The Province of Silesia (German: Provinz Schlesien; Polish: Prowincja Śląska; Silesian: Prowincyjŏ Ślōnskŏ) was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919. The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1742 and established as an official province in 1815, then became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1 April 1938 to 27 January 1941 as a province of Nazi Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

Province of Silesia
Provinz Schlesien
Province of Prussia

Silesia Province (red) within Prussia (yellow),
within the German Empire, 1871
 • Coordinates51°7′N 17°2′E / 51.117°N 17.033°E / 51.117; 17.033
• Established
• Disestablished
• Briefly re-established
Political subdivisionsBreslau
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Prussian Silesia
Upper Lusatia
Province of Lower Silesia
Province of Upper Silesia
Today part ofGermany
Czech Republic

Breslau (present-day Wrocław, Poland) was the provincial capital.


Crown land of Silesia until 1742 (shaded in cyan) and Silesia Province from 1825 (outlined in red), superimposed on modern international borders

The territory on both sides of the Oder river formed the southeastern part of the Prussian kingdom. It comprised the bulk of the former Bohemian crown land of Upper and Lower Silesia as well as the adjacent County of Kladsko, which the Prussian King Frederick the Great had all conquered from the Austrian Habsburg monarchy under Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century Silesian Wars. It furthermore included the northeastern part of Upper Lusatia around Görlitz and Lauban (Lubań), ceded to Prussia by the Kingdom of Saxony according to the resolutions of the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The province bordered on the Prussian heartland of Brandenburg (including the newly acquired lands of Lower Lusatia) in the northwest, and on the Grand Duchy of Posen (Province of Posen from 1848) in the north, i.e. the Greater Polish lands that before the 18th century Partitions of Poland had belonged to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the northeast, Upper Silesia bordered on Congress Poland, i.e. the Kingdom of Poland which had been reconstituted from the Duchy of Warsaw and was made up of former parts of the Prussian and Austrian partitions; Congress Poland was in a personal union with the Russian Empire until 1867 when it was formally integrated as the Vistula Land. In the east lay the Austrian share, the Lesser Polish Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria with the Free City of Kraków (until 1846), and in the south the remaining Bohemian crown lands of Austrian Silesia, Moravia and Bohemia proper. The incorporated Upper Lusatian strip of land in the west touched the remaining territory of the Saxon kingdom and in the furthest west the Prussian Province of Saxony.



Prussian Silesia, 1742–1815


The coronation of Maria Theresa as queen regnant of the Kingdom of Bohemia immediately triggered an invasion of the region of Silesia by King Frederick the Great of Prussia, thereby starting the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). By the end of the First Silesian War in 1742, the Prussian forces had conquered almost all of the Habsburg crown land in Silesia, while according to the peace treaties of Breslau and Berlin, only some smaller parts in the extreme southeast, like the Duchy of Cieszyn as well as the southern parts of the duchies of Troppau and Nysa, remained possessions of the Habsburg monarchy as Austrian Silesia. Attempts by Maria Theresa to regain the crown land in the Second Silesian War (1744–1745) failed and she ultimately had to relinquish her claims over Silesia by the Treaty of Dresden.

The Third Silesian War (1756–1763), a theatre of the Seven Years' War, once again confirmed Prussian control over most of Silesia, and due to its predominantly Protestant population especially in Lower Silesia, it became one of the most loyal territories of the House of Hohenzollern. When the Prussian territories were reorganized upon the Congress of Vienna, the Province of Silesia was created out of the territories acquired by Prussia in the Silesian Wars, as well as those Upper Lusatian territories which King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony had to relinquish due to his indecisive attitude in the Napoleonic Wars. As the lands had been part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806, Silesia was among the western Prussian provinces that lay within the borders of the German Confederation.

Province of Silesia


Kingdom of Prussia and German Empire

Administrative map of the Province of Silesia, 1905

In 1815, after the Napoleonic wars, Prussian Silesia was formally reorganized into the Province of Silesia. The character of the province's eastern third, Upper Silesia, had been much lesser shaped by the medieval German Ostsiedlung. According to the census of 1905, about three-quarters of the Silesian inhabitants were German–speaking, while a majority of the population to the east of the Oder river spoke Polish (including Silesian and Lach dialects). The indigenous Polish and Sorbian population was subjected to Germanisation policies. Sorbian-language Lutheran preparations for Confirmation were prohibited with the ban lifted only after World War I.[1] Because of the extended iron ore and black coal deposits of the Upper Silesian Coal Basin, there was considerable industrialization and urbanization in Upper Silesia and many people from neighbouring Posen and Congress Poland immigrated at that time. In 1871, Silesia became part of the German Empire as a province of Prussia following the unification of Germany. The Upper Silesian Industrial Region was the second largest industrial agglomeration of the German Empire after the Ruhr area. Over decades the mainly Catholic Upper Silesian citizens in majority voted for the German Centre Party, while the Lower Silesian constituencies were dominated by the Free-minded Party and the Social Democrats. Ethnic tensions rose on the eve of World War I, with politicians like Wojciech Korfanty separating from the Centre Party and giving utterance to distinct Polish interests.

