Map showing Poland's borders pre-1938 and post-1945. The Eastern Borderlands is in gray while the Recovered Territories are in pink.
The Polish People's Republic in 1989
Early Piast Poland at the death of Mieszko I in 992, who is considered as the first historical ruler of Poland and the creator of the Polish state, after his realm was recognized by the papacy.
Poland's fate was heavily discussed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Joseph Stalin, whose Red Army occupied the entire country, presented several alternatives which granted Poland industrialized territories in the west whilst the Red Army simultaneously permanently annexed Polish territories in the east, resulting in Poland losing over 20% of its pre-war borders - areas primarily inhabited by ethnic Belarusians or Ukrainians. Soviet-backed Polish communists came to power and oversaw the country's entry into the Warsaw Pact in 1955.
Map (published in 1917 in the United States) showing Poland at the death of Boleslaw III in 1138
Border changes of Poland after World War II. The eastern territories (Kresy) were annexed by the Soviets. The western territories, referred to as the "Recovered Territories", were granted as war reparations. Despite the western lands being more industrialized, Poland lost 77,035 km2 (29,743 sq mi) and major cities like Lviv and Vilnius.
Polish nationalist propaganda from the 1930s: "Nie jestesmy tu od wczoraj. Sięgaliśmy daleko na zachód." (We are not here since yesterday. Once we reached far west.)
The 1970 Polish protests were put down by the Communist authorities and Citizens' Militia. The riots resulted in the deaths of 42 people and over 1,000 injured.
Location of the annexed part (orange) of the Province of Pomerania and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Queues waiting to enter grocery stores in Warsaw and other Polish cities and towns were typical in the late 1980s. The availability of food and goods varied at times, and the most sought after basic item was toilet paper.
Castle of the Dukes of Pomerania in Szczecin
The new Warszawa Centralna railway station in Warsaw had automatic doors and escalators. It was a flagship project during the 1970s economic boom and was dubbed the most modern station in Europe at the time of its completion in 1975.
Gdańsk was a principal seaport of Poland since the Middle Ages. From the mid-15th to the early 18th century it was the largest city of Poland. Lost by Poland in the Second Partition in 1793.
Lech Wałęsa co-founded and headed the Solidarity movement which toppled Communism. He later became the President of Poland.
Location of the former Free City of Danzig (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
The 1980 Gdańsk Shipyard Strike and subsequent Summer 1981 Hunger Demonstrations were instrumental in strengthening the Solidarity movement's influence.
Location of East Brandenburg (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
A 19th-century map of Piast-ruled Greater Poland: Lubusz Land, stretched on both sides of the Oder, marked in yellow, northwestern parts of Greater Poland annexed by Brandenburg, marked in green
Władysław Gomułka and Leonid Brezhnev in East Berlin, 1967
Location of Posen-West Prussia (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
An abandoned State Agricultural Farm in south-eastern Poland. State farms were a form of collective farming created in 1949.
Birthplace of Stanisław Staszic, a leading figure of Polish Enlightenment, in Piła (nowadays a museum)
Łódź was Poland's largest city after the destruction of Warsaw during World War II. It was also a major industrial centre in Europe and served as the temporary capital due to its economic significance in the 1940s.
Location of Silesia (orange) in the "Recovered Territories" (green)
Female textile workers in a state-run factory, Łódź, 1950s
Polish city names in Silesia; from a 1750 Prussian official document published in Berlin during the Silesian Wars.
Supersam Warsaw, the first self-serve shopping centre in Poland, 1969
Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights/Ducal Prussia as a feudal fief of the Polish Crown (1466–1657). Warmia was directly incorporated to the Polish state until the First Partition of Poland (1772)
Pewex, a chain of hard currency stores which sold unobtainable Western goods and items
Location of southern East Prussia (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Ration cards for sugar, 1977
Władysław Gomułka (center), minister in the Polish People's Republic who oversaw the integration and development of the Recovered Territories between 1945 and 1948
Bar mleczny, a former milk bar in Gdynia. These canteens offered value meals to citizens throughout Communist Poland.
US Department of State demographics map from 10 January 1945 Germany – Poland Proposed Territorial Changes
Trybuna Ludu (People's Tribune) was a government-sponsored newspaper and propaganda outlet
Piast Castle in Opole before its destruction by the local German authorities between 1928 and 1930
Andrzej Wajda was a key figure in Polish cinematography during and after the fall of communism
The former headquarters of the pre-war Polish newspaper Gazeta Olsztyńska in Olsztyn, destroyed under Nazi rule in 1939, rebuilt in 1989
Allegory of communist censorship, Poland, 1989. Newspapers visible are from all Eastern Bloc countries including East Germany, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia
Polish soldiers marking the new Polish-German border in 1945
The 237-meter Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, constructed in 1955. At the time of its completion it was one of the tallest buildings in Europe
The baroque interior of the Lubiąż abbey was removed and transferred to Stężyca, in eastern Poland in order to replace church stalls destroyed by the Germans.
Smyk Department Store, 1960s
Mămăligă is a dish which was very popular with Poles in East Galicia. People from these areas who resettled in the Recovered Territories brought this and other culinary traditions with them to their new homes.
Polish university students during lecture, 1964
"The 10th stage, Zgorzelec to Wrocław, leads you through primeval Polish lands." Photograph from the June 1955 Peace Race
One of many schools constructed in central Warsaw in the 1960s
Municipal House of Culture in Zgorzelec, place of signing of the Treaty of Zgorzelec in 1950
Jerzy Popiełuszko was a Roman Catholic priest who supported the anti-communist opposition. He was murdered by the Security Services "SB" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Boundary stones of Germany and Poland in the Ueckermünde Heath
A demographics graph illustrating population growth between 1900 and 2010. The highest birth rate was during the Second Polish Republic and consequently under the Polish People's Republic.
Pre-1945 administrative division (yellow)
A typical socialist apartment building in Warsaw representing the style of functionalism, built due to the ever-growing population and high birth rate at the time
Projected Polish administration (Okreg I-IV) in March, 1945
Konstantin Rokossovsky, pictured in a Polish uniform, was Marshal of the Soviet Union and Marshal of Poland until being deposed during the Polish October in 1956.
Integration into the Voivodeships of Poland as of June, 1946
Poland's old and new borders, 1945
Present-day administrative division of Poland, Western and Northern Lands in dark green

