Zamach Stanu (Coup D'etat) (1981)





Director:     Ryszard Filipski.

Starring:     Ryszard Filipski (Jzef Pilsudski), Ignacy Gogolewski (Judge Hermanowski), Andrzej Hrydzewicz (President Stanislaw Wojciechowski), Jerzy Sagan (Wincenty Witos), Lech Bijald (Herman Lieberman), Henryk Boukolowski (Lawyer E. Smiarowski), Krzysztof Chamiec (General Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer), Tadeusz Janczar (Wojciech Korfanty), Jerzy Kamas (Jerzy Zdziechowski), Janusz Klosinski (Lawyer S. Szurlej), Gustaw Kron (General Malczewski), Zbigniew Krynski (Adam Pragier), Henryk Machalica (Lawyer Garlinski), Zygmunt Malanowicz (Kazimierz Baginski), Gabriel Nehrebecki (Stanislaw Dubois).

 Polish film about General Jozef Pilsudski taking over Poland in 1918 and ruling for four years & coming back in 1926 to rule until his death in 1935


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

May 1, 1926.  A protest is going on in Poland. 

The Parliament, spring of 1926.  S. Dallin, M.P. (member of Parliament) is officiating at the session of the Parliament.  It is really noisy in the session.  Some M.P.s want to stop the discussion, while others want to continue talking.  Dallin shouts:  "Continue, please!"  Some men come out to Witos, who is plowing a field.  One of the men says:  "Come to Warsaw, Mr. Prime Minister."  The prime minister washes his feet off.  He goes to the farm house and gets dressed in a suit.  He gets in a car and off he goes. 

Premier Wincenty Witos wants to form a government.  The political left is against him.  Witos says his party has the majority in the parliament.  President Stanislaw Wojciechowski answers:  "But not outside it, sir."  The peasants are becoming radicalized and a rebellion is imminent.  There is inflation, unemployment, strikes, which serve to make the communists stronger.  Witos says there is another threat:  Pilsudski.  He says the word is that Pilsudski is preparing a coup.  The president says he doesn't believe that. 

The president delivers the oath of office to Witos and his ministers.  Witos tells Gen. Juliusz Malczewski.that Pilsudski is preparing a coup.  The general is skeptical of that.

Gen G. Gorlicz-Dreszer and his troops form up in front of the house where Pilsudski is staying.  Later Pilsudski speaks to a core group of supporters.  Walery Slawek is one of these. He says he has always fought for what they call the imponderables:  virtue, honor, valor and internal human powers.  He says:  "I've been appalled by the scale of unpunished corruption in the country . . ."  He tells his staff that the march to Warsaw is to be a demonstration.  An officer reports that assigned regiments are either waiting near Rembertow or are waiting for orders to move.  Smigly has the job of dispatching the First Legion and waits for his orders in Vilnius.  The Socialist Party will be with him. Pilsudski ends with:  "The time is now."  Pilsudski gets in an open car to lead the procession. 

Witos learns that the 7th Cavalry Regiment has rebelled.  It is presently marching to Warsaw under the leadership of Pilsudski.  There will be other regiments around Warsaw who will join the rebellion.  Witos calls his cabinet together.  He wants  the Council of Ministers to authorize the Minister of the Army to mobilize 12 army regiments immediately.  The Minister will act as if in a state of war. 

The president gets in an open car and leaves.  Citizens of Warsaw wave to him.  He gets off at a bridge.  A little later comes Pilsudski and his men.  The president will speak with Pilsudski alone. 

Warsaw, Poniatowski Bridge.  May 12, 1926, 17:00 hours.  The president tells the major to carry out the order.  He then gets in his car and drives away.  Then the military unit under the major blocks off the bridge.  Pilsudski tells the major:  "Don't do anything stupid.  Let me through."  The major answers:  "I can't, marshal."  Pilsudski goes down the line a bit and asks two soldiers if they will shoot?  They both say they are under the orders of the president. 

