The Struggle for Polish Autonomy and the Question of Integration in the Ruhr and Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1880–1914
Beginning in the late 1870s, thousands of Polish labourers began migrating to the Ruhr basin in Germany and the anthracite fields of northeastern Pennsylvania to work in the growing coal industries of both regions. This chapter first describes the development of Polish Catholicism in each region and then investigates the causes and consequences of Polish struggles with the Catholic Church over religious matters. Polish willingness to confront the Catholic Church was influenced by the socialist working-class milieu of both regions and specific developments emerging from the realm of work. In the Ruhr the growing political strength of Poles in church elections caused Germans to reach pre-election compromises with Poles over the allotment of parish council seats rather than risk losing more seats in elections. In analysing working-class immigrants and their integration patterns, both in the period before the First World War and in the present, historians must carefully examine the continuing power of religion to inform worker outlook and action.