Edward Rydz-Śmigły

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Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły (1937)

Listen to Edward Rydz-Śmigły ? / i (born March 11, 1886 in Brzeżany , Galicia , Austria-Hungary , † December 2, 1941 in Warsaw ) was a Polish politician, Marshal of Poland , painter and poet. Audio file / audio sample


Early years to 1914

Edward Rydz, as he was actually called ( śmigły - the fast one - was a pseudonym that he used in various conspiratorial associations before 1914 and later added to his family name), was the son of the Austro-Hungarian professional sergeant Tomasz Rydz († 1888) and his Wife Maria Babiak († 1896 at the age of 29), a rarity in the officer corps of the Second Polish Republic , in which most of the officers were of aristocratic or upper-class origin. Orphaned at an early age, Edward was brought up by his maternal grandparents, after whose death he joined the family of the city doctor in Brzeżany, Edmund Uranowicz. He attended grammar school in his place of birth and passed the Matura exam with distinction in 1905 .

Rydz actually wanted to become a painter and first studied painting with Leon Wyczółkowski and Teodor Axentowicz at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts , then philosophy and art history at the Jagiellonian University . In 1907 he studied painting in Munich , Nuremberg and Vienna ; In the years 1910 to 1911 he received an officer training as a one-year volunteer in the famous infantry regiment Hoch- und Deutschmeister No. 4 and finished it with distinction as an ensign . He was suggested to remain in the army as a career officer , but he refused.

In 1907 and 1908 Rydz was active in various conspiratorial socialist and national associations. After the establishment of approved kuk authorities Shooting Federation "Strzelec" Rydz was after the completion of training as an officer of Safeguard two commandant training years (1912 and 1913), most recently as head of the federal district Lviv .

At the same time he resumed studies at the Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Professor Józef Pankiewicz in 1912 and finished it before the outbreak of war. His talent in landscape and portrait painting was praised and a great future as a painter was predicted for him.

First World War (1914-1918)

In July 1914 Rydz entered as a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army one, a month later, he was at the Pilsudski - legions placed where he served in the famous, from Pilsudski himself commanded the First Brigade in which he gradually battalion commander, commander of the 1st regiment and deputy of the brigade chief. As commander of the 3rd Battalion, he took part with distinction in many heavy battles on the Eastern Front against the Russian Army . The military historian Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski wrote about him: “The Third Battalion is like the guards of the First Brigade. Where Śmigły attacks, there must always be a positive result. In 1914, Rydz was promoted to major , in 1915 to lieutenant colonel and in 1916 to colonel .

In July 1917 the legionaries refused to take the oath on the two emperors of the Central Powers as allies of the newly created state of the reign of Poland (the so-called oath crisis ); the governor general Hans von Beseler had the legions dissolved and their soldiers interned. After a short detention Rydz-Śmigły was of Pilsudski, who in Magdeburg in imprisonment was the beginning of 1918 to the commander in chief of the secret Polish Military Organization ( POW , Polish Polish Military Organization appointed). As such, he went to Kiev in September 1918 , where he negotiated the recruitment of Poles in Ukraine for the POW, and where he met his future wife, Marta Zaleska, who was the POW's courier. In October 1918 he went to Lublin to attend a secret conference of the Peasant Party ( PSL) and the Socialist Party ( PPS) , to which he presented the project of establishing an independent, republican-democratic Polish state with a provisional seat in this city. On 6./7. November of the same year Rydz was appointed by the socialist leader Ignacy Daszyński as war minister with the rank of major general in his so-called First Lublin Government (the second was the Communist government under Bolesław Bierut in 1944), which handed power to Piłsudski on November 11, 1918. As a minister he began to use the double name Rydz-Śmigły.

