History of Pomerania

History of Pomerania

The history of settlement in the Pomeranian region goes back some 10,000 years, when after the Ice Age Megalith cultures, in the Bronze Age Germanic and in the Middle Ages Slavic tribes left archeological traces. Written records appear in the 10th century mentioning repeating conflicts of the Pomeranians with early Poland. Polish dukes at several times subdued parts of the region from the Southeast, while the Holy Roman Empire and Denmark augmented their claims from the West and the North.

In the High Middle Ages, the area was ruled by local dukes of the House of Pomerania ("Griffins") and the Samborides, at various times vassals of Denmark, the Holy Roman Empire and Poland. Since the late 12th century, the Griffin Duchy of Pomerania stayed with the Holy Roman Empire and the Principality of Rugia with Denmark, while in Samboride Pomerelia Denmark, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, Poland and the Teutonic Knights struggled for control of the area. The latter succeeded, integrating Pomerelia in their monastic state in the early 1300s. Meanwhile, Ostsiedlung started to turn Pomerania into a German settled area, the remaining Slavic Pomeranians, who became known as Kashubians, continued to settle within the rural East. In 1325, the line of the princes of Rügen went extinct and the principality was inherited by the Griffins. In 1466 with the Teutonic Order's defeat, Pomerelia became subject to the Polish Crown as a part of Royal Prussia. While the Duchy of Pomerania adopted the Protestant reformation in 1534, the Kashubians of Pomerelia remained with the Roman Catholic Church. The Thirty Years' War severely savaged and deserted most of Pomerania. With the extinction of the Griffin house at the same time, the Duchy of Pomerania was split between the Swedish Empire and Brandenburg-Prussia in 1648.

Prussia gained the southern parts of Swedish Pomerania in 1720, Pomerelia in 1772 and the northern parts of Swedish Pomerania in 1815. The former Duchy of Pomerania was reorganized in the Prussian Province of Pomerania and Pomerelia in the Prussian province of West Prussia. With Prussia, both provinces joined the newly constituted German Empire in 1871. After the empire lost World War I, the Polish Corridor was formed including Pomerelia. Later the northern remnants of West Prussia and the Province of Posen were included within the Province of Pomerania.

After Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II, the German-Polish border was shifted far west to the Oder Neisse line. The German population of the areas east of the line was expelled and the area resettled with Poles, some of them being expellees from the Kresy themselves, and Ukrainians who became victims of the Operation Wisla. Western Pomerania remained with Germany and was attached to Mecklenburg and hence is the eastern part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, while former Farther Pomerania and Pomerelia are now within the West Pomeranian and Pomeranian voivodship.

History of the Pomeranian people

Pomerania has experienced several transitions not only of culture and administration, but also of its population.

The first historically noted major change occurred in the midst of the first millennium, when large parts of the indigenous population left Pomerania as Germanic Goths and Rugians to write history in the Roman Empire, while Slavs moved into Pomerania, settled and spread their culture, shifting Pomerania from Germanic to Slavic, who were part of the Frankish- later Holy Roman Empire. The Slavs diverged into several small tribes referred to as Baltic Wends.

The second major transition of the Pomeranian tribes was from Slavic to German in the 13th century. At the beginning of the second millennium, Christian Piast Poland, Denmark and the German Holy Roman Empire started to incorporate pagan Pomeranian territories into their expanding feudal states. After all Slavic Pomeranian tribes had lost their independence in late 12th century, local dukes called in German settlers to resettle areas devastated in the wars, to populate and cultivate formerly uninhabitable areas, mostly consisting of large woodlands separating former Slavic dwellings, to found cities and - as the result of and the reason for all of this - pay plenty of taxes. In the course of the 13th and 14th century, the Duchy of Pomerania became populated by Germans and only diminishing number Slavs were left not assimilated. Where Slavic population was left, they were called "Wends", "Kashubs" or "Slovincians" to distinguish them from the German Pomeranians. Whereas through later history the Kashubs were only minority in the Eastern Duchy of Pomerania, their numbers were notably higher in Pomerelia as well as the numbers of Germans were significantly lower there either. Pomerenian history was, from that time, closely tied to the history of Germany, Denmark and Sweden, whereas Pomerelian history was also partially tied to the Polish.

In the 1600s and 1700s, the Thirty Years War and the Nordic Wars had a severe impact on all of Germany including the Pomeranian population. More than half died, lots of villages were completely wiped out. After this enormous population drop, new settlers were called in from less devastated German territories. Yet, not all villages were repopulated, so the today's density of communities is not as high as back in the Middle Ages.

The third major change of Pomeranian population happened in the course of the Second World War and its aftermath. In the Nazi era, Jews and many members of the Polish minority were murdered. Due to the advance of the Red Army and the territorial changes after the war, nearly all Germans populating post-war Poland that survived the war and failed to evacuate in 1945 were expelled to post-war Germany 1945-1947. The major, now Polish part of Pomerania was resettled with Poles instead.

Early history

Prehistoric Pomerania

20,000 years ago the territory of present-day Pomerania was covered with ice, which did not start to recede until the late period of the Old Stone Age or Paleolithic some 10,000 years BC, when the Scandinavian glacier receded to the north. Various archaeological cultures developed in the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age.

Baltic tribes

Since around 3000 BC Pomerania was inhabited by Baltic tribes. They were partly pushed, assimilated, and surrounded by Germanic tribes advancing to the east from 1500 BC to the 1st century AD. When the Germanic tribes left this territory in the 1st to 5th centuries AD during the Migration Period, some Pomeranian (Western) Balts remained behind. These tribes integrated with Slavic tribes (arrived to Pomerania from the 6th century AD), forming Kashubians and other Pomeranian groups.

