The Danzig Corridor

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The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 22 May 2022 09:55

Esmé Howard (member of the British Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and the International Commission to Poland) explains why the Corridor was established ("The Times" - June 06, 1933).
[T]he following facts, … were … considered at Paris conclusive in favor of the establishment of the Polish Corridor
HISTORICAL.
The Corridor was never before 1772, the date of the first partition of Poland, an integral part of Germany, but belonged to the Polish province of Pomorze for something like seven or eight centuries …
ETHNOGRAPHiC.
The maps and statistics issued by the Prussian Government after the census of 1910, which were drawn up with all the accuracy for which that Government's publications were justly noted, showed conclusively that in this region, apart from one or two of the larger towns such as Danzig and Bromberg, the majority of the inhabitants were undoubtedly Poles or Slays closely allied to Poles.
LINGUISTIC.
The same maps and statistics (there are a series of them which anyone can still consult) showed that these inhabitants spoke mainly, not German, but either Polish or a dialect nearly akin thereto.
POLITICAL.
They showed further that these districts returned to the Prussian Diet mainly members of the Polish Party, thus making it clear where their political sympathies lay.
RELIGIOUS.
They also showed that the great majority of the inhabitants were Roman Catholics who if they did not return Poles to the Diet. returned members of the Centre or Roman Catholic Party.

Apart from the facts and considerations set out above, the Allied Governments had, if I remember right, declared in July 1918, that Poland should be reinstated as an independent nation "with free access to the sea."
It was difficult to suppose that a nation of about 30,000,000 inhabitants, with a territory larger in area than Italy and with great natural resources, whose boundaries must, in any case, reach to within almost 100 miles of the sea, would be content to remain cut off from free access to, at least, one piece of seafront to which, for all the reasons above stated, it appeared to have an undoubted title and without which it felt-not without good reason - that its business relations with the world oversea might be threatened at any time.
The restoration, therefore, to Poland of this strip of purely Polish territory seemed to us in Paris in 1919 and still seems to me only an act of elementary justice.
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 22 May 2022 09:56

An earlier article ("The Times" - May 30, 1933).
The so-called Corridor was always Poland's. It was taken away from her when all the rest of her country was taken away from her and was restored to her in 1918, when the rest of her country was restored to her. Poland's right to Pomorze is a natural right and dates from time immemorial; Germany's *' right " is founded on the crime of 1793, when Poland was partitioned among her enemies.

This transaction was referred to by the Allies at the Peace Conference as "one of the greatest injustices in history, a crime the memories and consequences of which have long poisoned the political life of a great part of Europe, and one which it is the first duty of the Allies to repair."

All the evidence available points to the conclusion that what Germany is really aiming at is her old policy of the political and economic subservience of Poland to Germany.
Bismarck said as early as January 28, 1856, in the Prussian Landtag: "We shall never consent to the restoration of Poland."
In a later speech, he stated: " Strike the Poles until they lose the courage to live ... They must be exterminated."

On Junie 14, 1925, the Frankfurter Zeitung wrote:
" Either Poland will engage in an economic war with us to the death, in which case she will be ruined, or else she will conclude with us a commercial treaty dictated by us. In either case she will be mortally wounded; through her wounds she will lose all her force, and finally her independence. Then we will finish off the moribund."
Up to the time of Herr Hitler's Reichstag speech, at any rate, Germany appeared to be stirring up a rowdy propaganda, sowing hatred in the name of justice and glorying in a militant nationalism while demanding the disarmament of others.
The international crime of the partition of Poland began by the Prussian rape of Pomorze and the final dismemberment and spoliation of Poland.
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 23 May 2022 04:42

One of the earliest articles about Danzig and the corridor:
Danzig ... is to be a free city, but diplomatically and economically united with Poland.
In effect, it would seem that It is to be a part of the Polish State as much as Warsaw, except that it is to have municipal home rule which will give such guarantees as may be necessary to the Germane in the city.
This was the situation of Danzig through much of the Middle Ages and the period culminating in the partitions of Poland
, and while there was often friction between the city and the Polish central Government, In the main it worked pretty well. There is no reason why It should not work well now, and it would meet the legitimate claim of Poland for a Baltic port while insuring the Germane of the City against forcible denationalization.

