Józef Beck: Wikis

  
  

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Józef Beck


In office
November 2, 1932 – September 20, 1939
President Ignacy Mościcki
Prime Minister Aleksander Prystor, Janusz Jędrzejewicz, Leon Kozłowski, Walery Sławek, Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski, Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski
Deputy Jan Szembek
Preceded by August Zaleski
Succeeded by August Zaleski

Born October 4, 1894
Warsaw, then Russian Empire, now Poland
Died June 5, 1944 (aged 49)
Stăneşti, Romania
Profession Politician, Diplomat, Military

About this sound Józef Beck (October 4, 1894, Warsaw – June 5, 1944, Stăneşti, Romania) was a Polish statesman, diplomat, military officer, and close associate of Józef Piłsudski.

Contents

Early life

When World War I started, Beck was a student at a college of Engineering[1]. After the outbreak of World War I, Beck was a member of the clandestine Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, or POW) founded in October 1914 by Piłsudski. Joining in 1914[2] Beck served until 1917 in the First Brigade of the Polish Legions, and was aide to Piłsudski. When the Brigade was interned, Beck escaped. After Poland regained independence, Beck was assigned as a commander of an artillery battery and assigned to the General Staff. Beck served as military attaché to France between 1922 and 1923[2]. The French disliked Beck to the point of even spreading lies about him [3]. In 1926 he helped to carry out the May 1926 military coup d'état that brought Piłsudski to de facto governmental power[3].

In 1926-1930 Beck served as chief of staff to Poland's Minister of Military Affairs, and in 1930-1932 as Vice Prime Minister[3] and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs[3]. Groomed by Piłsudski to implement Poland's foreign policy, in 1932 he took office as Minister of Foreign Affairs[1][2][4], a post he was to hold until the outbreak of World War II[5].

Foreign Minister

In his international diplomacy, Beck sought to maintain a fine balance in Poland's relations with its two powerful neighbours, Germany and the Soviet Union[6]. Pursuant to this, in July 1932 he concluded a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union[7], and in January 1934 a German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact[4][7]. He sought guarantees of security for Poland from the western powers: from Great Britain[7] and France. His signal accomplishment in this realm was securing such guarantees from Britain in the spring of 1939, when it had become clear that Germany would not be swayed from embarking on war, and renewal of the Franco-Polish Alliance. Beck's policies could not avert war, but they did ultimately cause Germany's attack on Poland to embroil Germany in conflict with the western powers.

Beck detested the Minorities Treaty, guaranteeing the rights of Poland's Jewish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian and German minorities, that the Allies had forced on Central European states under the 1919 Versailles Treaty, . Beck argued that, while Poland and Czechoslovakia were forced to respect the rights of their respective German minorities, the Polish minorities in Germany and the Soviet Union were not so protected[8]. In addition, Beck resented that countries, such as Germany, used the Minorities Treaty to exert pressure on neighbouring states and to become involved in the internal affairs of Poland [9]. In September 1934, Beck renounced the Minorities Treaty after the Soviet Union was admitted to the League of Nations[10].

Largely because the League of Nations had been the principal guarantor of the Minorities Treaty, Beck had a strong dislike for the League, and made little effort to hide his disdain for the League.

After Piłsudski's death in May 1935, a power sharing agreement was agreed to by the various Piłsudskite factions, led by General (later Marshal) Edward Rydz-Śmigły, President Ignacy Mościcki, and Beck himself. These three individuals effectively dominated the Sanacja (Sanation) and collectively ruled Poland until the outbreak of World War II. Beck more or less had a free hand in formulating Poland's foreign policy[4]. The stability of the ruling group was weakened, owing to personal conflicts within it, and none of the three men managed to completely assert their dominance during the late 1930s. The period from 1935 to 1939 is often described by historians as a "dictatorship without a dictator."

