World War I: Poland--The General Government

Polish World War I General Government
Figure 1.--Here we see Polish boys with the war swirling around them paricipating in some kind of group exercise. We do not know here in Gernan-occupied Poland the photograoh was taken, presumably somewhere in the General Government. The photograph is dated July 15, 1915, but the baren trees in the background suggest it was tken a few months eaerlier. Neither the Germans or Russians hd any idea as to the loyalties of their Polish subjects. The German press caption read, "Das auch die polnische Jugend die Kriegsbegegeisteerung erfasst, wird uns in dieem Bild vergegenwärtigt. In Ermangelung von Fähnchen haben sie ihre mehr oder weniger bunten Taschentücher an eine Haselrute gebunden, um so ihren sonntäglichen Vergnügungen, den Kriegsspielen, nachzugehen." This translates as to something like "The idea that Polish youth also grasps the process of war is in our picture. In the absence of flags, they have tied their more or less colorful handkerchiefs to a hazel rod to pursue their Sunday amusements, the war games." Click on the imge for a larger view. It does not opem nuch lrger on your browser but if you want to sve it, it is a larger image.

Much of the figting in the East during the first year of the War (1914-15), after the failure vif the initial Tsarist offensive, was in Tsarist controlled Poland. The German offesive focused on a drive toward Warsaw. By the end of 1915 the Central Powers were in control, primarily because of German offensives. The Austrian Army prived much less effective. The Central Powers divided up Poland. The Germans took control of Warsaw and the north. The Austrians took control of southern Poland. The Germans set up the Government General in their sector. Those readers familiar with the German Government General in World War II, would be surprised at what the Germans did in the Government General during World War I. The Russians had suppressed Polish nationalist movements even more severely than the Germans before the War. The Germans moved to reopen the University of Warsaw. They allowed the Poles to open Polish language schools that the Russians had suppressed after moving against Congress Poland in the early-19th century. The Germans set up municipal governments and permitted elections--something unheard of in Tsarist Russia. The German military government permitted a Jewish press and permitted Jewish self government at the local level. The German policy was to demonstrate that they were both liberators and enlightened rulers. The Allies in the early stage of the War could not present themselves as either democratic or promoting national self determination because Tsarist Russia was such an important part of the Allied war effort. This could have strongly turned Poland toward the Central Powers. Russian looting and destruction as they retreated alienated many Poles. The behavior of the German Army, however, undermined the effort of the Central Powers to gain the allegiance of the Poles. German arrogance and rough, treatment of the Poles and other occupied people created a great deal of ill will. While nothing like the NAZI actions, the Germans did pursue some of the same policies. There were seizures of prosperity and land justified by military necessity. There were also forced population transfers. The Germans wanted to set up a buffer of German settlement along the eastern marches. They also wanted to set German-controlled beffer states in rhge East the Baltiucs, Polsnd, and Ukraine. The World War II General Government adopoted the term used for occupied Poland during World War I.


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Created: 9:06 PM 11/4/2018
Last updated: 9:06 PM 11/4/2018