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General Information

Modern boundaries of Poland include former German, Austrian, and Russian held regions. Where borders changed several times, you may have to do research in more than one area. Information on these related areas can be found at Former German Territories: (Danzig, Pomerania, Posen, Silesia (Nieder- and Oberschlesien), West Prussia) and Austrian Silesia.

For other Prussian territories, refer to the Kingdom of Prussia in section 2. Historical German Kingdoms.

This page focuses on the central and eastern portions of Poland, historically known as CONGRESS POLAND. Other names for this region include:
- Mittelpolen
- Russian Poland
- Kingdom of Poland
- Duchy of Warsaw

Description of the research area:

Hundreds of thousands of Germans have lived in Polish lands over the centuries, through to the end of World War II. At that time, most were expelled either to Germany or to eastern Asia (Siberia). One author lists over 1200 German settlements in 19th century Congress Poland. Many of the Germans in this region were LUTHERAN. There were also significant numbers of JEWISH Germans and to a lesser extent, ROMAN CATHOLICS, MENNONITES, BAPTISTS, REFORMED, MORAVIAN, etc.


Poland had existed for centuries as a very large commonwealth. In the late 1700s, as the result of a weak monarchy, it was partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and Austria and ceased to exist as a nation. In 1807 after defeating Prussia and Russia, Napoleon established the independent Duchy of Warsaw which included large portions of both Russian and Prussian held territories. Napoleon was defeated in 1812. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna established the Kingdom of Poland, commonly known in English as Congress Poland, and in German as Mittelpolen.

Congress Poland consisted of the Duchy of Warsaw except for some portions of the Torun (german Torn), Poznan (g. Posen), and Bydgoszcz (g. Bromberg) districts which were given to Prussia. The balance of the territory was given some measure of independence though it was ruled strongly by Russia. Several rebellions occurred with the last ending in 1863 with defeat by the Russians. At this time Russia clamped down hard on the Poles, insisting on Russian as the official language and effectively removing Polish nobility from any power they may have had.

Poland regained independence after World War I. In doing so, it regained vast portions of land from Russia (roughly half of what it had held prior to the partitions) and Austria (all of the pre partitioned lands plus a little more). It also took back large portions of the former Prussian lands, regaining access to the Baltic Sea through what was known as the Polish Corridor. After World War II, much of the land Poland had regained to the east was returned to Russia and Ukraine. It took over additional land from Germany as compensation. This included former Prussian territories to the north and Silesia to the west and south.

Throughout these changes, hundreds of thousands of Germans lived in various parts of these Polish territories, often maintaining farms for their Polish landlords (nobility).

[Primary historical source: A Panorama of Polish History; Hanna Cierlinska - Editor; Interpress Publishers, Warsaw - Publisher; also available in French, German, Polish, and Spanish]

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Last update: 22-Jan-96 (ds)
Please forward any comments and additions to this WWW-page to Jerry Frank, email: or to: WebMaster