility, and wrote that Poland had "the worst government in Europe with the exception of Ottoman Empire".[2] He considered West Prussia as uncivilized as Colonial Canada[3] and compared the Poles to the Iroquois.[2] In a letter to his brother Henry, Frederick wrote about the province that "it is a very good and advantageous acquisition, both from a financial and a political point of view. In order to excite less jealousy I tell everyone that on my travels I have seen just sand, pine trees, heath land and Jews. Despite that there is a lot of work to be done; there is no order, and no planning and the towns are in a lamentable condition."[4] Frederick invited German immigrants to redevelop the province,[1] also hoping they would displace the Poles.[5] Many German officials also regarded the Poles with contempt.[3]

In the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, the Hanseatic city of Danzig, no longer able to rely on its own strength, opted together with the Hanseatic city of Thorn to join the Kingdom of Prussia and thus West Prussia. Some of the areas of Greater Poland annexed in 1772 that formed the Netze District were added to West Prussia in 1793 as well.

From 1807–13 during the Napoleonic Wars, southern parts of West Prussia were added to the Duchy of Warsaw, a Napoleonic client state. In 1815 the province, restored to the Kingdom of Prussia, was administratively subdivided into the Regierungsbezirke Danzig and Marienwerder. From 1824-1878 West Prussia was combined with East Prussia to form the Province of Prussia, after which they were reestablished as separate provinces. The region became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the unification of Germany.

After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, most of West Prussia was granted to the Second Polish Republic (the Polish Corridor) or the Free City of Danzig, while small parts in the west and east of the former province remained in Weimar Germany. The western remainder formed Posen-West Prussia in 1922, while the eastern remainder became part of Regierungsbezirk West Prussia within East Prussia.

The region was included in the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia within Nazi Germany during World War II. Many West Prussian Germans fled westward as the Red Army advanced on the Eastern Front. All of the region was granted to Poland according to the post-war Potsdam Agreement in 1945. The vast majority of the remaining German population of the region was subsequently expelled westward. All of their property, including their homes, was looted and stolen; the emptied region was replaced with Poles.

Many German civilians were deported to labor camps like Vorkuta in the Soviet Union, where a large number of them perished or were later reported missing. In 1949, the refugees established the non-profit Landsmannschaft Westpreußen to represent West Prussians in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Historical population

Map of West Prussia and the Bay of Danzig in 1896
Population of Prussia and its Provinces in 1890
Inhabitants foreigners
West Prussia 1,433,681 1,976

From 1885 to 1890 West Prussia's population decreased by 1%.

  • 1875 - 1,343,057
  • 1880 - 1,405,898
  • 1890 - 1,433,681 (717,532 Catholics, 681,195 Protestants, 21,750 Jews, others)
  • 1900 - 1,563,658 (800,395 Catholics, 730,685 Protestants, 18,226 Jews, others)
  • 1905 - 1.641.936 (including 437.916 Poles, 99.357 Kashubians)[6]


Note: Prussian provinces were subdivided into districts called "Kreise" (singular "Kreis", abbreviated "Kr."). Cities would have their own "Stadtkreis" (urban district) and the surrounding rural area would be named for the city, but referred to as a "Landkreis" (rural district).

Population according to the census 1905:

Kreis (district) Polish Name Population 1905 Polish, Kashubian in Percent German in Percent
Regierungsbezirk Danzig
Elbing-Stadt Elbląg 55,627 175 0.31 55,328 99.46
Elbing-Land Elbląg 38,871 105 0.27 38,737 99.66
Marienburg Malbork 63,110 1,705 2.70 61,044 96.73
Danzig-Stadt (City) Gdańsk 160,090 3,065 1.91 154,629 96.59
Danzig-Niederung (lowland) Gdańsk 36,519 178 0.49 36,286 99.36
Danziger Höhe (highland) Gdańsk 50,148 5,703 11.73 44,113 87.97
Dirschau Tczew 40,856 15,144 37.07 25,466 62.33
Preußisch Stargard Starogard Gdański 62,465 44,809 71.73 17,425 27.90
Berent Kościerzyna 53,726 29,898 55.65 23,515 43.77
Karthaus Kartuzy 66,612 46,281 69.48 20,203 30.33
Neustadt Wejherowo 55,587 27,358 49.22 27,048 48.66
Putzig Puck 25,701 17,906 69.67 7,629 29.68
Regierungsbezirk Marienwerder
Stuhm Sztum 36,559 13,473 36.85 22,550 61.68
Marienwerder Kwidzyń 68,096 24,541 36.04 42,699 62.70
Rosenberg Susz 53,293 3,465 6.50 49,304 92.51
Löbau Lubawa 57,285 45,510 79.44 11,368 19.84
Strasburg Brodnica 59,927 38,507 64.26 21,008 35.06
Briesen Wąbrzeźno 47,542 25,415 53.46 21,688 45.62
Thorn-Stadt (City) Toruń 43,658 13,988 32.04 29,230 66.59
Thorn-Land Toruń 58,765 30,833 52.47 27,508 46.81
Kulm Chełmno 49,521 25,659 51.89 23,521 47.50
Graudenz-Stadt (City) Grudziądz 39,953 4,421 11.07 30,709 76.86
Graudenz-Land Grudziądz 46,509 19,331 41.56 26,888 57.81
Schwetz Świecie 87,151 47,779 54.82 39,276 45.07
Tuchel Tuchola 30,803 20,540 66.68 9,925 32.22
Konitz Chojnice 59,694 32,704 54.79 26,581 44.50
Schlochau Człuchów 66,317 10,180 15.35 55,981 84.41
Flatow Złotów 67,783 18,002 26.56 49,167 72.54
Deutsch Krone Wałcz 63,706 653 1.03 62,977 98.86

