Eastern Silesia 1918 - 1920
Originally published in the Czechoslovak Specialist no. 5 / 2000 (USA, www.czechoslovakphilately.com )
Revised and updated versions of the article published in the Czechout no. 3 / 2002 (UK, www.cpsgb.org.uk )
and Oost Europa Filatelie no. 4 / 2002 (NL, www.geocities.com/fcoe2001/fcoe.htm )
By Lubor Kunc
English corrections made by Philip Townshend of United Kingdom. Thank you for you help !
The Czech occupation of a part of Silesia is one of the well kept secrets" of the Czech history . This story is not widely known, however every collector of Czechoslovak stamps knows its outcome - the Czechoslovak and Polish stamps with overprints SO 1920. Lets look at it !
On October 28, 1918 the Czechoslovak Republic was established. At the same time a state of German population called The Province Sudetenland" with its capital in Opava (Troppau) was founded in Northern Moravia and Bohemian part of Silesia . The goal of establishing of this state was the same as the founding of remaining German states in Bohemia : to save the area for German and to incorporat it directly into Germany after WWI.
The Czech population established in Ostrava on Oct. 29, 1918 own Národní výbor with aim of incorporating the Eastern Silesia area into Czechoslovakia . And in addition on October 30, 1918 the Polish population founded the Polish National Council (Rada Narodowa) in Teín (Cieszyn / Teschen). All these organisations play the key roles in our story.
The main problem lay in determining the borders between Czechoslovakia and Poland in this area. Národní výbor and Rada Narodowa set first preliminary borders on November 5, 1918, but both sides felt the borders were not definitive . The borders were not convenient for Czechoslovakia, because some important towns and the large coal mining areas belonged as per the agreement to Poland, but Czechoslovaks need to earn time for fighting with Sudetenland Province" .
The Czechoslovak government started late in November liberation of all German areas in Bohemia and Moravia, incl. the territory of The Sudetenland Province". As result of this action, Opava was occupied by Czechoslovak units on December 18, 1918. Until end of December the Czechoslovak troops occupied all towns and villages belonging to the Province, after which only two players in the contest for Silesia remained .
The relationship between Czechoslovaks and Poles in Eastern Silesia was getting worst in Dec. 1918 and Jan. 1919. Neither side was prepared to accept the offers of the other party, both of them wanted the whole area for own state.
On Jan. 10, 1919 the Polish government declared that elections for Polish Parliament, would be held for Jan. 26, 1919 (see a stamp in fig. 1 issued in Northern Polish Postal District, Michel Polen, Nr. 125, showing Mr. Trampczynski, first Chairman of Polish Parliament called Sejm elected in the 1919 elections).
The Polish voting districts contained area of Eastern Silesia as well. The Czechoslovak government refused the incorporating of the above area to the Polish voting districts. According to information contained in Mr. Permans´s book, the Teín area was one of the Bolshevik centres, in which the Bolshevik agents called for Soviet revolution, workers were under their influence and the coal production goes rapidly down, which caused large problems in coal distribution in whole Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.
Because the negotiations between Czech and Polish governments have no positive result and the Polish government was not in a position to defeat the communist movement in Silesia, which had negative impact on Czechoslovak economy, the Czechoslovak government decided to occupy the territory. This military action was called Expedition of colonel nejdárek" . Colonel nejdárek was one of the officers of Czech Legions in France during WWI, and after return from France he was one of the best officers of Czechoslovak Army .
The expedition started on Jan. 23, 1919. Czech troops occupied area between the preliminary border of Nov. 5 and Wisla River and the expedition finished on Jan. 30, 1919, when the Czechoslovak Ministry of Defence instructed the troops to stop the expedition but to stay on the occupied territory.
Beginning on Feb. 3, 1919 a Peace Conference was held in Paris. The result of this conference was setting of preliminary borders between Czechoslovakia and Poland and an agreement that the Czechoslovak units will leave the part of the occupied area given by the Conference to Poland until Feb. 25, 1919.
