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The Polish Puppet Kingdom | LAH

The Polish Puppet Kingdom | LAH

One of Germany’s aims in World War I was to establish a Polish state on Russian soil. This aim had been first proposed by chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg before the outbreak of the war. German politicians wanted to accomplish various goals by creating such a nation: First, the new country would act as a buffer against the Russian Empire to secure Germany’s east front. Second, by giving the Polish people their own nation, rebellions could be avoided Last, the Empire could move the Polish population to the new country, freeing up land for its own people. In the first two years of the conflict, the Central Powers managed to penetrate deep into Russian territory and conquered the area that was once Congress Poland. Authority over the former country was divided between the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Between 1914 and the winter months of 1916, the two countries planned to create a Polish kingdom under Austrian rule, but with the Dual Monarchy growing weaker, Germany abandoned that undertaking. Both nations’ armies saw the possibility of drafting soldiers in the occupied area. In October 1916, the two military forces agreed on the establishment of a Polish puppet kingdom, together with an army, to draft new recruits for the war, of which they were in dire need. It was one month later, on 5th November 1916, that the two emperors, Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph, declared that a Polish monarchy would be formed in the future. The king of it, however, was not mentioned. Immediately after the proclamation, General Von Beseler, governor of German-occupied Poland, issued an advertisement for military recruitment. The Polish people responded with protests, showing authority that propaganda, calling Germany’s army the liberator of Poland from Russia’s enslavement, had been ineffective, but also the lack of a stronger government. On 14 January 1917, the Central Powers created a provisional government, consisting of members chosen by German and Austrian authority. The new government was given little control and the members of it demanded further authority. The Central Powers responded by granting them jurisdiction over education, law courts as well as propaganda. Many, however, were still displeased and on 3 May 1917 went on organized strikes to protest for more sovereignty. On 10 April, the puppet government established the Polish Armed Forces, intended as the military of the Kingdom. A few days later, Colonel Sikorski was appointed to manage the recruitment of soldiers. Tension arose in the following months because General Piłsudski, who was put in charge of the military, forbade Polish soldiers to swear a oath to the Central Powers. He demanded an independent state for his people, for which he and anybody who refused to pledge were imprisoned by German officials. Both nations chose to integrate the troops into their militaries to avoid further difficulties. Approximately ten thousand Polish men were assigned to different front lines. Tension arose in the government, leading to the resignation of its head and dissolution on 25 August. On 18 September, the Central Powers introduced a new provisional constitution in their puppet nation, creating a parliament with two chambers governed by a constitutional king. The new parliament was given virtually no authority— only about education and the judicial system. Most of the power lay in the hands of the Central Powers which installed the Regency Council, the new head of state and highest authority in the puppet nation. The Regency Council was supposed to stay in power until a king was elected but it never came to that because winning the war and recruiting soldiers were more important. However, few men desired to fight for Imperial Germany or Austria following General Piłsudski’s arrest. Imperial Germany reacted by releasing the General as well as anybody else who was imprisoned for not taking the oath. What followed half a year later changed the map of Europe forever. On 3 March 1918, the Russian Soviet Republic signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It lost the sovereignty of large areas to the Central Powers, including its Polish region. Imperial Germany and the Dual Monarchy were now officially in command of the Polish kingdom, although not for long. The war on the Western Front became increasingly unwinnable for the German Army. General Ludendorff proposed seeking peace by adopting U.S. President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. On 3 October, German Chancellor Prince Maximilian of Baden formally declared that the German Empire recognized Poland as an independent state. The Regency Council followed and declared independence from the Central Powers. However, the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to not only recognize Poland as a free and sovereign republic. The peace treaty also obliged it to cede parts of Prussia to the new Republic of Poland.

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