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During the period between World War I and World War II, Roman Dmowski was the leader of Poland's National Democrat Party, an organization, which he had helped to found in 1914. He was a right-wing nationalist who was instrumental in re-uniting partitioned Poland after the war, and an important political influence in the new nation. Dmowski and his political party generally opposed the policies of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski who seized control of the Polish government in 1926, loudly objecting that he was leading the country toward socialism.
Dmowski and the National Democracy Movement
At the outbreak of World War I, Dmowski and the National Democracy movement hoped to create a Polish army under Russian auspices to fight the Germans. He believed, as did many other Poles, that only with its own army could Poland win freedom. Dmowski's plan to lead this army failed, however, since most Poles refused to fight alongside the Russians because of the violent suppression of past uprisings. He emigrated first to Russia and then to Lausanne, Switzerland where he established the Polish National Committee in 1917. This organization intended to form a provisional Polish government and represented Poland to the victorious allies. Woodrow Wilson recognized Poland's right to be an independent nation and negotiated with Dmowski.
Meanwhile, the Regency Council was established in Poland to govern as the occupying armies withdrew. When Marshal Pilsudski returned to Poland, the Council turned military power over to him. He then declared Poland independent and in January 1919, the first elections to the Legislative Parliament were held. Neither Dmowski's National Democrats nor Pilsudski's National Socialists gained a clear majority.
Dmowski's National Democrats
The Poles were now faced with the task of building the necessary infrastructure of a nation that had been partitioned for more than a century. There was little agreement as to the direction that the reconstruction should take. Dmowski's National Democrats had a very chauvinistic vision of Poland that was close to fascism. He believed the following:
- Power should remain concentrated in the hands of industrialists, land owners and the Church.
- He also stressed patriotism and the national interest above all else.
- He believed that Poland should be "inhabited by persons who were Poles or who could be readily assimilated as Poles".
- He espoused the widely held belief that Jews were not Poles and could not be assimilated into the new nation, a position that brings strong criticism today.