The Silesian Uprisings and Plebiscite

The Silesian Uprisings and Plebiscite

After World War I, Silesia remained outside the borders of the Republic of Poland. As per the decision issued during the peace conference, a plebiscite was to be held, the result of which was supposed to determine whether Upper Silesia would belong to Poland or Germany.

The arrests of Polish activists and the massacre in Mysłowice, where German soldiers opened fire on the crowd, became the direct cause of the first uprising. The battles began on 17 August, but the rebels did not have enough weapons and ammunition to achieve any kind of success. After just a week, the commander of the Polish Military Organization, Alfons Zgrzebniok (the inhabitant of Dziergowice), issued the order to end the uprising.

On 11 February 1920, the Inter-Allied Ruling and Plebiscite Commission of Upper Silesia began to function in Opole. British, French, and Italian military units in the number of 26,000 soldiers were sent there to be at the Commission’s disposal. While the Allies did force the Germans to retreat their regular military units from Silesia, 30 thousand of German police officers remained there, who did everything to make the Poles’ lives miserable and to cause pre-plebiscite agitation. This resulted in many tensions, which, in turn, caused the outbreak of another uprising in August 1920. This time, success was achieved – the Allies dissolved the German police and formed new police, which was half-German and half-Polish.

The plebiscite that took place on 20 March 1921 did not give a unanimous result. 500 thousand of voters favored Poland, whereas 700 thousand voters chose Germany. The division of Silesia suggested by the Allies was unacceptable to the Polish party, and therefore, on 3 May 1921, the Third Silesian Uprising broke out.

Wojciech Korfanty became the commandant of the uprising. In a short time, the rebels seized the terrains on the right bank of the Odra River, from Opawa to Gogolin (including the harbor in Koźle, as well as Kędzierzyn, and Kłodnica) and the areas situated northeast from Ozimek, Dobrodzień, and Olesno.

Soon, the Germans brought over 40 thousand selected soldiers to Silesia and began the counterattack. The most severe battles were fought in the region of Kędzierzyn, the harbor in Koźle, Dobrodzień, and, most notably, around St. Anne’s Mountain. In the second half of May, the Germans took the initiative by reclaiming St. Anne’s Mountain and Kędzierzyn and its adjacent areas from the hands of the rebels. At the insistence of the Allies and the Polish government, the uprising was brought to an end, and the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris decided to divide Silesia in a way that would be more beneficial for Poland.  Due to the Allies’ decision, the regions of Opole, and therefore, the Koźle Region as well, were given to the Germans.


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