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Jozef Pilsudski
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Military Personnel
    (December 5, 1867-May 12, 1935)
    Born in Zalavas, Lithuania
    Led the Polish Legions in World War I
    Commanded the Polish army in the Polish-Soviet War (1919-21)
    Polish Chief of State (1918-22)
    De facto dictator of Poland (1926-35)
    He had two children out of wedlock with his mistress, who he would marry the year his first wife died.
    At the beginning of World War I, he claimed to be acting under the authority of a 'National Government in Warsaw' that was fictitious.
    He allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI.
    As a result, the Allies initially refused to recognize his government after the war.
    He was a loner who distrusted almost everyone and, not surprisingly, did not get along well with other politicians.
    He returned to power in a coup in which 400 people were killed (May 12-14, 1926).
    He ordered political opponents imprisoned on the eve of parliamentary elections (1930) and established a detention camp for political prisoners (1934).
    When a 'no confidence' vote against his government was pending, he sent armed troops into the parliament building.
    While imprisoned in Siberia, he lost two teeth when he and other political prisoners were beaten by the guards after another inmate insulted a guard and refused to apologize.
    After being arrested for publishing an underground newspaper, he feigned mental illness and escaped from the hospital (1900).
    At the outbreak of World War I, he predicted that Poland's best chance for regaining its independence would be for Russia to be defeated by the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary), which would then have to lose to France, Britain and the US.
    He was arrested by the Germans when he forbade his soldiers from swearing an oath of loyalty to the Central Powers (1917).
    He maintained a spartan lifestyle and drove himself hard, often working all day and all night.
    He inflicted a major defeat on the Soviet army during the Battle of Warsaw (August 12-25, 1920).
    He undid anti-semitic policies implemented by the pre-coup government.
    At his funeral, it was said, 'He gave Poland freedom, boundaries, power and respect.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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