The Kosciuszko Foundation Online Programs presents the webinar “Józef Piłsudski – the Founding Father of Modern Poland” by Joshua Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the author of a new Piłsudski biography of the same title.
In the story of modern Poland, no one stands taller than Jozef Pilsudski. From the age of sixteen, he devoted his life to reestablishing the Polish state that had ceased to exist in 1795. Ahead of World War I, he created a clandestine military corps to fight Russia, which held most Polish territory. After the war, his dream of an independent Poland realized, he took the helm of its newly democratic political order. When he died in 1935, he was buried alongside Polish kings.
Yet Pilsudski was a complicated figure. Passionately devoted to the idea of democracy, he ceded power on constitutional terms, only to retake it a few years later in a coup when he believed his opponents aimed to dismantle the democratic system. Joshua Zimmerman examines a national hero in the thick of a changing Europe, and the legacy that still divides supporters and detractors. The Poland that Pilsudski envisioned was modern, democratic, and pluralistic. Domestically, he championed equality for Jews. Internationally, he positioned Poland as a bulwark against Bolshevism. But in 1926 he seized power violently, then ruled as a strongman for nearly a decade, imprisoning opponents and eroding legislative power.
Joshua D. Zimmerman is the author of several books, including “The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945″, and has written for Politico and the Times of Israel. He is Eli and Diana Zborowski Chair in Holocaust Studies and East European Jewish History and Professor of History at Yeshiva University.