Term of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of History

Committee Chair

John W. Steinberg

Committee Member 1

Brian K. Feltman

Committee Member 2

Jacek Lubecki

Abstract

This thesis seeks to examine the factors that resulted in the fall of the Second Polish Republic and track its downward trajectory. Examining the Second Republic, from its creation in 1918 to its loss of recognition in 1945, reveals that its demise began long before German tanks violated Poland’s frontiers on 1 September, 1939. Commencing with the competing ideas of what a Polish state would be and continuing through the political and foreign policy developments of the inter-war years, a pattern begins to emerge -that of the Poles’ search for their place in modern Europe. The lead up to the Second World War and the invasion of Poland by the German-Soviet Alliance demonstrates the failure of the Poles to achieve that place. The actions of the Polish Government-in-Exile during the war embody an attempt to legitimize their claims by lending all the support at their disposal to the Allied war effort. Yet the entry of the Soviet Union into the Allied cause proved a death sentence for the Second Republic, despite the Poles contributions they paled in comparison to those of the USSR. The London Poles defense of their national territory and people in the face of Soviet demand aggravated the Western Allies, causing them to see the government-in-exile as uncooperative and therefore, inconvenient. Due to this, when the time came they were willing to sacrifice the London Poles to appease Stalin and ensure his continued pledge to inter-allied unity. The Second Republic emerges from this examination as a victim of the circumstances of its time and place. From the beginning the Poles were fighting a losing battle to regain the position they had lost in the 17th century. In the end, despite their resistance to Germans and Soviets alike, they were resigned by the Western powers to be a Soviet puppet state for the next 50 years.

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