Rozmowa z Dorotą Simonides, senatorem opolskim
nt kwestii niemieckiej mniejszości narodowej na Śląsku
Autor: Edward Klimczak
RZECZYPOSPOLITA, 10.12.1990

Tłumaczenie na język angielski
JPRS-East Europe Report
91-012 30 JANUARY 1991

 

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NATIONAL TECHNICAL INFORMATION SERVICE

SPRINGFIELD, VA. 221

 

 

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  Senator Favors Silesian Bridge-Building Role

91EP0162A Warsaw RZECZPOSPOLITA in Polish 10 Dec 90 p 3 [Interview with Dr. Dorota Simonides, senator of the Polish Republic from Opole, by Edward Klimczak; place and date not given: "Silesia as a Bridge Between Poland and Germany"]

 

[Text]

[Klimczak] For several months now you have been traveling back and forth to Germany to give lectures on Silesia, and specifically on the Polish-German question in that region. What is the response in Germany to your thesis of the so-called Brückenfunction [bridge-building role], meaning that it is precisely the Germans in Silesia who can serve as a bridge between Poland and the German state?

[Simonides] I must say that in all my talks and discussions with the various German audiences I met with full understanding of this thesis. I definitely sense that German audiences, especially the decision making circles, are clearly interested in having Silesia become a bridge rather than a bone of contention.

[Klimczak] In early October you had presented a lecture on this subject in Bonn.

[Simonides] The lecture was organized by the Verein für Deutschtum im Ausland [Union for Germans Abroad]. Representatives of the Landsmannschaften [Expellees' Regional Associations] also were present and the discussion was very heated. But no one denied the role of Silesia as precisely a bridge, particularly considering that, as I emphasize strongly, Silesia used to be a frontier region.

[Klimczak This thesis is not found attractive by Silesians, and in particular by the Germans in Silesia who are associated in the Deutscher Freundschaftkreis [German Friendship Circle].

[Simonides] I must say that they, too, stress this role. I do not know how you conceived the idea that they object to Silesia's role as a bridge. After all, recently they have changed greatly and even believe that they were practically born for this purpose. At least that is what they are saying. However, in certain, though not all, respects they display a kind of isolationism as it were, that is, a desire to keep aloof, whereas playing the role of a bridge requires getting involved.

[Klimczak] The map of Germany hanging at the Gliwice branch of the Deutscher Freundschaftkreis — and not only there e — shows that country within its 1937 borders and bears the personal signature of Herbert Hupka, the West German leader of Expelled Silesians. As reported last September in the German television program TV-Spiegel, Hupka's office is distributing flyers that deliberately falsify history. These flyers blame Poland for starting World War II, with Germany supposedly acting in self-defense. German leaders in Silesia have openly demanded the incorporation of Silesia into Germany. In his television broadcast from Strzelce Opolskie, a German named Mende demanded a fourth partition of Poland. How can all this be reconciled with the so-called Polish raison d'etat regarding Silesia and with constitutional law which, as in every other country, stipulates that the population inhabiting a country's territory be loyal to that raison d'etat?

[Simonides] You are confusing apples with oranges. That national minority is one thing, and the broadcast you mentioned is another. That broadcast was produced by the Landsmannschaften and transported from the FRG to Silesia. Actually, the governing board of the Deutscher Freundschaftkreis itself, which is an opinion making body, has proclaimed quite different objectives, as it seems to me. You surely are aware of the formation of the Zentralrat, or Central Council, headed by Dietmar Brehner. He is a young man with a totally different way of thinking, and he has been making statements in favor of the need to be loyal to Poland. Perhaps that is just why he has recently been removed from his position.

[Klimczak] According to an assessment by the leftist Hamburg weekly DIE ZEIT, he is the only Silesian intellectual to take this position.

[Simonides] Unfortunately yes. Too few members of that minority are well educated. Most of them are simple people who let themselves be easily manipulated. And

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unfortunately they are indeed manipulated by the Landsmannschaften. And that is frightening. I am doing everything I can to make Silesians think for themselves and cease to be manipulated, but this is not always the case, as you yourself have demonstrated.

[Klimczak] To continue my question, how can stances of this kind, and not only stances but specific political actions, be reconciled with raison d'etat, which after all presupposes loyalty of citizens in every country?

[Simonides] We must realize one thing. Now that we have agreed that we want a fully democratic country, we must accept the possibility of actions of precisely this kind. We should condemn them, but when they are undertaken by just a handful of people, they cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, if individuals acting in behalf of the expellees, and there are several such individuals, travel to Silesia and organize various actions inconsonant with the Polish raison d'etat, that already is a horse of another color and here our authorities should take resolute measures. The German population [in Silesia] was promised that, by virtue of Paragraph 23 of the FRG Constitution, the entire Silesia can be incorporated in the FRG as one of the "Länder."

[Klimczak] Who made this promise?

