Freistaat Schwenten

A modern, independent nation state in eastern central Europe. Never heard of it? Well read on...

Near the Polish city of of Zielona Gora is the village of Swietno, which was once a German village known as Schwenten. It's about 30 miles west of the major city of Posen (Polish: Poznan) in the province of Schlesien. The population was probably around 900 when these momentous events occurred. (The official census in 1933 list 916 inhabitants, by 1939 it exploded to 961.)

After World War I, Germany basically collapsed into ruin and revolution. Although all of Germany was in chaos, the situation in the eastern provinces, such as Schlesien, was particularily difficult. Polish and German groups formed militias to fight over the territory.

In the village of Schwenten, which was exclusively German, although surrounded by mixed German/Polish towns, Pastor Emil Hegemann heard a rumour that he, the forest ranger Teske and the town leader Drescher were going to get mugged by some juvenile delinquents. This touched off a political crisis that would have far reaching effects.

At the same time, the Polish uprising was in full swing. On 28th November 1918 military forces were dispatched from nearby Grätz (Polish: Grodzisk Wielkopolski), in the direction of Schwenten. German militias sprung up throughout the eastern provinces, especially among returning war veterans, and pitched battles were fought across the countryside. The grave threats on both sides forced the Schwenteners into unilateral, decisive action. So between January 1-5, 1919, the town deliberated feverishly in the Gasthaus "Wolff" and decided to create an independent state, the Freistaat Schwenten (Free State Schwenten). Pastor Hegemann became President and Minister of Foreign Relations, Town leader Drescher became Minister of the Interior. Under the brilliant leadership of Forest Ranger Teske, who was Minister of War, the Schwenten Army was also formed. (The plans to form the Schwentener Kriegsmarine (Navy), to be led by the town barber, were apparently postponed since the nearby lake was frozen.) Laws and a constitution were drawn up. The Ministry of Finance came up with a budget, although a major source of revenue was lost as beer was to be a non-taxable item. (Apparently Herr Wolff would no longer supply free beer to the Schwenten parliament meeting in his Gasthaus if such Bolshevism invaded the Freistaat.)

Amazingly, both German and Polish military forces in the region recognized the "neutrality" of the Freistaat Schwenten. Undoubtedly the fierceness of the Schwentener Armed Forces acted as the main deterrent. (When faced with a similar situation, this model of armed neutrality would later form the basis of General Charles de Gaulle's "force de frappe"). Henceforth, "foreigners" could only traverse the territory with a visa, which was a stamp from the local church.

Eventually, the Schwenten triumvirate realized that the situation was unsustainable (League of Nations was too wishy-washy), and petitioned for admission into Germany. This was granted in August 1919, and the border between Poland and Germany was fixed here.

Soccer was certainly a priority of the Freistaat, but we can find no records of the national championship. Most likely these were destroyed during the second World War. A sports club was founded in 1923, but it was affiliated with the Deutsche Turnerschaft. It's possible that the jealous gymnasts deliberately destroyed all traces of the Schwentener Oberliga. In any case, after the collapse of the Third Reich, most Germans were kicked out of the east, so all records are lost.

Unfortunately, most historians have unjustly ignored the glorious history of the Freistaat Schwenten, instead choosing to concentrate on how George W. Bush freed the World from Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I did find some brief info from a Polish viewpoint: (Source: "Powiat Wolsztynski - Samorzadowy Portal Informacyjny")

Wies na skraju wielkiego kompleksu lesnego, traktatem wersalskim przyznana Niemcom, do 1939 r. wies graniczna z placówka celna. W czasie Powstania Wielkopolskiego miejscowy pastor, Emil Hegemann, oglosil Swietno neutralna republika, mianujac sie premierem i ministrem spraw zagranicznych, soltysa - ministrem spraw wewnetrznych, lesniczego - ministrem obrony. Strony walczace respektowaly te “neutralna republike”. Po wejsciu w zycie traktatu wersalskiego zajely ja wojska niemieckie. Kosciól szachulcowy z II pol. XIX w., z fasada i wieza dobudowanymi z cegly w 1893 r.


(c) Abseits Guide to Germany -