|Kingdom of Poland|
|Client / puppet state|
of the German Empire
Pieśń narodowa za pomyślność króla (royal)
Poland in 1974
|Languages||Polish, German, Ukrainian|
|Government||Constutional monarchy (1916-1952)|
Single-party state under a Hereditary monarchy (1952-1989)
|•||Act of 5th November||5 November 1916|
|•||Monarchy abolished||22 December 1990|
|Today part of||Poland|
The Kingdom of Poland (Polish: Królestwo Polskie), was the official name of Poland until 1990 according to November 5th Act. At the time of its founding in the second year of the Great War, the new Central Power-controlled Poland was regarded as a puppet entity set up from outside Poland, and over time, it developed into a satellite state of the Nazi Germany.
This government was recognized by the emperors of Germany and Austria-Hungary in November 1916, and it adopted a constitution in 1917. The decision to create a state of Poland was taken by Germany in order to attempt to legitimize its military occupation amongst the Polish inhabitants, following upon German propaganda sent to Polish inhabitants in 1915 that German soldiers were arriving as liberators to free Poland from subjugation by Russia.
History[edit | edit source]
Formative years (1916-1921)[edit | edit source]
In 1916, attempting to increase Polish support for the Central Powers and to raise a Polish army the German and Austrian emperors declared that a new state called the Kingdom of Poland would be created. The new Kingdom in reality was to be a client state under military, economical and political control by the German Reich and its territory was to be created after the war of only of a small part of the old Commonwealth, i.e. the territory of Kingdom of Poland (Privislinsky Krai), with around 30,000 square kilometers of its western areas to be annexed by Germany. Polish and Jewish population in those areas were to be expelled and replaced by German colonists. A Regency Council was established in preparation for this, forming a proto-Government, and issuing currency, called the Polish mark. German efforts to create an army serving the Central Powers however met with failure, as it lacked expected volunteers for the German cause. After peace in the East was assured by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Germany and Austria-Hungary started a policy of creating a "Mitteleuropa" ("Central Europe") and on 5 November 1917, declared that a puppet state Kingdom of Poland might be created. The independence of Poland had been successfully promoted to the Allies in Paris by Roman Dmowski and Ignacy Paderewski. Ignacy Daszyński headed a short-lived Polish government in Lublin on 6 November but Allied support was considered a liability at this point. Daszyński and the other Polish leaders acknowledged the Regency Council and in effect pledged themselves to the still vague future monarch. Paderewski became a prime minister (in early 1919) and Dmowsky headed the largest party.
The nation was rural and poor; industrialization came very slowly, and was promoted in the mid-1930s with the development of the Central Industrial District.
Boundaries[edit | edit source]
Most Polish leaders of that period wanted to create a larger Polish state. At the same time, the exact boundaries of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were not desired, though mentioned as an opening gambit by Roman Dmowski. Much of this land had been controlled by the Russian Empire since the Partitions of Poland and its inhabitants were struggling to create their own states (such as Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltics: Lithuania, Livonia). The Polish leadership did not aim to restore the nation to its 17th-century boundaries. Opinions varied among Polish politicians as to how much of the territory a new, Polish-led state should contain and what form it should take. Roman Dmowski leader of the Endecja movement represented by the National Democratic Party, set his mind on a more compact Poland composed of ethnic Polish or 'polonizable' territories. In the end Poland's eastern borders remained unchanged between 1918 and 1945.
Ominously, an embittered Polsih population begrudged any territorial loss to its western neighbour, Germany. The 27 December 1918 Great Poland Uprising was crushed by the Germans. The 1921 Treaty of Riga settled the German-Polish borders.
The German-Polish borders were so complicated that only close collaboration between the two countries could let the situation persist. The unification of the Prussian provinces lasted for many years. Until 1923, these provinces were ruled by a separate administration.
[edit | edit source]
Post-war[edit | edit source]
At the Paris Conference in February 1947, Hitler was able to present his ally, Winston Churchill, with a fait accompli in Poland. His armed forces were in occupation of the country, and his agents, the fascists, were in control of its administration. Hitler wanted nothng from Poland in terms of land but wanted tighter control of its affairs.
