166 - Neisse Border, If You Can Get One

fazkarte.gif


After 1945, Germany lost about a quarter of its pre-1933 territory to Poland and the Soviet Union. The German-Polish border was established at the so-called Oder-Neisse Line, after the two rivers that separate both states today.

Although the border is not in dispute, its establishment remains a touchy issue: millions of Germans were driven westward from Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia and other regions where their ancestors had lived for centuries. They were replaced by Soviets (in the part of East Prussia that became the Russian enclaved oblast of Kaliningrad) and by Poles who were themselves displaced by the Soviets (as the Soviet-Polish border also moved west). Nobody sympathised with the displaced Germans’ plight at the time, and even now the attitude in most of Europe (and much of Germany) is: Germany started a brutal war of conquest and lost it; it’s only natural they should be punished for it, by losing territory.

And yet, Germany post-1945 could have been a bit bigger than it actually is nowadays. In March 2007, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published an article, detailing Stalin’s plans for the post-war eastern German border. It was accompanied by a map from summer 1944, recently found in the Russian State Archives. The Soviet dictator himself drew the proposed boundaries between Germany and Poland. According to this map, the whole of Lower Silesia (Niederschlesien in German) would have remained German, and the city of Breslau (presently Wroclaw in Poland) would have become a divided (or jointly administered) German-Polish city.

Bizarrely, this proposed border would also have been an Oder-Neisse-line: in this map, Lower Silesia is separated from Poland by the Glatzer Neisse, while the present-day border is composed of the Lausitzer (or Görlitzer) Neisse, 200 km to the west. In the FAZ, Polish historian Bogdan Musial gave some background to the shifting to the west (“westverschiebung”) of the German-Polish border.

At the Conference of Tehran at the end of 1943, Roosevelt (US), Churchill (UK) and Stalin (USSR) agreed in principle on moving the Polish-German border (and dividing Germany itself in a western and an eastern zone of influence). A border on the Neisse was agreed upon, without specifying whether this would be the western or eastern of both rivers.

Only at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 did Stalin insist on the western of both eponymous rivers – in part to compensate Poland for his insistance to include the ancient Polish city of Lwow in the Soviet Union. The western powers were adamant in their opposition to the western Neisse plan.

But in the summer of 1945, at the Potsdam Conference, Stalin pushed through his modified proposal. This push westward, hard to swallow for many Germans (and indeed not recognised by West Germany until 1970), gave Stalin additional leverage over Poland, the untouchability of its new, controversial western borders his army could be counted on to guarantee.

The new border also had a practical advantage: it was the shortest, and therefore easiest to defend border between Germany and Poland, only 472 km long. Finally, it should be noted that the present border is not the westernmost of all proposed borders: one plan called for the inclusion in Poland of areas west of the Lausitzer Neisse, i.c. the region around Cottbus and Bautzen, home of the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in Germany.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less