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Władysław Gizbert-Studnicki, a Polish politician and publicist, was born on November 15, 1867 in Daugavpils, Russian Empire (current Latvia), into a patriotic Polish noble family of the Kresy region. Both his parents fought in the January Uprising. Throughout his life, Studnicki was famous for his strongly pro-German stance, and in Communist Poland, all his books were banned from publication. He was older brother of historian Wacław Studnicki. He died January 10, 1953 in London.
His political career started in late 19th century at the Kronenberg Trade School in Warsaw, in the Socialist organization Proletariat, for which Russian authorities sent him first to the Warsaw Citadel (December 7, 1888), and then to Eastern Siberia, where he spent six years. After returning from exile in 1896, he became activist of the Polish Socialist Party, but left it, choosing the national movement, in which he was the main ideologist. However, unhappy about pro-Russian program of the nationalists, deserted them and in 1904 wrote a book “From Socialism to Nationalism”, in which Studnicki explained reasons for change of his ideals. In 1901, after visiting Vienna and Heidelberg, he settled in Austrian Galicia. In 1903 Studnicki moved to Lwow, where he founded the Lwow Weekly news magazine.
In 1910 he authored another publication “Polish Case” in which he presented the need for reconstruction of Poland, based on the support of German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Also, at that time Studnicki proposed changing Austria-Hungary into the Austrian-Hungarian-Polish federation. He was strongly anti-Russian, emphasizing that Russian Empire occupied 80% of the territory of the 1772 Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (see: Partitions of Poland).
In the mid-1910s, Studnicki became one of the most important pro-German politicians in Poland. On May 10, 1916 he met Hans von Beseler, Governor of the Congress Poland, to whom he presented a project of independent Poland, with eastern borders along the Dvina and Berezina rivers and western borders unchanged, leaving Poznań, Bydgoszcz and Upper Silesia in German hands. Later, he became a member of the Provisional Council of State, a German-sponsored government, existing in Warsaw in the years 1916–1918, see Kingdom of Poland (1916–18). Studnicki was so influential in Polish politics in the late 1910s, that Matthias Erzberger called him the “spiritual father of the Act of 5th November, 1916”. Therefore, Studnicki can be regarded as one of “founding fathers” of the Second Polish Republic, together with Roman Dmowski and Jozef Pilsudski.
In the Second Polish Republic Studnicki devoted his time to writing. He authored a number of books, among them “Political System of Europe and Poland” (1935), “A Question of Czechoslovakia and Polish Raison d’Etat” (1938) and, finally “Facing the Oncoming Second World War” (1939) in which he correctly assessed and anticipated the events of the conflict.
In “Political System of Europe and Poland” („System polityczny Europy a Polska”), Studnicki wrote: “Poland and Germany can become the foundation of a large Central European bloc, together with Austria, Hungary, Czech, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece and the Baltic states: altogether, 200 million people”.
In his view, this bloc would oppose the Soviet Union. Studnicki correctly predicted the Anschluss and the collapse of Czechoslovakia, but in his opinion, stated in 1939, the annexation of Zaolzie into Poland was an inadequate reward for not allowing the Red Army to pass through Polish territory.
Apart from writing, Studnicki worked as a civil servant. He was manager of Statistical Office of Eastern Lands (1919–1921), consultant at Ministry of Industry and Trade (1922–1926) and at Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1928–1930). Furthermore, he lectured at the Institute of Trade and Economical Sciences in Wilno. In 1935 and 1938 he tried to be elected to the Sejm, but failed to convince Polish voters.
In March 1939 Studnicki wrote in “Slowo” that German occupation of Czechoslovakia was a mistake, as it provoked anti-German feelings among Poles, and worsened geostrategic situation of Poland. Nevertheless, he continued to support Polish-German alliance. On April 6, a Polish-British communique was announced (see Anglo-Polish military alliance), regarding mutual guarantees. Studnicki knew well that a Polish - German conflict was imminent, trying to do everything he could to prevent it. On April 13, 1939, he wrote a letter to Minister Jozef Beck, warning that acceptance of British guarantees meant catastrophy for Poland. In his opinion, Poland should remain neutral in the oncoming war. He correctly predicted that the victory of Western Allies would draw Poland into Soviet sphere of influence, loss of her independence and eastern territories. According to him, Polish government should end all kinds of anti-German activities and try to peacefully settle all mutual problems. Studnicki proposed that Free City of Danzig should be handed over to the Third Reich, in exchange he expected the lease of the port of Liepaja in Latvia and German agreement of a Polish protectorate of independent Slovakia.
On May 5, 1939, Studnicki wrote “Memo Against the War with Germany”, sending it to all members of Polish government, expect for Felicjan Slawoj-Skladkowski. He warned that acceptance of British guarantees increased the risk of armed conflict and as a result of this step, Poland would be first victim of German attack: “When one faces an enemy on two fronts, the weaker enemy is liquidated first. And we are the weaker enemy in this case (...) Poland should pledge neutrality, renounce the alliance with Britain and move its army eastwards, to protect the Soviet border”.
Studnicki claimed that Poland should promote the notion of “armed neutrality”, as her priority should be not to allow the Red Army enter Polish territory. Nevertheless, the declaration of neutrality would end the Central European bloc, and was only a desperate attempt to postpone the conflict and preserve Poland’s independence.
