Today marks the 102nd anniversary of the Third Silesian Uprising that erupted on the night of May 2 to 3 in 1921. The two-month-long battle resulted in a significant gain for Poland, with the acquisition of a larger portion of Upper Silesia along with its mines, smelters and other industries. It was not until the summer of 1922 that the Polish Army officially took over control of the newly acquired territory.
Following the failure of the First Uprising in August 1919, Allied forces were deployed to Silesia to mitigate the German aggression towards the Polish population and their affiliated organizations. German troops were ordered to withdraw from the region by October of that year.
As early as March 1921, Polish authorities took measures to bolster border garrisons and transfer arms to Upper Silesia. A telegraph company also secretly crossed the border to establish communication in anticipation of another uprising. Germany responded by expanding the Selbstschutz, a paramilitary organization. The French army intervened by disbanding some of the group’s aspiring troops. An interview proved crucial for both sides. On the night of April 29-30, the Polish Command received intelligence that the country’s standing in the Internally Plebiscite Commission was weakening.
As April drew to a close, Upper Silesia was engulfed in another wave of strikes, heightening social tensions in the region. With the Internally Plebiscite Commission also reporting concerning information, and the risk of spontaneous clashes looming, Wojciech Korfanty called for a gathering of political and military leaders in Bytom. It was during this meeting that the decision was made to launch an uprising.
The Polish miners and workers commenced a general strike on May 2nd. On that same day, Lieutenant Colonel Maciej Miłżyński, also known as Nowina-Doliwa, of the Polish Military Organization (POW), delivered the decision to launch the uprising to Warsaw.
The uprising was launched on the night of May 2-3, with Korfanty declaring himself the dictator of the movement. In a message to his compatriots on May 3rd, he affirmed that victory would be attained at any expense, and that no force in the world could ever again subject them to German oppression.
The Uprising was initiated by taking control of the telephone and telegraph networks, while sapper branches destroyed most of the bridges along the Upper Silesian border with Germany. Unfortunately, many soldiers who participated in these operations were unable to join the remaining insurgent forces, and either lost their lives in skirmishes or were executed by the German forces.
In mid-June, the Allied army extended their occupation to additional locations, leading to a more even distribution of forces among the opposing parties. On June 16th, the Polish Command declared a cessation of hostilities by issuing an official order.
At the same time, Polish authorities responded: “Our suffering will end, and the Polish Silesia liberated from the German yoke will be able to work on its own development and for the good of the great, now United homeland.”
The process of gaining control over the allocated area culminated on July 16th, 1922, with the signing of the Upper Silesia Act of Accession in Katowice. This document marked a symbolic end to the acquisition of control over the region.
The outcome of the battle for Silesia was celebrated and widely embraced by the majority of the population. During the commemorations, resolutions were adopted that ensured the return of the remainder of Upper Silesia to Poland in the coming centuries.