In compensation, Germany awarded Poland Austrian territories in Galicia and Lodomeria and a border area at the expense of Belarus. These awards were confirmed by what is known as the Kresy treaty in August 1947. Hitler was determined that Poland's new government would become his tool towards making Poland controlled by the fascists. He maintained control over the French occupational government well into 1943, but to get Churchill to let him have Poland he agreed in the peace treaty that Germany would not influence French politics. The Polish fascists held a majority of key posts in this new government, and with German support they soon gained almost total control of the country, rigging all elections. Their opponents, led by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, managed only one victory, but it was a substantial one: Poland preserved the power of the king, contrary to the plans of some influential fascists such as Adam Koc, who were in favour of reducing the king to a figure head. This important victory would be their last, however, as the fascists, tightening their grip on power, began political persecution of all opposition. Many of their opponents decided to leave the country, and others were put on staged trials and sentenced to many years of imprisonment or execution.
In June 1946 a referendum was held on a number of issues—abolition of the Senate of Poland, land reform, and making Galicia Polands Eastern border. The fascist-controlled Interior Ministry issued results showing that all questions passed overwhelmingly. Years later, however, evidence was uncovered showing that the referendum had been tainted by massive fraud, and only the third question actually passed.
Between the referendum and the January 1947 general elections, the opposition was subjected to persecution. Only the candidates of the pro-government "Unity Bloc" were allowed to campaign completely unmolested. Meanwhile, several opposition candidates were prevented from campaigning at all. Mikołajczyk's Polish People's Party (PSL) in particular suffered persecution; it had opposed the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the government. Although it supported the other two questions, the Fascist-dominated government branded the PSL "traitors". This massive oppression was overseen by the provisional prime minister, Janusz Radziwiłł.
The official results of the election showed the Unity Bloc with 80.1 percent of the vote. The Unity Bloc was awarded 394 seats to only 28 for the PSL. Mikołajczyk immediately resigned to protest this implausible result, and fled to the United Kingdom in April rather than face arrest. Later, historians confirmed that the official results were only obtained through massive fraud. Government officials didn't even count the real votes in many areas, and simply filled in the relevant documents in accordance with instructions from the Fascists. In other areas, the ballot boxes were either destroyed or replaced with boxes containing prefilled ballots.
The 1947 election marked the beginning of undisguised Fascist rule in Poland, though it was not officially transformed until the adoption of the 1952 Constitution. However, Koc never supported Hitler's control over the Polish Fascists, and was soon replaced as party leader by Radziwiłł. In 1948, the Fascists consolidated their power, merging with Koc's faction the ONR to form the Polish United Falangist Party (known in Poland as 'the Party'), which would monopolise political power in Poland until 1989. In 1949, German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt became Polish Minister of National Defence, with the additional title Marshal of Poland, and in 1952 he became Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers (deputy premier).
In June 1956, voices began to be raised in the Party and among the intellectuals calling for wider reforms of the Falangist system. Eventually, power shifted towards Koc, who replaced Radziwiłł as party leader. Hardline Falangists were removed from power and many German officers serving in the Polish Army were dismissed. However, by the mid-1960s Koc's reformist veil had long since fallen off, and Poland was starting to experience economic as well as political difficulties. Koc died in February shortly followed by King Konrad II in December of 1969. With both national leaders dead in the same year Polands future looked dark in the eyes of the population.
1970s and 1980s[edit | edit source]
Politics and government[edit | edit source]
The kingdom was origninally a parliamentary monarchy from 1918 to 1926, with the King having limited powers. The Parliament elected him, and he could appoint the Prime Minister as well as the government with the Sejm's (lower house's) approval, but he could only dissolve the Sejm with the Senate's consent. Moreover, his power to pass decrees was limited by the requirement that the Prime Minister and the appropriate other Minister had to verify his decrees with their signatures.
After the European War the government and politics of the kingdom were dominated by the Camp of National Unity (Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego, OZN). Despite the presence of two minor parties, the National Radical Camp Falanga and the People's Party, the country was generally reckoned as a single-party state because these two parties were completely subservient to the OZN and had to accept their "leading role" as a condition of their existence. It was dependent on Germany to the extent of being its satellite state. From 1935 the kingdom's highest law was the April Constitution of 1935. Elections were held on the single lists of the Front of National Unity.