Józef Cyrankiewicz

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Józef Cyrankiewicz
2nd Prime Minister of the Polish People's Republic
In office
18 March 1954 – 23 December 1970
ChairmanAleksander Zawadzki
Edward Ochab
Marian Spychalski
First SecretaryBolesław Bierut
Edward Ochab
Władysław Gomułka
Edward Gierek
Preceded byBolesław Bierut
Succeeded byPiotr Jaroszewicz
In office
6 February 1947 – 20 November 1952
PresidentBolesław Bierut
DeputyWładysław Gomułka
Antoni Korzycki
Aleksander Zawadzki
Hilary Minc
Hilary Chełchowski
Stefan Jędrychowski
Tadeusz Gede
First SecretaryWładysław Gomułka
Bolesław Bierut
Preceded byEdward Osóbka-Morawski
Succeeded byBolesław Bierut
4th Chairman of the Council of State of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
23 December 1970 – 28 March 1972
Prime MinisterPiotr Jaroszewicz
First SecretaryEdward Gierek
Preceded byMarian Spychalski
Succeeded byHenryk Jabłoński
Personal details
Born23 April 1911
Tarnów, Austro-Hungary (now Poland)
Died20 January 1989(1989-01-20) (aged 77)
Warsaw, Polish People's Republic
Political partyPPS (1930s-1948)
PZPR (1948-1989)

Józef Adam Zygmunt Cyrankiewicz (pronounced [ˈjuzɛf t͡sɨranˈkʲɛvit͡ʂ] (About this soundlisten); 23 April 1911 – 20 January 1989) was a Polish Socialist (PPS) and after 1948 Communist politician. He served as premier of the Polish People's Republic between 1947 and 1952, and again for 16 years between 1954 and 1970. He also served as Chairman of the Polish Council of State from 1970 to 1972.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Tarnów in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to father Józef (1881-1939)[3] and mother Regina née Szpak (1880-1966).[4] His father was a local activist of the National Democracy[5] as well as lieutenant in the Polish Armed Forces[6] while his mother was an owner of several sawmills.[7] Cyrankiewicz attended the Jagiellonian University. He became secretary of the Kraków branch of the Polish Socialist Party in 1935.[8]

World War II[edit]

Active in the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, later renamed to Armia Krajowa), the Polish resistance organisation, from the beginning of Poland's 1939 defeat at the start of World War II, Cyrankiewicz was captured by the Gestapo in the spring of 1941 and after imprisonment at Montelupich was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He arrived on 4 September 1942, and received registration number 62,933.[9]

He, along with other Auschwitz prisoners, was eventually transferred to Mauthausen as the Soviet front line approached Auschwitz late in the war. He was eventually liberated by the US Army.

The Auschwitz controversy[edit]

According to post-war communist era-propaganda, while in Auschwitz, Cyrankiewicz attempted to organize a resistance movement among the other imprisoned socialists and also worked on bringing the various international prisoners' groups together; those claims, used to build up his reputation in post-war Poland, are considered exaggerated by modern historians.[10][11] Instead, modern historians note that Cyrankiewicz controversially not only refused an appeal of a death sentence by Witold Pilecki, a Home Army resistance fighter who infiltrated Auschwitz and is considered to be the main creator of the resistance there, but suggested that he be treated "harshly, as an enemy of the state".[12][13][11]

Rise to power[edit]

First period in office[edit]

Following the end of the war, he became secretary-general of the Polish Socialist Party's central executive committee in 1946. However, factional infighting split the Party into two camps: one led by Cyrankiewicz, the other by Edward Osóbka-Morawski, who was also prime minister.

Osóbka-Morawski thought the PSP should join with the other non-communist party in Poland, the Polish Peasant Party, to form a united front against communism. Cyrankiewicz argued that the PPS should support the communists (who held most of the posts in the government) in carrying through a socialist programme, while opposing the imposition of one party rule. The Communist Polish Workers' Party (PPR) played on this division within the PSP, dismissing Osóbka-Morawski and making Cyrankiewicz prime minister.

The PPS merged with the PPR in 1948 to form the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). Although the PZPR was the PPR under a new name, Cyrankiewicz remained as prime minister. He was also named a secretary of the PZPR Central Committee.[14]

Cyrankiewicz gave up the prime minister's post in 1952 because party boss Bolesław Bierut wanted the post for himself. He did, however, become a deputy premier under Bierut.

Second period in office[edit]

However, in 1954, after Poland returned to "collective leadership," Cyrankiewicz returned to the premiership, a post he would hold until 1970. By this time, there was little left of Cyrankiewicz the socialist, as evidenced during the 1956 upheaval following Nikita Khrushchev's "secret speech." He tried to repress the rioting that erupted across the country at first, threatening that "any provocateur or lunatic who raises his hand against the people's government may be sure that this hand will be chopped off."[15]

Cyrankiewicz was also responsible for the order to fire on the protesters during the 1970 demonstrations on the coast in which 42 people were killed and more than a 1,000 wounded. A few months after these demonstrations, Cyrankiewicz went into semi-retirement and was named chairman of the Council of State—a post equivalent to that of a ceremonial president. He held this post until he retired in 1972.

Cyrankiewicz died in 1989, a few months before the collapse of the communist regime. However Cyrankiewicz (and others involved in the 1948 show trial) was posthumously charged in 2003 with complicity in Witold Pilecki's murder.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrzej Krajewski (28 kwietnia 2011), Józef Cyrankiewicz, czyli jak kończą idealiści. Newsweek.pl. Archived December 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Jerzy Reuter (24 sierpnia 2009), Józef Cyrankiewicz. Tarnowski Kurier Kulturalny. Archived November 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Rocznik Oficerski Rezerw". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  4. ^ "Regina Szpak". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  5. ^ Kienzler, Iwona (2015). Kronika PRL 1944–1989. Czerwona arystokracja. Warsaw. p. 67.
  6. ^ "Rocznik oficerski 1923". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  7. ^ "Tak kończą idealiści". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  8. ^ "Dane osoby z katalogu kierowniczych stanowisk partyjnych i państwowych PRL". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "30 lat temu zmarł Józef Cyrankiewicz, najdłużej sprawujący swą funkcję premier PRL". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Haltof, Marek (2018). "Fighting Auschwitz". Fighting Auschwitz:: The Heroic Account of the Camp. Screening Auschwitz. Wanda Jakubowska's The Last Stage and the Politics of Commemoration. Northwestern University Press. pp. 101–120. ISBN 978-0-8101-3608-3. JSTOR j.ctv3znz28.10. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Lidia Ostałowska (April 17, 2017). Watercolours: A Story from Auschwitz. Zubaan. p. 88. ISBN 978-93-85932-33-5.
  12. ^ Fleming, Michael (May 4, 2019). "The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz". Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. 13 (2): 289–294. doi:10.1080/23739770.2019.1673981. ISSN 2373-9770. S2CID 210468082.
  13. ^ Świerczek, Lidia (1997). "Sprawa Witolda Pileckiego" (PDF). Niepodległość i Pamięć. 4/1 (7) [1]: 141–152.
  14. ^ Davies, Norman (1991). Boże igrzysko. Historia Polski. T. 2: Od roku 1795. Warsaw: Znak. p. 704.
  15. ^ "29 czerwca 1956 r. Cyrankiewicz: Każdemu, kto podniesie rękę na władzę, władza tę rękę odrąbie". Retrieved August 10, 2020.
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Bolesław Bierut
Preceded by
Bolesław Bierut
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Piotr Jaroszewicz
Preceded by
Marian Spychalski
Chairman of the Polish Council of State
Succeeded by
Henryk Jabłoński