chapter
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Politics in pre-war Poland

WithJoseph Rykwert

This chapter provides the early experiences of the author. In 1935, Jozef Pilsudski died. For nine years – all his life – he had been the de facto dictator of Poland, which he had become by a bloody coup d'etat in the late spring of 1926, a month after the author was born. Pilsudski was never president or prime minister, but by turns foreign secretary, minister of war, commander in chief of the army. He had been a member of every government after his coup, and he dominated them in fact, not in name. There were no political executions, though some politicians were imprisoned and others exiled. Publication was restricted by censorship, though satire was tolerated – but only just. An ex-socialist like several other authoritarians of his day, he had reached his military rank and prestige by a field command of the 'legions' he organized to fight with the 'Central Powers' against the Russians to establish Polish statehood.