The rebel cavalry attacks soldiers behind a wall of sandbags.  A machine gunner mows down a lot of horses and men.  He cries as he watches the cavalry retreat. 

Pilsudski learns that the army is with him.  Their contingents are in the outskirts of Warsaw.  The city command will soon be captured.  Smigley is set to arrive tomorrow.  Pilsudski asks what if Sikorski and Szeptycki arrive sooner than Smigley?  The officer says that by the end of the day their soldiers will control the Ministry of Communication's exchange and the main railway station.  The Socialist Party will send the railway workers out on strike.  Railway workers remove a track from the railway line. 

Pilsudski says:  "I can shatter that Witos' band into pieces!"  He tells a fellow to go tell that to the president.  The messenger tells the president.  Then Gen. Juliusz Malczewski arrives to tell the president that the 57th and 58th regiments have arrived from Poznan under the control of Gen. Kedzierski.  The 10th Infantry Regiment is in its place already.  The president and Witos go out to review the troops. 

Pilsudski knows that more government troops are arriving in Warsaw.  He says that if his rebel soldiers don't win, the failed rebellion will be followed by a civil war in the nation. 

Gen. T. Rozwadowski.  Gen Malczewski tells Gen. St. Haller that he is appointing the general to be the Chief of Command, while Gen. Rozwadowski is in charge of the defense of Warsaw. Gen. Zagorski will be the Chief of the Aviation Department.  A messenger comes in saying that the rebel troops have arrived near the Governor's Palace.  The government has been evacuated to the Belvedere!

There is street to street fighting.  Judge S. Leszczynski has to take cover to avoid being hit by a bullet.  He runs across the street to see if a wounded soldier is okay.  The poor soldier is dead. 

News comes to Pilsudski. that the rebels of the 37th Infantry Regiment from Kutno have arrived.  General Malachocki arresta General Jung and Voivod Darowski.  For the government forces, General Szeptycki took control of Przemysl, Poznan, Cracow and Lodz corpses.  Poznan troops have taken over Kutno. 

Meeting of the Head Council of the Socialist Party.  The railway strike has been a big success.  The workers follow Pilsudski because he promises change.  The members talk about making a proclamation of support for Pilsudski.  That should be followed up with a general strike.  Meanwhile, the communists come out in support of Pilsudski. 

Meeting of the Polish Peasants' Party Wyzwolenie. Since President Stanislaw Wojciechowski supports the Witos government, the members feel that the president is responsible for the bloodshed.  A spokesman says:  "Away with the protector of the government of shame and state paralysis, of corruption and national belittlement!" 

Officer S. Wieckowski gets a message saying they have to move against the government.  He really doesn't want to do that.  He shoots himself in the head. 

Bad news for the government.  The Citadel surrendered without a fight.  The airport is under fire.  So the Minister of the Army says he will move their front line from Piekna to Nowomiejska Street. He says the only hope they have is the Gen. Zymierski and his regiments arrive in Warsaw before the rebel forces from the east arrive.

Gen Wlodzimierz Zagorski sees an airplane arrive.    One of the two pilots gives a message to the general.  The news is that the 57th and 145h Field Artillery Regiments will arrive here from Poznan.  The president in the Belvedere is informed of this.  He tells the others of his staff that Gen. Zymierski's relief forces have not arrived yet.  He now decides to move from the Belvedere to Wilanow.  And to do this, they have no other choice but to walk to Wilanow.  So the men of the government set out walking.  Two of the men turn around and leave. 

Pilsudski, on the other hand, can move about by automobile.  He dictates a letter to the armed forces to a Colonel Jozef Beck.  It basically says that he is in charge of the armed forces once again.  If everyone doesn't quite love him, then at least they will respect him for he is the one to lead them to victory.  He then tells the colonel to keep the letter for awhile.  It will be his first order for the army. 

