Archive resource


Archives of the Western and Northern Territories: about the collection

The Archives of the Western and Northern Territories are a collection of settler photographs  and memoirs submitted for contests held by the Institute for Western Affairs since 1956. In the Institute’s 2013-2017 project, the collections were digitized and made available in digital form.

The photographs of the Warmia and Mazury, Western Pomerania, Lubuskie and Silesia regions were taken in the 1940s and 1950s during the Institute staff’s field trips to the Recovered Territories, i.e. the former parts of Germany incorporated into Poland after World War II. The term Recovered Territories reflects a political concept that referred to the frontiers of the Polish state in the early days of its existence to justify their post-World-War-II annexation to Poland while legitimizing the communist party’s hold on power. During their trips, the Institute’s staff gathered material on individual regions for publication in the Ziemie Staropolski (The Lands of Old Poland) series. The most common subject matter of the photographs was architectural monuments, wartime devastation, post-war reconstruction, places of employment and development projects.

In the late 1990s, Prof. Zbigniew Mazur, whose photographs are featured in the archives, embarked on a similar documenting endeavor. The political system change of 1989 and the social transformations that followed influenced the perception of these areas and views on the concept of the Recovered Territories. The collection of photographs by Prof. Mazur not only duplicates the materials from previous expeditions but also commemorates various events and transitions seen in the Western and Northern Territories over the five decades.

Written by the inhabitants of the Western and Northern Territories, the settler memoirs portray the pioneering era as well as later stages of development. This makes them an invaluable source of information on the history of communist Poland, eagerly relied on by historians and sociologists alike. The Institute for Western Affairs announced its first memoir contest for Western and Northern Territory residents in December 1956. The event was followed by a 1966 contest intended for young dwellers of the Western and Northern Territories and by a 1970 edition held on the 25th anniversary of the Recovered Territories. The memoirs contain descriptions of the pioneering period, the state in which the Territories were found, working conditions, family life, as well as personal opinions on various issues affecting the daily lives of local communities. Some contest submissions have been published while the entire collection has been transcribed and made available in the Archives of the Western and Northern Territories.

Use of the Archives is subject to the provisions laid down in the Archive Rules.




©2023 Instytut Zachodni

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