Germanic tribes

Since around 500 BC and before 500 AD Pomerania was dominated by East Germanic tribes including several tribes of Goths, who according to archeological evidence and their own tradition may have come from Scandinavia. Suebi, Goths and Rugians and others are recorded by Roman historians at Mare Suebicum at (later Pomerania) in 98 AD. The name of Veneti, an unspecified tribe, are recorded by Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder around Vistula in the first century AD. Recorded as Venedi, they are sometimes identified as pre-Slavic, or as Illyrian, as Celts and also as Finns (Finno-Ugric). The name of the Venedi lived on for many centuries in Wenden (now Cēsis), Ventspils in Couronia. Many centuries later the generic name Wends was still used for the people in that territory, even though by then Slavs had moved in.

Early Middle Ages

Slavic Pomeranians

Perhaps due to centuries of ongoing raids on Europe by various Asiatic peoples, such as Huns, Magyars, Avars a group of people later known as Slavic tribes moved into "Magna Germania" (as the area west and south of the Vistula river was called), as well and by 1000 AD the region was recorded as inhabited by various tribes belonging to the Lechitic group of the West Slavs, known collectively as Veleti, later Liutizian tribes dwelling west and Pomeranian tribes dwelling east of the Oder river. Little is known about the organisation and administration of the Pomeranians. The tribes spoke Pomeranian and Polabian dialects.

A Frankish document entitled "Bavarian Geographer" (ca 845) mentions the tribes of Volinians ("Velunzani"), Pyritzans ("Prissani") and Veleti ("Wiltzi").

The people living in Pomerania, a name first recorded in the 11th century, were constantly defending themselves against Viking and Polish raids. Pomeranians made their living mainly from trading and fishing. Chronicles report that Pomeranian cities in the very early Middle Ages belonged to the biggest and most affluent cities in the Slavic world and the whole of Europe.

Pomeranians are claimed to have occasionally raided Vikings in their Scandinavian homes. The ships of Pomeranians probably were not distinguishable from the ships of the Vikings themselves.

As Polish dukes tried several times to subdue and mission parts of the Pomeranian settlement area, there are sparse records of dukes in this area, but no records about the extension of their duchies or any dynastic relations.

The first written record of any local Pomeranian ruler is the 1046 mention of Zemuzil (in Polish literature also called "Siemomysł") at an imperial meeting. Another chronicle written in 1113 by Gallus Anonymus mentions several dukes of Pomerania: Swantibor, Gniewomir, and an unnamed duke besieged in Kołobrzeg (Kolberg).

Polish invasions (979-1005/1035)

In attempts to conquer and enlarge his territory, the first Polish duke Mieszko I of the Polans fought the tribes of Wieletes and Volinians south of the Baltic Sea, and their ally, the Saxon count Wichman.

Mieszko later defeated Count Dietrich of the Northern March at Cedynia in 972 and reached the mouth of the Oder River in 976. The decisive battle there in 979 ensured Mieszko's position as ruler of the area. In the following year, he celebrated his victory by dedicating the city of Gdańsk at the mouth of the Vistula River, to compete with the ports of Stettin (Szczecin) and Jumne (Wolin) on the Oder. Shortly before his death, Mieszko placed his state, under the suzerainty of the pope in a document usually called the Dagome Iudex.

Mieszko's son and successor, Boleslaus I of Poland, continued his father's conquests in Pomerania in 995, when he personally led his army. In 1000, while on pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Adalbert of Prague at Gniezno, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III invested Boleslaus with the title "Frater et Cooperator Imperii" ("Brother and Partner of the Empire") and confirmed the rights of Boleslaus to Pomerania. On the same visit, known as Congress of Gniezno, Otto gave Boleslaus the right to create the first Pomeranian bishopric in Kolobrzeg. The ultimate aim of this gesture was to Christianize the Pomeranians.

Nevertheless, the mission was destroyed when Pomeranians revolted against the church in 1005. The events brought five new martyrs to the Roman Catholic Church. This was the first time that the country split; the eastern part along the Vistula remained subject to Poland, whereas western Pomerania tended to remain independent and pagan. The Pomeranian bishopric was moved to safer Kruszwica in Cuiavia (ca 1015.

Pomeranian involvement in internal conflicts of the Kingdom of Poland

In the 1030s, the early Polish state was destroyed and fragmented into several provinces, but was soon rebuilt when Casimir I the Restorer was victorious in a battle with Mazovians and Pomeranians in 1047. Boleslaus II of Poland ("Boleslaw Smialy") is reported to have lost control of Pomerania.

In 1107, there was a civil war in Poland between Duke Boleslaus III of Poland and his brother Zbigniew. As Zbigniew was allied to Pomeranians, Boleslaus brought warriors to Pomerania and captured Białogard (Belgard), Koszalin (Köslin), Kamień Pomorski (Cammin), and Wolin (Wollin).

Jomsvikings, Scandinavian settlements

Canute the Great was the son of sea-king Sweyn Forkbeard, also reputed to be a member of the Jomsburg Vikings, a military organization of mercenary warriors with a fortress based in Pomerania. There is some dispute among historians, however, over the existence of the "Jomsvikings." Canute's mother was Gunhild (formerly Swiatoslawa, daughter of Mieszko I of Poland). In about 1020, Canute made a deal with Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, and the emperor gave Canute the Mark of Schleswig and Pomerania to govern. Nevertheless, Pomerania or parts thereof may or may not have been part of that deal. In any event, Boleslaus sent his troops to help Canute in his successful conquest of England.

Other Viking Age Scandinavian settlements at the Pomeranian coast besides Jomsborg (which is believed today to be identical with Vinata, Jumne and Wolin) include Ralswiek (on the isle of Rügen) and Altes Lager Menzlin (at the lower Peene river).

Pomeranian duchies of the High and Late Middle Ages

The Holy Roman Empire installed Dukes of Pomerania beginning with Zemuzil, Duke of Pomerania in 1046. The dukes of the House of Pomerania, the Griffins, ruled Pomerania for more than 500 years. Several times the dukes of Poland tried to conquer the Pomeranians and to add them to their territory in order to have direct access to the Baltic Sea for their landlocked country.

