Oath crisis

Last updated
Oath crisis
Odmowa zlozenia przysiegi w 1 pulku ulanow, 1917.jpg
Native name Kryzys przysięgowy
DateJuly 1917
TypePolitical conflict
CauseRefusal of Polish troops to swear allegiance and obedience to the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany
ConvictionsJózef Piłsudski and Kazimierz Sosnkowski

The Oath crisis (Polish : Kryzys przysięgowy) was a World War I political conflict between the Imperial German Army command and the Józef Piłsudski-led Polish Legions.

Initially supporting the Central Powers against Imperial Russia, Piłsudski hoped for the defeat of one of the partitioning powers—Russia—with the help of the other two partitioning states, Austria-Hungary and Germany. However, after the Russian defeat in 1917 it became clear that the Central Powers were in no position to guarantee the independence of Poland. Despite the Act of November 5th of 1916 and the creation of Kingdom of Poland, it was apparent that the newly created state would be little more than a puppet buffer-state for Germany, a part of its Mitteleuropa plan.

At this point, Piłsudski decided to switch allegiances to gain the support of the Entente, particularly France and the United Kingdom, for the cause of Polish independence. A good pretext appeared in July 1917, when the Central Powers demanded that the soldiers of the Polish Legions swear allegiance and obedience to the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. Persuaded by Piłsudski, the majority of the soldiers of the 1st and 3rd Brigades of the Legions declined to take the oath. In the end, soldiers who were citizens of Austria-Hungary (roughly 3,000) were then forcibly drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army or the Polnische Wehrmacht, demoted to the rank of private and sent to the Italian Front, while those born in other parts of occupied Poland were interned in prisoner of war camps in Szczypiorno and Beniaminów. Approximately 7,500 soldiers joined the rump Polish Auxiliary Corps. Piłsudski himself and his Chief of Staff Kazimierz Sosnkowski were arrested on 22 July 1917 and interned in the German fortress of Magdeburg. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Central Powers Military coalition in World War I

The Central Powers, also Central Empires, was one of the two main coalitions that fought World War I (1914–18). It consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria; hence it is also known as the Quadruple Alliance.

Józef Piłsudski Polish politician, First Marshall and Prime Minister (1867–1935)

Józef Klemens Piłsudski was a Polish statesman who served as the Chief of State (1918–1922) and First Marshal of Poland. He was considered the de facto leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic as the Minister of Military Affairs. After World War I, he held great power in Polish politics and was a distinguished figure on the international scene. He is viewed as a father of the Second Polish Republic re-established in 1918, 123 years after the final Partition of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia in 1795.

History of Poland (1795–1918)

From 1795 to 1918 Poland was split between Germany, Austria and Russia and had no independent existence. In 1795 the third and the last of the three 18th-century partitions of Poland ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Nevertheless, events both within and outside the Polish lands kept hopes for restoration of Polish independence alive throughout the 19th century. Poland's geopolitical location on the Northern European Lowlands became especially important in a period when its expansionist neighbors, the Kingdom of Prussia and Imperial Russia, involved themselves intensely in European rivalries and alliances as modern nation-states took form over the entire continent.

Bar Confederation

The Bar Confederation was an association of Polish nobles (szlachta) formed at the fortress of Bar in Podolia (Ukraine) in 1768 to defend the internal and external independence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against Russian influence and against King Stanisław II Augustus with Polish reformers, who were attempting to limit the power of the Commonwealth's wealthy magnates. The founders of the Bar Confederation included the magnates Adam Stanisław Krasiński, Bishop of Kamieniec, Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, Casimir Pulaski, his father and brothers and Michał Krasiński. Its creation led to a civil war and contributed to the First Partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Moritz Benyowszki was the most known European volunteer of Bar confederation, supported by Roman Catholic France and Austria. Some historians consider the Bar Confederation the first Polish uprising.

Kingdom of Poland (1917–1918)

The Kingdom of Poland, also known informally as the Regency Kingdom of Poland, was a proposed puppet state of the German Empire during World War I. German policymakers decided to establish a Kingdom of Poland in order to reconcile the ambitions of Polish nationalists for self-governance with the German Empire's interest in controlling the territory of Congress Poland. This arrangement was presented to Poles as liberating the Polish nation from subjugation by Russia and securing the Polish state from the threat of future Russian expansionism.

Edward Rydz-Śmigły

Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły(listen), also called Edward Śmigły-Rydz, was a Polish politician, statesman, Marshal of Poland and Commander-in-Chief of Poland's armed forces, as well as painter and poet.

The Polish Army is the name applied to the military forces of Poland. The name has been in use since the early 19th century, although it can be used to refer to earlier formations as well. Polish Armed Forces consist of the Army, Navy and Air Force branches and are under the command of the Ministry of National Defense.

