Marshal Pilsudski, Poland’s grand old man and the Republic’s greatest cohesive force is dead and has left a void that, unfortunately, no Pole may be able to fill. His death must be considered a great blow to Polandâ€”to the Jews of Poland it may yet be a calamity.
For Marshal Pilsudski, without any doubt, must be considered to have been a fair and loyal friend to the Jews. There is no telling to what extent Poland’s traditional anti-Semitism might have gone but for the old man in Belvidere Palace and his restraining influence. I need not go into all the many instances in which Marshal Pilsudski showed his friendship toward and interest in the Jews. Hundreds of instances must have been cited in the press of the world in the two weeks or so since his sudden death. It is no secret that he did not favor discrimination against the Jews and frowned strongly on anti-Semitic manifestations in Poland of all degrees.
NOT CONFINED TO EXTREMISTS
Anti-Semitism is more prevalent in Poland than would appear on the surface. It is not confined to the extremist Naras and the National Democrats but pervades, to no small degree, the ranks of the government party as well. That is not to say that every Pole is anti-Semitic. There are more than a few who are not. But it must be admitted that there is a great deal of anti-Semitism in Poland. And just as it was the personality and personal power of Marshal Pilsudski that more than any other factor brought a Polish Republic into being, so it was these same factors that kept anti-Semitism in Poland in check.
Because of Pilsudski’s prestige, because of the love (even among his political opponents) that Polish citizens had for their great hero, Pilsudski had been a great unifying force without whom Poland today might have been ripped asunder by internal strife. Pilsudski’s hold on his people was the government’s greatest asset and weapon. Through it, the government was able to act frequently against the wishes of great masses. And, through it, the forces of anti-Semitism were largely held in rein.
PERSONAL LOSS TO EVERY JEW
Jews throughout Poland knew that their safety and well-being did not depend on the logic of their representatives in Parliament, on the government officials or on local authorities. They knew that action in their behalf when Naras began to attack them in the streets, when Endeks in municipal councils tried to deprive them of their rights, when local officials taxed them unfairly, would be undertaken only grudginglyâ€”unless Pilsudski intervened. For whatever rights, whatever justice the Jews in Poland obtained, Marshal Pilsudski was in no small part responsible.
That is why every Jew in Poland regards the death of Marshal Pilsudski as a personal loss and as a disaster for the Jews. To the Jews he had always been fair and friendly and Jews today well know how to appreciate these qualities. I can think of no ew living today whose death would be considered by the Jews of Poland as a loss comparable with that of Marshal Pilsudski. Regardless of political beliefs, regardless of one’s personal distaste for the Fascist type of State which Pilsudski created here in Poland, every one must unite in honest admiration and respect for the many fine virtues this ruler of his people possessed.
HIS CHIEF SUCCESSOR FRIENDLY
Marshal Pilsudski’s principal successor is his intimate friend and collaborator, General Rydz-Smigly, a comparatively young man of 46. The new Inspector General of the Army and commander of all Poland’s military forces, is a brilliant, talented and highly capable man. He numbers many Jews among his intimate friends. He is highly esteemed in Jewish intellectual circles in which he frequently moves. His personal attitude to the Jews, without any doubt, is fully as friendly as that of Pilsudski. Polish Jewry, therefore, expects, quite rightly, the same fair consideration at his hands as that for which it looked to the old Marshal. But there is this difference.
Pilsudski was a national hero, a man whose name was spoken by Polish patriots in the same breath as that of Kosekiusko and other Polish immortals. He was able to become Dictator of Poland because of the great hold he had on the Polish people. His word was law.
THEIR INFLUENCE LESS
This is not the case with the four men who have fallen heir to his power. Rydz-Smigly has a strong personal following around Wilno, but nothing like the hold Pilsudski had on the hearts and imaginations of the people. President Mosciki is well-liked throughout the country, but he, too, cannot impose his will by word. The same is true of General Kaspryzcki >, who succeeds Pilsudski as Minister of War. Col. Beck, fourth member of the ruling junto, as active leader of the government bloc, has as many political enemies as he has friends.
With the best intentions in the world, these men will not be able to do unto Poland as did Marshal Pilsudski for they have not the tremendous grip on the Polish citizenry that he had. Where Pilsudski ruled by will, these men will have to rule by political strategy. They will have to be in politics, not above itâ€”and they, like all other political leaders, will be as much the subjects of their followers as the leaders.
CAN THEY CHECK ANTI-SEMITIC DRIVE?
It is therefore most questionable whether these men, whatever their intentions, could halt a popular resurgence of anti-Semitism without