Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Danzig in Flag & Arms

The first time I met my friend Rafal, I noticed his necktie bedecked with a subtle heraldic pattern. “I gather you’re German,” says young Cusack, summoning his Sherlockian deductive genius. “What makes you say that?” “The coat of arms on your tie: it’s Danzig.” “Actually I am Polish, and it’s Gdańsk!”

Well, so much for my deductive powers, (and Rafal is a secret wannabe-German anyhow) but the arms and flag of the Baltic city — once German, now Polish — combine the usual strong characteristics of any design: simplicity and beauty.

Danzig has a very complicated history, torn between Germany and Poland. It first gained independence as a Napoleonic client state from 1807 til 1814. After the First World War, it was again granted autonomy as a free city under the protection of the League of Nations. Despite being overwhelmingly German in population, the Poles desired access to the city for its port facilities, which the somewhat awkward autonomous status provided them. The Free City of Danzig was taken over by the Nazis in 1933, but the Third Reich waited until the Invasion of Poland in 1939 to formally incorporate it into Germany.

At the Yalta conference, the Allies awarded the city to Poland, and the overwhelming majority of its German population either fled or faced expulsion, to be replaced by Poles from the parts of Eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union.

You can read more about the arms of Danzig/Gdańsk here.

Above, the arms of the Free City of Danzig, below those of today’s Gdańsk.

This post was published on Friday, April 26th, 2013 2:30 pm. It has been categorised under Design Flags Heraldry and been tagged under , , , , .
Stephen Klimczuk
26 Apr 2013 3:05 pm

Andrew: I thought it would be worth letting your esteemed readers know that Danzig’s Polish allegiance goes back many, many centuries, and that Danzig burghers (many of Dutch/Flemish origin) of old were exceedingly loyal to Poland — not surprising, as they got very rich from being Poland’s seaport. (Only after incorporation into modern Prussia did Danzig become a backwater, having lost its raison d’être.)

Since the vast brick St Mary’s Church had become Protestant, in 1681 a fine Polish Royal Chapel was built adjacent to it by Tylman van Gamaren, so that the King and his dignitaries would have a suitable place of worship in the city-state.

26 Apr 2013 3:35 pm

Poor Rafał! Not so secret a wannabe now, is he?

26 Apr 2013 6:59 pm

Torn from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles its population was overwhelmigly German and of course wanted to reunite with Germany in the 1930s. The Population was driven out by the red army in 1945 and those who weren’t murdered found refuge in the four corners of the earth.
The myth that this provided ” living space ” for those Poles expelled from east of the Curzon line is just that a myth. Only one million Poles lost their homes in that annexation as this area was overwhelmigly populated by Ukranians. Fourteen million Germans were expelled by the :Poles from lands east of the Oder Neisse.

9 May 2013 10:14 pm

To Peter: Torn from Poland by Germany (Prussia) during 2nd partition of Poland (1793). Population overwhelmingly was German and was loyal Polish citizens, and of course was very reluctant to join Prussia – during 1st partition was able to resist.

In 1945 14 millions Germans (from whole Central Europe – including Czechoslovakia) had to move, because decision of Allies. It is just consequence of WW2 (started by Germany).

In 1945 2 Million Poles had to move from east of Curzon line: it is just consequence of WW2 (started by Germany).

16 May 2013 11:37 pm

Thanks for confirming that the expulsion 14 million of Germans was needed to
house 2 million Poles expelled from east of the Curzon line. The expulsions of
Germans in 1945 remains the largest act of ethnic cleansing in world history and remains hushed up.
Although Atlee and Truman signed up for this De Gaulle although not represented at Potsdam strongly disagreed and voiced his opinion as to the injustice.

18 May 2013 10:31 pm

Where I confirmed that expulsion of Germans was needed to house Poles? 14 millions from whole Central Europe (also from territories earlier seized by Germany), because it was decision of Allies. Germany started two World Wars, so Allies tried to remodel Central Europe to avoid next. Germans expulsion is just consequence of War started by Germany. And Poles were also expelled from their homes!

And maybe would you compare number of Polish citizens in 1938 and in 1945? Do You know what happened with 12 millions people? Before You cry over ethnic cleansing, think about earlier ethnic extermination made by Germans. Poland in 1939-1945 remains the largest act of ethnic extermination in world history. Try to link these facts.

