The Government of the Polish Republic in Exile was the government of
Polandafter the country had been occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union during September–October 1939. The Polish Government in Exilecommanded Polish armed forces operating in Poland (the Polish Home Army) and abroad during the war. Though largely unrecognized and without effective power after World War II, it remained in existence until the end of Communist rule in Poland in 1990, when it formally passed on its responsibilities to the new government.
September 17, 1939, the President of the Polish Republic, Ignacy Mościcki, who was then in the small town of Kosównear the southern Polish border, signed an act appointing Władysław Raczkiewicz, the Speaker of the Senate, as his successor. This was done in accordance with Article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, adopted in April 1935, which provided as follows:
Raczkiewicz, who was already in Paris, immediately took his constitutional oath at the Polish Embassy and became President of the Republic of Poland. He then appointed General
Władysław Sikorskito be Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces.
Most of the Polish Navy escaped to Britain, and tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and airmen escaped through
Hungaryand Romaniaor across the Baltic Seato continue the fight in France. Many Poles subsequently took part in Allied operations in Norway( Narvik), France, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa (notably Tobruk), Italy(notably at Cassino and Ancona), Arnhem, Wilhelmshavenand elsewhere beside other Allied forces. Even after the fall of Poland, and before the Soviet Union's entry into the war, Poland remained the third strongest Allied belligerent, after France and Britain. (Other Polish military units, formed in the Soviet Unionafter Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, fought alongside and under the command of the Soviets.)
The Polish Government in Exile, based first in Paris and then in
London, was recognized by all the Allied governments. Politically, it was a coalition of the Polish Peasant Party, the Polish Socialist Partyand the National Democratic Party, although these parties maintained only a vestigial existence in the circumstances of exile.
When Germany attacked the
Soviet Unionin 1941, the Polish Government in Exile established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, despite Stalin's role in the earlier dismemberment of Poland. Hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the Soviets in eastern Poland in 1939, and many civilian Polish prisoners and deportees, were released and allowed to form military units ("Anders' Army"); they were evacuated to Iranand the Middle East, where they were desperately needed by the British, hard pressed by Rommel's Afrika Korps. These Polish units formed the basis for the Polish 2nd Corps, led by General Władysław Anders, which together with other, earlier-created Polish units fought alongside the Allies.
In April 1943 the Germans announced that they had discovered at Katyn Wood, near
Smolensk, Russia, mass graves of 4,300 Polish officers who had been taken prisoner in 1939 and murdered by the Soviets. The Germans invited the International Red Crossto visit the site, and the graves were confirmed to contain the corpses of Polish officers who had been killed with Soviet weapons. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The other Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this; the Polish Government in Exile refused to do so.
Stalin then severed relations with the Polish Government in Exile. Since it was clear that it would be the Soviet Union, not the western Allies, who would liberate Poland from the Germans, this breach had fateful consequences for Poland. In an unfortunate coincidence, Sikorski, widely regarded as the most capable of the Polish exile leaders, was killed in an air crash at
Gibraltarin July 1943. He was succeeded as head of the Polish Government in Exile by Stanisław Mikołajczyk.
During 1943 and 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly
Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption of talks between Stalin and the Polish Government in Exile. But these efforts broke down over several matters. One was the Katyń massacre (and others at Kalininand Kharkiv). Another was Poland's postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the territories annexed by the Soviets in 1939, which had millions of Polesin addition to Ukrainian and Belarusian populationspl icon"Among the population of Eastern territories were circa 38% Poles, 37 % Ukrainians, 14,5 % Belarusians, 8,4 % Jewish, 0,9 % Russians and 0,6 % Germans"
cite book | author = Elżbieta Trela-Mazur | coauthors = | title =Sowietyzacja oświaty w Małopolsce Wschodniej pod radziecką okupacją 1939-1941 (Sovietization of education in eastern Lesser Poland during the Soviet occupation 1939-1941) | year =1997 | editor =Włodzimierz Bonusiak, Stanisław Jan Ciesielski, Zygmunt Mańkowski, Mikołaj Iwanow | pages =294 | chapter = | chapterurl = | publisher =Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna im. Jana Kochanowskiego | location =Kielce | id =ISBN 83-7133-100-2| url = | format = | accessdate = , also in "Wrocławskie Studia Wschodnie", Wrocław, 1997.] , should remain in Soviet hands, and that Poland should be compensated with lands to be annexed from Germany. Mikołajczyk, however, refused to compromise on the question of Poland's sovereignty over her prewar eastern territories. A third matter was Mikołajczyk's insistence that Stalin not set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.
Mikołajczyk and his colleagues in the Polish government-in-exile insisted on making a stand in the defense of Poland's pre-1939 eastern border (the
Curzon Lineand Kresyregion) as a basis for the future Polish-Soviet border. However, this was a position that could not be defended in practice — Stalin was in occupation of the territory in question. The government-in-exile's refusal to accept the proposed new Polish borders infuriated the Allies, particularly Churchill, making them less inclined to oppose Stalin on issues of how Poland's postwar government would be structured. In the end, the exiles lost on both issues: Stalin annexed the eastern territories, and took control of the new Polish government. However, Poland preserved its status as an independent state, despite the arguments of some influential Communists, such as Wanda Wasilewska, in favor of Poland becoming a republic of the Soviet Union.