One of the government staff  begins to wonder aloud if they should continue the fighting given the curent situation?  Civil war, after all, would be a disaster for Poland.  Witos opposes this.  He says if they give up the resistance then this will result in worse consequences for the nation.  He speaks of fighting to the last man and, thereby, living up to their sense of honor.  The president has a written statement that he will submit his dismissal to the Chairman of the Parliament.  He now asks the Minister of the Army to call in Kedzierski, Paszkiewicza and Anders to represent the troops loyal to the government.  He adds:  "To prevent civil war, I order all fighting to stop." 

Wilanow, May 14/15, 1926.  Now the dismissal of the entire government will be submitted to the president.  The president, in turn, resigns from his office.  So now he gives the authority of the presidency to the Chairman of the Parliament.  He also asks for the dismissal of the present government.  The chairman says that after having conferred with Pilsudski, he orders both sides in the conflict to cease fire.  The Minister of the Army starts crying and falls to his knees and then onto the floor. 

The church bells ring. Father Jozef Panas looks over a number of coffins of the dead in the recent conflict.  He is a former chaplain in Pilsudski's legions.  He says that after the crimes committed by Pilsudski, he no longer wants the metals her earned.  He tears them off his chest saying that the medals have been defiled

Meeting of the Communist Party of Poland.  The communists say that Pilsudski has broken his promises and that they never should have supported him.  So they now consider a declaration of a condemnation of the acts of Pilsudski. 

There is a telephone call to the Chairman of the Parliament.  Now he has to tell the former chairman that he cannot stay at his house any longer.  He apologizes to the man who is about to be thrown out.  Another gentleman says that he is sure the former chairman could stay with Mrs. Reymont.  The former chairman does get shelter from Mrs. Reymont. 

Witos goes back to his farm. 

Pilsudski tell Professor Kazimierz Bartel that he will be the new prime minister.  The government should be formed quickly.  The professor asks for some suggestions for the ministerial posts.  Pilsudski says he has had the names of wthose he wants in the ministerial positions for a long time now.  He also comments that as long as Parliament does not make any trouble for him, he will leave the members alone. 

Pilsudski asks what charges will there be on the generals Sikorski, Zagorski, Zymierski, Rozwadowski, Malczewski and Jazwinski?  The military men don't know.  Pilsudski tells them to have such facts as these in their heads at all times.  And start proceedings against Gen. Rozwadowski, Malczewski, Zagorski and Jazwinski.  These generals will be kept locked up.  Pilsudski is told that the generals are already imprisoned in Warsaw.  Pilsudski tells the military men to transfer the generals to Vilnius. 

Pilsudski explains why he does not want to be president of Poland.  The new president is Professor Ignacy Moscicki. 

Pilsudski now says the parliament will take a rest.  The members will receive pocket change and everyone must pretend officially to have the utmost respect for the members.  He wants the president to have free reign in order to form a new government without any political pressures on him. 

The army comes to fetch Minister Zdziechowski.   They grab the minister out of bed and one man knees him to the head several times, making him very bloody.  He is held up and then socked in the face quite a few times.  He is allowed to falls on his knees, but then is kicked to the floor.  Now the soldiers leave the house. 

Pilsudski says he cannot ignore assaults on citizens.  He wants the names of the men who attacked Minister Zaziechowski.  The minister of the Army already has the names.  Now Pilsudski tells the man that as the Minister of the Army, he is do no harm to the army.  The job of forming the new government is now delegated to Pilsudski. 

Some rich men gather to comment on Pilsudski.  Mejsztowica says that for the betterment of the status of the peasant, the rich families must be dealt with, but Pilsudski, who is a nobleman and not a peasant, is doing no such thing.  The political talk is of the left wing groups turning against Pilsudski. There will also be opposition from the center and the National Democrats.  The latter party has been too enthusiastic to all things Russian. 