[Simonides] Officials of the Association of Expellees. I deliberately refrain from naming names. In addition to the main leader, there are several other extremely radically disposed individuals. They travel to Silesia and make unrealistic promises. This won't do, of course. Then the next drive is in favor of the Europeanization of Silesia, promotion of so-called autonomy. Thus, signatures are being collected, both in Silesia and in Germany. Is this a question of a fourth partition? No, now this is a question of a Silesia that would be under the aegis of the European Parliament, which, too, is impractical and utter nonsense. I could also cite other examples of disloyalty, but the matter is complicated in as much as under the German Constitution, Article 116, these  people are potential German citizens, because anyone who had until 31 December 1937 lived on the territory of the former Reich is entitled to German citizenship. And now these people are told by Hartmut Koschyk [leader of Silesian Germans] and others that they are de facto Germans.

[Klimczak] Are not they?

[Simonides] No, because they are only potentially German citizens. For nationality is one thing and citizenship is another. And these people do not understand this difference. And that is the tragedy.... In Germany nobody asks about nationality; it is citizenship alone that matters. In Poland we introduced the rubrics of nationality and citizenship. If it was only citizenship, the matter would be settled. Mr. Hartmut Koschyk is advocating dual citizenship. The FRG government tolerates dual citizenship. We too can tolerate it, although for the time being we have no law regulating it. That is, this is an unwritten law. There is no appropriate law, and hence it also is non-sense to persuade people in Silesia that they will participate in German elections.

[Klimczak] Why? After all, they could vote if they had German passports. From the afore mentioned article in DIE ZEIT it ensues that many Silesians already have both passports.

[Simonides] That is not so. In order to receive a German identity card one has to live on the territory of present-day Germany. That is a basic requirement. I had explicitly asked about it in Bonn. And since Silesians are not living on German territory, they cannot participate in German elections, unless they are registered both in Poland and in Germany. I am familiar with such cases. Under a German law of 1 July 1990 all proofs of German nationality must be presented in country of origin, that is in Poland, and at present no one can begin to reside permanently in Germany without first presenting proofs of his or her German nationality to the FRG embassy or through relatives in Germany.

[Klimczak] But that concerns curtailing the number of the so-called repatriates.

[Simonides] Of course. It matters to Germany too that the German minority remain in Silesia. But it also is obvious that this implies the Germanization of Silesians. When the leaders of the Landsmannschaften claim that more than a million Germans are living in Silesia, this means that they include all the [ethnic] Silesians and want to turn them into Germans. This is contrary to the law which states that the entire eastern Silesia, that is, persons who had signed Volksliste III [(Distant) Ethnic German List 3] are not Germans even if they had served in the Wehrmacht. Yet Koschyk and company have succeeded in persuading them that they are Germans. And now all this discontent and disappointment will be turned against the Landsmannschaften.

[Klimczak] But don't you think that it is the individual himself rather than the law who decides what his nationality is?

[Simonides] I strongly believe that subjective feelings are nowadays the decisive criterion. Thus, if a person feels himself to be German, no prohibition can overcome this. This has to be respected and accepted. In this connection, we are granting these people all the rights that belong to them, rights that belong to a national minority. The danger consists in the potential rise of a Fifth Column, such as had already once before occurred in our country. And the only thing that matters to us is that they be loyal citizens of Poland.

[Klimczak] That certainly will be difficult, because the 40 years of the denationalization of Silesia affected the Germans above all, and it will be difficult to change all this overnight. The more so considering that, according to Germans, Silesia is entirely "in German hands."

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[Simonides] You fail to consider that Silesia is an extremely broad concept. We cannot confine it to Lower Silesia alone, where Poles are in the majority and the  German minority numbers about 15,000. Or consider Opole Silesia, where only 25 percent of the population are Silesians, including Germans; that too is not much.The remainder are Poles and immigrants from other Polish regions. Or, too, consider Katowice Voivodship, where the population is such a melting pot that ethnic dividing lines can hardly be drawn. Thus, de facto the majority of the population in Silesia are Poles. I say that the Germans are a minority, because out of the several million people living in Silesia 800,000 are of German      origin. But as for the vociferousness of these people, that is another matter, and that is why they have turned this matter into a huge problem. The hue and cry are disproportionate to the numbers of people. When Krpl [another leader of Germans in Silesia] had first registered the Society of the German Minority, it had a membership of 2,000, because that was how many people had signed his petition. The ethnic divisions in Silesia run across families. One brother registers for the German list while another does not. Or a wife registers but not the husband. Once calm returns and the Landsmannschaften stop interfering, the situation will not be that bad, in my opinion.

[Klimczak] You believe that the associations of expellees are stirring up resentments in Silesia?

[Simonides] Yes, very much so!

[Klimczak] And that they are promoting polarization between Poles and Germans and in reality causing harm to this region. Other than Mr. Brehmer [as published], what circles in Silesia, for example, among Silesian Germans, are supporting Polish-German coexistence?

