Repeatedly torn in the Middle Ages between Poles and the Teutonic Knights, Danzig (now Gdansk) was slowly settled by German merchants. Em-bracing Protestantism in 1526, yet remaining part of Catholic* Poland,* it ex-perienced serious economic decline during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Upon Poland's first partition in 1772, it assumed the status of a Free City; at the second partition (1793), it was incorporated into Prussia.* From 1807 to 1813, after Prussia was defeated by the French, Napoleon briefly reestablished its independent status. However, with France's defeat, Danzig reverted to Prussia and, during 1814-1824 and 1878-1919, served as capital of the province of West Prussia (West Prussia was administratively united with East Prussia during 1824-1878).
   The Versailles Treaty* separated Danzig and West Prussia from Germany. Along with other pieces of eastern Germany, the province was incorporated into a new Poland, while Danzig became a self-administered Free City in 1920. Comprising Danzig proper, three rural districts, and the town of Zoppot, the city totaled 1,951 square kilometers and had 357,000 inhabitants, 96 percent of whom were German. To provide the Poles with a seaport, the city was included in Poland's customs territory. Inherently an artificial and unstable creation, the Free City was placed under the protection of a League of Nations high com-missioner.
   The status of Danzig was arguably Germany's chief grievance arising from the war and constituted the centerpiece of the Republic's program of treaty revision; indeed, while Germany's parties were otherwise torn by endless quar-rels, they united on the necessity of returning Danzig and the "Polish Corridor" to the Reich. Danzig-Polish conflicts, totaling sixty-six during 1921-1934, ap-peared before almost every League Council session. Tension escalated when the Poles, unable to rely on Danzig as the outlet to the sea envisioned by the Allies, developed the neighboring fishing village of Gdynia into a port that increasingly rivaled Danzig. By 1930 even the Allies favored returning Danzig to Germany.
   It is ironic that Hitler,* rejecting the notion of treaty revision in the East, negotiated the German-Polish Nonaggression Pact in January 1934, thereby end-ing fourteen years of tension over Danzig and the Corridor. By securing peace in the East, Hitler was free to consolidate his domestic power and rearm; more-over, he avoided the possibility of an overly conservative eastern settlement. When he refocused on the East in late 1937, his aim was not treaty revision but the annihilation of Poland. Annexed to Germany on 1 September 1939, Danzig was unconditionally restored to Poland in 1945. Its population is now predom-inantly Polish.
   REFERENCES:Kimmich, Free City; Von Riekhoff, German-Polish Relations.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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