Galician Germans

German language islands in the middle Galicia (1880)

The Galician Germans (German: Galiziendeutsche) were ethnic German population living in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria in the Austrian Empire, established in 1772 as a result of the First Partition of Poland, and after World War I in the four voivodeships of interwar Poland: Kraków, Lwów, Tarnopol and Stanisławów. During the World War II part of the Galician Germans was moved out in January 1940 in the course of Heim ins Reich, the majority of the rest of them fled later in the years 1944–1945.


The first wave of ethnic Germans arrived in what would later be known as Galicia in the late Middle Ages (see Ostsiedlung). In part of the region the settlers were known as Walddeutsche. Most of them underwent Polonization at latest in the 18th century.[1]

Long before the First Partition of Poland in 1772 a small German language island existed on the western tip of the would-be Galicia in Biała and its vicinity (Hałcnów, Lipnik). Another one was established around 1750 in Zalishchyky, which, however, was partially depopulated before 1772.[2] In 1774 Maria Theresa issued a patent aiming to lure German artisans into several local cities, without significant result. The first meaningful settlement campaign took place in the 1780s, the Josephine colonization, which facilitated the arrival of over 3,200 ethnic German families (around 14,400 people).[3]

Descendants of the Josephine settlers were allowed to establish daughter settlements afterwards (like, for example, Baginsberg in the neighbourhood of Kolomyia, in 1818). Furtherly, smaller settlements took place in the years 1802–1805 (1,200 families) and 1811–1848 (400 families).[4]

A part of this colonies lost its ethnic German character in the following decades, especially in the western Galicia. More settlements proved to be prolific in the eastern Galicia. In the meantime, the German-speaking population grew slowly in the Galician cities.

According to the Austrian census from 1900 there were 212,327 (or 2,7%) German-speaking people in Galicia.[5] This number included part of the Galician Jews (the censuse did not give the opportunity to declare Yiddish language).[6] As a German-speaking was also qualified the population of Wilamowice, traditionally speaking Wymysorys language.

After World War I, Galicia became a part of the Second Polish Republic. Many of the colonies retained their previous names, however in the late 1930s the Polish government decided to change them to ones sounding more Polish, e.g. Neudorf to Polminowice.[7]

Examples of post-Josephine settlements


  1. "Całkowita polonizacja ludności w omawianym regionach nastąpiła najpóźniej w XVIII w.[...]" p. 98, and "Eine völlige Polonisierung der Nachkommen der deutschen Ansiedler erfolgte im 18. Jahrhundert und trug zur Verstärkung des Polentums in dem polnisch-ruthenischen Grenzbereich bei. [...]" [in:] Prof. dr Jan Gancarski. Późne średniowiecze w Karpatach polskich. op. cit. Wojciech Blajer: Bemerkungen zum Stand der Forschungen uber die Enklawen der mittelalterlichen deutschen Besiedlung zwischen Wisłoka und San. Edit. Krosno. 2007. ISBN 978-83-60545-57-7 pp. 57–105
  2. Lepucki, Henryk (1938). Działalność kolonizacyjna Marii Teresy i Józefa II w Galicji 1772-1790 : z 9 tablicami i mapą (in Polish). Lwów: Kasa im. J. Mianowskiego. p. 28.
  3. H. Lepucki, 1938, p. 106.
  4. The Settlement of German colonists in Galicia {{{2}}}
  5. Gemeindelexikon der im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder, bearbeitet auf Grund der Ergebnisse der Volkszählung vom 31. Dezember 1900, XII. Galizien (in German). Wien. 1907.
  6. H. Lepucki, 1938, p. 141.
  7. Zarządzenie Ministra Spraw Wewnetrznych o ustaleniu nazwy miejscowości Neudorf w gminie wiejskiej Neudorf, powiatu drohobyckiego w województwie lwowskim., Dz. U. z 1938 r. Nr 263, poz. 618 (2015-04-19)

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