I. Post Offices given by the Paris Conference to Czechoslovakia
|Czech Name||Polish Name||German Name|
|Bohumín 1+2||Bogumin 1+2||Oderberg 1+2|
|Dolní Bludovice||Bledowice Dolne||Nieder Bludowitz|
|Dolní Domaslovice||Nieder Domaslowitz|
|Horní Suchá||Górna Sucha||Ober Suchau|
|Karvín 1 (Karviná)||Karwina 1||Karwin 1|
|Komorní Lhotka||Ligotka Kameralna||Cameral Ellgoth|
|Louky||Laki, Slask.Austr||Lonkau in österr. Schlesien|
II. Post Offices given by the Paris Conference to Poland
|Czech Name||Polish Name||German Name|
|Holeov ve Sl.||Goleszów||Golleschau|
|Teín 1||Cieszyn 1||Teschen 1|
|Velké Kuncice ve Slezsku||Konczyce Wlk.||Gross Kuntschitz|
|ibridlovice ve Sl||Zebrzydowice Sl||Seibersdorf|
From philatelic point of view the stamps used at the post offices mentioned in the list no. II from Jan. 23 to Feb. 25, 1919 are the Czechoslovak ones. More details you can find in philatelic part of the article.
The conference was more successful for Czechoslovakia, because we have got some towns and mining areas belonging as per the agreement of 1918 to Poland . This solution was accepted by both parties, the Czechoslovak units left the area by the above deadline and the Polish troops occupied Polish part of the area set by the Conference of Paris.
Another destiny had following post offices, which the Paris Conference of 1919 decided to give to Poland, but the Allied gave them to the Czechoslovakia in 1920 :
III. Post Offices given by the Paris Conference to Poland, but on Aug. 10, 1920 returned to Czechoslovakia
|Czech Name||Polish Name||German Name|
|Bystrice ve Sl.||Bystrzyca||Bistritz in Schl.|
|Frýtát ve Slezsku||Frysztat Slask. Austr.||Freistadt, Österr. Schlesien|
|Jablunkov ve Sl.||Jablonków||Jablunkau in Schl|
|Nemecká Lutyne||NIemiecka Lutynia||Deutschleuten|
|Petrovice u Frýtátu||Piotrowice k. Frysztatu||Petrowitz b. Freistadt|
|Teín 2||Cieszyn 2||Teschen 2|
The peace negotiations continued . In April 1919 first proposal of Czechoslovak-Polish borders was presented. On August 22, 1919 the proposal was rejected by France and the negotiations seemed have ended without success. The solution should be a plebiscite in the Eastern Silesia area, which was announced by Allied on September 27, 1919 . This decision incensed the Czechoslovak legions in Russia. The outrage was so big, that a company refused to take part in a review in Tomsk arranged for deputies of Czechoslovak government.
On July 7, 1920 next Peace Conference opened in Spa (Belgium) . The result of the conference was common agreement of Czechoslovakia and Poland to ask Allies to play role of arbiter in setting the borders, instead of arranging the plebiscite. The Polish preparedness to accept an Allies´ decision was caused by a need of Allies´ support in Polish-Soviet conflict. The Czechoslovaks believed, that they pursue the Allies to accept their demands, so they expressed agreement with the solution as well. The Allies´ decision about new borders between both countries was made on July 28, 1920 and both states declared their acceptance. As result of this agreement, the towns mentioned in list no. III were occupied by Czechoslovak army between August 6 and 10, 1920.
I am sure you have detected, that Teín is mentioned in both lists no. II + III. This is no error, it was really so. The town had belonged until nejdárek´s expedition to Poland. Than the whole town was occupied by Czechoslovaks . This situation lasted only 1 month, because the Paris Conference decided to return Teín town to Poland. The Allies´ arbitration of 1920 than divided the town into two parts Polish one called Cieszyn consisting of the centre of the town (incl. post office Teín 1) and the Czech one called Ceský Teín containing the railway station and post office Teín 2. This division lasts until now as you can see, Berlin was not the only divided town in Europe ! The hard times in the Teín town could be illustrated by provisional bank notes issued by Rada Narodowa, when the insufficient quantity of legal tenders occurred.
Fig. 2a) shows a Polish side of a provisional banknote of October 1919
and fig. 2b) shows German side of another provisional banknote of April 1919 .
Because the Poles were less satisfied with the borders than the Czechoslovaks, Poland occupied this area in 1938 thanks to the Munich Treaty. This action was celebrated by a Polish stamp of 1938 (Michel Polen Nr. 330) shown in fig. 3 celebrating return of Teín area to the fatherland (I thank to my friend Karl Ruzicka for discovery of the stamp!). But this is another story !