As for the corridor connecting Danzig with the principal part of the Polish territories, we have no information as to Its extent: but if it includes only those districts where the greater part of the population is Polish it will have sufficient width to satisfy Polish economic Interest as well as national feeling, for west and southwest of Danzig West Prussia is very largely Polish by race.

With the added stipulation that the Polish Government is to control navigation of the Vistula it would seem that despite all gloomy predictions of a new crucifixion of Poland the Conference has settled the Baltic dispute in a sense generally very favorable to Polish aspirations, which in this case are Inextricably bound up with a right to live.
Not only Poland, but the world, will be the loser If the Conference allows Germany to shut Poland off from the Baltic.
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 24 May 2022 12:12

Despite its military impotence, the Weimar Republic was a persistent and clear danger to Poland.
In 1920, Germany, at the crucial enemy-at-the-gates moment, when the Red Army was approaching Warsaw, established land and naval blockade of Poland with the intention of collapsing Polish resistance against Soviet Russia.

Dr. Simons, the Foreign Secretary, speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Reichstag yesterday, declared that, in the event, the Entente contemplated the dispatch of troops through Germany for the aid of Poland, Germany would vigorously protest.
A note on the attitude of Germany In the Russian-Poland crises was presented at Paris yesterday.
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Joined by Czechoslovakia and the (inherently pro-Bolsheviks) German left the blockade effectively cut off Poland from the world.
Ellis Loring Dresel, American Commissioner in Berlin to the Secretary of State in Washington, DC,
Berlin, August 9, 1920

Department has noticed appeal printed yesterday in "Vorwärts" and transmitted Associated Press calling on workmen to be on guard against violations of German neutrality. Proclamation is first instance in history of organized German labor where all elements of labor majority, and independent Socialists, trade unions, and Communists have acted together and shows a solidarity of sentiment in labor, which threatens grim consequences if attention is not paid to its warnings.
This sentiment is shared by Reactionaries and large portion of middle parties. Appeal strengthens convictions expressed in my [Telegram] 935 of yesterday.
Even if the fate of Poland appears to depend wholly on transport of Entente troops and material through Germany we should, as I believe refuse to endorse a policy permitting such transport.
Whatever the views of German Government and whenever concessions Entente might make, public opinion among laborers is now so consolidated that an attempt at transport would produce strikes and probably armed resistance and destruction of railroads to such an extent that Germany would be forced to join Russia openly and the whole continent would again be in a blaze.

There is a remote possibility that certain factors may alter the existing conditions, excessive severity of peace terms to Poland may bring about a change of sentiment. Invasion of German territory by the Russians would almost assuredly produce such change.
But as the situation is today I cannot overemphasize my profound conviction that the vast majority of the German population would resist to the utmost a violation by the Entente of Germany's neutrality. The moment is full of utterances and presage of disaster if false steps are made.
August 9, 9PM.
Dresel
American reports on the Polish-Bolshevik war, 1919-1920 by Janusz Cisek
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 24 May 2022 12:55

The disaster was averted at the last minute by an energetic Allies' intervention in Danzig (and Hungarian help.)
And demonstrated that effective control of Danzig, especially of its waterways, was necessary for Poland's survival.
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by wm » 25 May 2022 20:00

A minor scuffle, one of many. It happened just a few weeks before Hitler became chancellor.
It is quite unknown to the public and to the ordinary run of diplomats that the year opened with a dangerous situation between Germany and Poland.
The Poles have long been exasperated by what they charge is continual aggression by German propaganda. Now that their relations with Russia have been consolidated peacefully by a non-aggression pact they are concentrating on the liquidation of the "German menace."

