Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic

By Peter D. Stachura | Go to book overview

10

DEFEAT IN VICTORY

The fate of the Second Republic was always bound to be determined mainly by the course of the Second World War and the international diplomacy that accompanied it. That the Poles themselves would play no more than a secondary role was made clear by the increasingly weak position of the Polish Government, based initially in France and from June 1940, following the total collapse of her long-standing ally, in London.

In General Władysław Sikorski, who had been appointed Prime Minister and commander-in-chief of the Polish armed forces in autumn 1939, and thus underlining the legal continuity of the Second Republic, the Poles at least had a leader of outstanding ability and genuine international stature. He had played a prominent and influential part in the Polish victories over the Ukrainians in 1918-19 and then, more importantly, over the Soviet Bolsheviks in 1919-20, and had acquired high-level political experience as Prime Minister in 1922-3 and Minister of Defence in 1924-5. However, Sikorski's career had stalled thereafter because he fell foul of Marshal Piłsudski, not only by supporting demands for more parliamentary control over the army, but also, more importantly perhaps, for his non-committal stance vis-à-vis the coup of May 1926. The Sanacja regime did not regard Sikorski as one of its supporters, and he soon found himself on the army reserve list - in effect, marginalised.

During the remainder of the pre-war period, Sikorski used his time to establish a solid reputation as a progressive-thinking military analyst and writer, and became associated with the political opposition, including the centre-right 'Morges Front' in the mid-1930s. By then, however, Sikorski, who regarded himself as the quintessential non-party patriot, had undoubtedly become rather frustrated at the unpromising path his career had taken, to the point where he made a few attempts to effect some sort of reconciliation with the post-Piłsudski regime. The overtures came to nothing, and he was further humiliated when war broke out in 1939, for his request to be given a military command post had been rejected. None

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Poland, 1918-1945: An Interpretive and Documentary History of the Second Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations and Glossary viii
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Independence Regained 6
  • 2 - Consolidation 28
  • 3 - Society and the Economy 45
  • 4 - Politics 59
  • 5 - The Ethnic Minorities 79
  • 6 - Culture and Education 101
  • 7 - Foreign Policy 111
  • 8 - Occupation and Resistance 130
  • 9 - The Jewish Holocaust and the Poles 144
  • 10 - Defeat in Victory 161
  • Conclusion 182
  • Bibliography 188
  • Appendix I 201
  • Appendix II 208
  • Index 211
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