In the 12th century, Poland, the Holy Roman Empire's Duchy of Saxony and Denmark conquered Pomerania, ending the tribal era. In three military campaigns of 1116, 1119, and 1121, most of Pomerania had bee conquered by the Polish duke Boleslaus III, who in turn pledged allegiance to the emperor.

Pomerelian duchies (1116-1294) - Samborides

Pomerelia with Gdańsk (Danzig) was at times put under Polish control, and ruled gradually independent by the Samborides dynasty until 1294. In various times they were vassals of Poland and Denmark. The duchy was split temporarily into districts of Gdańsk (Danzig), Białogard, Świecie (Schwetz), and Lubieszewo-Tczew (Dirschau).

In 1226, Prince Konrad of Masovia signed an agreement with the Teutonic Knights. The Knights gradually conquered Prussia and erected a monastic state, the later Duchy of Prussia, where most of Pomerelia was integrated.

Duchy of Pomerania (1121-1630) and Schlawe-Stolp (1121-1227) - House of Pomerania

In Pomerania proper, Polish influence vanished in the next decade. The Stolp (Słupsk) and (Schlawe (Sławno) areas ("lands of (Länder) Schlawe-Stolp" )were ruled by Ratibor I and his descendants ("Ratiboriden" sideline of the Griffin House of Pomerania) until the Danish occupation of Schlawe and extinction of the line in 1227.

The western areas, stretching from Kolberg (Kołobrzeg) to Stettin (Szczecin) were ruled by Ratibor's brother Wartislaw I and his descendants (House of Pomerania, also called Griffins) until the 1630s. Wartislaw managed to conquer vast territories west of the Oder river, an area inhabited by Liutizian tribes weakened by past warfare, and included these territories into his "Duchy of Pomerania". Most notably Demmin, the Principality of Gützkow and Wolgast were conquered in this period. This duchy was in the 12th and 13th centuries centered around the strongholds of Stettin and Demmin and co-ruled from there by Wartislaws successors.

After the 1147 Wendish crusade and the 1164 Battle of Verchen, the duchy joined Henry the Lion's Duchy of Saxony, and in 1181 the dukes took their duchy as a fief from the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa.

At that time, the duchy was also referred to as Slavia (yet this was a term applied to several Wendish areas such as Mecklenburg and the Principality of Rügen). The duchy remained in the Empire, although Denmark managed to take control of the southern Baltic including the Duchy of Pomerania from the 1180s until the 1227 Battle of Bornhöved.

From the 13th century, the duchy was set under pressure by its southern neighbor, the Margraviate of Brandenburg. In the 1236 Treaty of Kremmen and the 1250 Treaty of Landin, the duchy lost its western and southern areas (from Circipania to Uckermark) to Brandenburg and the dukes had to accept Brandenburg inheritance of the duchy.

Principality of Rügen (1168-1325) - House of Wizlaw

The island of Rügen and the surrounding areas between the Recknitz, Peene and Ryck rivers were the settlement area of the West Slavic Rani (or Rujani) tribe, that was subdued by a Danish and Saxon expedition in 1168. The Griffin dukes of Pomerania aided this expedition as they were Saxon vassals at this time. After the successful expedition, the local Rani dynasty (known in German as "Wizlawiden", that is the House of Wizlaw) became Princes of Rügen in a now Danish principality. In the 1180s, the Griffins were sent by the Holy Roman Emperor to take the principality for the empire, yet, Denmark turned out to succeed in the conflict and subdued most of the Southern Baltic instead. The border between Pomerania-Demmin and Rügen varied and was subject to ongoing conflict. In 1325, the last prince of Rügen, Wizlaw III, died without male heirs and the principality was claimed by both Mecklenburg and the Duchy of Pomerania. After the following two wars for Rügen inheritance, Rügen was integrated into the Duchy of Pomerania.

Conversion of the pagan Slavs

Heathen temples

The Middle Ages' Pomeranians, Liutizians and Rani believed in numerous gods of the Slavic mythology. Major temple sites were

*Arkona (Swantewit temple),
*Charenza (numerous temples, e.g. Porenut, Rugievit),
*Wolgast (Jarovit temple),
*Stettin (Triglaw temple)

The first attempt to establish a Christian diocese in Kolberg (Kolobrzeg) by the archdiocese of Gnesen (Gniezno) in 1000 failed due to a pagan uprising in 1005.

Otto of Bamberg

In the 1120s, Boleslaus asked Otto of Bamberg to convert Pomerania to Christianity, which he accomplished in his first visit in 1124. Otto of Bamberg returned in 1128, this time invited by duke Wartislaw I himself, aided by the emperor Holy Roman Emperor Lothar II, to convert the Slavs of Western Pomerania just incorporated into the Pomeranian duchy, and to strengthen the Christian faith of the inhabitants of Stettin and Wollin, who fell back into heathen practices and idolatry. Otto had the temples of Gützkow and Wolgast torn down and on their sites erected the predecessors of today's "St Nikolai" and "St Petri" churches, respectively.

Diocese of Kammin

On Otto of Bamberg's behalf, a diocese was founded with the see in Wollin ("Julin", "Jumne", "Vineta"), a major Slavic and Viking town in the Oder estituary. On October 14, 1140, Adalbert of Pomerania was made the first Bishop by pope Innocence II. Otto however had died the year before. There was a rivalry between Otto's Diocese of Bamberg, the Diocese of Magdeburg and the Diocese of Gniezno for the incorporation of Pomerania. Pope Innocence II solved the dispute by repelling their claims and placed the new diocese directly under his Holy See. The see of the diocese was the church of "St Adalbert" in Wollin. The diocese had no clear-cut borders in the beginning, but roughly reached from the Tribsees burgh in the West to the Leba River in the East. In the South, it comprised the northern parts of Uckermark and Neumark.

