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The registered German minority in Poland at the 2011 national census consisted of 148,000 people, of whom 64,000 declared both German and Polish ethnicities and 45,000 solely German ethnicity. At a 2002 census there were 152,900 people declaring German ethnicity. Representatives of the German ethnic minority presume that the figures for their group are somewhat higher because after their exclusion in the communist period, members of the minority prefer not to state their real ethnicity. Also, due to complications arising from multi-ethnic Polish/German identities, many people of partial German descent do not identify with their German background, and some estimates number Poles with varying degrees of German ancestry from 400,000 to 500,000.
The German language is spoken in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship, where most of the minority resides, and in Silesian Voivodeship. German-speakers first came to these regions (present-day Opole and Silesian Voivodeships) during the Late Middle Ages. However, there are no localities in either the Upper Silesia or Poland as a whole where German could be considered a language of everyday communication. The predominant home or family language of Poland's German minority in Upper Silesia used to be the Silesian German language (mainly Oberschlesisch dialect, but also Mundart des Brieg-Grottkauer Landes was used west of Opole), but since 1945 Standard German replaced it as these Silesian German dialects went generally out of use except among the oldest generations which by now completely died off. The German Minority electoral list currently has one seat in the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (there were four from 1993 to 1997), benefiting from the current provision in Polish election law which exempts national minorities from the 5% national threshold.
In the school year of 2014/15 there were 387 elementary schools in Poland (all in Upper Silesia), with over 37,000 students, in which German was taught as a minority language (that is, at least for three periods of 45 minutes in a week), hence de facto as a subject. There were no minority schools with German as the language of instruction, though there were three asymmetrically bilingual (Polish-German) schools, where most subjects were taught through the medium of Polish. Most members of the German minority are Roman Catholic, while some are LutheranProtestants (the Evangelical-Augsburg Church).
Germans in Poland today
German minority in Upper Silesia: Opole Voivodeship (west) and Silesian Voivodeship (east).
German minority in Warmia and Masuria.
According to the 2002 census, most of the Germans in Poland (92.9%) live in Silesia: 104,399 in the Opole Voivodeship, i.e. 71.0% of all Germans in Poland and a share of 9.9% of the local population; 30,531 in the Silesian Voivodeship, i.e. 20.8% of all Germans in Poland and 0.6% of the local population; plus 1,792 in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, i.e. 1.2% of all Germans in Poland, though only 0.06% of the local population. A second region with a notable German minority is Masuria, with 4,311 living in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, corresponding to 2.9% of all Germans in Poland, and 0.3% of the local population.
Poland is also the third most frequent destination for migrant Germans searching for work, after the United States and Switzerland.
History of Germans in Poland
German language frequency in Poland - based on the Polish census of 1931
Votes for the German Minority in the 2007 elections in the Opole Vovoidship
Inspection of a Selbstschutz unit in Bydgoszcz, 1939. Josef Meier ("Bloody Meier") - leader of the Selbstschutz in Bydgoszcz, Werner Kampe - mayor of Bydgoszcz and Ludolf von Alvensleben - leader of the Selbstschutz in Pomerania.
According to the 1931 census, around 740,000 German speakers lived in Poland (2.3% of the population). Their minority rights were protected by the Little Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The right to appeal to the League of Nations however was renounced[by whom?] in 1934, officially due to Germany's withdrawal from the League (September 1933) after Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in January 1933.
Communes in Poland in which additional minority names were introduced (as of 1 December 2009). In blue - German names in the Opole and Silesian Voivodeships (total of 238 German names in Silesia)
Following the downfall of the Polish Communist regime in 1989, the German minorities' political situation in modern-day Poland has improved, and German citizens are now allowed to buy land and property in the areas where they or their ancestors used to live, and can return there if they wish. However, none of their properties have been returned after being confiscated.
There is no clear-cut division in Poland between the Germans and some other minorities, whose heritage is similar in some respects due to centuries of assimilation, Germanisation and intermarriage, but differs in other respects due to either ancient regional West Slavic roots or Polonisation. Examples of such minorities include the Slovincians (Lebakaschuben), the Masurians and the Silesians of Upper Silesia. While in the past these people have been claimed[by whom?] for both Polish and German ethnicity, it really depends on their self-perception which they choose to belong to.
German Poles (German: Deutsche Polen, Polish: Polacy pochodzenia niemieckiego) may refer to either Poles of German descent or sometimes to Polish citizens whose ancestors held German citizenship before World War II, regardless of their ethnicity.
After the flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland, the largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II, over 1 million former citizens of Germany were naturalized and granted Polish citizenship. Some of them were forced to stay in Poland, while others wanted to stay because these territories were inhabited by their families for hundreds of years. The lowest estimate by West German Schieder commission of 1953, is that 910,000 former German citizens were granted Polish citizenship by 1950. Higher estimates say that 1,043,550 or 1,165,000 were naturalized as Polish citizens by 1950.
However, the vast majority of those people were the so-called "autochthons" who were allowed to stay in post-war Poland after declaring Polish ethnicity in a special verification process. Therefore, most of them were inhabitants of Polish descent of the pre-war border regions of Upper Silesia and Warmia-Masuria. Sometimes they were called Wasserpolnisch or Wasserpolak. Despite their ethnic background, they were allowed to reclaim their former German citizenship on application and under German Basic Law were "considered as not having been deprived of their German citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention." Because of this fact many of them left People's Republic of Poland due to its undemocratic political system and economic problems.
^Tomasz Kamusella. 2014. A Language That Forgot Itself (pp 129-138). 2014. Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe. Vol 13, No 4. www.ecmi.de/fileadmin/downloads/publications/JEMIE/2014/Kamusella.pdf
^Niemcy w województwie opolskim w 2010 roku. Pytania i odpowiedzi. Badania socjologiczne cz?onków Towarzystwa Spo?eczno-Kulturalnego Niemców na ?l?sku Opolskim. Projekt zrealizowano na zlecenie Uniwersytetu Osaka w Japonii [Germans in Opole Province in 2010: Questions and Answers: The Sociological Poll Research on the Members of the Social-Cultural Society of Germans in Opole Silesia: The Project Was Carried Out on Behalf of Osaka University, Japan]. Opole and Gliwice: Dom Wspó?pracy Polsko-Niemieckiej, 2011.
^See p 101 in: O?wiata i wychowanie w roku szkolnym 2014/2015 / Education in 2014/2015 School Year. 2015. Warsaw: GUS. 
^See p 136 in Tomasz Kamusella. 2014. A Language That Forgot Itself (pp 129-138). Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe. Vol 13, No 4. 
^Helga Hirsch in "Die Rache der Opfer". The author mentions the indiscriminate expulsions of most Germans from 1945 until the mid-1950s, regardless of their personal involvement or non-involvement in the Nazi dictatorship.
^Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost-Mitteleuropa, Theodor Schieder (compilator) in collaboration with A. Diestelkamp [et al.], Bonn, Bundesministerium für Vertriebene (ed.), 1953, pp. 78 and 155.
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