In accordance with Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles (section entitled "East Prussia") the territory of the plebiscite was formed by Marienwerder (Kwidzyn) district (Landkreis Marienwerder - Marienwerder district) which encompassed counties of Stuhm (Sztum), Rosenberg in Westpreußen (Susz) as well as parts of counties of Marienburg (Malbork) east off the Nogat river) and Marienwerder (east of the Vistula river). The treaty defined the area as "The western and northern boundary of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein (Allenstein district) to its junction with the boundary between the Kreise (district) of Oletzko (Olecko) and Angerburg (Węgorzewo); thence, the northern boundary of the Kreis of Oletzko to its junction with the old frontier of East Prussia."
H. D. Beaumont, the British representative on the Marienwerder Plebiscite Commission, reported to Earl Curzon on February 25, 1920, that the total population of his Plebiscite Area was approximately 158,300, of whom 134,500 were claimed to be of German race and 23,800 Poles, or 15%.
This Commission had general powers of administration and, in particular, was "charged with the duty of arranging for the vote and of taking such measures as it may deem necessary to ensure its freedom, fairness, and secrecy. The Commission will have all necessary authority to decide any questions to which the execution of these provisions may give rise. The Commission will make such arrangements as may be necessary for assistance in the exercise of its functions by officials chosen by itself from the local population. Its decisions will be taken by a majority."
Sir Horace Rumbold, the British Minister in Warsaw, also wrote to Curzon on March 5, 1920, saying that the Plebiscite Commissions at Allenstein and Marienwerder "felt that they were isolated both from Poland and from Germany" and that the Polish authorities were holding up supplies of coal and petrol to those districts. Sir Horace had a meeting with the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Patek, who declared he was disappointed with his people's behaviour and "spoke strongly about the tactlessness and rigidity of the Polish Military authorities.
On March 10, 1920, Beaumont wrote of numerous continuing difficulties being made by Polish officials and added "as a result, the ill-will between Polish and German nationalities and the irritation due to Polish intolerance towards the German inhabitants in the Corridor (now under their rule), far worse than any former German intolerance of the Poles, are growing to such an extent that it is impossible to believe the present settlement (borders) can have any chance of being permanent.... It can confidently be asserted that not even the most attractive economic advantages would induce any German to vote Polish. If the frontier is unsatisfactory now it will be far more so when it has to be drawn on this side (of the river) with no natural line to follow, cutting off Germany from the river bank and within a mile or so of Marienwerder, which is certain to vote German. I know of no similar frontier created by any treaty.
The Poles began to harden their position and Rumbold reported to Curzon on March 22, 1920 that Count Przezdziecki, an official of the Polish Foreign Office, had told Sir Percy Loraine (1st Secretary in H.M. Legation at Warsaw) that the Poles questioned the impartiality of the Inter-Allied Commissions and indicated that the Polish Government might refuse to recognise the results of the Plebiscites.
Both sides started a propaganda campaign. The Germans founded several regional associations under the title of the "Ostdeutsche Heimatdienst", which is claimed to have had above 220,000 members. They put their emphasis on Prussian history and loyalty to the Prussian state and also used prejudices against Polish culture and Poland's economical backwardness. Rennie, the British Commissioner in Allenstein, reported on March 11, 1920, that "in those parts which touch the Polish frontier a vigorous German propaganda is in progress", and that "the Commission is doing all it can to prevent German officials in the district from taking part in national propaganda in connection with the Plebiscite. Ordnances and instructions in this sense have been issued.
Rennie reported to Curzon at the British Foreign Office, on February 18, 1920, that the Poles, who had taken control of the Polish Corridor to the Baltic Sea, had "entirely disrupted the railway, telegraphic and telephone system, and the greatest difficulty is being experienced. Colonal Lomas, the head of the Communications Department, has left for Warsaw in order to negotiate with the Polish Authorities and to endeavour to remedy matters.