On the occasion of the New Year celebration at Koenigsberg, East Prussia, a radio broadcast appeal was made by a high German official that was regarded as equivalent to a call to arms against Poland.
Marshal Pilsudski called in Foreign Secretary Joseph Beck with a view to preparing for eventualities, and instructions were sent to the Polish Ambassador in Berlin to demand explanations from the government of the Reich.

Foreign Minister Constantin von Neurath replied with the fullest apology, explaining the broadcast as the un-disciplined act of a minor official in the absence of the regular censor.
In his desire to placate Poland, Baron von Neurath even declared that revision of the treaty affecting Poland's frontiers was not desired by the Reich.
Having obtained this apology the Poles, resumed their waiting attitude, but they firmly decided not to tolerate henceforward attacks against their republic by German propaganda calculated to injure Polish credit or to prepare a movement for revision of their frontiers.
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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Piotr Kapuscinski » 30 May 2022 10:53

Percentage of ethnic Polish and Kashubian population in the Corridor by county between 1831 and 1931:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Co ... population

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There are words which carry the presage of defeat. Defence is such a word. What is the result of an even victorious defence? The next attempt of imposing it to that weaker, defender. The attacker, despite temporary setback, feels the master of situation.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Steve » 21 Jun 2022 02:28

On first reading the post I wondered what the point of it was but presumably the point is to show that Poland had an absolute right to the corridor and also that the Germans behaved badly in Danzig. This seemed obvious at first but then I thought did Poland have an absolute right?

“The Corridor was never before 1772, the date of the first partition of Poland, an integral part of Germany, but belonged to the Polish province of Pomorze for something like seven or eight centuries …

“for all the reasons above stated, it appeared to have an undoubted title”

“The so-called Corridor was always Poland's. It was taken away from her when all the rest of her country was taken away from her and was restored to her in 1918, when the rest of her country was restored to her. Poland's right to Pomorze is a natural right and dates from time immemorial; Germany's *' right " is founded on the crime of 1793, when Poland was partitioned among her enemies.”

“Did Poland have legal title to the Polish Corridor? As the corridor was given to Poland by the internationally recognised treaty of Versailles then the answer would seem to be yes”

As far as I am aware the Polish Sejm of 1773 signed away the territory of the corridor so its acquisition by Prussia was legal. It seems that the argument being made here is that as this treaty was forced on Poland by the use of force it had no legitimacy. If you accept that argument then as the treaty of Versailles was forced on Germany surely its provisions regarding Danzig and the corridor also have no legitimacy.

The idea that an area which belonged to nation x for centuries and whose population is ethnically the same as nation x gives nation x an “undoubted title” to the area is founded on wishful thinking. Russians have lived in parts of Ukraine for centuries and still do but whom apart from the Russians and an odd friend of theirs is saying that they have “undoubted title” to Crimea etc? Does Hungary have an “undoubted title” to parts of Rumania and Slovakia? Does Mexico have an “undoubted title” to parts of the USA? Without Versailles Poland’s claim to the territory of the corridor in 1919 would probably be as strong as Mexico’s would be if they made a claim to the parts of Texas along the border inhabited by Mexicans.

“Danzig ... is to be a free city, but diplomatically and economically united with Poland.
In effect, it would seem that It is to be a part of the Polish State as much as Warsaw, except that it is to have municipal home rule which will give such guarantees as may be necessary to the Germane in the city.
This was the situation of Danzig through much of the Middle Ages and the period culminating in the partitions of Poland, and while there was often friction between the city and the Polish central Government, In the main it worked pretty well. There is no reason why It should not work well now,”

Clearly written by a nitwit.

