Warmia (Latin Warmia or Varmia, German Ermland or Ermeland) is a region between Pomerania and Masuria in northern Poland. Together with Masuria it forms the Warminsko-Mazurskie Voivodship. It is located in a border area which has been under the rule of many different rulers from several countries over its long history; the most notable of these rulers were those of the Teutonic Knights, Poland and the Kingdom of Prussia.
To the west of Warmia is Pomesania, to the south Culmland (Ziemia Chelminska), Sassinia and Galindia (later called Masuria) and to the east Sambia. In the north it borders the Baltic Sea. Warmia was one of four dioceses created in 1242 by the papal legate William of Modena. The other three dioceses were Culmer Land, Pomesania and Sambia). All four dioceses, including Warmia, came under the rule of the archbishop of Riga. Warmia later became an exempt bishopric, ruled by Prince-Bishops, subject of the King of Poland. Some of its most notable prince-bishops were Lucas Watzenrode, uncle of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, and Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II.
In the 13th century, most of the Prussian region, including Warmia, was conquered by the Teutonic Knights. They had received the reins of government from the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1228. The grant was confirmed by papal bull in 1234. By 1466 Warmia passed with much of western Prussia to Polish sovereignty under the Second Treaty of Thorn as the separate bishopric and became a part of Royal Prussia.
Between the 13th and centuries Warmia was colonised by German (north) and Polish (south) settlers. The bishopric was a part of a Polish province of the church and bishops were usually Poles.
As a result of the 1772 Partition of Poland Warmia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. The last bishop, Ignacy Krasicki, a Polish writer, was nominated on Gniezno Arcbishopric.
Since that time it shares the history of East Prussia, with the exception that the people of that region were Catholic.
The end of World War II was a particularly bloody time in Warmia's history. As Soviet and Soviet-backed Polish forces retook the area, Wehrwölfe, groups of militia youngsters twelve to eighteen years old or younger, as well as old men, carried out campaigns against mostly Polish people. Some were their neighbors, others were re-settling in the area. At the same time, there was the killing of many Ukrainian, Belorussian and Polish settlers (deported from Polish lands overtaken by the Soviet Union) at the hands of the NKVD trained Soviet troops.
The issues behind these killings are complex. Many of the Wehrwolf members may have been orphaned by the Soviet and British bombings of Königsberg and other towns in Prussia, and believed they were defending their homeland from Soviet and Polish takeover. However, in the eye of many, the claim to Warmia as "homeland" is debatable. Some Wehrwolf members were likely the descendants of long-time residents of Warmia, others' families had been settled in the area under the German Empire in the 19th century, and still others' families were installed under the Nazi regime after the invasion of Poland in 1939. This last group would have been part of a Nazi policy that removed Polish nationals from their family homes and businesses, often to forced labor camps, and replaced them with loyal party members and their families. The goal was to build a solid base for the Nazi government and to help ensure the loyalty of newly conquered territory by "Germanizing" it.
Maximilian Kaller, the Bishop of Ermland, had been forced to leave his office by the Nazi SS in February 1945, during heavy attacks by the Red Army on Germany. After the heaviest actions by the Red Army subsided, a number of Germans including Bishop Kaller returned.
Bishop Kaller was then kept from continuing his duties by Cardinal August Hlond. It is to this day not clear whether Cardinal Hlond acted on his own or if he had papal permission, but this was a clear case of ethnic rifts in the theoretically universal Catholic Church. Maximilian Kaller made it as a refugee to western Germany, occupied by the Western allies. In 1946 Bishop Kaller received 'Special Authority as Bishop for the Deported Germans' from Pope Pius XII.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, a monument memorializing the dead was erected in September 2001. This memorial, inscribed in Polish and German, is located near Olsztyn (Ger. Allenstein).