After ongoing Danish raids, Wollin was destroyed, and the see of the diocese was shifted across the Dievenow to Cammin's (also "Kammin", now Kamień Pomorskie) "St John's" church in 1176. This was confirmed by the pope in 1186. In the early 1200s, the Cammin diocese along with the Pomeranian dukes gained control over Circipania. Also, the bishops managed to gain direct control over a territory around Kolberg (now Kolobrzeg) and Köslin (now Koszalin).

Wendish Crusade

In 1147, the Wendish Crusade, a campaign of the Northern Crusades, was mounted by bishops and nobles of the Holy Roman Empire. The crusaders savaged the land and sieged Demmin and Stettin despite them (officially) being Christian already. Wollin's bishop Adalbert took part in the negotiations that finally led to the lifting of the Stettin siege by the crusaders.


After Otto von Bamberg's mission, only the Rani principality of Rugia (Rügen) remained pagan. This was changed by a Danish expedition of 1168, launched by Valdemar I of Denmark and Absalon, archbishop of Roskilde. The Danish success in this expedition ended a series of conflicts between Denmark and Rügen. The Rügen princes, starting with Jaromar I, became vassals of Denmark, and the principality would be Denmark's bridgehead on the southern shore of the Baltic for the next centuries. The 1168 expedition was decided when after a Danish siege of the burgh of Arkona, a fire broke out leaving the defendants unable to further withstand the siege. Since Arkona was the major temple of the superior god Swantewit and therefore crucial for the powerful clerics, the Rani surrendered their other strongholds and temples without further fighting. Absalon had the Rani hand out and burn the wooden statues of their gods and integrated Rügen in the Diocese of Roskilde. The mainland of the Rügen principality was integrated into the Diocese of Schwerin.


After the successful conversion of the nobility, monasteries were set up on vast areas granted by local dukes both to further implement Christian faith and to develop the land. The monasteries actively took part in the Ostsiedlung.


*Dargun (1173) in Circipania near the ducal residence burgh, later town of Demmin
*Bergen (1250) in the center of Rügen, near the Ranis' former main burgh Charenza and just besides the residence of the Princes of Rügen, Rugard.
*Kolbatz (1173)
*Hilda/Eldena (1199)
*Neuenkamp (1231)
*Stettin (1243)
*Marienflies (1248)
*(See-)Buckow (1252) near Schlawe
*Köslin (1278)
*Krummin (1289) on the Usedom isle
*Hiddensee (1296)
*Stolpe (1304) near Gützkow
*Verchen (1304), south of Demmin


*Grobe/Pudagla (1155)
*Broda near the old Liutizian main temple site and capital, Rethra and the later town of Neubrandenburg
*Gramzow in the center of the Uckermark near the Ukrani burgh Oberuckersee and the town of Prenzlau

German settlement (Ostsiedlung)

Starting in the 12th century, Pomerania was settled with Germans during the 13th century (West and North) and the 14th century (South and East). Except for the Pomerelian Kashubians and the Slovincians, the Wends were assimilated. Most towns and villages are dating back to this period.

Brandenburg claims, loss of Circipania, Stargard and Uckermark

During the reign of Otto I, Margrave of Brandenburg and son of Albert I of Brandenburg (1100-1170), Brandenburg claimed sovereignty over Pomerania. Yet, in 1181, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I invested Duke Bogislaw I of the Griffin House of Pomerania with the Duchy of "Slavia" (Pomerania). This was not accepted by the Margraviate of Brandenburg and triggered several military conflicts.

Between 1185 and 1227, Pomerania along with most of the southern Baltic coast remained under sovereignty of Denmark. However 1198/99 Brandenburg again tried to gain sovereignty over Pomerania. Their virtual rights were recognized by king (later emperor) Frederick II in 1214. After Denmark lost the Battle of Bornhoeved in 1227, Denmark lost all her territories on the southern Baltic shore, including Pomerania. In 1231, Frederick II again invested the Ascanian Brandenburg margraves with the duchy of Pomerania.

At this time, the Duchy of Pomerania was co-ruled by duke Wartislaw III of Demmin and duke Barnim I of Stettin. After the Danes retreated, Brandenburg took her chance and invaded Pomerania-Demmin. Wartislaw had to accept Brandenburg's overlordship in the 1236 Treaty of Kremmen, furthermore he had to hand over most of his duchy to Brandenburg immediately, that was Circipania, the Burg Stargard Land and adjacted areas (all soon to become a part of Mecklenburg, forming the bulk of the later Mecklenburg-Strelitz area).

In the 1250 Treaty of Landin between Pomeranian dukes and margraves of Brandenburg, Barnim I managed to reassert the rule of his Griffin house over Pomerania, but lost the Uckermark to Brandenburg.

In 1264, Duke Wartislaw III of Demmin died, his cousin Barnim I (the Good) became the sole ruler of the duchy. In 1266, Barnim I married Mechthild, the daughter of Otto III, Margrave of Brandenburg. Barnim died in 1278 at Altdamm (near Stettin). The duchy then was dispensed to the sons of Barnim I, Otto I and Bogislaw IV. New lines Pommern-Wolgast and Pommern-Stettin were started. Harbors, waterways etc. were to be held in common.

Wartislaw III and Barnim I both accelerated the Ostsiedlung by inviting German settlers on a large scale and granting German town law to multiple towns.

Feudal fragmentation of the Duchy of Pomerania

After the last duke of Demmin had died in 1264, and the 1236 territorial losses left Demmin at the westernmost edge of the Duchy of Pomerania, Wolgast arose as the new residence besides Stettin. The sons of Barmin I (↑ 1278) divided the Duchy o Pomerania. Pomerania-Stettin was ruled by Otto I and his successors until 1464. Pomerania-Wolgast was ruled by Bogislaw IV and his successors. The latter was split in 1368 into the proper Duchy of Wolgast and the Duchy of Stolp (Slupsk) under duke Bogislaw V the Old.

