Following the first marshal’s demise, though, the Polish government built him up as the new Pilsudski, even promoting him to the rank of marshal in peacetime; thus Pilsudski, in effect, continued to run the Polish Army from the grave.
Under Rydz-Smigley’s direction, the Poles expected that they could hold up the Germans in southern Poland until the French and British armies invaded West Germany and together the three forces could defeat Hitler and take Berlin. The Poles even talked of taking Hitler’s capital alone. It was a flawed strategy that failed, and Pilsudski’s Free Poland instead was destroyed, its Jewish population virtually wiped out in the bargain.
Neither Beck nor the marshal survived the war. Rydz-Smigley died of a heart attack in 1941, and Beck died of tuberculosis three years later.
This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.
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