The Soviet-appointed communist authorities that conducted the resettlement also made efforts to remove many traces of German culture, such as place names and historic inscriptions on buildings, from the newly Polish territories.

- Recovered Territories

Under the National Repatriation Office (Państwowy Urząd Repatriacyjny), millions of Poles were forced to leave their homes in the eastern Kresy region and settle in the western former German territories.

- Polish People's Republic

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Overall

Typical landscape view of the Kresy, marked by low-lying rolling hills and grasslands (location Sielec, Drohobych Raion, western Ukraine)

Kresy

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Term coined for the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period (1918–1939).

Term coined for the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period (1918–1939).

Typical landscape view of the Kresy, marked by low-lying rolling hills and grasslands (location Sielec, Drohobych Raion, western Ukraine)
Polish voivodeships 1922–1939. One can consider the six easternmost voivodeships as roughly equivalent with Kresy.
The Pale of Settlement
Members of the German Ordnungspolizei shooting naked women and children in the Mizocz ghetto, October 1942
Massacres of Poles in Volhynia in 1943. Most Poles of Volhynia (now in Ukraine) had either been murdered or had fled the area.
Map of native speakers of Polish (red) vs. other languages (green) according to the Polish census of 1931; original map by the Main Bureau of Statistics
Map of areas where Polish was used as a primary language in 1916
Map of the Polish population living in Lithuania on the basis of elections to the parliament of Lithuania in 1923, censuses in 1921 and elections to the Polish parliament in 1922
Grey: Areas with majority Polish population in modern Lithuania. Red: pre-World War II Polish-Lithuanian border
the Skirmunt estate, Moładaŭ, by Napoleon Orda 1875

Most Polish inhabitants of Kresy were ordered by the Soviets to migrate west to Germany's former eastern provinces, newly emptied of their German population and renamed as the "Recovered Territories" of the People's Republic of Poland, based on Polish medieval settlement of the areas.

