A clean sweep ?: the politics of ethnic cleansing in midwestern Poland, 1945-1946
From 1945 to 1946 the Communist-dominated Polish government established its rule throughout the newly reconstituted Polish state. In accord with wartime Great Power agreements, Poland was stripped of its pre-war eastern provinces, but received large tracts of German territory to the north and west--what Poland's new authorities called the "Recovered Territories". The new Soviet-sponsored regime, led by the Polish Workers' Party (PPR), launched radical political and socio-economic revolutions throughout Poland, and also waged a nationalist revolution that included ethnic cleansing, degermanization and polonization in most of Poland, as well as the colonization of the Recovered Territories.In midwestern Poland (Wielkopolska) these revolutions deeply polarized local society. Much of Wielkopolska's conservative, Catholic population opposed the new authorities' political and socio-economic revolutions but supported the regime's nationalist revolution. An important source of support for the regime's efforts to popularize this nationalist revolution was an organization affiliated with the National Democratic Party (a Party which was particularly powerful in pre-war Wielkopolska), the Polish Western Union (PZZ). The Catholic Church in Wielkopolska, even as it began to strengthen its role in public life, offer a Catholic vision of Poland's reconstruction, and counter what it regarded as the regime's efforts to enforce Poland's sovietization, also participated in this nationalist revolution.Administrative chaos, official plundering (and unofficial banditry and assault) by the Red Army, the depredations of the regime's own security forces, and looting by many of the new Polish settlers exacerbated near-catastrophic conditions at the local level in Ziemia Lubuska--the region of the Recovered Territories assigned to Wielkopolska for settlement. As political conflict in Wielkopolska deepened from late 1945 through 1946, with the establishment of an increasingly popular opposition Polish Peasants' Party (PSL), the regime relied more and more on its nationalist revolution as a primary means to secure its legitimacy. This politically benefited the regime, but also established extreme nationalism as a central element in the political life of People's Poland.
- History