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Film Gallery: Prewar Poland 1936–1937 Browse

Śmigły-Rydz becomes Field Marshal, 1936

Julien Bryan was present in Warsaw in 1936 when General Edward Śmigły-Rydz became Field Marshal of Poland. Thousands of Poles and dignitaries attended the official ceremonies which showcased the military might of Poland with extensive troop reviews. In one shot, Śmigły-Rydz is flanked by the Catholic Cardinal Hlond, whose antisemitic pronouncements at the time fueled longstanding anti-Jewish attitudes among Polish Catholics. This pivotal transition of power was described by the Polish resistance fighter and scholar Jan Karski: “On May 12, 1936, General Śmigły-Rydz was appointed Commander-in-Chief by the President of the Republic. Two months later, on July 13, he was designated by government decree as the ‘First Person in Poland after the President of the Republic,’ and state functionaries were ordered to ‘honor him and obey.’ [On] November 11, 1936, he was made Marshal. From then on, he assumed the role of the national leader more and more obviously. His position made the Army completely autonomous, free from any public control.” Later, Śmigły-Rydz was named the Commander-in-Chief of Polish Armed Forces, and as such, took full responsibility for Poland’s military defeat in September 1939.

Find out more about this film footage in the online Film and Video catalog