The nejdarek expedition had an influence on the Czechoslovak economy as well. Because the Eastern Silesia was last area with unknown borders in Bohemia/Moravia, it was needed to wait with the monetary reform replacing the Austrian currency with the Czechoslovak one for a setting of borders. Because the Parisian Conference set the borders in Eastern Silesia and exact date of their validity, the Czechoslovak Finance Minister Raín was allowed to prepare the monetary reform for Feb. 26, 1919. As you know, one of the results of the monetary reform was finishing of the validity of Austrian and Hungarian postage stamps in whole Czechoslovakia on Feb. 28, 1919.
Fig. 4 shows a piece of a money order franked with Austrian 25 Hellers stamp and mailed at post office in Polska Ostrava (Polnisch Ostrau ; situated in the Czech part of Silesia) on Feb. 27, 1919, that means during the monetary reform .
Now I would like to draw your attention to the philatelic side of the above history.
Here is a table showing, what postage stamps were used in the Eastern Silesia in years 1918 1920. As you can see, the situation was a bit different in Czechoslovak and Polish parts of the area .
Czechoslovak part of Silesia
Polish part of Silesia
Austrian stamps (without overprints) see fig. 5
Oct. 28, 1918 Feb. 28, 1919 (fig. 4,15,19)
Oct. 28, 1918 Jan. 20, 1919 (fig. 15,16)
Austrian stamps (with overprints)
Dec. 12, 1919 Jan. 31, 1920 (overprint Pota Ceskoslovenská 1919)
see fig. 6
Jan. 10, 1919 - ? (overprint Poczta Polska)
see fig. 7
see fig. 8
Dec. 18, 1918 1938 on Czechosl. territory (fig.19)
Jan. 23, 1919 1938 in towns mentioned in list no. I (fig. 17a)
August 10, 1920 1938 in towns mentioned in list no. III
Jan 23, 1919 Feb. 25, 1919 only on territories occupied in frame of nejdárek expedition (see list no. II ) (fig. 18)
see fig. 9
Oct. 28, 1918 Jan. 22, 1919 in tows mentioned in list no. I ; (fig. 16)
Feb. 26, 1919 August 10, 1920 in towns mentioned in list no. III
February 1919 1939 on Polish territory
Czechoslovak SO 1920 stamps
see fig. 10
Feb. 13, 1920 August 10, 1920: only at the Czechoslovak post offices in the Plebiscite area
April 19 August 10, 1920 : Post office of Cz. Prefect in Teín (fig. 12)
Polish SO 1920 stamps
see fig. 11
April 15, 1920 August 10, 1920 : in towns mentioned in list no. III
fig. 17 b
April 15, 1920 Sept. 10, 1920 : only at the Polish post offices in the Plebiscite area
fig. 5 - 11
Generally we can say, that Czechoslovak stamps were not valid in the Polish territory nor the Polish ones in the Czechoslovak territory, with only few exceptions. The exception were caused by violent acts like occupation of territory belonging to the second party (e.g. by nejdárek expedition) or by agreements reached at various Peace Conferences (e.g. decision of Paris Conference of Feb. 1919 dividing the area into two portions see lists no. I + II/III) . In both cases the area belonged to one or other of the players, who started to use own postage stamps there, which lasted until next occupation/peace conference.
The "exceptions" relating to the Czechoslovak stamps were as follows :
1. On Polish territory occupied by Czechoslovaks in nejdárek´s expedition only the Hradcany stamps without any overprints could be used for period Jan. 23 Feb 25, 1919. This ended with withdrawal of Czechoslovak forces from the towns mentioned in list no. II in Feb. 1919 (see fig. 18 + 19) ;
2 . Just 1 post office called Potovní úrad cs. prefektury v Teíne (Post office of Czechoslovak Prefect Office at Teín) being located in Polish part of Teín town used in period April 1920 August 10, 1920 Czechoslovak SO 1920 postage stamps (see fig. 12: special delivery SO 1920 stamp on a slip of paper mailed at the post office, red cancel, date July 26, 1920) . This was special post office used by the Czechoslovak Prefect in Teín as well as by International Plebiscite Commission. The mail was delivered by cars on the route Teín (PL, Cz. Prefects Post Office) Mor. Ostrava (CZ) Svinov (CZ, Rail. Station), where it was given to the Czechoslovak Postal Administration.
The "exception" relating to the Polish stamps was as follows :
No case is known where the stamps of both parties were allowed to be used in one place at the same time or ones´s stamps being used in the other´s territory. That means, it was not possible e.g. to mix Czechoslovak and Polish SO 1920 stamps on the same cover or to use Polish SO 1920 stamps on territory belonging to Czechoslovakia.
