November 19, 2008 (The date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Rublev, Grigory Tinsky


Poland has lost an important round in the "battle of monuments" with Germany

While the question of dismantling Soviet monuments and replacing them by "ideologically right" ones, like the monument to Ronald Reagan or to participants of the Iraq war, is actively discussed in Poland, Warsaw is meeting a defeat in its attempts of beginning an expansion of the country's political symbols abroad. One of the most unpleasant episodes for Poland is connected with the attempt of placing a monument to Pilsudski on the territory of neighbor Germany.

Jozef Pilsudski cult has turned into something incredible in modern Poland by now. Dozens of monuments are erected in honor to the "head of state", who had become a winner in the local wars with Ukrainians (for Lvov) and Lithuanians (for Vilnius) and ended the war with Soviet Russia in a draw. And still it's obviously not enough for Polish government: they want Pilsudski monuments to be erected all over the Europe. Already in 2006 Andrzej Byrt, the ambassador of Poland in Germany of that time, wrote a letter to Lutz Trumper, the Lord Mayor of Magdeburg. In the letter he requested to place a small memorial tablet in the commemoration of Pilsudski sojourn.

As it is known, in summer of 1917 Jozef Pilsudski was arrested by German authorities and put into Magdeburg fortress. This was the answer to Polish legions' rejection to swear allegiance to Kaiser Wilhelm II. After the collapse of Kaiser Reich Germans released Pilsudski and on November 8 sent him off to Warsaw with a special train. Then he headed the renascent Poland.

In spite of the fact that Poles consider this Pilsudski detention a very important event in their modern history, the politicians from the Left party who govern Magdeburg strongly object all the attempts of immortalization of general's memory.

The reason of this is that they think he's a fascist. According to the XX century standards, it's really hard to say Pilsudski was a "democratic figure". He realized a coup d'etat in 1926 – a violent upheaval, when more than 400 people were killed, and established the dictatorial regime (the kind Benito Mussolini did four years before in Italy). By 1930 Pilsudski decided that Poland no more needs "rotten parliamentarism" and finally dispersed Seym.

In internal policy sphere Pilsudski counted on aggressive nationalism. National minorities (Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, Jews), which made up 45% of population of pre-war Poland, had many reasons to believe they were second-grade citizens.

So, taking into account all these facts, Magdeburg city officials decided that they shouldn't place monuments to people like Pilsudski. However, the representatives of CDU tried to stand up for the Polish leader by stating that it's unfair to say Pilsudski was a dictator, who flirted with Nazi and annihilated communists. Karl-Georg Wellmann, their leader, announced that if to agree with this, the monuments of Bismarck, who neither was a democrat, should also be demolished.

Though the comparison of Bismarck and Pilsudski didn't create right impression upon German Left. Oliver Muller, the vice-president of the Left party fraction in the town council, said he won't yield to CDU and that Pilsudski did nothing for Magdeburg. That's why Marshal's chances of "coming back" to Magdeburg are little.

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