The Germans right from the start seem to have decided to make life as difficult for the Poles in Danzig as possible. The arrangement in the port was not likely to stand the test of time and the Poles should have understood that at some point negotiations on a new arrangement would need to take place. The weak Germany of 1919 was gone but the Poles clung to Danzig as if it was still 1919. No German government prior to Hitler had been prepared to recognise the German Polish border or the situation with regard to the corridor and Danzig. Hitler offered the Poles the best deal they were ever likely to get from Germany.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by gebhk » 21 Jun 2022 09:51

Hi Steve

I think you have hit the nail on the head. The fact is that when you boil it down, no one has an absolute 'right' to anything. You have rights only because other people agree to them (either voluntarily or not so much, of course) and agreement is conditional and changeable and therefore rights change over time. This applies to boundaries as much as anything else. So when the rights to any particular piece of real estate come under discussion, all the sides muster all the arguments they can. The nature of the arguments has changed over time as the mores of the times have changed, however, one thing that has not changed much over the years is that holding a bayonet or, earlier, some other sharp object to the throat has always been the most convincing one. Sadly.

It was no different after WW1 and, indeed, the idea that the wishes of the local population should be considered at all, let alone be paramount, was a noble one. Clearly, however, it could not be an absolute rule becuase, inevitably, on the one hand there would be populations which were mixed or in enclaves and on the other, there is little point in creating a state that cannot survive because it lacks the resources to do so. The latter is, of course, where the corridor came in. And while the majority of the corridor can be defended on 'ethnic' grounds (see above) albeit one should be very wary of assuming that just because someone was an ethnic Pole or German (however you define that) that automatically they would have wanted to live in Poland or Germany respectively, Danzig was, obviously, a very different kettle of fish. It's population was overwhelmingly German and, perhaps erroneously, it is assumed all those Germans wanted to be in Germany. The reason the wishes of Danziger's were taken into account but overriden in the decision-making process, was because Polish access to the sea via Danzig was considered essential to Poland's long-term viability.

It is difficult to disagree with you that the para you quote could only have been written by a nitwit. Danzig was neither diplomatically nor economically united with Poland, or any other country for that matter, which was at the core of the problem. It was precisely to avoid this disastrous situation that the overwhelming opinion of the relevant comittee was that Danzig should become part of Poland (albeit with varying shades of local self-government being proposed). It is difficult not to observe that, ironically, had Danzig been at least economically tied to Poland, it would have done very much better in the interbellum overall and would have been spared the worst of the ravages of the Great Depression in particular, so this option was probably the right one, at least economically, for Danzig (of course no one could have known that in 1918-19). However, it would appear that Lloyd George was obdurate on the matter (to the dismay of even the British reps on the comittee) and it is almost certain that he virtually single-handedly gifted the LoN and the world in general with this particular poisoned chalice. Of course what was basically an untenable situation in the long run, was compunded by an utter dog's dinner of government structure in the short.

What perplexes me is why anyone in Poland, much cared whether Danzig was governed by Germany or the LoN after Gdynia was created and established. To Pilsudski it appears to have been merely a means to an end - specifically a barometer of international relations generally and Polish-German relations in particular. It was a place where you could test, relatively safely, where Poland stood - or a cynic might say, how far it was possible to push the envelope. In short he never considered the status quo in Danzig as anything other than a useful political tool and, one suspects, never saw it as immutable or even, in itself, important. Beck, on the other hand, seems to have lost sight of this and began to treat the status quo as an end in itself. On this (in my opinion, faulty) premise he concluded, quite logically, that any Polish-Danzig issues were between Poland and the good burghers of Danzig and none of Germany's business so he was not going to talk to the Germans about them. This view was, of course, somewhat divorced from reality and lost the only real use Danzig had for Poland. At the same time Danzig's status quo and Polish rights therein became holy cows, protected at great expense despite being of little real value. The Westerplatte Transit Depot, where 200+ of Poland's finest soldiers guarded empty magazines that, by 1939, had been devoid of anything even remotely munition-like for years, stands as a potent symbol of this conundrum.