Silesia

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Historical region of Central Europe that lies mostly within Poland, with small parts in Czechia and Germany.

Historical region of Central Europe that lies mostly within Poland, with small parts in Czechia and Germany.

Silesia in the early period of Poland's fragmentation, 1172–1177, Lower Silesia with Lubusz Land in orange, Upper Silesia in green and yellow
Battle of Legnica (1241) during the First Mongol invasion of Poland
Lands of the Bohemian Crown between 1635 and 1742, before most of Silesia was ceded to Prussia
Typical Silesian baroque architecture in Wrocław
First map of Silesia by Martin Helwig, 1561; north at the bottom
Bolesław Śmiały Coal Mine, Łaziska Górne
Polish names of Silesian cities, from a 1750 Prussian official document published in Berlin during the Silesian Wars
Confessions in the German Empire (Protestant/Catholic; c. 1890). Lower Silesia was mostly Protestant, while Glatz (Kłodzko) and Upper Silesia were mostly Catholic.
Coat of arms of the Prussian province of Upper Silesia (1919–1938 and 1941–1945)
Coat of arms of the Silesian Voivodeship
The coat of arms of the Opolskie Voivodeship
Henryk IV's Probus coat of arms
Coat of arms of Austrian Silesia (1742–1918)
Prussian province of Lower Silesia (1919–1938 and 1941–1945)
Coat of arms of the Lower Silesia Voivodeship
Coat of arms of Czech Silesia
Flag of Prussian Upper Silesia province (1919–1938 and 1941–1945)
Flag of Silesia Voivodeship
Flag of the Austrian Silesia (1742–1918), and Czech Silesia
Flag of Prussian Lower Silesia province (1919–1938 and 1941–1945)
Flag of Lower Silesia Voivodeship
Churches of Peace, Świdnica and Jawor
Centennial Hall, Wrocław
Historic Silver Mine, Tarnowskie Góry
Muskau Park, Łęknica and Bad Muskau<ref>Łęknica and Bad Muskau were considered part of Silesia in years 1815–1945.</ref>

In 1945, after World War II, most of the German-held Silesia was transferred to Polish jurisdiction by the Potsdam Agreement between the victorious Allies and became again part of Poland, although with a Soviet-installed communist regime.

The newly formed Polish United Workers' Party created a Ministry of the Recovered Territories that claimed half of the available arable land for state-run collectivized farms.

The Curzon Line and territorial changes of Poland, 1939 to 1945. The pink and yellow areas represent the pre-war Polish territory (Kresy) and pre-war German territory (Recovered Territories), respectively.

Polish population transfers (1944–1946)

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The Polish population transfers in 1944–1946 from the eastern half of prewar Poland (also known as the expulsions of Poles from the Kresy macroregion), were the forced migrations of Poles toward the end and in the aftermath of World War II.

The Polish population transfers in 1944–1946 from the eastern half of prewar Poland (also known as the expulsions of Poles from the Kresy macroregion), were the forced migrations of Poles toward the end and in the aftermath of World War II.

The Curzon Line and territorial changes of Poland, 1939 to 1945. The pink and yellow areas represent the pre-war Polish territory (Kresy) and pre-war German territory (Recovered Territories), respectively.

Many of the deported Poles were settled in formerly German eastern provinces; after 1945, these were referred to as the "Recovered Territories" of the People's Republic of Poland.

Temporary borders created by advancing German and Soviet troops. The border was soon readjusted following diplomatic agreements.

Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union

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Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union entered the eastern regions of Poland (known as the Kresy) and annexed territories totalling 20,1015 km2 with a population of 13,299,000.

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union entered the eastern regions of Poland (known as the Kresy) and annexed territories totalling 20,1015 km2 with a population of 13,299,000.

Temporary borders created by advancing German and Soviet troops. The border was soon readjusted following diplomatic agreements.
Planned and actual divisions of Europe, according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, with later adjustments
Soviet annexation of territory of eastern Poland ceded to Ukrainian SSR (yellow), 1940
Soviet map of the newly expanded Byelorussian SSR (yellow), 1940. Parts of prewar Poland invaded by the Nazis labeled area of state interests of Germany
See map
Sectors of prewar Poland under the Nazi German occupational authority
Curzon-Namier Line's variants. Tehran, 1943

The Polish People's Republic regime described the territories as the "Recovered Territories".

