Free City of Danzig

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Free City of Danzig
Freie Stadt Danzig  (German)
Wolne Miasto Gdańsk  (Polish)
Flag of Danzig
Coat of arms of Danzig
Coat of arms
Motto: "Nec Temere, Nec Timide"
Anthem: Für Danzig / Gdańsku
Danzig, surrounded by Germany and Poland
Danzig, surrounded by Germany and Poland
Location of the Free City of Danzig in 1930s Europe
Location of the Free City of Danzig in 1930s Europe
StatusFree City under League of Nations protection
Common languages
High Commissioner 
• 1919–1920
Reginald Tower
• 1937–1939
Carl Jacob Burckhardt
Senate President 
• 1920–1931
Heinrich Sahm
• 1934–1939
Arthur Greiser
Historical eraInterwar period
• Independence from Germany
15 November 1920
1 September 1939
• Annexed by Germany
2 September 1939
19231,966 km2 (759 sq mi)
• 1923
Preceded by
Succeeded by
West Prussia
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
Today part of Poland

The Free City of Danzig (German: Freie Stadt Danzig; Polish: Wolne Miasto Gdańsk) was a self-governing port on the Baltic Sea port and a city-state. It was set up on January 10, 1920, by Part III Section XI of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and put under League of Nations protection, with special rights reserved to Poland,[1] because it was the only port in the Polish Corridor.

The Free City ceased to exist after 1939 when it was occupied and annexed by Nazi Germany. After Germany's defeat in 1945 Danzig was occupied and annexed by Poland under the Polish name Gdańsk.

Establishment[change | change source]

Territory[change | change source]

The Free City of Danzig included the major city of Danzig (Gdańsk) as well as Zoppot (Sopot), Tiegenhof (Nowy Dwór Gdański), Neuteich (Nowy Staw) and some 252 villages and 63 hamlets. Its area was 1,966 km2 (759.1 sq mi).

Polish rights[change | change source]

The Free City was represented abroad by Poland's ambassadors. The railway line that connected the Free City with Poland was administered by Poland. Similarly, the separated military post within the city's harbour, the Westerplatte (formerly a city beach), was also given to Poland. There were also two post-offices, one for the Danzig Postal Service, the other was Polish-run.

League of Nations High Commissioners[change | change source]

League of Nations mandated territories, were run by member countries on behalf of the League. But Danzig and the Saargebiet were run by the League of Nations itself, with representatives of various countries taking on the role of High Commissioner:[2]

 Name Period Country
1 Reginald Thomas Tower 1919-1920  UK
2 Edward Lisle Strutt 1920  UK
3 Bernardo Attolico 1920  Italy
4 Richard Cyril Byrne Haking 1921-1923  UK
5 Mervyn Sorley McDonnell 1923-1925  UK
6 Joost Adriaan van Hamel 1925-1929  Netherlands
7 Manfredi di Gravina 1929-1932  Italy
8 Helmer Rosting 1932-1934  Denmark
9 Seán Lester 1934-1936 Republic of Ireland Irish Free State
10 Carl Jakob Burckhardt 1937-1939   Switzerland

Population[change | change source]

The Free City's population was 357,000 in (1919). 98% were German-speakers,[3] with the rest mainly speaking either Kashubian or Polish.

The Treaty of Versailles, split Danzig from Germany. The treaty made the people living in the city citizens of the Free City. German inhabitants lost their German nationality, if they wanted to stay German they had to go and live outside the Free City's territory.[1]

Politics[change | change source]

Heads of State of the Free City of Danzig[2]

  Presidents of the
Danzig senate
Took Office Left Office Party
1 Heinrich Sahm 6 December 1920 10 January 1931 none
2 Ernst Ziehm 10 January 1931 20 June 1933 DNVP
3 Hermann Rauschning 20 June 1933 23 November 1934 NSDAP
4 Arthur Karl Greiser 23 November 1934 23 August 1939 NSDAP
  State President
5 Albert Förster 23 August 1939 1 September 1939 NSDAP

In May 1933, the Nazi Party won the local elections in the city. But they had less than the two-thirds majority that would let them change the Constitution of the Free City of Danzig. The government introduced anti-Semitic and also anti-Catholic laws against the Poles and Kashubian inhabitants.

Poland always refused to allow the status of Danzig to change. In April 1939 the Polish Commissioner-General said that Poland was willing to fight if there was a change..[4]

Second World War and aftermath[change | change source]

The Nazi government voted for re-unification with Germany on September 2, 1939, the day after the German invasion of Poland began.

Around 90% of the city was reduced to ruins towards the end of the Second World War. On March 30, 1945 the city was taken by the USSR. It is thought that more than 90% of the pre-war population were either dead or had fled by 1945.

The Allied Powers were told at the Potsdam conference that the former Free State was now part of Poland. (The Yalta conference was unclear whether the Free City would be recreated or not).

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Yale Law School. "The Versailles Treaty June 28, 1919 : Part III". The Avalon Project. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Danzig subsection of Poland entry from World".
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica Year Book, 1938
  4. Woodward, E.L., Butler, Rohan, Orde, Anne, editors, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919 - 1939, 3rd series, vol.v, HMSO,London, 1952:25

Other websites[change | change source]

A 20 Danzig gulden note