I think we may disagree about your final point, however. I would suggest that the only deal that Hitler had to offer Poland was the status of a vassal satellite, a status virtually no one in Poland was going to accept without a stiff fight first. The other alternative we know.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Steve » 23 Jun 2022 02:20

Hello,
Though Lloyd Georges name rarely comes up in any discussion of Danzig he bears a lot of the responsibility for the problems that arose. I would have thought that the Poles having Memel rather than Danzig made more sense. Danzig was by far a better port with communication along the Vistula but a corridor through East Prussia to Memel would have only cut off Prussia from Lithuania. Also Memel’s German population was much smaller than Danzig’s. As Danzig needed Polish trade to prosper an arrangement maybe could have been worked out to ensure Polish trade passed through the port freely but the city remained under German control.

Very likely if Poland had accepted what I think was quite a good offer from Hitler it would have ended up a vassal state. I cannot remember offhand if it was Smigly or Beck or both of them said while in Rumania that they had expected to lose but that the allies would win and Poland would come back. If this was not just hindsight talking then they had taken a gamble with their counties future. In other words they decided not to accept Hitler’s bird in the hand but gambled on getting two in the bush at some time in the future from Britain and France.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by gebhk » 23 Jun 2022 11:45

Hi Steve
I totally agree that L-G is rarely credited with his key role in this 'achievement'. Even Wilson, the champion of self-determination was, as I recall, initially in favour of Danzig going to Poland and it was L-G that convinced him of the merits of the Free City plan, not least by declaring he would veto any plan to give Danzig to Poland (the decisions had to be unanimous).
I would have thought that the Poles having Memel rather than Danzig made more sense. Danzig was by far a better port with communication along the Vistula but a corridor through East Prussia to Memel would have only cut off Prussia from Lithuania. Also Memel’s German population was much smaller than Danzig’s. As Danzig needed Polish trade to prosper an arrangement maybe could have been worked out to ensure Polish trade passed through the port freely but the city remained under German control.
Both these options had been considered but rejected for, even with hindsight, good reasons - albeit don't ask me now what they were: that would take some dredging of the memory banks and much research :oops: . Ultimately, the least bad solution, regardless of geographical location, would almost certainly have involved the mass expulsion of one bunch of people and the resettlement of another and no one was prepared to do that after WW1, the way they were willing to do so after WW2.
they decided not to accept Hitler’s bird in the hand but gambled on getting two in the bush
I wonder if, perhaps, this ignores the facts firstly that in the long term the 'bird in the hand' (ie being a vassal state) was a crock that very few in Poland would have found acceptable and, secondly, that anyone other than a person blessed with boundless blind optimism (or a complete imbecile) would have believed any offer or assurance that came out of Hitler's mouth.

Beck and Rydz were not speaking with hindsight. They had followed throughout, Pilsudski's line that (and I paraphrase) Polish policy was to balance between the two great powers and when, inevitably, that became impossible, to 'set Europe ablaze'. Put more colourfully, the view was that Poland was sat on a branch that was rotten and it was only a matter of time before it broke. When that happened, there was the option of either grabbing hold of one of two branches that were covered in poisonous thorns or allowing themselves to fall in the hope of a soft landing. There was no good option and, with hindsight, it should be clear that the position Poland would find herself in after the war was inevitable and there was nothing that could be done before the war by the Poles to change that. It was the amount of injury that was sustained while getting there that could have been mitigated. Comparisons with other countries that found themselves in the same or similar boat suggest that grabbing the poisonous German 'branch' for only as long as necessary was the best option, hoping for the best in the fall a pretty grim one, but better (not by much, but better) than grabbing the Soviet branch which was truly toxic. Needless to say, neither of the above mentioned gentlemen had the luxury of hindsight that we have when they were making their decisions.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Steve » 23 Jun 2022 16:51

If Poland had accepted Hitler’s offer it is not a certainty that he would have broken his word. However, if he had kept his word how would he have been able to launch his crusade against Bolshevism and Judaism without Poland? I would guess that at some point after accepting Hitler’s offer Poland would have come under pressure to join the Tripartite Pact.