Michiel Stuyvesandt
14 Jun 2013 9:43 pm

To Jzam. Both the expulsion of Germans and that of Poles are examples of ethnic cleansing, and they were criminal to the same extent.
To excuse either of these crimes by invoking the depravity of the German or the Russian government (not ‘the Germans’ or ‘the Russians’) is immoral. The reason is simple: every man has a basic right to be judged by his own deeds. Also, comparing numbers doesn’t make sense. There must have been millions of Germans who did not approve of Nazism, but even if there had been only one, nobody would have been entitled to expel him from his home. Not even as retaliation for so many millions of murdered, tortured or expelled people anywhere else. One injustice cannot be undone by another injustice.
To Peter. I did not know that De Gaulle objected to the ethnic cleansing. Could you cite & quote your source?

10 Jul 2013 11:23 pm

To Michiel Stuyvesandt: Comparing numbers have no sense, but I haven’t started with numbers. I wanted to show, that Peter comparison (14 vs 2 millions) is fake.

After 70 years it is easy to equalize aggressor and victim.

Many Germans were expelled f.i. from Warthegau, which was joined to Reich in 1939 – Germans seized Polish homes, killed or expelled owners. German occupation in Poland was completely different from occupation in Western Europe. It is injustice, if someone had to left after 5 years (1939-1944) home, which he had acquired after killing owner? They didn’t think about it? So, when German started war, KILLED Poles is criminal to the same extent, when Poles went back and Germans had to MOVE?

Sorry, I know that some Germans didn’t accept Nazis, but Nazi government was German government. Who formed, elected etc. this government? Who started war, who started expulsion, who conducted mass murders of millions of Poles? Martians? It is interesting point of view – Hitler was bad, but Germans was ok, and they are not responsible for Nazi policy. So, who is responsible? No one? Who worked in Auschwitz, who invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Denmark, Holland etc.? So, how would You check deeds of every single man? Who vote for Hitler in 1932 or 1933 and later changed mind was responsible or not? If You think, that “only one” fair man should stop expelling, it is the best way to justify German criminal policy during WW2.

24 Aug 2013 7:26 pm

The Germans are off to rewriting history. Just like struggling Werther they are off to prove that they suffered the most casualities. Seeing as prostitution is legal in Germany, people from other countries forget that sado-maso behaviour, condamnable by most people, is normal in Germany. 20 million soldiers of Germany crossed the Polish border – disregarding German sado-masoschism – 5 million Germans were repelled.
Germans choose to be gun-fodder; more than the one percent of each populations who are schizophrenics choose to be gun-fodder for the German Reich. Remember that in the least pro-Nazi area of Germany that is Bavaria – 70% voted for Hitler’s Reich.

There was only one Claus von Stauffenberg – there were 50 million members of the Nazi party.

9 Sep 2013 5:34 pm

And yet when I was at the Polish Post Office in Gdansk, nowhere did I see any variation on the word “Niemiec”. Instead those who attacked Poland were called “Hitlerowcy”. I found that gracious and instructive.

Michiel Stuyvesandt
3 Jan 2014 11:01 pm

Your rethoric questions are irrelevant.
Yes, there have been many Geman who murdered Poles and Jews and Russians. And yes, Germany started the war. And lots of Germans worked in Auschwitz, and Maidanek and so many of these terrible places, and Germany invaded is neighouring countries, one of them my dear homeland Holland. And there were Germans who voted for Hitler in 1933 and did NOT change there minds, and there are even Germans now who think that Hitler was right.
And yet all of this mischief is irrelevant if one is judging an individual German. Because a person is only accountable for his own deeds.
And if there would have been only one German in Danzig who did none of these terrible things, and if he was expelled from his home by a Pole or by any other person from the allied forces, that person was guilty of a crime and should have been brought to justice.
Moreover, in a civilised country, justice is done only after a regular trial. The fact that Germany at the time had a depraved regime that did not deliver proper justice to foreigners, including Polish citizens, is of no concern to the individual German who has been treated unjustly by a Pole, the Polish army or the Polish government. In fact that German retains forever a moral right to restitution or compensation from his aggressor.
Let me put it another way: Killing, ousting or maltreating of a German citizin only because he is German is no less a deed of racism than killing or maltreating a Pole because his is Polish or a Jew because he is Jewish. Good day to you Sir.

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