ALLENSTEIN (OLSZTYN)



Allenstein (Olsztyn) on Poland Map

Olsztyn (Allenstein) is a city in Northeastern Poland, on the River Lyna.


Allenstein was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772, during the First Partition of Poland. A Prussian census recorded a population of 1,770 people, predominantly farmers, in Allenstein, which was administered within the Province of East Prussia. It was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 after his victories over the Prussian Army at Jena and Auerstedt. The German language newspaper "Allensteiner Zeitung" was first published in 1841. The town hospital was founded in 1867.


Allenstein Plebiscite Allied Comission Area

Allenstein became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. Two years later the city was connected by railway to Thorn (Toruń). Its first Polish language newspaper, "Gazeta Olsztyńska", was founded in 1886. Allenstein's infrastructure developed rapidly: gas was installed in 1890; telephones in 1892; public water supply in 1898 and electricity in 1907. The city became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein, a government administrative region in East Prussia, in 1905. From 1818–1910 the city was administered within the East Prussia Allenstein District, after which it became an independent city.


Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, troops of the Russian Empire captured Allenstein in 1914, but it was recovered by the Imperial German Army. In 1920, during the East Prussian plebiscite, Allenstein voted to remain in German East Prussia instead of becoming part of the Second Polish Republic. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Poles and Jews in Allenstein were increasingly persecuted. In 1935 the Wehrmacht made the city the seat of the Allenstein Militärische Bereich. It was the home of the 11th Infantry Division, the 11th Artillery Regiment, and the 217th Infantry Division.


On 12 October 1939, after the invasion of Poland, the beginning of World War II, the Wehrmacht established an Area Headquarters that controlled the sub-areas of Allenstein, Lötzen (Giżycko) and Zichenau (Ciechanów). At the beginning of 1939, members of the Polish-speaking minority, especially members of the Union of Poles in Germany, were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Allenstein was plundered and burnt by the invading Soviet Red Army on 22 January 1945, as the Eastern Front reached the city. Allenstein's German population evacuated the region or were subsequently expelled. On 2 August 1945, the city was placed under Polish administration according to the Potsdam Agreement and officially renamed to the traditional Polish Olsztyn.



The Allenstein Plebiscite

Deutsch House at Olsztyn/Allenstein

The East Prussia(n) plebiscite, also known as the Allenstein and Marienwerder plebiscite or Warmia, Masuria and Powiśle plebiscite, was a plebiscite for self-determination of the regions Warmia (Ermland), Masuria (Mazury, Masuren) and Powisle, which had been parts of East Prussia and West Prussia, in accordance with Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles.


The President of and British Commissioner on the Inter-Allied Administrative and Plebiscite Commission for Allenstein was Mr. Ernest Rennie; French Commissioner was Mr. Couget; the Marquis Fracassi, a Senator, for Italy and Mr. Marumo for Japan.


Baron Wilhelm von Gayl

To the German Government was permitted, under the Protocol terms, to attach a delegate and Baron Wilhelm von Gayl was sent, formerly in the service of the Interior Ministry and lately on the Colonization Committee.


The local police forces were placed under the control of two British officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Bennet and Major David Deevis. There was also present a battalion from the Royal Irish Regiment and an Italian regiment stationed at Lyck (Ełk).


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."


The regular German army had previously left the area. Civil and municipal administration was continued under the existing German authorities who were responsible to the Commission.


Prepared during early 1920, the plebiscite took place on 11 July 1920. The majority of voters selected East Prussia over Poland (over 97% in Allenstein (Olsztyn) and 92% in Marienwerder (Kwidzyn); most of the territories in question thus remained in the Free State of Prussia, and therefore, in Germany.


Bibliography: Article based on Wikipedia