Poland's old and new borders, 1945

History of Poland (1945–1989)

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Poland's old and new borders, 1945
Map showing the different borders and territories of Poland and Germany during the 20th century, with the current areas of Germany and Poland in dark gray
Destroyed Warsaw, January 1945
The PKWN Manifesto, officially issued on 22 July 1944. In reality it was not finished until mid-August, after the Polish communist Moscow group was joined by the late-arriving Warsaw group, led by Gomułka and Bierut.
Postwar Polish communist propaganda poster depicting "The giant and the putrid reactionary midget", meaning the communist People's Army soldier and the pro-Western Home Army soldier, respectively
ORMO paramilitary police unit during street parade at the Victory Square, 9 June 1946, Warsaw
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
The show trial of Captain Witold Pilecki, sentenced to death and executed May 1948
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, initially called the Stalin's Palace, was a controversial gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin
Avenue of the Roses, Nowa Huta
1951 East German stamp commemorative of the Treaty of Zgorzelec establishing the Oder–Neisse line as a "border of peace", featuring the presidents Wilhelm Pieck (GDR) and Bolesław Bierut (Poland)
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Primate of Poland
Władysław Gomułka
The Fourth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party, held in 1963
The Polski Fiat 125p, produced in Poland from the late 1960s, was based on technology purchased from Fiat
Standard-bearers of the 27 Tank Regiment, mid-1960s
Dziady, a theatrical event that spawned nationwide protests
Demonstrators in Gdynia carry the body of Zbigniew Godlewski, who was shot and killed during the protests of 1970
Edward Gierek
Queue line, a frequent scene at times of shortages of consumer goods in the 1970s and 1980s
Millions cheer Pope John Paul II in his first visit to Poland as pontiff in 1979
Lech Wałęsa speaks during the strike at the Gdańsk Shipyard, August 1980
25th anniversary of Solidarity, summer 2005 in Gdańsk
General Wojciech Jaruzelski led the People's Republic during its final decade and became one of the key players in the systemic transition of 1989–90
Apartment block residences built in People's Poland loom over the urban landscape of the entire country. In the past administratively distributed for permanent use, after 1989 most were sold to residents at discounted prices.
Adam Michnik, an influential leader in the transformation of Poland

The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II.

Additional settlement with people from central parts of Poland brought the number of Poles in what the government called the Recovered Territories up to 5 million by 1950.

Opole

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City located in southern Poland on the Oder River and the historical capital of Upper Silesia.

City located in southern Poland on the Oder River and the historical capital of Upper Silesia.

Contemporary model of the early medieval Polish stronghold in Opole
A fragment of medieval defensive walls that once surrounded Opole
The oldest known view of Opole seen from southeast, circa 1535
18th-century view of Opole
Stamps after the plebiscite in August 1921 featured the German name of Oppeln
The Piast Castle, prior to its demolition by the German authorities
Plaque at the main railway station commemorating deportations of Poles from Opole to concentration camps in 1939
Architecture of the Main Marketplace
Piast Bridge and Opole Cathedral in the background with its two iconic Gothic towers
City hall on the Main Market Square
Water canal along the Old Town
General view of Opole
Opole - a view of the city centre
The building of Collegium Maius of Opole University
Administrative subdivisions (districts) of Opole
Opole city budget income sources as of 2015.
Solaris Centre Mall
Jan Kasprowicz
Miroslav Klose
Remigiusz Mróz
Jesuit College, now a regional museum
Church of the Holy Trinity
Rynek (Market Square) filled with historic townhouses
Green Bridge
Młynówka Canal (Little Venice)
Ceres Fountain
Opole Główne railway station
John Paul II Library
Church of St. Adalbert, also known as the "Church on the Rock" and "Church on the Hill"
Signs showing direction of twin cities

Unlike other parts of the so-called Recovered Territories, Opole and the surrounding region's indigenous population remained and was not expelled as elsewhere.