Weimar Republic

Market Square in Breslau (Wrocław), 1890–1900

In 1919, a year after the war ended, the parts of Silesia remaining in Weimar Germany were re-organized into the two provinces of Lower Silesia (Niederschlesien) and Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien, the former Regierungsbezirk Oppeln). After three Silesian Uprisings and the 1921 Upper Silesia plebiscite, the East Upper Silesian part of the province around the industrial city of Katowice was transferred to the Second Polish Republic and incorporated into the Silesian Voivodeship in 1922. Further, in 1920 the Hlučín Region was ceded to Czechoslovakia according to the Treaty of Versailles.

Division after WWI
Division of Prussian Silesia between Weimar Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia after World War I
Division of: Area in 1910 in km2 Share of territory Population in 1910 After WW1 part of: Notes
Lower Silesia 27,105 km2 [2] 100% 3.017.981 Divided between:
to Poland 527 km2 [3][4] 2% 1% Poznań Voivodeship

(Niederschlesiens Ostmark[5])

[Note 1]
to Germany 26,578 km2 98% 99% Province of Lower Silesia
Upper Silesia 13,230 km2 [2] 100% 2.207.981 Divided between:
to Poland 3,225 km2 [6] 25% 41% [6] Silesian Voivodeship [Note 2]
to Czechoslovakia 325 km2 [6] 2% 2% [6] Hlučín Region
to Germany 9,680 km2 [6] 73% 57% [6] Province of Upper Silesia

Nazi Germany

Plaque in Opole commemorating deportations of Poles to concentration camps in 1939

On 1 April 1938 the Province of Silesia was re-established by Nazi Germany by uniting the existing Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia provinces. Nazi German persecution of Poles in the province intensified in 1938-1939 with expulsions of Polish activists, distributors of Polish press, priests, craftsmen, farmers, students etc., attacks on Polish cultural centers, banks, enterprises, schools, churches and houses, seizure of Polish libraries, confiscations of Polish press, arrests and deportations of Polish activists to concentration camps and even assassinations.[8] In 1938, Nazi authorities forced the Lutheran Church not to staff bilingual German-Sorbian parishes with new Sorbian preachers, and the Bund Deutscher Osten demanded a ban on Sorbian church masses, but only a limit of two such masses per month was imposed.[9] There were instances of expulsions of Sorbian pastors.[9]

During the German invasion of Poland, which started World War II in September 1939, Gestapo carried out mass arrests of Polish activists, teachers, journalists, entrepreneurs, library directors and chairmen of local branches of the "Sokół" Polish Gymnastic Society, shut down Polish newspapers and seized the funds of Polish banks from the pre-war German Province of Silesia.[10] The arrested Poles were deported to concentration camps.[11] Polish church services were abolished, with the last Polish service held in the Saint Martin church in Wrocław on 17 September 1939.[12] Soon the border was extended eastwards when parts of Polish Silesia were annexed into the province. In the annexed pre-war Polish part the occupiers conducted the genocidal Intelligenzaktion campaign and expulsions of Poles.

The Germans also established the Gross-Rosen concentration camp and multiple prisoner-of-war camps with numerous forced labour subcamps in the region, including Stalag VIII-A, Stalag VIII-B, Stalag VIII-C, Stalag VIII-E, Oflag VIII-A, Oflag VIII-B, Oflag VIII-C, Oflag VIII-F, for Polish POWs and civilians, and French, Belgian, Dutch and later also other Allied POWs.[13]

On 27 January 1941, during World War II, the province of Silesia was divided again by reverting into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.[citation needed]


Language situation in the Province of Silesia (1905).

According to the Prussian census of 1890, the province of Silesia had a population of 4,224,458, of which 3,105,843 (73.52%) spoke German, 973,596 (23.05%) spoke Polish, 68,781 (1.63%) spoke Czech, 26,257 (0.62%) spoke Sorbian and 48,045 (1.14%) identified as bilingual.[14]

Regierungsbezirk Liegnitz - 1,047,405 (96.41% German, 2.51% Sorbian, 0.53% Polish, 0.11% Czech, 0.38% bilingual).

Regierungsbezirk Breslau - 1,599,322 (95.63% German, 3.08% Polish, 0.59% Czech, 0.64% bilingual).

Regierungsbezirk Oppeln - 1,577,731 (58.23% Polish, 35.91% German, 3.69% Czech, 2.14% bilingual).



