Marian Spychalski

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Marshal of Poland
Marian Spychalski
Marian Spychalski.jpg
Marian Spychalski in 1965
Nickname(s) Marek, Orka
Born 6 December 1906 (1906-12-06)
Łódź, Piotrków Governorate, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
Died 7 June 1980 (1980-06-08) (aged 73)
Warsaw, Poland
Buried at Warsaw, Poland
Allegiance  Poland
Years of service 1944 - 1949, 1956 - 1968
Rank Marshal of Poland
Commands held Gwardia Ludowa
Defence Minister
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Order Budowniczych Polski Ludowej
Other work architect, politician

Marian "Marek" Spychalski pronounced [ˈmarjan spɨˈxalskʲi] (6 December 1906 – 7 June 1980) was a Polish architect in pre-war Poland, and later a military commander and social-democratic politician. During World War II he belonged to the social-democrat underground forces operating within Poland and was one of the leaders of the resistance movement Gwardia Ludowa (People's Guard), then Armia Ludowa (People's Army).[1]


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

Born to a working-class family in Łódź, Spychalski graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Politechnika Warszawska Warsaw University of Technology in 1931. That same year he joined the Communist Party of Poland[2] and continued his membership when in 1942 it became the Polish Workers' Party, and in 1948 the Polish United Workers' Party.[1] Before World War II, he practised architecture and won several national and international competitions and awards.[3]

After the war 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 Sejm (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.[4]

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,[5] where he was accused of anti-Soviet tendencies akin to Titoism.[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][4]

With Gomułka's rehabilitation and return to power that year, Spychalski became the Polish Minister of Defence.[6] In 1959 he again became a member of the Politburo, and in 1963 he was promoted to Field Marshal.[4] In 1968 at Gomułka's request he left the Polish Army and his job as Minister of Defense[2][4] to assume civilian posts as President of the Front of National Unity[4] and from 10 April 1968 to 23 December 1970 as the Chairman of the Council of State, the de facto head of state of Poland, the council being the de jure head of state in the People's Republic of Poland,[1] although some considered the post to be mostly symbolic.[7] As an associate of Gomułka, Spychalski lost his posts when Gierek replaced Gomułka as first secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party.[7]

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.[3]

Honours and awards[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Ochab
Chairman of the Polish Council of State
10 April 1968 – 23 December 1970
Succeeded by
Józef Cyrankiewicz
Preceded by
Konstantin Rokossovsky
Polish Minister of Defence
1956 – 1968
Succeeded by
Wojciech Jaruzelski


  1. ^ a b c Nogaś, Michał and Włodarczykki, Wojciech (17 June 2011). "Marszałek Polski Marian Spychalski". Polskie Radio (in Polish). Archived from the original on 14 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich (2007). "Biographies". In Khrushchev, Sergeĭ. 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 1 May 2015. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.