Entstehung und Wirkung des Schlagwortes "Man muß die Polen aufs Maul schlagen"

Helmut Neubach


An exchange of letters between the Upper Silesian member ofthe Reichstag, Franz Graf von Ballestrem, and his colleague from Poznan, Josef von Koscielski (1891)
According to his diary, the Upper Silesian magnate and later president of the Reichstag, Franz Graf von Ballestrem, looked with great worry at the "Polish movement" rising at the end of the Kulturkampf. In a private talk in the summer of 1891, he mentioned to a fellow countryman and party member, one had to "hit the Polish agitators in Upper Silesia on the mouth". As the interlocutor had a shortened version of this thoughtless remark published in the Polish press, the count faced strong hostility on the side of the Poles. When he claimed in a letter to the editor that Upper Silesia did not need any "Polish agitators", since there were no Poles but only "Polish-speaking Prussians", Josef von Koscielski, chairman of the Polish fraction at the Reichstag, contradicted him in a long-winded "open letter". Ballestrem, however, in his "open response", maintained that "Upper Silesians were indeed no Poles".
His verbal faux pas was soon used as a welcome instrument in the aggravating struggle of nationalities by deeply hurt Polish-minded Upper Silesians. The "reckoning", as announced in the Polish press, already showed its effect in the next general election in 1893, when the Zentrum party split into "German" and "Polish" candidates for the first time and the latter were able to win seats in several constituencies straight away. Besides, even beyond Upper Silesia, Ballestrem's catchword caused German-Polish relations to deteriorate in no small measure.