War against the Bolsheviks (1919–1920)

During the Polish-Soviet War from 1919 to 1921, Rydz was in command of the Warsaw and Lublin military districts . During the Polish attack on Vilnius (1919) he was in command of the 1st Infantry Division of the Legions and destroyed the Red Army troops in the advance of Vilna. On August 8, 1919, he conquered Minsk , a month later he advanced as far as the Daugava and occupied a suburb of Daugavpils . On December 30, 1919, he became the commander of an operations group consisting of two Polish and two Latvian regiments and on January 3, 1920, he captured Daugavpils. Appointed Commander in Chief of the Latvian Armed Forces, he conquered southern Polish Livonia by February 1920 . He received the knighthood of the order Virtuti Militari and the highest Latvian military award , the Bear Slayer Order . Shortly thereafter, Rydz was promoted to division general (two-star general).

During the campaign on Kiev he commanded an attack group consisting of the 1st and 7th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Cavalry Brigade. Rydz brought the 12th Division of the Red Army to a total defeat and occupied Kiev on May 7, 1920, but had to evacuate it soon on Piłsudski's orders, as the main body of the Polish army was on the retreat towards home.

In the last phase of the war, which ended with the defeat of the Bolsheviks , Rydz was in command of the southeast and central fronts, which constituted the right wing of the Polish army in the battle of Warsaw , and later he commanded the 2nd front, which was in retreat the Red Army of Mikhail Tukhachevsky section. The Bolsheviks had to withdraw to East Prussia , where they were interned.


The second, smaller marshal's baton of Rydz-Smigły

After the victorious war, Rydz dealt with the organization and training of the army from 1922 to 1926 , including traveling to France in 1925 to take a closer look at the organization of the French army - which at the time was considered by many experts to be the strongest army in Europe get to know.

During the Piłsudski May coup in May 1926, he was one of the Marshal's supporters and sent part of the Vilna garrison to reinforce the Piłsudski troops in Warsaw. At that time Rydz held high military posts as General Inspector of the Vilna and later of the Warsaw military district and in 1929 was nominated as deputy marshal for all matters of the East. One day after Piłsudski's death, on May 13, 1935, according to the last will of the deceased, he was appointed Lieutenant General and Inspector General of the Armed Forces , and on July 13 of this year the government declared him the “second person in the state after the President”. On November 10, 1936, he was promoted to Marshal of Poland. As a marshal, he began to use the name Śmigły-Rydz .

November 10, 1936, courtyard of the Warsaw Royal Castle: Rydz receives the marshal's baton from President Mościcki

As a marshal, with the support of the officers' corps, he created a second center of power in authoritarian Poland: from now on the ruling circles were divided into the “People of the President” Ignacy Mościcki or the “Group Castle” (so named after the residence of the President, the Royal Castle in Warsaw) and the “Marshal's People” who met in the General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces. The foreign minister Colonel Józef Beck was an independent and mediator between the two groups . The strange thing was that in their power struggle, both groups relied on the supposed intimate knowledge of the "intentions of the commander (Piłsudski)", who had left no political will. At first Rydz tried to get the peasant party on his side; when this failed, he turned to the nationalist youth. He created the organization “Union of Young Poland” ( Związek Młodej Polski ) with the leader of the ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic Falange , Jerzy Rutkowski , at its head. There were rumors that he was planning a coup d'état to usurp all power with the support of the far right. This caused great discomfort in the circles of old Piłsudski companions, whereupon Rydz changed his tactics: he turned away from the nationalist youth and tried to regain his influence in the circles of the old fighters. In the last few years before the war he was reconciled with Mościcki; friendly relations arose between the two statesmen.

In 1936, in collaboration with the General Staff , Rydz created a six-year plan to modernize the armed forces. It was decided to encourage the development of anti-tank , air defense and heavy artillery. In 1937, on the occasion of a hunt, he met Hermann Göring , to whom he emphasized the willingness of the Polish government to continue Piłsudski's policy of reconciliation with the German Reich . However, he evaded Goering's question whether Poland would be ready to join the Anti-Comintern Pact .

