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Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919-1989

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Recovered Territory

A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919-1989

Peter Polak-Springer

302 pages, 31 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-887-6 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (October 2015)

ISBN  978-1-78533-814-4 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (June 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78238-888-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“This welcome study, deeply researched in archival and printed sources and in secondary literature, examines cultural and political conflict in the region of Upper Silesia, primarily between 1922 and 1953… His argument is subtle, seeking successfully to give equal attention to each side in this period, but also to show the interaction between them… Polak-Springer presents details and conclusions that add greatly to understanding the history of this famously disputed region, and contribute powerfully to understanding disputed lands and cultures in other times and places. Numerous illustrations and good maps effectively reinforce the author's points… Highly recommended.” • Choice

Recovered Territory is a valuable read for anyone seeking to understand how borderland cultures develop and change over time due to warfare, ethnic cleansing, and regime changes. Borderland scholars of Central Europe and elsewhere could benefit greatly from Polak-Springer’s transnational approach to a regional culture.” • H-Net

“Polak-Springer’s case study of Upper Silesia is distinguished by his consistently transnational approach, which cleverly highlights the unexpected overlaps (and parallel shortcomings) of irredentists on both the German and Polish sides.” • German History

Recovered Territory makes a substantial contribution to the existing literature. With its focus on Upper Silesia, [it] provides a good entrée for nonspecialists into the complexities of this history, even as the sophistication of Polak-Springer’s argument will be of great interest to specialists.” • Journal of Modern History

“…a stimulating, well-informed book that contains many precise observations and statements.” • Journal of East Central European Studies

“Polak-Springer is an excellent historian whose mastery of Polish and German primary and secondary sources is perhaps unequaled, and this book will be of interest to historians working in a variety of fields.” • American Historical Review

“The strength of the book lays in its well-defined thesis, a coherent methodological framework, and rich factual narrative. Written in clear language and bereft of jargon, it is easy to follow and therefore, would inspire interest not only among academics, but also among lay readers… Based on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, Recovered Territory shows the benefits of a cultural approach to political history, analyzing the interaction between official policies and popular mindsets.” • Slavic Review

“While Polak-Springer shows the entangled histories of German and Polish nationalism and emphasizes the importance of national indifference in Upper Silesia, his most significant contribution lies in the continuities he draws from the 1920s to the early 1950s… he has written a fine book based on extensive research in German and Polish archives.” • Central European History

“With it tight focus on the thirty-odd years in which Upper Silesia experienced an especially dramatic series of regime changes, Recovered Territories might be recommended as the best single introduction to the region’s recent history and its implications for our understanding of nationalization in 20th-century Europe. In addition to being an impressive piece of research, the book is also clearly written and engagingly presented, with maps providing crucial orientation and a large number of images illuminating the discussion of various landmarks.” • Sehepunkte

“If the twentieth century was the century of nationalism, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, it was not, as Peter Polak-Springer persuasively argues, the century of successful nationalization. Writing about a critical flashpoint of nationalist conflict in the first half of the twentieth century—Upper Silesia—Polak-Springer analyzes the creative strategies employed by German and Polish nationalists under a variety of regimes to persuade locals and the outside world that the region was indeed German or Polish. Ironically, as Polak-Springer demonstrates, a century of such activism—and often violence—has repeatedly recreated regional, situational, and non-national forms of identification among Upper Silesians themselves.” • Pieter Judson, European University Institute, Florence

“This book takes an innovative approach, utilizing types of sources which have not been employed by other historians studying the German-Polish industrial borderland of Upper Silesia in this period. It provides a new perspective on the history of this region in the interwar and wartime periods, and a lot of the analysis is very impressive.” • Hugo Service, University of York

“Polak-Springer is the first in the English language to have analyzed the ethnicities of Upper Silesia and thereby brought to light just how nuanced the ethnic issues could be in east-central Europe, almost all with a dollop of prejudice thrown in. The author has added to our understanding of this region and done so in a remarkably even-handed manner.” • Sebastian Siebel-Achenbach, University of Waterloo


Upper Silesia, one of Central Europe’s most important industrial borderlands, was at the center of heated conflict between Germany and Poland and experienced annexations and border re-drawings in 1922, 1939, and 1945. This transnational history examines these episodes of territorial re-nationalization and their cumulative impacts on the region and nations involved, as well as their use by the Nazi and postwar communist regimes to legitimate violent ethnic cleansing. In their interaction with—and mutual influence on—one another, political and cultural actors from both nations developed a transnational culture of territorial rivalry. Architecture, spaces of memory, films, museums, folklore, language policy, mass rallies, and archeological digs were some of the means they used to give the borderland a “German”/“Polish” face. Representative of the wider politics of twentieth-century Europe, the situation in Upper Silesia played a critical role in the making of history’s most violent and uprooting eras, 1939–1950.

Peter Polak-Springer is an assistant professor of modern and contemporary history at Qatar University. His major interests are in cultural, transnational, and comparative history, as well as borderlands, nationalism, and the 20th century. His more recent research focuses on nationalism after World War I in Central Europe and the Middle East.

Subject: History: 20th Century to PresentCultural Studies (General)
Area: EuropeGermanyCentral/Eastern Europe


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