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Neither German nor Pole

Catholicism and National Indifference in a Central European Borderland

James Bjork

Publication Year: 2008

This is a fascinating local story with major implications for studies of nationalism and regional identities throughout Europe more generally. ---Dennis Sweeney, University of Alberta "James Bjork has produced a finely crafted, insightful, indeed, pathbreaking study of the interplay between religious and national identity in late nineteenth-century Central Europe." ---Anthony Steinhoff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Neither German nor Pole examines how the inhabitants of one of Europe's most densely populated industrial districts managed to defy clear-cut national categorization, even in the heyday of nationalizing pressures at the turn of the twentieth century. As James E. Bjork argues, the "civic national" project of turning inhabitants of Upper Silesia into Germans and the "ethnic national" project of awakening them as Poles both enjoyed successes, but these often canceled one another out, exacerbating rather than eliminating doubts about people's national allegiances. In this deadlock, it was a different kind of identification---religion---that provided both the ideological framework and the social space for Upper Silesia to navigate between German and Polish orientations. A fine-grained, microhistorical study of how confessional politics and the daily rhythms of bilingual Roman Catholic religious practice subverted national identification, Neither German nor Pole moves beyond local history to address broad questions about the relationship between nationalism, religion, and modernity.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Although much of the work that goes into a book is conducted in relative isolation, no project that has been this long in the making is possible without the generosity and support of many people. A first note of appreciation is due to the committee who supervised my doctoral dissertation, which served as the point of departure for this book. I could not have ...

Place-Name Equivalents

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p. xiii

Notes on Language and Names

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p. xiv

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pp. 1-18

At the end of the First World War, with the old dynastic states of East Central Europe defeated and at various stages of disintegration, the Allied powers set out to redraw the map of the eastern half of the continent in accordance with the principle of national self-determination. Armed with census data and expert opinions, the peacemakers tackled the project with ...

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1. Priests, Editors and the Struggle for the Catholic Milieu

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pp. 19-76

In 1895, Felix Porsch, one of the leaders of the provincial Silesian branch of Germany’s Catholic Center party, offered these sobering words to a gathering of party activists in Breslau: Until now, we in the Center have not recognized any difference between German and Pole, any difference of language, of status, of occupation. ...

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2. Down with the Center: The Growth of Alternative Nationalisms

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pp. 77-127

During the 1890s, dissension over the role that the promotion of Polish nationality should play in the defense of the “Catholic cause” had driven an unmistakable rift through Upper Silesia’s Catholic community. The region’s parish clergy, on the one hand, and a growing cadre of Polish Catholic activists, on the other, were engaged in repeated clashes over issues ranging from the selection of Reichstag candidates to which language ...

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3. The Retreat from Nationalist Politics

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pp. 128-173

Between the Reichstag elections of 1898 and 1907, Upper Silesia had experienced a stunning political realignment. At the beginning of this period, the region’s politics were broadly comparable to Catholic areas of western Germany: the Center party enjoyed overwhelming support but was beginning to face some inroads by the Social Democrats in working-class constituencies. 1 ...

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4. The Vicissitudes of War

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pp. 174-213

In the fall of 1913, during a meeting of the town council in the small Upper Silesian community of Schalkowitz, one of the members of the council began to address his colleagues in Polish. This breach of a statute designating German as the exclusive language of public business triggered a heated exchange. One councilman defended the mandatory use of German with the ...

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5. Either/Or: The Plebiscite of 1921

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pp. 214-266

In his 1882 lecture at the Sorbonne, Ernest Renan famously described the existence of a nation as a “daily plebiscite.” This was, of course, meant metaphorically, but his subsequent remarks suggest that he took seriously the usefulness of border plebiscites as a policy tool. “If doubts arise regarding [a nation’s] frontiers,” he urged, “consult the populations in the areas ...

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pp. 267-276

When the results of the 2002 Polish census were released, the figures on nationality caused a stir. The largest self-described minority in Poland, it turned out, was not one of the familiar, historical nationalities—Germans, Ukrainians, Belarussians—but Silesians. While many people expressed incredulity about the very existence of such a “nation,” it was perhaps even ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 277-284


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pp. 285-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025299
E-ISBN-10: 0472025295
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116461
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116460

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 1 map, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 588876476
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Neither German nor Pole

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic Church -- Poland -- Silesia (Voivodeship) -- History.
  • Church and state -- Poland -- Silesia (Voivodeship) -- History.
  • Germans -- Poland -- Silesia (Voivodeship) -- History.
  • Polish people -- Poland -- Silesia (Voivodeship) -- History.
  • Nationalism -- Poland -- Silesia (Voivodeship) -- History.
  • Silesia (Poland : Voivodeship) -- Church history.
  • Nationalism -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church -- History.
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