Hitler and Beck, 1937

Beck also actively explored possibilities of realizing his mentor Piłsudski's concept of Międzymorze ("Tween-Seas"): of a federation of central and eastern European countries stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and — in later variants — from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Such a polity, between Germany in the west and the Soviet Union in the east, might have been strong enough to deter both from military intervention. Beck realized that for the immediate future there was no realistic chance of building such a European superstate, but he was prepared to settle for a diplomatic bloc led by Poland, referred to as a "Third Europe"[11][12], that might become the nucleus of a Międzymorze federation.

Beck's "Third Europe" diplomatic concept comprised a bloc of Italy[13][14], Poland[13][14], Yugoslavia, Hungary[13][14], and Romania[15]. It was toward this goal that Beck devoted most of his energy during his time as Foreign Minister. His efforts failed because

  • both Italy and Hungary preferred to align themselves with Germany rather than Poland;
  • the dispute between Romania and Hungary over Transylvania doomed efforts to include them in a common bloc;
  • the desire of both Fascist Italy and Hungary to partition Yugoslavia between them blocked any effort to include Rome, Budapest and Belgrade in an alliance;
  • none of the four states that were meant to form the "Third Europe" with Poland was interested in accepting Polish leadership.

Italy, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia were all economically and militarily weak states, as their dismal performance during World War II would amply show, and that to believe that if only the "Third Europe" bloc had been created, Poland could have been saved from German and Soviet occupation in September 1939 does not seem very realistic.

Road to war

In 1936, the Camp of National Unity(OZON) was formed[16] but Beck refused to join[17].

The Czechoslovak government was not interested in an alliance with Poland [18]. Beneš claimed when Beck became Foreign Minister, he proposed an alliance against Germany, but Beneš refused.[18] Beck tried again in 1934 to settle differences with Czechoslovakia. Beneš saw the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact as a ‘stab in the back’[19]. Beck disliked Czechoslovakia and its Foreign Minister (later President) Edvard Beneš[20][21], who in his turn reciprocated these feelings in full[19]. By contrast, Beck's relations with the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, were good. Beck often toyed with the idea that Slovakia should be annexed by Hungary (apart from a small part going to Poland) [22], though he never attempted to actually do this (except that Poland did in 1938-1939 successfully work with Hungary for a restored common Polish-Hungarian border, at Czechoslovakia's expense: see article on the First Vienna Award). The chances of Polish-Czechoslovak alliance in the 1930s were never good, but the mutual hatred between Beck and Beneš ended what slight chances there were. Still it has also been argued that it was not the personal acrimony but a realisation that only France could help against Germany hence Polish/Czechoslovak relations were not critical[23].

In the early 1950s, there was a major historical debate on the pages of the Times Literary Supplement between the British historian Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier and the former French foreign minister Georges Bonnet. Namier alleged that Bonnet had snubbed an offer by Beck in May 1938 to have Poland come to the aid of Czechoslovakia in the event of a German attack[24 ]. Bonnet denied that such an offer had been made, which led Namier to accuse Bonnet of seeking to falsify the record[24 ]. Namier concluded the debate in 1953 with words "The Polish offer, for what it was worth, was first torpedoed by Bonnet the statesmen, and next obliterated by Bonnet the historian"[25].

Beck played a decisive role in the evolution of the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Europe during the months preceding the start of the Second World War, through his refusal of Germany's proposal concerning the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) and for a German extraterritorial highway to run across Polish Pomorze (Pomerania) to East Prussia, two concessions on Poland's part which would be compensated through the extension of the 1934 nonaggression pact for a period of 25 years, the inclusion of Poland in the Anti-Comintern Pact directed against the Soviet Union, and a formal guarantee of the country's borders.

May 5, 1939—Beck addresses the Sejm, rejecting Hitler's demands.