In November 1944, despite his mistrust of the Soviets, Mikołajczyk resigned to return to Poland and take office in the new government established under the auspices of the Soviet occupation authorities. Many Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland, a view that was later proven correct; after losing an election which was later shown to have been fraudulent, Mikołajczyk left Poland again in 1947.
Meanwhile the Polish Government in Exile had maintained its existence, but the
United Statesand the United Kingdomwithdrew their recognition on July 6, 1945. The Polish Armed Forces in exile were disbanded in 1945, and most of their members, unable to safely return to Communist Poland, settled in other countries. The London Poles had to vacate the Polish embassy on Portland Place and were left only with the president's private residence at 43 Eaton Place. The Government in Exile became largely symbolic of continued resistance to foreign occupation of Poland, while retaining some important archives from prewar Poland. The Republic of Ireland, Spainand the Vatican City(until 1979) were the last countries to recognize the Government in Exile, though the Vatican — through Secretary of State Domenico Tardini— had withdrawn diplomatic privileges from the envoy of the Polish pre-war government in 1959. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,868988,00.html Phantoms in Rome] , " TIME Magazine", January 19, 1959]
In 1954, political differences led to a split in the ranks of the Government in Exile. One group, claiming to represent 80% of 500,000 anti-Communist Poles exiled since the war, was opposed to President
August Zaleski's continuation in office when his seven-year term expired. It formed a Council of National Unity in July 1954, and set up a Council of Three to exercise the functions of head of state, comprising Tomasz Arciszewski, General Władysław Anders, and Edward Raczyński. Only after Zaleski's death in 1972 did the two factions reunite.
Some supporters of the Government in Exile eventually returned to Poland, such as Prime Minister
Hugon Hankein 1955 and his predecessor Stanisław Mackiewiczin 1956. The Soviet installed government in Warsaw actively campaigned for the return of the exiles, promising decent and dignified employment and forgiveness of past transgressions.
Despite these setbacks, the Government in Exile continued in existence. When Soviet rule over Poland came to an end in 1989, there was still a president and a cabinet of eight meeting every two weeks in London, commanding the loyalty of many of about 150,000 Polish veterans and their descendants living in Britain, including 35,000 in London alone.
In December 1990, when
Lech Wałęsabecame the first post-Communist president of Poland, he received the symbols of the Polish Republic (the red presidential banner, the presidential and state seals, the presidential sashes, and the original text of the 1935 Constitution) from the last president of the Government in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, Peter D. Stachura, Editor "The Poles in Britain 1940–2000", Frank Cass, 2004, ISBN 0-7146-8444-9, Paperback First Edition, p. 45.] , thus re-establishing the continuity of the Republic and in effect retroactively recognizing the legitimacy of the Government in Exile. In 1992, military medals and other decorations awarded by the Government in Exile were officially recognized in Poland.
Government and politics
Władysław Raczkiewicz: 30 September 1939– 6 June 1947
August Zaleski: 9 June 1947– 8 april 1972
**Council of Three (in opposition to president Zaleski):
21 July 1956– 8 April 1972
Stanisław Ostrowski: 9 April 1972– 24 March 1979
8 April 1979– 8 April 1986
Kazimierz Sabbat: 8 April 1986– 19 July 1989
Ryszard Kaczorowski: 19 July 1989– 22 December 1990
Władysław Sikorski: 30 September 1939– 4 July 1943
Stanisław Mikołajczyk: 5 July 1943– 29 November 1944
Tomasz Arciszewski: 29 November 1944– 2 July 1947
Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski: 2 July 1947– 7 April 1949
7 April 1949– 25 September 1950
Roman Odzierzyński: 25 September 1950– 18 January 1954
Jerzy Hryniewski: 18 January 1954– 8 June 1954
Stanisław Mackiewicz: 8 June 1954– 8 August 1955
Hugon Hanke: 8 August 1955– 11 September 1955
Antoni Pajak: 11 September 1955– 25 June 1965
Aleksander Zawisza: 25 June 1965– 16 July 1970
Zygmunt Muchniewski: 16 July 1970– August 1972
Alfred Urbanski: August 1972 – 1976
Kazimierz Sabbat: 1976 – 7 April 1986
Edward Szczepanik: 7 April 1986– 22 December 1990
* Association of Armed Struggle ("
Związek Walki Zbrojnej" or ZWZ)
Home Army(" Armia Krajowa")
* Grey Ranks ("
Polish resistance movement in World War II
Polish Armed Forces in the West
Polish Armed Forces in the East
Jan Karski, resistance fighter
Henryk Leon Strasburger, (Sikorski government): Finance Minister, Minister in the Middle East. (Mikolajczyk): Ambassador to London
Polish Committee of National Liberation("Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego" or PKWN) - 1944/45
Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland("Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej" or RTRP) - 1945
Provisional Government of National Unity("Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej" or TRJN) - 1945/47
People's Republic of Poland("Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa" or PRL) - 1944/52 (unofficial), 1952/89 (official)
* [http://www.republika.pl/unpack/1/dok01a.html Statement of the Polish government in exile following the death of General Sikorski (1943)]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/realm/StStanislas/Publications.html Publications on the Polish Government (In Exile) 1939-1990]
* [http://www.sossi.org/exile/poland.htm Stamp Issues by the Polish Government in Exile]
* [http://home.golden.net/~medals/exile.html Polish forces in the west during World War II]
* [http://www.kprm.gov.pl/english/797.htm Official Polish Chancellery website: Prime Ministers IInd Republic of Poland in Exile]
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