In the course of the 14th century, Pomerania succeeded in the wars for Rügen inheritance, expanding the duchy northwest to Barth. In the East, the duchy gained control over the Schlawe-Stolp and later also the Lauenburg (now Lębork) and Bütow (now Bytów) areas (Lauenburg and Bütow Land).

In 1425, conflict with Brandenburg about the rule of the Uckermark and Pomerania resulted in a war of Brandenburg against Pomerania, Mecklenburg, the Teutonic Order and even Poland. Brandenburg was able to keep the Uckermark, but Hohenzollern pretensions to rule Pomerania were thwarted.

In 1531, when Reformation reached Pomerania, the Diocese of Cammin areas around Kolberg (Kolobrzeg) came under control of the dukes, too.

The 1637 death of the last Griffin duke Bogislaw XIV and the 1648 Peace of Westphalia marked the end of the duchy. Farther Pomerania came to Brandenburg and Hither or Western Pomerania to Sweden, both later making up the Prussian Province of Pomerania.

Brandenburg, Poland and the Teutonic Order compete for Pomerelia

After the Mestwin II, the last member of the Samborides that ruled the Duchy of Pomerelia died in 1294, disputes over succession arose. Involved in internal dynastic conflicts, Mestwin had promised his duchy to Conrad, Margrave of Brandenburg-Stendal, for aiding him in his struggles with his brother, Wratislaw. Yet, in the 1282 Treaty of Kępno he also promised Pomerelia to his ally Przemyslaw II, duke and later king of Poland. The Teutonic Order, who also held claims regarding Pomerelia, had inherited Mewe from Sambor II, thus gaining a foothold on the left bank of the Vistula. [David Abulafia et al., The New Cambridge Medieval History, 1999, Vol.5 [http://books.google.com/books?id=bclfdU_2lesC&pg=RA1-PA752&dq=danzig+1308&sig=3CMaiWal7hbKsIFsGzlRPgp8pMU] ]

At the beginning of the 14th century, the region was plunged into war involving local Pomeranian nobility and the principality of Margraviate of Brandenburg to the west, which had acquired rights by the Treaty of Arnswalde of 1269. Brandenburg's claim to the harbour city and Pomerania was partially based on a treaty of August 8, 1305 between the Rulers of Brandenburg and Wenceslaus III, promising the Meissen territory to the Bohemian crown in exchange for Pomerelia, although it never was finalised.

On becoming king of Poland, in summer 1300, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia asked the Teutonic Knights to protect Pomerania from the claims of Brandenburg. In 1306 Władysław Lokietek's forces seized Gdańsk (Danzig). When Gdańsk was subsequently attacked by the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1308, Lokietek was unable to help and called in the Teutonic Knights for support. The Brandenburgers were repelled. The king did not pay the Teutonic Knights, however, and then they took over Danzig (Gdańsk) and ousted the remaining Polish garrison from the castle. Poles later claimed that the Knights committed a massacre of 10,000 civilians.

Pomerelia in the Teutonic Knights' monastic state

Teutonic Grandmaster Siegfried von Feuchtwangen and Master Heinrich von Dirschau und Schwetz integrated Pomerelia in the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. The Margraves sold the area to the Teutonic Order in the 1309 Treaty of Soldin. Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor ratified the Soldin Treaty in 1313.

The districts of Schlawe (now Sławno), Rügenwalde (now Darłowo) and Stolp (now Słupsk), however, remained with Brandenburg. Previously, they were part of Pomerelia.

Pomerelia as a part of Royal and West Prussia

During the Thirteen Years' War, in February 1454, the Prussian Confederation of cities and gentry trying to secede from the Teutonic Knights' monastic state, asked the Polish king for support against the Teutonic Order's rule and for incorporation of Prussia into the Polish kingdom. The war ended in October 1466 with the Second Peace of Thorn, which provided for the Order's cession to the Polish Crown of its rights over the western half of Prussia, including Pomerelia and the districts of Elbing, Marienburg (Malbork), and Kulm (Chełmno).

Royal Prussia enjoyed substantial autonomy in its affiliation to the Crown of Poland - it had its own Diet, treasury and monetary unit and armies. It was governed by a council, subordinate to the Polish king, whose members were chosen from local lords and wealthy citizens. Prussians had also seats provided for them in Polish Diet, but they chose not to use this right until the Union of Lublin.

In the Union of Lublin, Pomerelia became reorganized in the Pomeranian Voivodeship until the 1772 Partition of Poland, when it became part of the Prussian province of West Prussia.

Thirty Years' War (1618-48), Pomerania as a province of Sweden and Brandenburg

During the Thirty Years' War Pomerania, lost two thirds of its population due to military raids, plague, famine and criminal violence. Upon entering into the Thirty Years' War in 1629, Sweden gained effective control over Pomerania. Following the death of Bogislaw XIV, Duke of Pomerania without issue in 1637, control was disputed between Sweden and Brandenburg-Prussia - which had previously held reversion to the Duchy. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 enforced a partition into a "Hither" or "Western" and a "Further" or "Eastern Pomerania". Sweden received Western Pomerania (now in Germany), together with Stettin (Swedish Pomerania). Further Pomerania (now in Poland) passed to Brandenburg-Prussia. In the negotiations between France, Brandenburg, and Sweden following the Northern War the Brandenburg diplomats Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal and his son Christoph Caspar obtained the rights of succession for Brandenburg, though the argument with Sweden, especially over Hither Pomerania, continued to the end of the 17th century and beyond, until the Treaty of Stockholm in 1720. Stettin and Western Pomerania up to the Peene river ("Altvorpommern") became part of Brandenberg-Prussia following the end of the Great Northern War in 1720.