Even in 1937, Hitler continued to assure Beck that Germany had no claims on Danzig[26]. But at the start of 1939, Hitler changed his earlier position and now laid claim to Danzig, adding that military force would not be used [26]. In April 1939, Beck was in London to agree the terms of the British-Polish aid treaty [27]. Beck famously voiced his refusal of German demands in a speech on May 5, 1939, less than four months before Adolf Hitler's military attack on Poland:

"Peace is a precious and a desirable thing. Our generation, bloodied in wars, certainly deserves peace. But peace, like almost all things of this world, has its price, a high but a measurable one. We in Poland do not know the concept of peace at any price. There is only one thing in the lives of men, nations and countries that is without price. That thing is honor."

To Hitler, though, whether Poland accepted Germany's demands or not, was of little concern, given Hitler's intent to achieve a common boundary with the Soviet Union. Whether this was accomplished through alliances with the Baltic countries, or through their annexation by Germany or the Soviet Union, was in principle irrelevant.[28]

Similarly, Beck refused an agreement proposed by Great Britain which involved the country's cooperation with France and the Soviet Union. In doing so, Poland maintained a relatively neutral stance towards both of its powerful neighbours.

A third proposal soon followed, once again elaborated by Great Britain, which promised support to the Polish Government, should the country's borders be endangered. This time around, Beck accepted it.

His hopes for an alliance with Britain thwarted, Hitler shifted his focus to the Soviet Union, with whom Germany would celebrate a non-aggression pact, in an attempt to settle the situation with Russia following the resolution of the impending opening of a Western front.

At the same time, Great Britain and France also sought an alliance with Russia. Nevertheless, while Germany could offer the Soviets considerable benefits, including vast territories in Eastern Europe and Finland, the Allies could only allow Russia to make use of Polish territory, under vague circumstances and limited conditions (in fact, even this small concession on Beck's part was only agreed when the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was very much inevitable).[29]

Graves of Józef Beck and Jan Jankowski, Powązki Cemetery, Warsaw

In August 2009 the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service claimed that Beck was a German agent.[30] Polish media reacted angrily to the allegation.[31]

World War II

Following the invasion of Poland by German at the start of World War II, it was Beck who called on Poland's allies (France and Britain) to find out when they would enter the war to support Poland[32]. After Poland had been overrun by its neighbours in September 1939 in a historic "fourth partition" of the country, on the night of September 17-18, 1939, Beck withdrew together with the rest of the Polish government into Romania[1], where he was interned by the authorities. It was then that he wrote a volume of memoirs, Ostatni raport (Final Report).

He died in Stanesti, Romania[33][34], June 5, 1944 after developing tuberculosis[35]. Beck was survived by his son Andrzej who is active in the Polish community[36].

The criticism of Beck has been challenged by historians. Norman Davies describes them as “exaggerated” [5]. Peter Stachura felt it “misplaced” [37]. His policies were also supported by Prof. Anna Cienciala[38]

