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Polish Corridor

From Academic Kids

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A Polish map showing the territory known as the Polish Corridor

The Polish Corridor was the name given to a strip of territory which was transferred from Germany to Poland by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The transfer of this territory was said to be justified on three grounds:

  • Historical. The area of the Corridor had been part of the Kingdom of Poland from the 10th century to 14th century and from 1466 to 1772, when it was transferred to Prussia at the time of the first partition of Poland.
  • Ethnographic. The majority population of the region was either Polish (in the area on the west bank of the Vistula, between Gdansk (Danzig) and Bydgoszcz (Bromberg)), or Kashubian (a people closely related to the Poles, generally considering themselves Poles as well) in the coastal area north-west of Danzig. There was however a substantial German minority, mainly in the towns of Bydgoszcz, Torun (Thorn) and Grudziadz (Graudenz).
  • Economic and political. The Poles argued that if the newly independent Polish state did not have an outlet to the Baltic Sea, it would be economically and therefore politically dependent on Germany. Since Britain and France wanted a strong Polish state as a counter-weight to Germany, they accepted this argument.

Giving Poland access to the sea was one of the guarantees proposed by United States President Woodrow Wilson in his famous Fourteen Points of 1918. The 13th of Wilson's points was:

An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.

The important seaport of Danzig (now Gdansk), which had a largely German population, was made the "Free City of Danzig" under the protection of the League of Nations. To reduce their dependence on Danzig the Poles built a new seaport at Gdynia.

The Corridor was a narrow stretch of land (in some places only 40 km wide), which separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Administratively it was a part of the Pomeranian Voivodship. The creation of the Corridor aroused great resentment in Germany, and all postwar German governments refused to recognize the eastern borders agreed on at Versailles.

The German statesman Gustav Stresemann, for instance, known for his policy of conciliation with the western allies, several times declared that Germany's eastern borders would have to be revised, and refused to follow Germany's acknowledgement of its western borders in the Treaty of Locarno of 1925 with a similar declaration with respect to its eastern borders.

In 1933 the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler took power in Germany. Hitler at first ostentatiously pursued a policy of rapprochement with Poland, culminating in the Polish-German Non-Aggression Pact of 1934. But following Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938 and most of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Nazi regime turned its attention to Poland.

In early 1939, the German government intensified demands for the annexation of Danzig, as well as for construction of an extra-territorial road through the Corridor, connecting East Prussia with the rest of Germany. The Polish government rejected these demands, and were backed in March by guarantees from Britain and France, now concerned at German expansionism. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and after Poland's defeat, Danzig and the Polish Corridor, as well as much other territory in western Poland, were re-annexed to Germany.

At the Potsdam Conference, 1945, following the German defeat in World War II, Poland's borders were reorganized at the insistence of the Soviet Union, which was in occupation of the whole area. German territories west as far as the Oder-Neisse Line, including the Corridor and Danzig, were annexed to Poland. The German Democratic Republic recognised this border in 1953 and the Federal Republic of Germany did so in 1970.

de:Polnischer Korridor es:Corredor polaco ja:ポーランド回廊 nl:Poolse Corridor sl:Poljski koridor

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