I don’t believe that before they were under house arrest in Rumania Beck or Rytz had given any thought about the inevitability of the position they and the county were now in. If they had planned to “set Europe ablaze” they failed dismally, France would not have come to Poland’s aid without Britain and its aid had not come about by anything the Poles had done. Poland had tried to balance between Germany and the USSR which made sense but what do you do when balancing is no longer possible? By accepting the guarantee from Britain Poland was no longer balancing it had chosen a side.

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by gebhk » 24 Jun 2022 12:44

If they had planned to “set Europe ablaze” they failed dismally,
I can't see how that argument can be defended loigically. I don't think anyone would argue that Europe was not well and truly ablaze by 3 September 1939?! Of course we can argue till doomsday about who was exactly responsible for that state of affairs (and of course a certain Hitler, A had a lot to do with it). Nevertheless regardless who gets the credit (and, as they say, success has many fathers) the aim of the policy had been achieved. Of course in 1940 they could not know what Polands situation after ther war would be nor appreciate its inevitability. However they were aware that a coalition war had been their Plan B once the balancing (Plan A) proved, inevitably, impossible. And, in this, they were following their predecessor's prescription (there is ample documentary evidence of that).

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Steve » 26 Jun 2022 11:39

Hello,
The British offer of March 21 gave Beck the chance to join an anti German coalition. This offer was not the result of Polish diplomacy but came about because of British determination to prevent German domination of Europe. If the British had not declared war on September 3 Europe would not have been set ablaze. The war would have been confined to Germany and Poland so ergo it was Britain that set Europe ablaze in 1939.

The Poles believed they would have French military support if Germany attacked because of what was agreed with the French on May 19. I’ve never been sure if the Polish leadership really believed that French aid was guaranteed because if they did believe it they had not understood the French position. The French were not going to declare war without Britain also declaring war so the May 19 military protocol was not ratified until after they knew Britain would declare war. Polish diplomacy had not secured the military support of France in case of war it had only secured it if the British declared war.

Can it be argued that Beck’s decision to accept the British guarantee was a diplomatic disaster since it decided Hitler on a violent solution? Was the Polish approach to negotiations on the corridor and Danzig a diplomatic disaster? Was all of Polish diplomacy in 1939 up the creek because of how it was conducted?

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Re: The Danzig Corridor

Post by Orlov » 26 Jun 2022 15:07

Steve wrote:
26 Jun 2022 11:39
Hello,
The British offer of March 21 gave Beck the chance to join an anti German coalition. This offer was not the result of Polish diplomacy but came about because of British determination to prevent German domination of Europe. If the British had not declared war on September 3 Europe would not have been set ablaze. The war would have been confined to Germany and Poland so ergo it was Britain that set Europe ablaze in 1939.
Steve please explain - why neither Great Britain nor France shared the information and the text of the secret protocol of the Hitler-Stalin Pact - even though they already had it the day after Molotov and Ribbetrop signed pact (24.08.1939). Why did the USA not provide Poland with the text of the document that started World War II? (US diplomats knew even 23.08.1939).
Wouldn't sharing the key information about the alliance national-socialist and socialist-internationalist leading to war and the partition of Eastern Europe by any chance prevent to the mobilization of Poland to war with Germany. Spanish ambassador in UK and a close friend and relative of the British royal family, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba, 10th Duke of Berwick received this information from the FO, but the Polish ambassador in UK, Count Edward Raczyński, did not have this chance to pass such information to Warsaw.
PS: Last two questions: What role did Western pacifism play? (Why Die for Danzig? - Pourquoi mourir pour Dantzig? - almost like today) Why do you not mention the "spirit of Munich", where the fate of Czechoslovakia was decided by the four powers without the presence of Prague politicians?

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