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Germans in Central Poland (Lodz), Volhynia and Lithuania

Lithuania, Poland and Volhynia have been closely linked with one another throughout history. Germans came to live in these regions during the early days of statehood in Polish and Lithuanian territories. In the second partition of Poland in 1793, central Poland was taken by Prussia. In 1815, it was awarded to the Russian Empire as part of 'Congress Poland'. In order to stimulate economic recovery after the Napoleonic Wars, the Prussian administration and, subsequently, Polish landowners and the government of Congress Poland, invited German-speaking clothmakers and weavers from Swabia, Baden, Silesia, Saxony and Bohemia, amongst other places. Łódź, where there had been a settlement since the 14th century, developed into the centre of an internationally important textile manufacturing region.

In the 1830s, mechanical looms were introduced to central Poland; artisan weavers and master clothmakers working by hand were no match for the huge new factories and lost much work. Łódź did not prove to be a 'promised land' for everyone. Many people emigrated to Volhynia, which had fallen to Russia in the second partition of Poland in 1793. Volhynia experienced the largest influxes of German craftsmen and farmers in the 1830s and the 1860s.

The first Germans arrived in Lithuania in the 14th century. They mostly occupied trading posts for partners from neighbouring Baltic regions and so gained little influence. In the centuries that followed, Lithuanian noblemen specifically addressed German farmers when inviting settlers to cultivate their lands. Other Germans made their own way to the areas bordering Prussia, in the hope of escaping poverty. In 1860, Lithuania began to industrialise: a significant contribution was made by German workers who emigrated there during the second half of the 19th century.