Beck, Józef

▪ Polish military officer
born Oct. 4, 1894, Warsaw
died June 6, 1944, Stăneşti, Rom.

      Polish army officer and foreign minister from 1932 to 1939, one of Józef Piłsudski (Piłsudski, Józef)'s most trusted confidants. He attempted to maintain Poland's friendly relations with Germany, France, and Romania while at the same time showing indifference toward the Soviet Union.

      During World War I Beck fought in the Polish Legion. After the May 1926 military coup d'état led by Piłsudski, Beck became head of his cabinet and served as foreign minister of Poland. While maintaining a nonthreatening attitude toward the Soviet Union and Germany, he attempted to improve the international position of Poland by strengthening its alliances. After the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Beck gained the disputed Teschen area for his country and on April 6 signed the alliance with Great Britain that was to bring Britain into World War II after the Germans invaded Poland in September of that same year. Along with the other members of the Polish government, he arrived in Romania in September 1939 and was interned; he died there at age 50. His memoirs were first published in French as Dernier rapport (1951; Final Report).

Additional Reading
Antony Polonsky, Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939: The Crisis of Constitutional Government (1972); Anna M. Cienciala, Poland and the Western Powers, 1938–1939 (1968); Simon Newman, March 1939: The British Guarantee to Poland (1976).

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Universalium. 2010.

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