Regierungsbezirk Breslau

  1. Breslau
  2. Brieg (from 1907)
  3. Schweidnitz
  • Rural districts (Landkreise)
  1. Breslau
  2. Brieg
  3. Frankenstein
  4. Glatz (former County of Kladsko)
  5. Groß Wartenberg
  6. Guhrau
  7. Habelschwerdt (former County of Kladsko)
  8. Militsch
  9. Münsterberg
  10. Namslau
  11. Neumarkt
  12. Neurode (former County of Kladsko)
  13. Nimptsch
  14. Oels
  15. Ohlau
  16. Reichenbach
  17. Schweidnitz
  18. Steinau
  19. Strehlen
  20. Striegau
  21. Trebnitz
  22. Waldenburg
  23. Wohlau

Regierungsbezirk Liegnitz

  1. Görlitz
  2. Liegnitz
  • Rural districts (Landkreise)
  1. Bolkenhain
  2. Bunzlau
  3. Freystadt
  4. Glogau
  5. Goldberg
  6. Görlitz (former Saxon Upper Lusatia)
  7. Grünberg
  8. Hirschberg
  9. Hoyerswerda (former Saxon Upper Lusatia)
  10. Jauer
  11. Landeshut
  12. Lauban (former Saxon Upper Lusatia)
  13. Liegnitz
  14. Löwenberg
  15. Lüben
  16. Rothenburg (former Saxon Upper Lusatia)
  17. Sagan
  18. Schönau
  19. Sprottau

Regierungsbezirk Oppeln

  1. Beuthen
  2. Gleiwitz
  3. Kattowitz
  4. Königshütte
  5. Oppeln
  6. Ratibor (from 1904)
  • Rural districts (Landkreise)
  1. Beuthen
  2. Cosel
  3. Falkenberg
  4. Groß Strehlitz
  5. Grottkau
  6. Zabrze (from 1915: Hindenburg)
  7. Kattowitz
  8. Kreuzburg
  9. Leobschütz
  10. Lublinitz
  11. Neiße
  12. Neustadt
  13. Oppeln
  14. Pleß
  15. Ratibor
  16. Rosenberg
  17. Rybnik
  18. Tarnowitz
  19. TostGleiwitz


  1. ^ Pjech, Edmund (2008). "Życie kościelne ewangelickich Serbołużyczan w ramach wrocławskiego Konsystorza Ewangelickiego (1918–1945)". Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka (in Polish). LXIII (1). Wrocław: 60. ISSN 0037-7511.
  2. ^ a b "Gemeindeverzeichnis Deutschland: Schlesien".
  3. ^ a b "Rocznik statystyki Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej 1920/21". Rocznik Statystyki Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (in Polish and French). I. Warsaw: Główny Urząd Statystyczny: 56–62. 1921.
  4. ^ "Schlesien: Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert". OME-Lexikon - Universität Oldenburg.
  5. ^ Sperling, Gotthard Hermann (1932). "Aus Niederschlesiens Ostmark" (PDF). Opolska Biblioteka Cyfrowa. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-12-25. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Weinfeld, Ignacy (1925). Tablice statystyczne Polski: wydanie za rok 1924 [Poland's statistical tables: edition for year 1924]. Warsaw: Instytut Wydawniczy "Bibljoteka Polska". p. 2.
  7. ^ Mały Rocznik Statystyczny [Little Statistical Yearbook] 1939 (PDF). Warsaw: GUS. 1939. p. 14.
  8. ^ Cygański, Mirosław (1984). "Hitlerowskie prześladowania przywódców i aktywu Związków Polaków w Niemczech w latach 1939-1945". Przegląd Zachodni (in Polish) (4): 25–30, 37.
  9. ^ a b Pjech, pp. 65–66
  10. ^ Cygański, pp. 32–34, 37–38
  11. ^ Cygański, p. 35
  12. ^ Urban, Wincenty (1961). "Ostatnie kazanie polskie w Kościele Św. Marcina we Wrocławiu". Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka (in Polish). XVI (1). Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich: 102–103.
  13. ^ Megargee, Geoffrey P.; Overmans, Rüdiger; Vogt, Wolfgang (2022). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945. Volume IV. Indiana University Press, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 254–257, 443. ISBN 978-0-253-06089-1.
  14. ^ Belzyt, Leszek (1998). Sprachliche Minderheiten im preussischen Staat: 1815 – 1914; die preußische Sprachenstatistik in Bearbeitung und Kommentar. Marburg: Herder-Inst. ISBN 978-3-87969-267-5.


  1. ^ After World War I Poland received a small part of historical Lower Silesia, with majority ethnic Polish population as of year 1918. That area included parts of counties Syców (German: Polnisch Wartenberg), Namysłów, Góra and Milicz. In total around 526 square kilometers with around 30 thousand[6][3] inhabitants, including the city of Rychtal. Too small to form its own voivodeship, the area was incorporated to Poznań Voivodeship (former Province of Posen).
  2. ^ Interwar Silesian Voivodeship was formed from Prussian East Upper Silesia (area 3,225 km2) and Polish part of Austrian Cieszyn Silesia (1,010 km2), in total 4,235 km2. After the annexation of Trans-Olza from Czechoslovakia in 1938, it increased to 5,122 km2.[7] Silesian Voivodeship's capital was Katowice.