Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Oder-Neisse line
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Oder-Neisse line

The Oder-Neisse line (German Oder-Neiße-Grenze, Polish Granica na Odrze i Nysie Łużyckiej) is the current border between Germany and Poland. The line consists mostly of the rivers Oder/Odra and Neisse/Nysa Łuzycka;, leaving the city of Szczecin/Stettin, located on both banks of the Oder, in Poland.

Table of contents
1 History of the line
2 The question of Polish borders during World War II
3 Allies decide Polish border
4 Recognition of the fact of the border by Germany
5 See Also
6 External Link

History of the line

The starting point was the internationally recognized Polish-German border 1938.

In 1939, Nazi Germany proposed to shift Poland's borders back to the East, Germany was to get Free City of Danzig (Freie Stadt Danzig).

The reward was to be either Lithuania or Western Ukraine with the port in Odessa, to be determined by the Polish authorities. These areas were historically a part of Poland, but had been claimed by the Russians. Having a British guarantee of protection, the Polish government refused.

The next chapter in the history of Poland's borders during WWII happened on August 23, 1939, when Poland was divided in Non-Aggression Treaty between Germany and Soviet Union (see Nazi-Soviet pact). The very general map suggested, that the border between those countries should go from the source of the San river to the mouth, then along Vistula River, dividing Warsaw in 2 parts, and then with Narew river to the border of East Prussia. Lithuania was to be assigned to Germany, while Latvia, Estonia and Finland would be granted to the Soviet Union.

The question of Polish borders during World War II

Nazi Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked on September 17. On September 28 both aggressive powers signed yet another border treaty. Lithuania was to be transferred to Soviet Union in exchange for the Lublin region (between the San, Vistula, Bug and Narew rivers). In addition, since the Narew River never actually crossed the border of East Prussia, the Pisa River was to join the Narew line and East Prussia. East Prussia was also enlarged by the Suwalki region.

After the invasion was concluded, the German strip had an area of 188,000 km² with 21.5 million people, while Soviets got 201,000 km² and 13.5 million population.

The German-Soviet became Germany control border, while in October 1939, Germany unilaterally re-annexed 94,000 km² that were added to respective Reichgaus of Germany.

The annexation line was further to the East then 1914 German border.

The policies applied on the annexed territories are described in World War II atrocities in Poland.

In 1941 after German invasion of Soviet Union, Bezirk Bialystok (district of Bialystok), which included the Bialystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Lomza, Sokolka, Volkovysk, and Grodno counties – equivalent to Bialystok Voivodship and was "attached" (not incorporated) to East Prussia.

In January 1944 the Soviet Army marched back into Polish territory. Stalin was determined not to give back anything that had been gained due to his agreement with the Nazis. The ultimate goal of Stalin was to move the Polish eastern border to the Curzon line and the western border to the Oder-Neisse line.

The new communist government of Poland was established by Stalin in July 1944. Stalin supported his new satellite state with the promise that Poland would be compensated for the loss of Eastern Poland by the acquisition of some areas of the defeated Germany.

Allies decide Polish border

The decision to move Poland's western boundary westwards was made by the Allies at the Yalta Conference, without involvement of the Polish side, shortly before the end of World War II. The precise location of the border was left open; the western Allies also accepted in general the principle of the Oder-Neisse line as the future western border of Poland and of population transfer as the way to prevent future border disputes. The open question was whether it should be the eastern or western Neisse and if it should include Stettin or not.

Originally Germany was to keep Stettin and the Poles were to get East Prussia with Königsberg, but after Stalin decided he needed Königsberg as a year round warm-water port, the Poles were given Stettin as compensation. The Poles also insisted on keeping Lwow in Galicia, but Stalin refused and offered Lower Silesia with Wroclaw (then named Breslau) instead. (Incidentally many people from Lviv were later moved to Wroclaw and to Gdansk).

At the Potsdam Conference the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union decided to put the German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line (by communist propaganda in Poland referred to as "Western Territories" or "Regained Territories") under Polish administrative control. It was then expected that a final peace treaty would follow quickly and would either confirm the border or determine the exact border; it was also agreed that Germans remaining in Poland should be transferred to Germany (German expulsions).

The final agreements compensated Poland for 187,000 km² located east of the Curzon line with 112,000 km² of former German territories. The northern part of East Prussia were directly annexed by Stalin.

One of the reasons for the final version of the border line was the fact that it was possibly the shortest possible border between Poland and Germany. It is only 472 km in length, because it stretched from the northernmost point of the Czech Republic to one of the southernmost points of the Baltic Sea in the Oder river estuary. The previous border had been one of the longest borders in Europe, comprising more than 1400 km.

Recognition of the fact of the border by Germany

The communist government of the Soviet satellite state of East Germany signed a treaty with Poland in 1950 recognizing the Oder-Neisse line as a "border of friendship". Since Poland had only a border with East Germany, this made the border effectively into existence. The Polish - East German border was officially called "Border of Peace and Friendship".

In the new treaty signed in 1989 between Poland and East Germany, the missing sea border has been drawn.

In 1952, recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as a permanent boundary was one of the conditions for the Soviet Union to agree to a reunified Germany. The reunification was rejected by West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer for several reasons.

In West Germany the recognition of the line as permanent was initially regarded as unacceptable. In fact, West Germany as part of the Hallstein Doctrine did not recognize either Poland or East Germany. The West German attitude changed with the policy of Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt; in 1970 West Germany signed treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union recognizing the Oder-Neisse line as a factual border of Poland, thus making family visits by the displaced eastern Germans to their former homelands possible. On November 14, 1990 as a prerequisite for the unification with East Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany amended its constitution, the Basic Law, to remove the article concerning unification of pre-war German areas, as a further sign of recognition of the line. The 1991 Polish-German border agreement finalized the Oder-Neisse line as the Polish-German border.

Relations between Poland and Germany are good, and there are no fears within Poland that Germany would annex the land east of the Oder-Neisse line.

See Also

External Link

An East German pamphlet for propagandists entitled "Why is the Oder-Neiße Line a Peace Border?"