Interesting story is the issue of Czechoslovak and Polish stamps with overprint SO 1920. When the plebiscite was announced in Sept. 1919, both parties decided to issue special stamps for the plebiscite areas, which were under their command. On Jan. 2, 1920 Polish body Rada Narodowa of Teín approved proposal for issue of the definitive stamps. This proposal was confirmed by Ministerial Council of Warsaw, but only on Feb. 3, 1920, which caused a considerable delay in their issue, so the Allied commission decided to stop the issue of the definitive stamps and ordered to overprint existing Polish stamps with the same overprint as the Czechoslovak ones were . The Polish stamps should show various patriotic Teín themes like the Teín´s main square - see example of the unissued stamp on fig. 13 .
The Czechoslovak SO 1920 stamps were issued from Feb. through August 1920. First of them were issued on Feb. 13, 1920, the last ones (T.G. Masaryk issue of 1920) were overprinted so late, that they could not reach the plebiscite area by August 10, 1920 and they exist only in mint condition. Examples of Czechoslovak and Polish SO 1920 stamps you can find in fig. 10 + 11.
Entire no. 14 is a money order for an amount of 3 Crowns (!) sent from Horni Vlckovice (Ober Wölkersdorf, probably part of German state The German Bohemia Province" at that time) on Nov. 27, 1918 to Opava (Troppau). Opava was at the time capital of the German Province Sudetenland" situated in Silesia .
Entire no. 15 is a parcel dispatch note for a parcel sent from Bystrovany (at that time and now Czechoslovakia) through post office Teín 1 (at that time and now Poland) to Mosty u Teína (at that time Poland, now Czechoslovakia) on December 13, 1918. The postage was paid by Austrian definitive stamps (used as preliminary stamps of Czechoslovakia) and on other side you can find the Austrian postage due stamp (as Polish preliminary stamp). Because no post office was located in the village Mosty u Teína, the parcel was delivered through a contract post office (CPO) - its cancel you can find on the front page of the document. The cancels of CPOs on the parcel dispatch notes are not often to be found. The one bears a cancel Kann ausgefolgt werden" . The cancel was used in old Austrian Monarchy for parcels to show, the parcel can be given to the addressee . Because this cancel was used after fall of the Austrian Monarchy, someone removed the Austrian Eagle and the left part of the cancel remained empty. I believe the cancel was used at post office Teín 1 .
Another example is entire no. 16 - money order for 80 Crowns sent from Bohumín (Oderberg / Bogumin) to the village Andelská hora ve Slezsku (Engelsberg, österr. Schles.) on Dec. 16, 1918. Today the money order would be domestic mail, but at that time Bohumin belonged to Poland and Andelská hora was located in Czechoslovakia .
The money order in fig. 17a was sent from Bohumín to Prague on June 19, 1919. You can see the bilingual German - Polish cancel (coming from Austrian Monarchy ), however at that time Bohumín was part of Czechoslovakia - see list no. I .
Entire no. 17b - a registered letter sent from post office Teín 2 (at that time in Poland, now Czechoslovakia) in March 1920 to Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad, at that time and now in Czechoslovakia)
Thanks to the fact, that the nejdárek expedition took place in January and February 1919, the Hradcany (and probably the Czechoslovak postage due) stamps were valid on the occupied Polish territory for about only 1 month !
Until now, we know of only two Polish post offices using the Hradcany stamps: Teín 1 and Ustron. The Hradcany stamps with the cancels of the two post offices (and possibly also with those of other post offices mentioned in the list no. II.) from the period Jan. 23 - Feb. 25, 1919 are very rare, because they were valid only for very short period and we know only small quantity of covers franked with them.
The entire no. 18 is a money order sent from the occupied territory (post office Teín 1) on Feb. 20, 1919 to Kuntát (Kronstadt in Böhmen) franked with the Hradcany stamps and in addition with the Czechoslovak postage due stamp affixed in Kuntát . This is very interesting franking, because the Czechoslovak postage due stamps were issued first time in Feb. 1919, so that postage due stamps or covers with them sent in February 1919 are not often to be found. And a mixed franking of a Hradcany stamp used on occupied Polish territory and Czechoslovak postage due stamps is very unusual !