From March 1939, Rydz saw the threat from Germany much more clearly than the other members of the government, ordered a partial mobilization and a revision of the "West" operational plan, since Poland was clinging to all sides after the German occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia and the establishment of pro-German Slovakia was. However, there was not enough time to work out new operational plans. During the Moscow negotiations in August 1939, he resolutely declared to the Western Powers that Poland would not allow the Red Army to march westwards, as this would " not guarantee the active participation of the Soviet Union in the eventual war, and that Soviet troops, once in Poland, will never leave it ”.

Last years

Edward Rydz-Śmigły and Wacław Stachiewicz , Chief of the General Staff

On September 1, 1939, Poland was attacked by Germany (" Attack on Poland "). Rydz strove to stabilize the Polish defense until his allies' offensive (which never took place - see British-French guarantee ). On September 9, he moved the headquarters from the threatened Warsaw to Brest and later to Vladimir in Volhynia . He showed great control and calm in the most difficult situations, but concerned himself too much with details and had not properly grasped any of the central strategic ideas of the time ( Blitzkrieg theory, coordinated battle of army and air forces, etc.). What Piłsudski described in 1922 (in a description of the Polish generals ) proved to be true: “In operations he shows a healthy and calm logic and persistent energy. I recommend him as an army commander, but I am not sure that he has sufficient skills to function as a commander in chief in a conflict between two states ”.

From September 17, 1939, eastern Poland was occupied by 446,000 soldiers from the Red Army and the NKVD . On the same day, the Polish government crossed the last open border crossing on the Cheremosh River to Romania , where it applied for and received asylum . On September 20, 1939, Rydz issued his last order to the army, and on September 26, in his last order , he informed the commandant of the defense of Warsaw , General Juliusz Rómmel , that the capital should defend itself until it ran out of ammunition and food went out; later an underground resistance should be organized. The next day he resigned from the post of Commander-in-Chief by means of a letter to the new President Władysław Raczkiewicz . He was criticized for his transition to Romania during and after the war; however, he saw the impending inevitable defeat and did not want to leave anyone behind who could sign a deed of surrender for the Republic of Poland. For this reason he did not appoint a successor as Commander-in-Chief, which was also criticized.

Rydz had received a promise from the Romanian King Carol II to get safe conduct to France , but was interned after the crossing in Chernivtsi and later in Transylvania . The French government refused to accept him at the instigation of his old intimate enemy and now prime minister in exile, General Władysław Sikorski . Two years of exile in Romania and Hungary (on December 10, 1940, he fled Romania to Hungary in disguise) were to follow. Rydz's flight to Hungary and rumors of his plans to return to Poland caused great unrest among Rydz's adversary Sikorski, who wrote in a telegram to the leader of the resistance in Warsaw, Grot-Rowecki: “The Polish government would stay of the marshal in Poland as sabotage of work in the country. The marshal should go to a country of the British Empire as soon as possible . ”In his Romanian and Hungarian exile, Rydz created plans to set up a military resistance organization against the German occupation of Poland , based on Piłsudski-minded officers; However, this was only founded in 1942, after his death.

The grave of Marshal Rydz-Smigły in Warsaw

In October 1941, Rydz went back to Warsaw from Hungary in disguise and signed up for the resistance movement as a simple soldier Adam Zawisza . By demoting himself, he probably wanted to atone for the shame of the escape of September 17, 1939. He contacted the resistance under General Stefan Rowecki , but died suddenly of heart failure after only five weeks in Warsaw and was buried under his adopted name Adam Zawisza in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.


The grave bore this name until 1991. In 1994 it received a new, imposing gravestone donated by the people of Warsaw. In the same year, a large park in Warsaw, once created by the communists as a park of culture and recreation , was renamed Marshal Edward Rydz Smigły Park .

The capable but ultimately hapless soldier Rydz is judged differently today than during the communist era . Some historians see him today as a patriot who sacrificed everything for his country and as one of the tragic heroes of Polish national history, while his person was negatively portrayed during the communist era.


Rydz was born with Marta Zaleska. Thomas married. She was last seen alive on July 2, 1951; two weeks later, a sack with her remains - the body was quartered - was found 40 km from Nice .