Office holders

See also


  1. ^ a b c Koch, p. 136
  2. ^ a b Ritter, p. 192
  3. ^ a b David Blackbourn. "Conquests from Barbarism": Interpreting Land Reclamation in 18th Century Prussia. Harvard University. Accessed 24 May 2006.
  4. ^ MacDonogh, p. 363
  5. ^ Norbert Finszch and Dietmar Schirmer. Identity and Intolerance: Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-59158-9
  6. ^ Brockhaus Kleines Konversations-Lexikon, 1911, online at [1]


  • Blanke, Richard (1993). Orphans of Versailles. The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 316. ISBN 0-8131-1803-4. 
  • Koch, H. W. (1978). A History of Prussia. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. pp. 326. ISBN 0-88029-158-3. 
  • MacDonogh, Giles (2001). Frederick the Great: A Life in Deed and Letters. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 436. ISBN 0-312-27266-9. 
  • Ritter, Gerhard (1974). Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 207. ISBN 0-520-02775-2. 
  • de Zayas, Alfred-Maurice (1994). A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Eastern European Germans 1944-1950. New York: St. Martin's Press. 

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WEST PRUSSIA (Ger. Westpreussen), a province of Prussia, bounded on the N. by the Baltic, on the E. by East Prussia, on the S. by Russian Poland and the province of Posen, and on the W. by Brandenburg and Pomerania. The area is 9862 sq. m. The greater part is occupied by the low Baltic plateau, intersected by a network of streams and lakes, and rising to the Turmberg (1086 ft.) near Danzig. East of Konitz is an extensive moorland, 70 m. long, called the Tucheler Heide. The lakes, though very numerous, are not large. The Vistula, here of great width, and subject to destructive floods, enters the province near Thorn, and flowing north in a valley which divides the plateau, enters Danzig Bay by a large delta, the Werder. The other rivers are chiefly tributaries of the Vistula, as the Drewenz on its right bank and the Brahe on its left.

In general physical characteristics the province resembles East Prussia, but the climate is less harsh and the fertility of the soil greater. Arable land and gardens occupy 55.6% of the area, meadows and pastures 12.9%, forests 21.7%, and the rest is mostly waste. The valley and delta of the Vistula are very fertile, and produce good crops of wheat and pasturage for horses, cattle and sheep. Besides cereals, the chief crops are potatoes, hay, tobacco, garden produce, fruit and sugar-beet. Poultry, fish and timber are important sources of wealth. Cavalry horses (especially at the government stud farm of Marienwerder) and merino sheep are reared. The minerals are unimportant, except amber, peat and clay. Shipbuilding is carried on at Danzig and Elbing, and in various places there are iron and glass works, saw-mills, sugar factories and distilleries. Much of the trade passes through the ports of Danzig and Elbing.

The population in 1905 was 1,641,746, showing a mean density of 166 to the sq. m. Of these 567,318 or 34.5% were Poles, a larger proportion than in any other Prussian province except Posen. They are increasing somewhat faster than the Germans, and the efforts of the colonization commission have done little to promote the immigration of German farmers. The Kashubes, nearly all of whom (less than 200,000) live in W. Prussia, chiefly in the west, from Putzig to Konitz, are here reckoned with the Poles. The Poles proper chiefly inhabit the centre of the province, and the borders of Russian Poland. Among the Germans, who are most numerous in the north-east, Low German dialects are spoken, except in a Swabian colony round Kulmsee. Roman Catholics number 51.4% and Protestants 46.6% of the population, and there are 16,000 Jews. The Poles are almost all Roman Catholics.

The province is divided into the governmental departments of Danzig and Marienwerder. It returns twenty-two members to the Prussian Lower House and thirteen to the Reichstag. Danzig is the capital, and the only large town.

West Prussia, with the exception of southern Pomerania (around Marienwerder) which belonged to Prussia, was a possession of Poland from 1466 till the first partition of Poland in 1772, when it was given to Prussia with the exception of Danzig and Thorn, which Poland retained till 1793. The present province was formed in 1808, but from 1824 to 1878 was united with East Prussia. For its history see also Prussia and Poland.

See K. Lohmeyer, Geschichte von Ostand Westpreussen (part i., 3rd ed., Gotha, 1908); Vallentin, Westpreussen seit den ersten Jahrzehnten dieses Jahrhunderts (Tubingen, 1893); Ambrassat, Westpreussen, ein Handbuch der Heimatkunde (Danzig, 1906).

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