Western Pomerania north of the Peene river ("Neuvorpommern") remained a dominion of the Swedish Crown from 1648 until 1815.

The 18th–20th centuries

Prussian noblemen began to acquire estates in Pomerania, while Pomeranian noblemen were integrated into Prussian society. Thus originally Wendish noble families such as the von Lettows, von Strelows, von Peglows, von Zitzewitzes and von Krockows intermarried with German families from Brandenburg such as the von Blumenthals, who possessed great estates at Quackenburg, Varzin, Dubberzin, Schlönwitz and elsewhere. By the nineteenth century Pomerania was mostly Germanised, and was a popular place of retirement for the well-to-do such as Bismarck, who bought Varzin.

Napoleonic Wars and its consequences

In 1812, when French troops marched into Pomerania, The Swedish army mobilized and 1813 won against Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig, together with troops from Russia, Prussia and Austria. Sweden also attacked Denmark. During the peace negotiations in Kiel 1814, Sweden got Norway, but gave Pomerania to Prussia in 1815.

After the extinction of the Ascanian Brandenburg line several other ruling houses were invested with the administration of Pomerania by the empire. After Napoleon's break-up of the empire in 1806, the Western Part was the member of the Deutsche Bund. After foundation of the German Empire of 1871, the whole of Pomerania was included into the newly created state.

Pomerania in the German Empire (1870–1918)

During the German Empire whole Pomerania remained an agricultural area.

The Prussian Province of Pomerania was dominated by large-scale agriculture which forced many abundant workers to emigrate into the western provinces of Germany. Only the city of Stettin (now Szczecin) became an industrialized city with more than 200,000 inhabitants. Some towns on the Baltic Sea became tourist resorts. The Prussian Province of Pomerania was a stronghold of conservative parties and of the nobility during the German Empire. Except for Schneidemühl and Stolp, where Polish and Slavic Slovincian minorities lived, 19th century Pomerania province was virtually entirely German and Germanized. As such, it was also moderately German-nationalistic.

The Prussian province of West Prussia ("Pomerelia") was inhabited by both ethnic groups: Polish people predominantly in rural areas in the southern parts, as well as Slavic Kashubians dominating the northern areas and ethnic German people predominantly in big cities. The German government tried to support German settlement in Polish and Kashubian areas, but German investors did not show much interest. Polish people founded economical and political organisations and succeeded in electing some Polish representatives into the German Reichstag.

World Wars of the 20th century

Between World War I and World War II - Pomerania in Germany and Poland (1919–1939)

As a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919) after World War I, Pomerania was divided between Poland and Germany. Most of the German-Prussian province of West Prussia fell to Poland as the so-called Polish Corridor, and constituted the Pomeranian Voivodeship (województwo pomorskie) with the capital at Toruń (Thorn). Danzig was made the Free City of Danzig. The population of Danzig, 90% of which spoke German, was not asked whether it wanted to leave Germany. The remainders of West Prussia were joined either to East Prussia or to the newly created province Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen. The entire Prussian province of Pomerania remained in Germany. The area inhabited by Kashubians remained split between Poland, the Free City and Germany.

In 1938-39, the German and Polish Pomeranian provinces were enlarged. Most of Grenzmark and two counties of Brandenburg were made a district of the German province of Pomerania. Several counties from Mazovia and Greater Poland were joined to the Polish Pomeranian voivodship, and her capital was moved from Toruń to Bydgoszcz (Bromberg).

Pomerania during World War II (1939–1945)

The dispute between Germany and Poland over rights to Free City of Danzig and land transit through the Polish Corridor (Pomerelia) to the exclave of East Prussia, came to ignite Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, which commenced on September 1, 1939.

The strategy of the Nazi government was to temporarily divide the Poland with Stalin's Soviet Union, formalized in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In the longer perspective, the Nazis aimed to expand the German "Lebensraum" in the East, to exploit soil, oil, minerals and workforce from the lands of the Slavs, turning them into a race of slaves destined to serve the German 1000 Year Reich and its master race. The fate of other peoples of these territories, notably Jews and Gypsies, was to be annihilation and deportation during the Holocaust.

Initially, the Heinz Guderian' tank corps was to pass through Pomerelia (Polish) on their way to East Prussia. The Guderian corps was to regroup there and attack Warsaw from the east.

The Polish opponent was the Army of Pomerania ("Armia Pomorze"). It was not quite decided, if the army was to protect the Free City of Danzig in case of local uprisings in support of the German invasion, or to defend the Polish corridor in case of a general war. The first aim suggested to put large units deep north into the Pomeranian voivodship.

However, they were unprepared for the unexpected attack from the Germans, and this contributed to the fact that the Army of Pomerania was quickly destroyed in the Battle of Tuchola Forest.

One of the famous episodes of the Invasion of Poland was the Krojanty charge, where a Polish cavalry unit had charged against German infantry. The machine guns of German armed reconnaissance vehicles then ended the cavalry charge. The episode was used in Nazi propaganda to underline unreasonable Polish attacks against Germans, and in Polish propaganda to claim brave Poles caused panic among German infantry.

After the initial battles in Pomerelia, the remains of the Polish Army of Pomerania withdrew to the southern bank of the Vistula river. After defending Toruń (Thorn) for several days, the army withdrew further south under pressure of the overall strained strategic situation, and took part in the main battle of Bzura.

On the borders of the Free City of Danzig, there were two fortified Polish points: the Polish post office in Danzig and the Polish ammunition store on the Westerplatte. Both were ordered to defend up to 12 hours in case of local uprising, until an expected relief by the Polish army.

The Polish Post office was held by 52 employees led by Konrad Guderski against the German Danzig police, Home Guard (Heimwehr) and SS, which after 14 hours of battle set the building on fire with flamethrowers. All but four postman who escaped either died in the battle or were executed by the Germans as partisans.