The couple remained childless.


Military science literature

  • Walka na bagnety ( The bayonet fight ), Lviv 1914.
  • W sprawie polskiej doktryny ( The Polish Military Doctrine ), Warsaw 1924.
  • Kawaleria w osłonie ( The Cavalry as Protection Force ), Warsaw 1925.
  • Rozkazy, Artykuły, Mowy ( commands, articles, speeches ), Warsaw 1936.
  • Wojna polsko-niemiecka ( Polish-German War ), Budapest 1941.


  • Collection of poems Dążąc do końca swoich dróg ( Striving for the End of the Path ), London 1989.

Painting and graphics

  • Illustrations for Józef Piłsudski's book " January 22nd, 1863 ", Lemberg 1920
  • Participation in art exhibitions in Krakow (1916) and Warsaw (1917). Rydz exhibited several watercolors and drawings. During his internment in Romania, he also created oil paintings. Most of his works are now lost.

Orders, awards and honorary degrees

Polish orders and awards

Order of the White Eagle , Commander and Knight of the Virtuti Militari Order, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta , Cross of the Brave (four times), Polish Cross of Independence with Swords, Gold Cross of Merit, Commemorative Medal for the 1918–1921 war.

Foreign orders and decorations

Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Commander of the French Legion of Honor , Grand Cross of the Star of Romania , Grand Cross of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun , Grand Cross of the Yugoslav Order of Saint Sava and Serbian Order of the White Eagle , Grand Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit , Italian War Merit Cross , Latvian Bear Slayer Order , The Pulaski Medal (USA), freedom cross , Order of the cross of the eagle , Order of the white star also Latvian and Romanian bravery medals.

Honorary title

Honorary doctorate from the Universities in Vilnius and Warsaw and the Technical University in Warsaw, honorary citizen of numerous Polish cities.


  • Peter Broucek , J. Buszko:  Rydz (-Śmigły), Edward. In: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815–1950 (ÖBL). Volume 9, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-7001-1483-4 , p. 352.
  • Kazimierz Cepnik: Wódz Naczelny i Marszałek Polski Edward Śmigły-Rydz, Zycie i Czyny. Lviv 1937.
  • Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski: Piłsudczycy. Auschwitz 1915.
  • Józef Piłsudski: Pisma zbiorowe. Warsaw 1937.
  • Stanley S. Seidner: The Camp of National Unity: An Experiment in Domestic Consolidation. In: The Polish Review. vol. xx, nos. 2-3, 1975, pp. 231-236.
  • Stanley S. Seidner: Reflections from Rumania and Beyond: Marshal Śmigły-Rydz Rydz in Exile. In: The Polish Review. vol. xxii, no. 2, 1977, pp. 29-51.
  • Tomasz Serwatka: Edward Rydz-Śmigły. In: Gazeta: Historia mało znana. January 2007, ( online at gazetagazeta.com (Polish)).
  • Wacław Stachiewicz: Wierności Dochować żołnierskiej. Warsaw 1998, ISBN 83-86678-71-2 .
  • Bohdan Wendorff: Towarzysze Komendanta. London 1950.
  • Paweł Zaremba: Historia Dwudziestolecia 1918–1939. I – II., Paris 1967.
  • Eduard Rydz-Smigly , in: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 25/1965 of June 14, 1965, in the Munzinger Archive ( beginning of article freely available)

Web links

Commons : Edward Rydz-Śmigły  - collection of images, videos and audio files

supporting documents

  1. Stanley S. Seidner: Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigly and Poland, 1935-1939 . Diss., St. John's University, New York 1975, p. 4.
  2. See also Franz Kadell : Katyn: The twofold trauma of the Poles . Herbig Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-7766-2660-5 , pp. 15-16. See also p. 16: "The officers and soldiers of the Border Defense Corps, who are the first to fall into the hands of the Soviets, are immediately deported to Russia , provided they are not killed on the spot."