A language that forgot itself (Essay on the curious non-existence of German as a recognized minority language in today’s Poland)

Tomasz Kamusella


A language that forgot itself  (Essay on the curious non-existence of German as a recognized minority language in today’s Poland)

This essay draws on my almost three decades worth of research on the multiethnic and multilingual history of Upper Silesia during the last two centuries, when various ethnolinguistic nationalisms have radically altered the ethnic, political, demographic and linguistic shape of the region. I focus on the German minority that was recognized in Poland in the early 1990s. This recognition was extended to the German language. However, though in official statistics there are hundreds of schools with German, and bilingual signage amply dots the Upper Silesian landscape, neither in the region nor elsewhere in Poland is there a single, however small, locality where German would be the language of everyday communication. With this essay I attempt to explicate this irony of official recognition on the one hand, and the tacitly enforced non-existence on the ground, on the other hand.


ethnolinguistic nationalism; German speech community in post-1945 Poland; minority language rights; Upper Silesia

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