The Polish Military Transit Depot ("Polska Wojskowa Składnica Tranzytowa") on the Westerplatte repelled countless attacks by the Danzig Police, SS, the Kriegsmarine and the Wehrmacht. Finally, the Westerplatte crew surrendered on 7 September, having exhausted their supplies of food, water, ammunition and medicines.

The heaviest fighting in Pomerelia took place at the Hel peninsula Polish Navy base, which held out as one of the last centres of Polish military resistance until October 3, 1939 ("see Battle of Hel").

The Polish corridor and the Free City of Danzig were annexed by Nazi-Germany on October 8, 1939, and fused into Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen.

Even during the September campaign, security police set up first security police camps for Poles. Deportations to the General Government and Stutthof soon followed. Polish was strictly forbidden, even in church, by the German Roman Catholic Bishop Carlo Maria Splett of the Diocese of Danzig.

Some Poles and Kashubians of Pomerelia organized a guerrilla resistance group called "Pomeranian Griffin" ("TOW Gryf Pomorski").

In Farther Pomerania, during the first month of the Second World War no fighting took place as the Polish army was defeated on Polish soil and did not cross the border to Germany. In this province existed no Polish population which could have formed a Polish or Pan-Slavic resistance, as the Slavic Slovincians had been assimilated as well as the Slavic Kashubians. It is possible that Kashubians in this province formed links with the Polish resistance, but no evidence exists to confirm this. On German manors and bigger farms Polish prisoners of war partly replaced German workforce. In the cities, Polish forced-labourers were exploited by German companies and factories.

Pomerania suffered from British and American air-raids. The (later world heritage site) Stralsund suffered from raids aimed at the historical center as well as Anklam and Stettin. Roughly 60,000 German men from Pomerania died as soldiers in the Wehrmacht and SS until May, 1945. In March 1945, the German-Soviet Eastern Front reached central Pomerania (Köslin, Kolberg). The next months would bring the final end of 800 years of German settlement, language and culture in most of the province of Pomerania, notably its central and eastern parts.

After the Pomeranian Offensive, the Soviet Red Army reached the coast near Stettin and Köslin in a sideshow of the Battle of Berlin. The coastal area between Treptow an der Rega and Stolp was cut off by land from the west of Germany. The civilians and many German soldiers tried to flee by ship over the Baltic sea. The Hela peninsula and Hela town, northwest of Danzig, were defended by the German army until the end of the war on May, 9th, 1945. 900,000 people where evacuated by ship, mainly by the Kriegsmarine. 200,000 could flee to the more western provinces of Germany on land (most before March, 1945). Only 3% of those who fled per ship died on the Baltic sea due to Soviet torpedoes. On land, due to the harsh winter and due to Soviet air raids, the losses among civilians were much higher.

Many Germans in Pomerania, Danzig and West Prussia (Pomerelia) died during and shortly after the war due to air raids, but mainly afterwards due to Polish Armia Krajowa and Soviet Red Army atrocities committed in revenge against the German civilians.

The German civilian losses in all of the territories generally called "Pomerania" were estimated at:
*Danzig: 100,000 dead out of 404,000 inhabitants, living there in December 1944.
*German Province of Pomerania: 440,000 dead out of 1,895,000 inhabitants, living there in December 1944.
*West Prussia (Pomerelia): 70,000 of 310,000 inhabitants, living there in December 1944 (of which 100,000 were "settlers" transferred to this province by the nazi government). [Figures from: Die Vertreibung der deutschen Bevölkerung aus den Gebieten östlich der Oder-Neiße, volume 1, edition from 1984, page 7 E, 158 E, 159 E]

The Germans who had not already fled the Pomeranian towns and countryside were expelled by the Polish communist Government. Less than 50,000 ethnic Germans stayed in the entire region after 1948, and many of these repatriated to West Germany in the 1950s due to increasing discrimination and maltreatment by Poles. Some of the Kashubians in the formerly German Province of Pomerania, called Zachodniopomorski (Western Pomerania) by the Poles, were allowed to stay, if they could speak a bit of Polish.

The Polish Government brought settlers to Pomerania who took the houses of the expelled Germans. These settlers were mostly poor civilians and "asocial persons" from central Poland and also ethnic Poles from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. Also, many were ethnic Ukrainians, both Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox, from southeastern Poland whom the Communist Polish Government had forced to move to this western part of the state, to ensure no ethnic rebellion or clash could happen at the new, ethnically mixed southeastern Polish-Ukrainian border.

Border shift after World War II (1945)

After the World War II Polish-German border was moved to the west to the Oder-Neisse line. In case of Pomerania, the Free City of Danzig and most of the pre-war German province of Pomerania fell to Poland. The city of Stettin (Szczecin) and, located on Usedom island, Swinemünde (now Swinoujscie) were assigned to Poland, as the vessel route goes through Swinoujscie to Szczecin. In addition, the small strip of land 20 km west of Stettin/Szczecin, and a small part of the Usedom island also became part of Poland in order to facilitate the growth of the cities. (see also German exodus from Eastern Europe). The remainder of Pomerania west of Stettin/Szczecin and the Oder River was joined with Mecklenburg and later renamed Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania ("Mecklenburg-Vorpommern").

Modern times (after 1945)

Polish part of Pomerania

At the end of the WW II, Pomerania was completely devastated. In addition to destruction during the war, Soviets treated the property left in Polish Pomerania (Pomerelia, West Prussia) as war loot. Machines, animals and anything that could be packed were sent to Soviet Union. Additionally, the land contained unexploded landmines and explosives remained lying around the sites of major battles. The situation in German Western Pomerania (the former Prussian province of Pomerania), most of which was to be assigned to Poland shortly, was even more catastrophical.

