Warsaw University under German occupation: State building and nation building in Poland during the Great War

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History and Philosophy


The German occupation of Russia's Polish territories from 1915 to 1918 remains one of the least-explored chapters in the history of the Great War. This article examines the policies pursued by the occupation authorities in wartime Poland with a particular focus on the Polish university opened by the Germans in 1915. An analysis of the Germans' ambitions for the university, as well as how the occupiers and the university's students and faculty interacted during the occupation, reveals a great deal about the sources and nature of the ambitious state-building plan that developed under the German Governor-General, Hans Hartwig von Beseler, during the war. In turn, this provides new perspectives on the relationship between occupier and occupied in the Great War, German-Polish relations, the history of sovereignty and nationalism, and the continuities of German history in the era of total war. This article draws on both Polish and German published and archival sources. [Article abstract]

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