Marian "Marek" Spychalski (pronounced [ˈmarjan spɨˈxalskʲi], 6 December 1906 – 7 June 1980) was a Polish architect in pre-war Poland, and later, military commander and a communist politician. During World War II he belonged to the Polish underground forces operating within Poland and was one of the leaders of the People's Guard, then People's Army.[1] He held several key political posts during the PRL era, most notably; Chairman of the Council of State, mayor of Warsaw and Defence Minister.

Marian Spychalski
Marian Spychalski in 1965
3rd Chairman of the Polish Council of State
In office
10 April 1968 – 23 December 1970
Prime MinisterJózef Cyrankiewicz
First SecretaryWładysław Gomułka
Edward Gierek
Preceded byEdward Ochab
Succeeded byJózef Cyrankiewicz
Minister of National Defence
In office
13 November 1956 – 11 April 1968
Prime MinisterJózef Cyrankiewicz
Preceded byKonstanty Rokossowski
Succeeded byWojciech Jaruzelski
City mayor of Warsaw
In office
18 September 1944 – 5 March 1945
Preceded byMarceli Porowski
Succeeded byStanisław Tołwiński
Personal details
Born(1906-12-06)6 December 1906
Łódź, Piotrków Governorate, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
Died7 June 1980(1980-06-07) (aged 73)
Warsaw, Polish People's Republic
Political partyPPR (1942-48)
PZPR (1948-80)
Other political
Communist Party of Poland
AwardsOrder Budowniczych Polski Ludowej
Nickname(s)Marek, Orka
Military service
Allegiance Provisional Government of National Unity
 Polish People's Republic
Years of service1944–1949
RankMarshal of Poland
CommandsGwardia Ludowa
Defence Minister
Battles/warsWorld War II

Biography edit

Early career edit

Spychalski (centre)
with Świerczewski (right) and Rola-Żymierski, 1945

Born to a working-class family in Łódź, Spychalski graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Warsaw University of Technology in 1931. That same year he joined the KPP,[2] and kept his membership after the Nazi-Soviet invasion, when in 1942 KPP became the Polish Workers' Party, renamed in 1948 as the Polish United Workers' Party.[1] Before World War II, he practised architecture and won several national and international competitions and awards.[3]

World War Two edit

He was in Warsaw during the German invasion and it was not until December 1939 that he fled to Lemberg where his wife and daughter were already waiting for him. However, the family only stayed briefly in Soviet-occupied Lviv and returned to Warsaw in January 1940. Until 1942 he officially held a position in the Warsaw city administration as an architect, but also worked illegally and took part in the activities of the Polish resistance. At first he was involved in publishing a bulletin for a group of communist intellectuals, and from 1941 he became a member of the organization Związek Walki Wyzwoleńczej (German League of the Liberation Struggle). From 1942 he was temporarily chief of the general staff of the communist Armia Ludowa and from July 22, 1944 of the Polish People's Army. He had also been a member of the Polish Workers' Party since it was founded in 1942.[4]

Polish People's Republic edit

After World War II, he held a number of offices in the government of Poland, one of his first being mayor of Warsaw (18 September 1944 – March 1945), with the war still in progress. Among other posts, he was a long-time member of the parliament, a close friend of Władysław Gomułka, and from 1945 to 1948 was both Deputy Minister of Defense and a member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers' Party.[5]

He was removed from his remaining political posts in 1949 and then in 1950 imprisoned as part of the Stalinist purges of social-democrats in 1949–1953,[6] where he was accused of anti-Soviet tendencies akin to Titoism and right-wing nationalism. During his interrogations, which were conducted under severe conditions, he confessed to charges such as cooperation with the Gestapo and the Home Army during the war.[7][2] In 1951 he appeared in a show trial where he was instructed to deliver official (and false) testimony against Gomułka.[2] He was only released in the mass release of political prisoners in April 1956, and subsequently reinstated in the Polish United Workers' Party.[2][5]

With Gomułka's rehabilitation and return to power in 1956, Spychalski became the Polish Minister of Defence.[8] In 1959 he again became a member of the Politburo, and in 1963 he was promoted to Field Marshal.[5]

Chairman of the Council of State Marian Spychalski giving a speech, 1968

In 1968 during the anti-Zionist purge of the army, at Gomułka's request he left the Polish Army and his job as Minister of Defense,[2][5] to assume civilian posts as President of the Front of National Unity,[5] and from 10 April 1968 to 23 December 1970 as Chairman of the Council of State – the de facto head of state of Poland – the Council being the de jure executive authority in the People's Republic,[1] although some considered the post to be mostly symbolic.[9]

Descent from power edit

As head of state, Spychalski was nearly assassinated at Karachi airport in Pakistan on 1 November 1970 during the welcoming ceremonies. The Gettysburg Times informed that an anti-communist Islamic fundamentalist Feroze Abdullah drove a lorry at high speed into the Polish delegation, narrowly missing his intended target but killing the Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Zygfryd Wolniak (48) and three Pakistani representatives including the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Chaudhri Mohammed Nazir, and two photographers.[10]

Spychalski lost his posts as close associate of Gomułka, when Edward Gierek replaced Gomułka as First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party during the 1970 Polish protests throughout December.[9] Spychalski retired and wrote a four volume memoir which is now in the archives of the Hoover Institution in California.[3] He died on 7 June 1980, survived by his wife Barbara who also wrote about him.[3]

Honours and awards edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Nogaś, Michał & Włodarczykki, Wojciech (17 June 2011). "Marszałek Polski Marian Spychalski". Polskie Radio (in Polish).
  2. ^ a b c d e Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich (2007). "Biographies". In Khrushchev, Sergeĭ (ed.). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, Volume 3, Statesman, 1953–1964. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 969. ISBN 978-0-271-02935-1., translated by George Shriver and Stephen Shenfield.
  3. ^ a b c "Marian Spychalski Papers Received by the Hoover Institution Archives". Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 20 April 2010. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016.
  4. ^ Piotr Gontarczyk: Polska Partia Robotnicza. Droga do władzy 1941–1944. Warsaw, 2003.
  5. ^ a b c d e Wróbel, Piotr (1998). "Spychalski, Marian". Historical Dictionary of Poland, 1945-1996. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-313-29772-4.
  6. ^ Kaplan, Karel (1990). "The Witch Hunt". Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-85043-211-1., translated by Karel Kovanda.
  7. ^ Robert Spałek. Wywiad z Andrzejem Paczkowskim i Robertem Spałkiem dotyczący książki „Komuniści przeciwko komunistom”. „Biuletyn IPN I–II 2005”, 2005. Warsaw
  8. ^ Khrushchev, Sergeĭ N. (2000). Nikita Khrushchev and the Creation of a Superpower. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-0-271-02170-6., translated by Shirley Benson.
  9. ^ a b Lepak, Keith John (1988). "Political System I, 1971-1976: Edward Gierek, the party-state, and Polish society". Prelude to Solidarity: Poland and the Politics of the Gierek Regime. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-231-06608-2.
  10. ^ "Four Killed When Man Drives Truck into Airport Reception Shouting "Down With Reds"". The Gettysburg Times. Associated Press. 2 November 1970.
Political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Polish Council of State
10 April 1968 – 23 December 1970
Succeeded by
Preceded by Polish Minister of Defence
1956 – 1968
Succeeded by