Die polnische Presse in Oberschlesien um die Jahrhundertwende (1889-1914)

Marek Czapliński


For the time after 1889 one can speak of a blossoming of the Polish press in Upper Silesia. In the nineties there were already four Polish newspapers, which were not only printed in the industrial area (Katolik, Dziennik Śląski), but also in Oppeln (Gazeta Opolska) and Ratibor (Nowiny Raciborskie). Their editorial offices, which were led by energetic journalists from Posen, expanded to become centres of organized Polish activities. The German side often considered the Polish press the chief cause for the later difficulties in Upper Silesia, however the Polish considered it as sort of Polish school for the Upper Silesians.
The niveau of the Polish press was low. The reason for this was the lack of formal education and the poverty of the readers, who came primarily from the lower classes of the society. Many years before this period the Katolik developed the model of a Polish popular newspaper in order to gain readership, which was inexpensive, consisted mainly of regional and religious news, and used a very simple language. At the beginning of the 20th Century radical nationalistic newspapers were also printed - for example the Górnoślązak as well as the Polak and Kurier Śląski, which were published later by Wojciech Korfanty. The total number of subscriptions of the Polish press rose from 12000 in 1889 to 81000 in 1914. The majority of Polish newspapers remained however financially weak, as they had only a few thousand subscribers and few advertisers, so that they had to seek additional funds through printing of bills and book trade. Further financial strains were caused by lawsuits, which were often filed by the German authorities against the Polish newspapers.
As there were no educated Polish classes in Upper Silesia, the Polish editorials earned a more important role than that of the Germans. The Poles did not only have to inform their readers, but had to offer them aid for everyday problems and occasionally legal and financial help as well. The journalists were often the founders of various Polish cultural and economic associations.
The low level of education of the readers, the poor training of the editors as well as the constant pressure had of course its effects on the niveau of the papers. Therefore the Polish newspapers - with the exception of the dailies - brought mostly local, provincial, and clerical news; printed very simple stories and novels; they had no special cultural section; and were marked by a large number of important tips and information.
The inserts were the only thing which balanced out the lack of cultural and scientific articles. Therefore the Polish press was not able to replace the Polish school, even if it propagated Polish language, history, and culture to a certain degree.