Open main menu

Józef Adam Zygmunt Cyrankiewicz [ˈjuzɛf t͡sɨranˈkʲɛvit͡ʂ] (About this soundlisten) (April 23, 1911 – January 20, 1989) was a Polish Socialist (PPS) and after 1948 Communist politician. He served as premier of the People's Republic of Poland between 1947 and 1952, and again for 16 years between 1954 and 1970. He also served as Chairman of the Polish Council of State from 1970 to 1972.[1][2]

Józef Cyrankiewicz
2nd Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
February 6, 1947 – November 20, 1952
PresidentBolesław Bierut
Preceded byEdward Osóbka-Morawski
Succeeded byBolesław Bierut
4th Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
March 18, 1954 – December 23, 1970
Preceded byBolesław Bierut
Succeeded byPiotr Jaroszewicz
4th Chairman of the Council of State of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
December 23, 1970 – March 28, 1972
Preceded byMarian Spychalski
Succeeded byHenryk Jabłoński
Personal details
Born23 April 1911
Tarnów, Austro-Hungary (now Poland)
Died20 January 1989(1989-01-20) (aged 77)
Polish People's Republic
Political partyPPS (1930s-1948)
PZPR (1948-1989)


Early lifeEdit

Born in Tarnów in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Cyrankiewicz attended Kraków's Jagiellonian University. He became the secretary of the local branch of the Polish Socialist Party in 1935.

World War IIEdit

Active in the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, later renamed to Armia Krajowa), the Polish resistance organization, from the beginning of Poland's 1939 defeat at the start of World War II, Cyrankiewicz was captured by the Gestapo in the spring of 1941 and after imprisonment at Montelupich was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He arrived on September 4, 1942, and received registration number 62,933.[citation needed]

While there, Communist propaganda claims he attempted to organize a resistance movement among the other imprisoned socialists and also worked on bringing the various international prisoners' groups together.[citation needed] This organization then, apparently, struggled to alert the outside world about what was happening in the camp. Others claim he collaborated with the Gestapo and sold stolen Jewish possessions. These claims, however, come from right-wing publicists and are likely due to negative attitude towards his role as one of the leaders of Stalinist Poland.[citation needed] He, along with other Auschwitz prisoners, was eventually transferred to Mauthausen as the Soviet front line approached Auschwitz late in the war. He was eventually liberated by the US Army.

Rise to powerEdit

Following the end of the war, he became secretary-general of the Polish Socialist Party's central executive committee in 1946. However, factional infighting split the Party into two camps: one led by Cyrankiewicz, the other by Edward Osóbka-Morawski, who was also prime minister.

Osóbka-Morawski thought the PSP should join with the other non-communist party in Poland, the Polish Peasant Party, to form a united front against communism. Cyrankiewicz argued that the PPS should support the communists (who held most of the posts in the government) in carrying through a socialist programme, while opposing the imposition of one party rule. The Communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR) played on this division within the PSP, dismissing Osóbka-Morawski and making Cyrankiewicz prime minister.

The PPS merged with the PPR in 1948 to form the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). Although the PZPR was the PPR under a new name, Cyrankiewicz remained as prime minister. He was also named a secretary of the PZPR Central Committee. He gave up the prime minister's post in 1952 because party boss Bolesław Bierut wanted the post for himself. He did, however, become a deputy premier under Bierut.

However, in 1954, after Poland returned to "collective leadership," Cyrankiewicz returned to the premiership, a post he would hold until 1970. By this time, there was little left of Cyrankiewicz the socialist, as evidenced during the 1956 upheaval following Nikita Khrushchev's "secret speech." He tried to repress the rioting that erupted across the country at first, threatening that "any provocateur or lunatic who raises his hand against the people's government may be sure that this hand will be chopped off."

Cyrankiewicz was also responsible for the order to fire on the protesters during the 1970 demonstrations on the coast in which 42 people were killed and more than a 1,000 wounded. A few months after these demonstrations, Cyrankiewicz went into semi-retirement and was named chairman of the Council of State—a post equivalent to that of a ceremonial president. He held this post until he retired altogether in 1972.

Cyrankiewicz died in 1989, a few months before the collapse of the regime.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Andrzej Krajewski (28 kwietnia 2011), Józef Cyrankiewicz, czyli jak kończą idealiści.[dead link]
  2. ^ Jerzy Reuter (24 sierpnia 2009), Józef Cyrankiewicz. Tarnowski Kurier Kulturalny.[dead link]
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Bolesław Bierut
Preceded by
Bolesław Bierut
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Piotr Jaroszewicz
Preceded by
Marian Spychalski
Chairman of the Polish Council of State
Succeeded by
Henryk Jabłoński