The Dispute over Upper Silesia, 1921

What was the dispute in Upper Silesia?
The League became involved when there was a dispute between Germany and Poland in 1921 over Upper Silesia.
Where is Upper Silesia?
Upper Silesia was an industrial area on the border between Germany and Poland.
Who was involved in the dispute over Upper Silesia?
Poland and Germany disputed the territory in 1921. Upper Silesia was awarded to Poland in the Treaty of Versailles, but most of the region's population was German.
Why was there a dispute between Germany and Poland over Upper Silesia?
Upper Silesia was disputed by Poland and Germany for a number of reasons including:
  • As a result of the Paris Peace Settlement, the boundaries of many countries were redrawn.
  • Upper Silesia was on the border of Germany and Poland and both nationalities lived there, which caused conflict.
  • It was also an important area for iron and steel production. Both countries wanted to make a claim on this.
What were the key events in the dispute between Germany and Poland over Upper Silesia?
There were a number of key events in the Upper Silesia crisis:
  • In 1921 a plebiscite was organised by the League to decide whether Upper Silesia would become German or Polish territory. Britain and France sent troops to ensure the vote was democratic.
  • Germany won 60% of the votes, but Poland argued that many of those that voted for Germany did not live in Upper Silesia.
  • The League chose to split the area into regions based on the vote. Poland received many of the industrial areas, while Germany received the rural areas.
  • At first this was accepted by both Poland and Germany.
  • However, the final settlement was considered unfair by the Polish, who argued that Poland had half the population of Upper Silesia but only one third of the land.
  • Germany claimed it had lost three quarters of the coal mines under the agreement.
  • Germany complained to the League and was awarded the right to import coal at a discounted rate.
How did the League react to the dispute over Upper Silesia?
The League's actions included a plebiscite, investigations, consultation and measures to help improve the economic outlook of Poland and Germany.
What was the result of the dispute over Upper Silesia?
Both sides accepted the arrangements the League made regarding Upper Silesia, but they ended in 1925 and relations between Poland and Germany deteriorated.
What was significant about the dispute over Upper Silesia?
The dispute is a significant case study of success for the League. Both countries protested but were willing to accept the League's judgement, and therefore were able to find an acceptable compromise.
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