Polska Siła Zbrojna

Royal Polish Army contemptuously nicknamed die Polnische Wehrmacht by Imperial Germany was a military formation created during World War I in direct response to Piłsudski's refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to Germany. It was intended as the armed forces of a puppet Kingdom of Poland envisioned by the Prussian Mitteleuropa Plan. The results of the recruiting campaign were dismal. The Polska Siła Zbrojna was nevertheless established, as part of the German Army and under complete German command. The commander-in-chief of the Polska Siła Zbrojna became general-governor Hans Hartwig von Beseler, while the de facto commander was General der Infanterie Felix von Barth, head of the training branch.

Polish Legions in World War I

The Polish Legions was a name of the Polish military force established in August 1914 in Galicia soon after World War I erupted between the opposing alliances of the Triple Entente on one side ; and the Central Powers on the other side, including the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. The Legions became "a founding myth for the creation of modern Poland" in spite of their considerably short existence; they were replaced by the Polish Auxiliary Corps formation on 20 September 1916, merged with Polish II Corps in Russia on 19 February 1918 for the Battle of Rarańcza against Austria-Hungary, and disbanded following the military defeat at the Battle of Kaniów in May 1918, against imperial Germany. General Haller escaped to France to form the Polish army in the West against the anti-Polish German-Bolshevik treaty.

Causes of the Polish–Soviet War

During the Polish–Soviet War of 1919-1921, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine were in combat with the re-established Second Polish Republic and the newly established Ukrainian People's Republic. Both sides aimed to secure territory in the often disputed areas of the Kresy, which make up today's Ukraine and parts of modern-day Belarus, in the context of the fluidity of borders in Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War I and the breakdown of the Austrian, German, and Russian empires. The first clashes between the two sides occurred in February 1919, but full-scale war did not break out until the following year. Especially at first, neither Soviet Russia, embroiled in the Russian Civil War, nor Poland, still in the early stages of state re-building, were in a position to formulate and pursue clear and consistent war aims.

Polish Military Organisation

The Polish Military Organisation, PMO was a secret military organization which formed during World War I (1914-1918). Józef Piłsudski founded the group in August 1914; it adopted the name POW in November 1914. It aimed to gather intelligence and to sabotage the enemies of the Polish people. Piłsudski used the POW to act independently from his cautious Austro-Hungarian supporters, and it became an important, if somewhat lesser known, counterpart to the Polish Legions. Its targets included the Russian Empire in the early phase of the war, and the German Empire later. Its membership rose from a few hundred in 1914 to over 30,000 in 1918.

Resistance movements in partitioned Poland (1795–1918)

There were many resistance movements in partitioned Poland between 1795 and 1918. Although some of the szlachta was reconciled to the end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, the possibility of Polish independence was kept alive by events within and without Poland throughout the 19th century. Poland's location on the North European Plain became especially significant in a period when its neighbours, the Kingdom of Prussia and Russia were intensely involved in European rivalries and alliances and modern nation states took form over the entire continent.

Związek Walki Czynnej was a Polish secret military organization founded in June 1908 in Lwów by Józef Piłsudski, Marian Kukiel, Kazimierz Sosnkowski and Władysław Sikorski, all members of the Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party's Revolutionary Faction.

Włodzimierz Zagórski (general) Polish general and aviator

Włodzimierz Zagórski of the Clan of Ostoja was an Austro-Hungary military intelligence soldier, Polish brigadier general, staff officer, and aviator.

Battle of Kostiuchnówka Battle on the Eastern Front during World War I

The Battle of Kostiuchnówka was a World War I battle that took place July 4–6, 1916, near the village of Kostiuchnówka (Kostyukhnivka) and the Styr River in the Volhynia region of modern Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. It was a major clash between the Russian Army and the Polish Legions during the opening phase of the Brusilov Offensive.

Ukrainian War of Independence

The Ukrainian War of Independence, a period of sustained warlike conflict, lasted from 1917 to 1921 and resulted in the establishment and development of a Ukrainian republic, most of which was later absorbed into the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of 1922–1991.

2nd Brigade, Polish Legions

Brigade II of the Polish Legions, also known as the Iron or Carpathian Brigade, a unit of Austro-Hungarian Army, manned by Austrian Poles, part of the Polish Legions in World War I, that existed from 1914 or 1915 till 1918.

History of Poland during World War I

While Poland did not exist as an independent state during World War I, its geographical position between the fighting powers meant that much fighting and terrific human and material losses occurred on the Polish lands between 1914 and 1918.

Puławy Legion

Puławy Legion was a Polish military formation of World War I, as part of the Imperial Russian Army.

Polish Armed Forces in the East (1914–20)

Polish Armed Forces in the East around World War I is a term used for several Polish military formations formed in Russia and operating in the period of 1914–1920 (First World War, Russian Revolution of 1917, and the early stages of the Polish-Ukrainian War and Polish-Soviet War. Early formations were part of the Imperial Russian Army. Later, during the Russian Revolution, the Polish formations were mainly allied to the White Russian forces and the Western powers. All the formations were eventually incorporated into the Polish Army by 1920.


  1. Fiddian Reddaway, William (1950). The Cambridge History of Poland. Cambridge University Press. p. 470. OCLC   58582739.