Gangs of criminals, mostly from razed Warsaw, terrorised the population and used the cover of night to steal anything left behind by the Soviet Army. This period was known as 'Shaber'.

The Soviet Army was granted the military polygons and naval bases of Pomerania; the areas were excluded from Polish jurisdiction until 1992. Russia used the area to store nuclear warheads.

Despite these problems, life in mostly Slavic (Kashub and Polish) Eastern Pomerania (Pomerelia) soon returned to normality, especially after the final and brutal expulsion of German minorities from the countryside and the German city populations had taken place. Poland was ruled by a Communist regime and the policy of the government was focused on making the state a sole proprietor of means of production and points of trade. Polish victims of WW II who settled in Western Pomerania (the fromer Prussian province of Pomerania) were actually granted only long-term rent right to the land, forests and houses.

In what would later (1999) become the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, the entire (German) population however was expelled, causing the region to be totally emptied demographically in a quite violent way. Therefore, the Polish authorities quickly forced Ukrainian Poles and central Polish settlers to immigrate in the future West Pomeranian Voivodeship and polonize this Western Pomerania, which before 1945 had been virtually 100% ethnic German.

The situation changed for the worse in 1948, when all countries of the Eastern Bloc had to adopt Soviet economic principles. Private shops were banned and most farmers were forced to join agricultural cooperatives, managed by local communists.

In 1953 Poland was forced to accept the end of war reparations, which previously were solely placed on East Germany, while West Germany enjoyed the benefits of the Marshall Plan. In 1956 Poland was on the verge of a Soviet invasion, but the crisis was solved and the Polish government's communism developed a more human face with Władysław Gomułka as the head of politburo. Poland developed the ports of Pomerania and restored the destroyed shipyards of Gdańsk, Gdynia and Szczecin.

These were organised as two harbour complexes: one of Szczecin port with Swinoujscie avanport and the other was Gdańsk-Gdynia set of ports. Gdańsk and Gdynia, along with the spa of Sopot located between them, became one metropolitan area called Tricity and populated by more than 1,000,000 inhabitants.

In 1970, after putting an end to the uncertain border issue with West Germany under Willy Brandt, the massive unrest in the coastal cities marked the end of Władysław Gomułka's rule. The new leader, Edward Gierek, wanted to modernize the country by the wide use of western credits. Although the policy failed, Poland became one of the main world players in the shipyard industry. Polish open sea fishing scientists discovered new species of fish for the fishing industry. Unfortunately, countries with direct access to the open seas declared 200 mile (370 km) economic zones that finally put the end to the Polish fishing industry. Shipyards also came under growing pressure from the subsidized Japanese and Korean enterprises.

During 1970, Poland built also the Northern Harbour in rebuilt Gdańsk, which allowed the country independent access to oil from OPEC countries. The new oil refinery had been built in Gdańsk, and an oil pipeline connected both with main Polish pipeline in Płock.

In 1980, Polish Pomeranian coastal cities, notably Gdańsk, became the place of birth for the anticommunist movement, Solidarity. Gdańsk become the capital for the Solidarity trade union. In 1989 it was found that the border treaty with the Communist German Democratic Republic had one mistake, concerning the naval border. Subsequently, a new treaty was signed.

The West Pomeranian Voivodeship's rural countryside from 1945 until 1989 remained underdeveloped and often neglected, as the pre-1945 German structures of Prussian-style nobility leading and steering agricultural cultivation had been destroyed by expulsion and communism.

German part of Pomerania

The part of Pomerania west of the Oder Neisse line was attached to Mecklenburg by a SMAD order of 1946 to form the Land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This Land was renamed "Mecklenburg" in 1947, became a part of East Germany ("GDR") in 1949 and was dissolved by the GDR government in 1952. The area of Western Pomerania was split into the eastern Kreis districts of the newly established "Bezirk" administrative GDR subdivisions "Bezirk Rostock" and "Bezirk Neubrandenburg", Gartz (Oder) joined "Bezirk Frankfurt (Oder)". The Western Pomeranian areas retained their agricultural character, yet the farms were reorgainzed by a land reform, splitting the large estates into small units distributed to land-less peasants and expellees from the former eastern territories of Germany who by then made up for about 40% of the population. The peasants were then forcibly grouped into Communist-style LPG units. The East German policy of industrialization led to the establishement of a nuclear power plant near Greifswald and the development of the Stralsund Volkswerft shipyard as well as the Sassnitz ferry terminal directly linking Western Pomerania to the Soviet Union via Klaipeda. In 1990, after the GDR regime was overthrown by the peaceful Wende revolution, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was reconstituted and joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Since then, the region suffers from a population drain as mostly young people migrate to the West due to high unemployment rates.

Historical administrative divisions

Eastern Pomerania

*Removal of Free City of Danzig, left bank of Vistula river, and Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen
*Pomeranian Voivodeship (1920-1938)
*Bydgoszcz county added (1938)
*Pomeranian Voivodeship (1938-1939)
*Free City of Danzig added through annexation
*Danzig-Westpreussen (1939-1945)
*Gdańsk Voivodeship (1945-1998)
*additions: part of Slupsk Voivodeship, Elblag Voivodeship and Chojnice County from Bydgoszcz Voivodeship
*Pomeranian Voivodeship (from 1998)


The Pomeranian State Museum in Greifswald, designated to the history of Pomerania, has a variety of archeological findings and artefacts to the different periods covered in this article.

See also

* History of Gdańsk
* History of Szczecin
* Dukes of Pomerania
* House of Pomerania
* Pommersch
* West Prussia
* Mecklenburg-Vorpommern


* [http://www.genemaas.net/Pommern.htm Pomerania]
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* Herrick, Linda, & Wendy Uncapher, "Pomerania - Atlantic Bridge to Germany", Origins, Janesville, WI, U.S.A., 2005.


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