In few post office the Czechoslovak postal officials used the Czechoslovak stopgap cancels because the Polish postal employees had moved the equipment of the post offices, incl. cancels, to the Poland before Czechoslovak occupation of the towns. An example is entire no. 19 . This is the money order sent on Feb. 22, 1919 from Poruba u Orlové (Poremba) on Czechoslovak territory to Ustron situated in the occupied territory . The money order was franked with mixed franking of Austrian and Czechoslovak stamps . It reached Ustron on Feb. 24 - see the stopgap cancel from Ustron.
Now short view to the correspondence of Czechoslovak soldiers of Teín area. The entire no. 20 shows a postal card sent by one of the Czech soldiers to Podolí (now in Prague) from the post office Teín 1 on Feb. 5, 1919. The first very interesting thing is that the cancel bears the letter 5d, which is not mentioned in Votocek´s Monograph (see Monograph no. 16, vol. II, page 24) . The second interesting thing is the mention of the full address of the sender : II. brigáda I. ceskoslovenský delostrelecký pluk III. delobitna trídírna polní poty Uherské Hradite Morava. This card is proof that the field post sorting office served not only to the Czechoslovak army in Slovakia, but also the Czechoslovak troops in Silesia.
We have to add, that majority of correspondence sent by Czechoslovak soldiers from the occupied territory was mailed at the post office Teín 1, only small part was sent through another post offices of the region. There exist no special field post cancels for the Czechoslovak troops in Silesia.
Mr. Watt mentions in his book, that Czechoslovak troops occupying Teín area numbered 15.000 men . Unfortunately, he doesnt mention, where he found that figure. In my opinion the figure is much overestimated. For comparison, I can mention, that total number of Czechoslovak soldiers and officers serving in whole Slovakia amounted at Dec. 31, 1918 to 10.000 men (see page 26 of B.C.Day´s book).
The entire no. 21 is postal card sent on Jan. 22, 1919, a day before start of nejdárek´s Expedition, through Czechoslovak Field Post to Ceské Budejovice. Its sender was a Czech soldier belonging to a Czechoslovak military unit situated at Slovak-Polish borders. The name of his unit was I. ceskoslovenský delostrelecký pluk IV. delobitna . As you can see, this military unit belonged to the same regiment as the unit of senders of entire no. 20 . However in my opinion the IV. delobitna didn´t take part in the nejdárek expedition, because the one was located too far from the Eastern Silesia area, the card bears a very interesting message relating to this military action. Here is free translation of its part : Dear Marenka, I would like to inform you that we have moved from Koice to the Polish borders. We are now situated in a village at Poprad River. The other text is a private message unimportant for us. The message is clear : because of nejdárek expedition the Czechoslovak military units moved from all other areas to the territory near the Polish border to be able to defend Czechoslovak territory in case of a Polish attack. I only wonder that censors allowed delivery of the card, when the sender mentions the area he moved to. But by comparing dates Jan. 19, 1919 (on this day the card was written) and Jan. 22, 1919 (on this date the cards was posted at Field Post office) we can deduce, that the censors held the card back until the message was not dangerous for the expedition.
Finally the card no. 22 was sent by a Czech soldier serving in Czechoslovak Infantry Regiment No. 93 from Slovak town Nové Zámky (Ersekujvar) early in March 1919. The sender wrote in the message, that they had moved from Silesia to Slovakia and that he posts together with the card a letter he had written just before his departure from Teín. The message means, the soldier belonged to a unit operating in the Teín area, which was as per Paris Peace Conferences result moved back to the Czechoslovakia. Because at that time the tention in Czechoslovak-Hungarian relations was rising and in March the Communist had taken over the government in Hungary and set up Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Czechoslovak government immediately moved the units from Silesia to Slovakia to defend its territory.
Czechoslovakia and Romania attacked Hungarian Soviet Republic in April 1919, but during Hungarian counter-offensive important parts of Slovakia were lost, where a Slovak Soviet Republic under Hungarian protection was established. The Slovak and Hungarian Soviet Republics were beaten in early July 1919. More detailed information you can find in Mr. Days book mentioned in the resources section.
As you can see, the postal history of Eastern Silesia is not easy, but a very interesting part of Czechoslovak postal history connected with other events as well. I hope you might find similar philatelic items in your collection and I hope you will share them with other collectors like Mr. Welvaart of the Netherlands, who provided me with very useful information about diplomatic aspects of the theme, and prepared scans of the nice illustrations. Thank you, Mr. Welvaart !
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