Września children strike
In the entire region of Greater Poland, annexed by Germany during the late-18th century partitions of Poland, German was the language of instruction in schools since 1873. There were exceptions in two subjects - religion and music. In March 1901, the German administration ordered the religion classes to switch to German.
In April, a number of students (one source gives the number of 118) in the Catholic People's School in Września (Katolicka Szkoła Ludowa we Wrześni), attended by about 650 pupils, refused to accept new German textbooks, and to participate in the class activities. The teachers responded with detention and corporal punishment. Over the coming weeks, the students' parents became increasingly vocal in protestation against the punishment of their children. On 20 May, a group of 100 to 200 people were protesting in front of the school, until they were dispersed by police, called for by the school. The German administration threatened that the students will not be allowed to finish school. Adults involved in the protests were put on trial for public disturbance, preventing the officials from carrying out their duties, trespassing, and similar crimes. Twenty-six people were officially charged, and on 19 November 1901, twenty individuals were sentenced to imprisonment from several weeks to over two years. Polish activists formed two committees to support families whose members were imprisoned. The German administration soon disbanded the committees, and in turn charged the activists.
Despite the trial, the protests continued. At least two children died from beatings. Some parents moved their children to other schools; while the school officials constructed a barrack where protesting children were isolated. Use of Polish language was banned on the school grounds, and police were in charge of enforcing student attendance. After amnesty for children was declared in 1903, the number of children who kept refusing to take the German religion lessons diminished. The last of the striking children gave up by the summer of 1904.
The strike has gained international attention. In late 1901, Polish composer Ignacy Paderewski declared that proceeds from his concert in Germany will be given to the Września activists; he was booed and boycotted by German audiences. As a result, he refused to perform in Germany. The strike's cause was taken up by other Polish cultural figures, such as writers Henryk Sienkiewicz and Maria Konopnicka.
The Września strike inspired another large strike of Polish students in 1907.
The issue was documented in what has been described as the oldest Polish film, Prussian Culture, made in 1908 by Mojżesz Towbin. Another movie about the events, Wizja lokalna, 1901, was made in 1981 by Filip Bajon.
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