Józef Piłsudski in German prisons

Piłsudski and Sosnkowski during their internment in the Magdeburg Fortress, 1918
Piłsudski and Sosnkowski during their internment in the Magdeburg Fortress, 1918

Józef Piłsudski in German prisons around the end of the First World War

 

Danzig/Gdańsk, 23rd to 29th July 1917
 

Józef Piłsudski and his Chief of Staff, Colonel Kazimierz Sosnkowski, were arrested in Warsaw on the morning of 22nd July 1917. At the time Poland's relations with Germany had been poor for some time. The so-called "oath crisis" and the internment of the soldiers from the first and third brigades of the Polish legions had taken place barely two weeks before the arrest. Governor General Hans von Beseler informed the then Provisional Council of State (Tymczasowa Rada Stanu) of the reasons for Pilsudski's arrest. The German leadership had learned of the change in attitude of the Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, "POW"), under Piłsudski's leadership. He had thus become a major threat to peace in the country and to the military security of allied troops fighting on the other side of enemy lines. After the outbreak of the February revolution in Russia it was generally accepted in Germany that this was no longer an opportune moment to create a Polish army. The Eastern Front had ceased to be a potential threat. The rapid end of the war with Russia seemed to be within reach, so that there were no further benefits to be gained from Poland's continued support.

"The situation requires quick action," Beseler stated, "the immediate neutralization of both persons (Piłsudski  and Sosnkowski). (...) In view of this situation, the internment of these persons must be regarded as an enforceable order..."

At the same time arrests of POW members began, and this paralysed the organisation's activities for several months.

Piłsudski and Sosnkowski were first escorted to the Vienna Railway Station (Dworzec Wiedeński) in Warsaw where they were put under a constant guard. The later Marshal of Poland wore a uniform of the Polish legion; Sosnkowski was in plain clothes. Both were placed in a second class compartment. The destination for the transfer was the city of Gdansk, which for reasons unknown was reached by a detour via Poznan. After a brief stop in the capital of Greater Poland, the journey continued. The prisoners arrived in Gdansk on the night of 23rd July where they were sent for remand in the penal prison (the Royal Courthouse Prison in Gdansk) at Schiesstange 12 (today: ul. Kurkowa).

The Polish prison guard on duty at the time, Jan Bastian, recalled that

"the Marshal was polite but silent", and that the Germans treated him like a "general".

Mediathek
  • Flyer: Piłsudski's Return to Warsaw, 1918

    Flyer: Piłsudski's Return to Warsaw, 1918

    Flyer: Piłsudski's Return to Warsaw, 1918
  • Józef Piłsudski and Sosnkowski during their internment in the Magdeburg ´fortress, 1918

    Józef Piłsudski and Sosnkowski during their internment in the Magdeburg Fortress, 1918

    Józef Piłsudski and Sosnkowski during their internment in the Magdeburg fortress, 1918
  • Flyer: The Regency Council hands Józef Piłsudski the command of the Polish armed forces, 1918

    Flyer: The Regency Council hands Józef Piłsudski the command of the Polish armed forces, 1918

    Flyer: The Regency Council hands Józef Piłsudski the command of the Polish armed forces, 1918
  • Flyer: Commander Piłsudski spends his “name day” in a German prison, 1918

    Flyer: Commander Piłsudski spends his “name day” in a German prison, 1918

    Flyer: Commander Piłsudski spends his “name day” in a German prison, 1918
  • Flyer: On Sunday 29th of this month we will gather in front of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument at 11 am to protest against the illegal internment of Commander Józef Piłsudski and Chief of Staff of the First Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel [Kazimierz]. Sosnkowski, 1917.

    Flyer to protest against the illegal internment of Piłsudski, 1917

    Flyer: On Sunday 29th of this month we will gather in front of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument at 11 am to protest against the illegal internment of Commander Józef Piłsudski and Chief of Staff of the Fi...
  • Title page: Józef Piłsudski, Moje pierwsze boje. Wspomnienia spisane w twierdzy magdeburskiej (My First Battles. Memoirs written in the Magdeburg Fortress ), Warszawa: "Bibljoteka Polska", 1925 (Bydgoszcz: Zakł. Graf. Inst. Wyd. "Bibljoteka Polska“).

    Title page of the memoirs of Józef Piłsudski, 1925

    Title page: Józef Piłsudski, Moje pierwsze boje. Wspomnienia spisane w twierdzy magdeburskiej (My First Battles. Memoirs written in the Magdeburg Fortress ), Warszawa: "Bibljoteka Polska", 1925 (Bydgo...
  • The Spandau Fortress Prison

    The Spandau Fortress Prison

    The Spandau Fortress Prison
  • The main gate of the citadel in Wesel, seen from the town side.

    The main gate of the Citadel in Wesel

    The main gate of the citadel in Wesel, seen from the town side.
  • Title page of the “Kurier Warszawski”, 10th November 1918. Powrót komendanta Piłsudskiego (The Return of Commander Piłsudski), special supplement, No. 311, 10.11.1918.

    Title page of the “Kurier Warszawski”, 10th November 1918

    Title page of the “Kurier Warszawski”, 10th November 1918. Powrót komendanta Piłsudskiego (The Return of Commander Piłsudski), special supplement, No. 311, 10.11.1918.
  • The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    The House in the Magdeburg Fortress

    The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Commander Józef Piłsudski accompanied by his friend Kazimierz Sosnkowski during their internment in 1914.

    Józef Piłsudski and Kazimierz Sosnkowski, 1914

    Commander Józef Piłsudski accompanied by his friend Kazimierz Sosnkowski during their internment in 1914.
  • The Magdeburg House in the Belvedere Park in Warsaw where Józef Piłsudski was interned, 1939.

    The Magdeburg House in the Belvedere Park in Warsaw, 1939

    The Magdeburg House in the Belvedere Park in Warsaw where Józef Piłsudski was interned, 1939.
  • A Caricature of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, 1927

    A Caricature of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, 1927

    In: Gustaw Rogalski, Album karykatur 1914-1928 Marszałka J. Piłsudskiego: na pamiątkę dziesięciolecia 1918-1928 niepodległości Polski (Caricatures Album of Marshal J. Piłsudski 1914-1928: to celebrate...
  • A partial view of the Magdeburg Fortress.

    A partial view of the Magdeburg Fortress

    A partial view of the Magdeburg Fortress.
  • The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    The House in the Magdeburg Fortress

    The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • A plan of the Magdeburg Fortress with the house (circled in red),where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    A plan of the Magdeburg Fortress

    A plan of the Magdeburg Fortress with the house (circled in red),where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Restaurant Hiller in Berlin

    Restaurant Hiller in Berlin

    Restaurant Hiller in Berlin
  • The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    The House in the Magdeburg Fortress

    The house in the Magdeburg Fortress where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • The inside of the house in Magdeburg where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    The inside of the house in Magdeburg

    The inside of the house in Magdeburg where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.
  • Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.
  • Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.
  • Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.
  • Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg

    Today's terrain of the Fortress in Magdeburg.
  • Demolition of the house where Piłsudski was interned.

    Demolition of the house where Piłsudski was interned

    Demolition of the house where Piłsudski was interned.
  • Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.
  • Abriss des Piłsudski-Hauses in Magdeburg.

    Abriss des Piłsudski-Hauses in Magdeburg

    Abriss des Piłsudski-Hauses in Magdeburg.
  • Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned

    Demolition of the house where Józef Piłsudski was interned.