In June 1939, Wladyslaw Studnicki published his last book of the interwar period, “Facing the Oncoming Second World War”. All copies of the book were immediately confiscated by the government censorship office, and Warsaw authorities planned to send the author to the Bereza Kartuska prison. Studnicki precisely predicted the events of the oncoming conflict. He claimed that the Free City of Danzig in itself was not the sole reason of Polish-German disagreement. The conflict was about Polish role in the war, whether she would join German or Allied camp. British guarantees were aimed at drawing Poland to the Allied camp, but their acceptance meant that Germany would attack Poland first. To avoid this, Poland should hand Danzig over to Germany and allow for construction of an extraterritorial highway and rail line through the Polish Corridor.
As for British guarantees, Studnicki claimed that during the 1920s and early 1930s, Great Britain never expressed any interest in Poland, so sudden change of mood in London was, in his opinion, insincere: “This alleged British concern over Polish interests along the Baltic Sea has a well-defined foundation. The British want German military power to attack Poland first, at the beginning of the war, when Britain is not yet ready for the conflict”. In Studnicki’s opinion, Polish - British alliance was very dangerous to Poland, as London wanted to draw the Soviet Union into the war as its ally. The Soviets would be rewarded with eastern Polish territories.
World War Two
During the war Wladyslaw Studnicki, whose pro-German stance was well known to German authorities, frequently intervened in support of arrested and executed Polish activists. Due to his efforts, Boleslaw Piasecki, creator of National Radical Camp Falanga, was released from German prison.
In most cases, however, Studnicki’s interventions did not help. As a result, in January 1940 he decided to issue a “Memo to the German Government”, in which he expressed his opposition to the policy of German occupational authorities, based on bloody terror. In his view, this stance would result in growing anti-German feelings among ethnic Poles, which would make it impossible to create an agreement between Poles and Germans, aimed at the Soviet Union.
Furthermore, a few weeks after the Invasion of Poland, Studnicki presented to German military authorities the “Memo on Recreation of Polish Army and the Oncoming German - Soviet War”. In this document, he proposed recreation of Polish Army, which would fight the Soviets alongside the Wehrmacht. Furthermore, he suggested that a Polish Government should be recreated. To make this happen, German authorities should cease killings and repression of Polish activists. Polish Army, in cooperation with the Wehrmacht, was to seize the territories west of the Dniepr river, while Germans were to march further east, to the Caucasus.
Both memos were confiscated by Germans. Desperate Studnicki decided then to personally visit Berlin, and talk to Adolf Hitler. In late January 1940, he went to Berlin, and talked with Joseph Goebbels, but without any fruits. After the conversation, he was interned at Babelsberg, but was released following a plea of Herman Goering. In August 1940 Studnicki returned to Warsaw. He remained in touch with German authorities, and he continuous pleas for better treatment of Poles resulted in his arrest on July 10, 1941. Studnicki remained in Pawiak Prison until August 1942, when he was released due to poor health and efforts of both Maurycy Stanislaw Potocki and Hungarian ambassador.
In final years of the war, Studnicki criticized both German terror and Polish resistance, whose activities resulted in German reprisals and sufferings of civilian population. In his opinion, the Soviet Union was the main enemy of Poland, and all Polish forces should concentrate their efforts on fighting the Soviets.
In July 1944 he left for Hungary, and then to Austria. In 1945 he went to Rome, and finally, in late 1946, Studnicki settled in London. Due to his uncompromising stance and unpopular convictions, he was isolated by other Polish immigrants. Furthermore, in 1948 he volunteered to defend Field Marshall Erich von Manstein, but court decided not to send for him. In 1951, the government of Communist Poland banned all his books.
After the War
Before death, Studnicki published his World War Two memoirs. In “Tragic Days” he tried to explain and justify his pro-German stance. Originally, Studnicki’s memoirs were titled “How I did not become Polish Vidkun Quisling, but Mieczyslaw Grydzewski, editor in chief of “Polish News”, which published the book, decided to change it.
Several contemporary Polish historians, such as Andrzej Piskozub, Pawel Wieczorkiewicz and Jerzy Lojek have stated that Studnicki was right back in the summer 1939. They all claim that the only solution at that time was to sign an alliance with Germany, in order to avoid wartime destruction and Communism. Another historian, Tomasz Gabis wrote in his book “Imperial Games” (2008) that if in summer 1939 Poland had come to an agreement with Germany, the war would have never taken place, as France and Britain would have had no reason to declare it on Germany. Instead of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a Central European anti-Soviet bloc would have been created.
- Władysław Studnicki Pisma wybrane, Tom 1 Z przeżyć i walk, Toruń 2001, Wyd. Adam Marszałek, ISBN 83-7174-554-0
- Władysław Studnicki Pisma wybrane, Tom 2 Polityka międzynarodowa Polski w okresie międzywojennym, Toruń 2009, Wyd. Adam Marszałek, ISBN 83-7322-288-X
- Władysław Studnicki Pisma wybrane, Tom 3 Ludzie, idee i czyny, Toruń 2000, Wyd. Adam Marszałek, ISBN 83-7174-610-5
- Władysław Studnicki Pisma wybrane, Tom 4 Tragiczne manowce. Próby przeciwdziałania katastrofom narodowym 1939-1945, Toruń 2002, Wyd. Adam Marszałek, ISBN 83-7322-289-8
- Polski Słownik Biograficzny, tom 45/1, wyd. 2007
- Jacek Gzella, Zaborcy i sąsiedzi Polski w myśli społeczno-politycznej Władysława Studnickiego: (do 1939 roku), Toruń 1998.
- Jan Sadkiewicz, „Ci, którzy przekonać nie umieją”. Idea porozumienia polsko-niemieckiego w publicystyce Władysława Studnickiego i wileńskiego „Słowa” (do 1939), Kraków 2012.