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Jozef Beck's Memoirs: Insights into Teschen (Cieszyn), Nonaggression Pacts, 1939 Wartime Evacuation, etc.

Jan Paczkis|Friday, October 30, 2009

This work provides Jozef Beck's perspective on such things as the Pilsudski coup of 1926, interwar Poland, international diplomacy and Poland's "dance of safety" between two aggressive powers, and much more. It also touches on his personal life

Beck considered the Jewish problem in pre-WWII Poland. (pp. 134-136). He found the Litwaks (Litvaks--erstwhile Russian Jews) objectionable. On the other hand, he condemned the prejudices directed at Polonized Jews, commenting: "Something quite different again was the old group of Jewish assimilationists of the end of the XIX century, who were deeply connected with the file of our nation and who were obviously wronged by the eliminating movement so fashionable during the last years before 1939." (p. 134). Beck suggested that mass emigration, as to Palestine, was the only solution to the Jewish economic dominance of Poland, but that it had been complicated by the resistance of the British and French, and the lack of understanding of eastern European Jews by western Jews and their Zionist organizations.

This work is timely because Russian revisionists have recently tried to nonsensically relativize the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact as a 1939 Soviet-German dismemberment of Poland that was "really no different" from the 1938 Polish-German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. The latter involved Poland's taking of the Teschen (Cieszyn) Trans-Olza (Zaolza) area. To begin with, this area annexed by Poland was a tiny border one, comprising just 0.6% of the territory of pre-WWII Czechoslovakia. So it was not a Polish participation in the German-Nazi dismemberment of Czechoslovakia except in the most trivial sense of the word.

The tiny border area was not Czech: It was, according to the 1910 Austrian census, 76% Polish. (p. 268). The Teschen (Cieszyn) area had recently (1919) been fraudulently seized by Czechoslovakia (p. 78, 153), with the Czech forces disguising themselves as French ones, and taking advantage of Poland's weakness. (pp. 268-269). A French-based commission waved off the promised plebiscite that was supposed to fairly decide the fate of the area, and unilaterally awarded six of the eight counties of Teschen (Cieszyn) to Czechoslovakia. (p. 269). This left 180,000 Poles in this small, compact area on the Czech side of the Polish-Czech border. No wonder Poland wanted to rectify this blatant injustice.

Beck's memoirs also remind us that the recently-stated Russian revisionist accusation of Poland having a secret deal with Nazi Germany to attack the USSR is nothing more than an old saw. Beck commented: "Our pact is non-aggression with the Soviets and the German Reich were negotiated one year apart and each of them presented full value in itself. As, however, it was with difficulty that the world would believe that the aim of these pacts was so simple, as could be seen from their texts, people looked everywhere for some secret appendices which would change the nature of these agreements. I attached great importance to the necessity of stressing that there was no contradiction between the two pacts, as the improvement of our relations with Germany and Russia was limited by the impossibility of making our policy dependent on any of these dangerous partners." (p. 51).

The 1939 wartime evacuation of the Polish government from Warsaw has at times been misrepresented as some kind of panicked, cowardly flight. It was no such thing. It was a protective move that had been planned before the war. (p. 211). Owing to the rapidity of the German advance, initial plans to move the government to Lublin or Lwow were abandoned in favor of Krzemieniec. Beck and other government officials were there by September 11. With the unanticipated Soviet aggression against Poland commencing September 17, Beck and others moved to Kolomya (p. 226), and then on to Romania.
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