[Simonides] Officially, coexistence is supported by the leaders of the German minority, but only in word, not indeed. And the deeds are such that, e.g., Polish-language books are discarded from libraries and replaced with books brought in by Mr. Koschyk. The Germans in Silesia read chiefly SCHLESISCHE NACHRICHTEN,and, let us say, that is hardly the kind of literature that would markedly reinforce their Germanness, because from SCHLESISCHE NACHRICHTEN they will learn neither about real German history nor about German belles lettres. Besides, they are not sufficiently familiar with the German language to appreciate good German literature.

[Klimczak] That can hardly be expected of them considering that for 40 years they had been forbidden to learn the German language.

[Simonides] It was not an official language of instruction, but in Silesia mothers have always been free to talk in German to their children. No one would forbid a mother to teach her child a German prayer.

[Klimczak] But that was too little.

[Simonides] However, courses in German began to be offered as of 1972. At the Club of the International Book and Press their level has been quite good. Many people learned German in this way.

[Klimczak] Germanness or nationality in general is not decided by language.

[Simonides] Consider for example the terror that had been applied against Germans in the Soviet Union, and consider the Volga Germans, how fluently they speak German. Even their children speak German.

[Klimczak] Allow me to doubt this. It seems to me that we should not reproach Silesian Germans for their poor German speech, considering that they lacked the opportunity to learn that language, and to this day that opportunity remains limited. I learned that at a higher school of foreign languages in Wroclaw the German language will not be taught, at least not this semester, although Germans wanted to immediately provide instructors. Does this mean that the Communist practices still are being continued?

[Simonides] The conditions there were not good. I am familiar with that case, but you fail to mention at the same time that we had accepted more than 20 German-language teachers from the FRG even before the unification of Germany. They were greeted by a representative of the German embassy, a Polish superintendent of schools, and myself as the senator from Opole. These teachers are working in Gogolin, Strzelce Opolskie, Dobrzyn, Glogowek, and Dobrodzien, that is, they are teaching at high schools in places with a German minority. There are even German-language preschools already, as well as prayers offered in German at churches. It thus cannot be said that, despite the lack of a law on minorities, in Silesia there are insufficient opportunities for learning the German language.

[Klimczak] When that law is passed, what will it be like? Will it be a law protecting minorities or a law safe-guarding the rights of minorities?

[Simonides] It will be an absolutely European-style law, safeguarding all the rights of minorities — the rights to develop their own culture and language and the institutions nurturing them. If that law is passed, it may turnout that all these rights will be guaranteed in the new Constitution.

[Klimczak] In the meantime both sides are growing more chauvinistic. Both the Polish side, considering that, e.g., swastikas are being painted on the doors of dwellings occupied by Germans, as reported by DIE ZEIT, and on the German side, since, as you yourself mentioned, the Germans are throwing Polish-language books out of their libraries. In the former GDR skinheads are gathering with the intention of raiding Silesia in order to fight Poles and disperse and chase them out of that region. What is the future of Silesia? Who should fear whom there at present and in the future?

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[Simonides] I think that the work on doing away with such fears should be undertaken by the mass media both in Poland and in Germany. We have already earlier been aware of the great illwill of the inhabitants of the former GDR toward Poland, having had proof of it, and that is why I believe that several Polish institutes should be established [by Germans] to work on this problem. That is a necessity. On the Polish side, too, a great deal of work must be done to curtail Polish chauvinism, so that toleration would indeed be a supreme value and peaceful coexistence would be authentic and would be the sole road bringing us closer to Europe. I think that this is possible, because the skinheads are a marginal and anarchistic social group. While in Germany I viewed the film "Deutschland erwache" [Germany Awake!] showing a convention of former Nazis, and, to my surprise, it included scenes of our German minority in Silesia. It also showed Hartmut Koschyk. It showed these people shouting that they wanted the boundaries of 1937 and a return to Germany. I believe that the authors deliberately showed these scenes. Such nationalistic tendencies are also perceived in Germany as a great danger.That is exactly how they were perceived by the Germans with whom I spoke, and it seems to me that the work I mentioned above is work cut out for more than one generation. It should be intended to rebuild large-scale toleration and prompt the abandonment of chauvinism by both sides. I must assuredly state, however, that unfortunately I am observing a growing arrogance among our German minority, whose representatives suddenly began to feel unusually sure of themselves, which is quite untypical of Silesians. So much that this astonishes me and I am asking myself what lies behind it.

[Klimczak] The power of the German mark.

[Simonides] Perhaps. Or perhaps this is due to some complex of that minority and its desire to compensate for that complex by identifying itself with a rich country like the FRG rather than with Poland, which is stumbling from one crisis to another.

[Klimczak] Unfortunately. We are left only with the hope that this great idea of the coexistence of Poles and Silesians, of Poles and Germans in Silesia, can be translated into reality. I wish you all the best in this endeavor and I thank you for the interview.