Because of this, the post-war Polish state administration after the annexation of Silesia in 1945 did not initiate a general expulsion of all former inhabitants of Opole, as was done in Lower Silesia, for instance, where the population almost exclusively spoke the German language.

UPA members caught by soldiers of the Polish Army

Operation Vistula

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UPA members caught by soldiers of the Polish Army
The city of Bukowsko burned down by the UPA in 1946
Monument to Polish soldiers killed by UPA in Jasiel, south-eastern Poland, in 1946
Signature page of Polish-Ukrainian repatriation agreement signed by Khrushchev, 1944
Resettlement of Ukrainians in 1947
Lemko house in Nowica
Inscription in Polish and Ukrainian at a church in Beskid Niski, Poland: "In memory of those expelled from Lemkivshchyna, on the 50th anniversary of Operation Vistula, 1947–1997"

Operation Vistula (Akcja Wisła; Опера́ція «Ві́сла») was a codename for the 1947 forced resettlement of 150,000 Ukrainians(Boykos and Lemkos) from the south-eastern provinces of post-war Poland, to the Recovered Territories in the west of the country.

Władysław Gomułka

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Polish communist politician.

Polish communist politician.

Gomułka in recaptured Warsaw, 1945
Gomułka's speech on 24 October 1956 in Warsaw
Gomułka (left) greeted by members of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation in East Germany.
Gomułka's now abandoned retirement home in Konstancin-Jeziorna
Gomułka's grave in Powązki Military Cemetery
Gomułka (left) greeted by members of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation in East Germany.

He was the de facto leader of post-war Poland from 1947 until 1948.

As a minister of Recovered Territories (1945–48), he exerted great influence over the rebuilding, integration and economic progress of Poland within its new borders, by supervising the settlement, development and administration of the lands acquired from Germany.

Germans leaving Silesia for Allied-occupied Germany in 1945. Courtesy of the German Federal Archives (Deutsches Bundesarchiv).

Flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland during and after World War II

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The largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II.

The largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II.

Germans leaving Silesia for Allied-occupied Germany in 1945. Courtesy of the German Federal Archives (Deutsches Bundesarchiv).
Refugee trek, in Danzig and the surrounding area, February 1945
Propaganda signs, Danzig, February 1945: "Panic and rumours are the best allies of the Bolshevists!"
Nazi official Arthur Greiser welcoming millionth German colonist in occupied Poland, March 1944.
Allied map used to determine the number of Germans that would have to be expelled from the eastern German territories using different border scenarios (based on German pre-war census)
Retreating Wehrmacht, eastern Germany, March 1945
Potsdam Conference: Joseph Stalin (left), Harry Truman (center), Winston Churchill (right)
Władysław Gomułka organized transport of Germans to occupied Germany in Ministry for the Recovered Territories
Dead Germans in Nemmersdorf, East Prussia. Soviet atrocities, exaggerated and spread by Nazi propaganda, fueled the spontaneous flight of the German population.
Refugees cross the frozen Vistula Lagoon, 1945
Refugee trek in East Prussia, March 1945
When the land evacuation routes were already intercepted by the Red Army, tens of thousands remaining German military personnel and civilians were evacuated by ship in Operation Hannibal. Depicted military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Soviet submarine, 9,000 drowned.
Volkssturm receiving orders to defend the Oder, Frankfurt an der Oder (today a border town), February 1945
Soviet forces enter Danzig (Gdansk), March 1945
Refugees trail, eastern Germany 1945.
"Special order" to the German population of Bad Salzbrunn (Szczawno-Zdrój). Issued by Polish authorities on 14 July 1945, 6 a.m., to be executed until 10 a.m.
Oder-Neisse line at Usedom
Refugees from East Prussia, 1945

Contrary to the official declaration that the former German inhabitants of the so-called Recovered Territories had to be removed quickly to house Poles displaced by the Soviet annexation, the lands initially faced a severe population shortage.

In 1950, 59,433 Germans were expelled following a bi-lateral agreement between the People's Republic of Poland and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), 26,196 of whom however headed for West Germany.