Rennie reported on March 11, 1920, that the Polish Consul-General, Dr. Lewandowski, aged about 60 and a former chemist who kept a shop in Poznań (Posen), had arrived. Rennie states: "he apparently has little experience of official life, and immediately after his arrival he began sending to the Commission complaints, frequently couched in extravagant language, declaring that the entire Polish population of this district have been terrorised for years and are as a result unable to or incapable of expressing their sentiments. I have to say Dr. Lewandowski's attitude is not always judicious as may be instanced by the incident which occurred on Sunday last in connection with the hoisting of the Polish flag over the consular office. Dr. Lewandowski had been recognised only four days previously, and, without giving notice of his intention to the Commission, proceeded to hoist his flag from his office window, which is situated in the same building and alongside the office of the Polish Propaganda Department. On seeing this the population, perhaps not unnaturally, showed its resentment. The police had to be summoned, entered the building, and removed the flag. However, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon the flag was again flown and the police had to be posted outside the building to prevent trouble and the flag was hauled down at 5 p.m. I pointed out to Dr. Lewandowski that he ought to realise that his position here was a delicate one........and I added it was highly desirable that his office should not be situated in a building with the Bureau of Polish propaganda.
Undercover and illicit activities were also commenced and as early as March 11, 1920 the Earl of Derby reported a decision of the Allied Council of Ambassadors in Paris to make representations to the Polish government regarding violations of the frontiers of the Marienwerder district by Polish soldiers.
Beaumont reported from Marienwerder at the end of March that "no change has been made in the methods of Polish propaganda. Occasional meetings are held, but they are attended only by Poles in small numbers." He continues "acts and articles violently abusive of everything German in the newly founded Polish newspaper appear to be the only (peaceful) methods adopted to persuade the inhabitants of the Plebiscite areas to vote for Poland.
The Poles established an unofficial Masurian Plebiscite Committee (Mazurski Komitet Plebiscytowy) on June 6, 1919 under the chairmanship of Juliusz Bursche, later Bishop of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland. There was also an unofficial Warmian Plebiscite Committee (Warmiński Komitet Plebiscytowy). They argued that the Masurians of Warmia and Masuria were victims of a long period of Germanization, but ethnic Poles, now had the opportunity to liberate themselves from Prussian rule.
After the vote, the Poles felt disadvantaged by the Versailles Treaty stipulation which enabled those who were born in the plebiscite area but not living there any more to return to vote. Approximately 152,000 such individuals participated in the plebiscite.There is confusion on whether this was a Polish or German condition at Versailles; while it might have been expected that many Ruhrpolen would vote for Poland, most of them voted for Germany. The Polish delegation claimed that it was a German condition, although the Germans insisted otherwise.
The plebiscite took place on 11 July 1920; at the time Poland looked as if it was on the verge of defeat in the Polish-Soviet War (see Miracle at the Vistula). German Prussia was able to organize a very successful propaganda campaign, building on the long campaign of Germanization; notably the plebiscite masked the German choice under the regional name of Prussia. The activity of German paramilitary organizations, and support for German position by the Allied commissions, who allowed the Germans to bring over 100,000 German immigrants from that region, further aided the German cause. Hence the plebiscite ended with a majority of the voters voting for Prussia, only a small part of the territory affected by the plebiscite was awarded to Poland, with the majority going to Germany.
|County||votes for Prussia||votes for Poland|
registered voters: 425,305, valid: 371,189, turnout: 87.31%
To honour the exceptionally high percentage of pro-German votes in the district of Oletzko (Landkreis Oletzko), with 2 votes for Poland compared to 28,625 for Germany, the main town Marggrabowa (Margrave town) was renamed "Treuburg" (German for "castle of faithfulness") in 1928 , with the district following this example in 1933.
In the villages of Lubstynek (Klein Lobenstein), Klein Nappern (Czerlin) and Groszki (Groschken) in the Kreis Osterode/district of Osterode (Ostróda), situated directly at the border, a majority voted for Poland. These villages became a part of Poland after the plebiscite.
|County||votes for Prussia||votes for Poland|
registered voters: 125,090 valid: 104,941 turnout: 84,00%
The plebiscite district remained with Germany East Prussia as the Regierungsbezirk Westpreussen.