A vital strip of land

The Polish Corridor, also known as the Danzig Corridor, was a strip of land that was established after World War I to connect the newly independent Poland with the Baltic Sea.

The corridor, which was approximately 100 miles long and 20 miles wide, passed through the territory of the former German province of Pomerania and included the city of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland).

The Polish Corridor in 1923–1939.

Polish Corridor - Wikipedia


Creation

The Polish Corridor was a strip of land created after World War I to give Poland access to the Baltic Sea. It was established by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and was taken from Germany. The corridor separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany, and it also separated the German province of Pomerania from the rest of Germany.

The corridor was created as a result of the efforts of the Polish statesman, Roman Dmowski, and the French leader, Georges Clemenceau. Dmowski wanted to ensure that Poland had access to the sea, while Clemenceau wanted to weaken Germany by cutting off East Prussia.

Map published in 1918. Title in the upper left corner. Legend shows percent of inhabitants of Polish (green) and German (red/orange) ethnicity according to the German census of 1910. Base map: Vogels Karte des Deutschen Reichs. Strip of ethnic Polish population reaching the Baltic Sea, so called "Polish Corridor" which later became a disputed area, can be seen.

Map of nationalities of eastern provinces of German Empire according to German census of 1910 by Jakob Spett - Polish Corridor - Wikipedia

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The Polish Corridor was about 94,000 square kilometers in size and had a population of about 2.5 million, mostly Germans. The area was mainly agricultural, with some industrial production in the cities of Gdańsk and Gdynia. Agriculture was the main source of income for the population, with the production of grains, potatoes, and livestock.

Industry in the Polish corridor was mainly focused on shipbuilding and timber. Gdańsk and Gdynia were important port cities that were developed as a result of the corridor. The population of the corridor increased by about 50% between 1919 and 1939, largely due to an influx of Polish settlers.


Exodus

The German population living in the Polish Corridor experienced a significant exodus during the 1920s and 1930s. The exact number of Germans who left the area is difficult to determine, but estimates range from several hundred thousand to over one million.

The primary reason for the German population's departure from the Polish Corridor was the lack of political and economic stability in the region following the war. The new Polish government implemented policies that discriminated against ethnic Germans, such as land expropriation and forced assimilation. Additionally, the economic situation in the area was dire, with high unemployment and a lack of resources.

Many Germans chose to leave the region voluntarily, often moving to other parts of Germany or to other countries such as the United States or Canada. However, some were also forcibly expelled by the Polish government.

A Polish-language poster, illustrating the drop in German population in selected cities of western Poland in the period 1910-1931.

Nalot niemczyzny 1910 1931 - Polish Corridor - Wikipedia

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The exodus of the German population from the Polish Corridor had a significant impact on both the German and Polish communities. The loss of the German population, who had made up a significant portion of the region's population, had a detrimental effect on the local economy. The Polish government also faced criticism for its treatment of ethnic Germans, and the issue was a source of tension between Poland and Germany for many years.


Dispute

The dispute over the Polish Corridor was a major point of tension between Poland and Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War. The corridor, established by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, had separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany and also separated the German province of Pomerania from the rest of Germany.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany viewed the Polish Corridor as a violation of Germany's territorial integrity and a historical injustice. Hitler and the Nazis argued that the corridor was a "corridor of shame" that had been imposed on Germany by the victorious powers of World War I.

Germany offered a solution for the polish corridor problem. A referendum in a region that mostly covered West Prussia was planned, and the country which loses the referendum shall get an exterritorial Autobahn, from Bülow to Dirschau for Germany or from Bromberg to Gdingen for Poland.
Germany also demanded the full and sovereign reunification with Danzig, which had a population of 97% Germans at that time.
The diplomatic negotiations failed and Hitler searched for a more aggressive solution.

The Polish Corridor 1939 by Arminius1871 on DeviantArt

Poland, on the other hand, viewed the corridor as a necessary security measure and a means of ensuring access to the Baltic Sea. The Polish government argued that the corridor was necessary to protect Poland from future aggression from Germany.

The dispute over the corridor heightened tensions between Poland and Germany, and ultimately led to the outbreak of World War II. In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and the Polish Corridor was quickly overrun. The German conquest of the corridor was a significant blow to the Polish military and helped pave the way for the German victory in the war.

Nazi flags hanging on buildings in a street, Polish Corridor, Danzig, August 1939.

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During the war, the corridor was heavily damaged by both the German and the Soviet armies. After the war, the territory of the former corridor was split between Poland and the Soviet Union, as part of the Potsdam Agreement. Today, the area is part of Poland and is known as Pomerania.


Conclusion

Overall, the Polish Corridor was a contentious issue between Poland and Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Its establishment was a result of the Treaty of Versailles, which aimed to re-draw the map of Europe after World War I.
However, it ultimately became a flashpoint that contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war, the territory of the corridor was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, and today it is a part of Poland.

The failure to resolve the dispute over the Polish Corridor helped lead to the outbreak of the Second World War. 

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Further reading