In May 1991, Beck's remains were repatriated to Poland and interred at Warsaw's Powązki Cemetery, one of Poland's pantheons of the great and valiant.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Stanislaw Mackiewicz Colonel Beck and his policy’’ Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1944 Page 7
  2. ^ a b c Richard Watt Bitter Glory Poland and its Fate ISBN 0-7818-0673-9 Page 310
  3. ^ a b c d Richard Watt Bitter Glory Poland and its Fate ISBN 0-7818-0673-9 Page 311
  4. ^ a b c Peter Stachura Poland, 1918-1945, ISBN 0 415 34358 5 Page 116
  5. ^ a b Norman Davies God's Playground Volume II, Oxford University Press 1986 ISBN 0-19-821944-X Page 430
  6. ^ Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 49
  7. ^ a b c Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 50
  8. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski Poland's Holocaust McFarland, 1998 ISBN 0-7864-0371-3 Page 4
  9. ^ Peter Stachura Poland, 1918-1945, ISBN 0 415 34358 5 Page 97
  10. ^ Count Edward Raczynski In Allied London Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962 Page 2
  11. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QDgaX6q9tycC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=Biskupski+J%C3%B3zef+Beck&source=web&ots=BBDb8A-l5L&sig=jwSvKhOZvHR6nwbWU5euXOs4y90&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA89,M1
  12. ^ Biskupski, Mieczyslaw B. The History of Poland Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 2000 Page 89
  13. ^ a b c http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QDgaX6q9tycC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=Biskupski+J%C3%B3zef+Beck&source=web&ots=BBDb8A-l5L&sig=jwSvKhOZvHR6nwbWU5euXOs4y90&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA92,M1
  14. ^ a b c Biskupski, Mieczyslaw B. The History of Poland Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 2000 Page 92
  15. ^ Richard Watt Bitter Glory Poland and its Fate ISBN 0-7818-0673-9 Page 387
  16. ^ Richard Watt Bitter Glory: Poland and its Fate, ISBN 0-7818-0673-9, p. 355.
  17. ^ Richard Watt Bitter Glory: Poland and its Fate, ISBN 0-7818-0673-9, p. 356.
  18. ^ a b Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 53
  19. ^ a b Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 54
  20. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QDgaX6q9tycC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=Biskupski+J%C3%B3zef+Beck&source=web&ots=BBDb8A-l5L&sig=jwSvKhOZvHR6nwbWU5euXOs4y90&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA91,M1
  21. ^ Biskupski, Mieczyslaw B. The History of Poland Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 2000 Page 91
  22. ^ Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 95
  23. ^ Editors I.Lukes and E.Goldstein The Munich Crisis, 1938 Frank 2006 ISBN 0-7146-8056-7 Page 71
  24. ^ a b Adamthwaite, Anthony France and the Coming of the Second World War, London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 183-184
  25. ^ Adamthwaite, Anthony France and the Coming of the Second World War, London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 184
  26. ^ a b Carl Tighe Gdańsk National Identity in the Polish-German Borderlands Pluto 1990 ISBN 0-7453-0474-5 Page 122
  27. ^ Jozef Garlinski Poland in the Second World War, ISBN 0-333-39258-2 Page 6
  28. ^ Sebastian Haffner, Der Tenfelspakt, p.92
  29. ^ Joachim Fest, Hitler, p.590/591
  30. ^ Putin goes to Poland for war anniversary, but sorry is the hardest word Times Online, 1 Sept 2009
  31. ^ History weighs heavy on World War Two anniversary Reuters, 31 Aug 2009
  32. ^ Richard Watt Bitter Glory Poland and its Fate ISBN 0-7818-0673-9 Page 425
  33. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QDgaX6q9tycC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=Biskupski+J%C3%B3zef+Beck&source=web&ots=BBDb8A-l5L&sig=jwSvKhOZvHR6nwbWU5euXOs4y90&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA196,M1
  34. ^ Biskupski, Mieczyslaw B. The History of Poland Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 2000 Page 227
  35. ^ Richard Watt Bitter Glory Poland and its Fate ISBN 0-7818-0673-9 Page 442
  36. ^ http://www.pilsudski.org/English/News/Events.htm
  37. ^ Peter Stachura Poland, 1918-1945, ISBN 0 415 34358 5 Page 117
  38. ^ The Sarmatian Review April 2000 Page 718

References

  • Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski, The History of Poland Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press, 2000.
  • Anna Cienciala, "The Munich Crisis of 1938: Plans and Strategy in Warsaw in the Context of Western Appeasement of Germany" pp. 48-81 from The Munich crisis, 1938: Prelude to World War II, edited by Igor Lukes and Erik Goldstein, London, Frank Cass, Inc., 1999.
  • Sean Greenwood, "The Phantom Crisis: Danzig, 1939," pp. 247-72 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered: A.J.P. Taylor and the Historians, edited by Gordon Martel, London, Routledge, 1999.
  • Henry L. Roberts, "The Diplomacy of Colonel Beck," pp. 579-614 from The Diplomats, 1919-1939, edited by Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1953.







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