Nieswiez, October 25, 1926.   They are at the mansion of the Radziwills.  Snow is on the ground. The rich men tells Pilsudski that they will not allow a government that is friendly to bolshevism.  Pilsudski says he wants to stand up to some of these Russian chieftains that usually have a free reign in Poland.  He adds:  "And the weakness of the state is caused by too much democracy."  At dinner Pilsudski offers a toast to the Radziwills family.

A group of peasants listen to a speech condemning Pilsudski for not carrying out land reform in Poland.   All of a sudden, a big man blows a whistle and shouts down with the communists.  He and other plants in the audience start clubbing the peasants.  The audience starts getting away from the barn meeting place. 

The government's beating of the communists is condemned in left wing circle.  They says MPs were beaten up in the barn by orders from the local authorities and with the consent of the Province and others in even higher positions.  The speaker at the meeting speaks up in Parliament and says that he wants a Parliamentary Commission to investigate what happened.  He condemns Parliament:  "You, elected by the people, sold yourselves to the bourgeoisie!"  He says they may feel happy about the reds getting beaten, but other political groups will also come to be beaten. 

The Minister of the Army gives a long list of enemies to the secret police.  He says he wants 1,000 arrested, but there must be no escapes.  After the secret police leave, the Minister of the Army says:  "Now let the games begins!"

An MP is arrested.  Another man is arrest along with his two grown sons for striking an officer. 

The rich and powerful hold a big ball.  Pilsudski plays with his grandchildren in the snow.  Pilsudski is honored by a group of young school children.  They recite messages of praise for the man and say he is the father of the nation.  After their performance, the kids all mob Pilsudski. 

Parliament.  March 27, 1928.  Pilsudski wants to speak but there is such an outcry against him that the police are called in.  They drag out MPs and also beat them with their batons.  Posel Warski is dragged out. 

Pilsudski is driven to his office.  He goes inside to blame an MP for all the disturbances in the parliament.   The fellow tells Pilsudski that he will not open the Parliament at gunpoint.  Pilsudski calls him a moron and leaves. 

1929-1930.  The police on horseback ride down a street to break up a strike.  The police officers use their swords to hit the strikers and break them up. Actions like these occurred in Cracow,  Torun and Poznan, etc, etc.  Blood ran in the streets. 

Two men talk politics while they walk.  "The national movement is full of internal contradictions.  Pilsudski's alliance with the aristocracy only intensified them.  The National Democrats are at the crossroads.  It won't go left, and can't go any further right than Pilsudski."   The other man says maybe the ND will choose fascism. The two men say they must form a consensus and think that left of center just might work.  They will propose a state economy rescue plan that will please the left-leaning groups.  There is hunger in many parts of Poland. 

Left of center political party leaders gather together.  They suggest that they call the assembly the Congress of Law and People's Freedom Protection.  It will begin on June 29 in Cracow. 

Cracow, June 29, 1930.  A speakers shouts to a very large crowed:  "Without overthrowing the dictatorship, there's no way to overcome the crisis, or solve Poland's internal problems to secure its future."  Among other things they says that the president must go.

But the president has the support of the dictator, who tells the president he will stay in office as long as necessary.  The dictator says he is tired and is going on holiday to Druskienniki. 

At a cabinet meeting Pilsudski, the head of the cabinet, offers the resignation of all the ministers.  And now Pilsudski is made the Prime Minister of Poland. 

On vacation Pilsudski sees a group of high military officers.  The officers talk about there being critical attitudes towards the government, and some of this is even in the army.  After they leave, Pilsudski tells the head of the secret police to find out everything for each of the MPs that took part in the congress in Cracow.  Then prepare condemnation papers on each one of them. He also wants a man named Korfanty to be arrested.  But Korfanty is a member of the Silesian parliament and this provides him with immunity. Pilsudski doesn't care about immunity and tells the officer to do it.

A man named Lieberman is taken out into the woods and beaten badly.  Others are thrown into prison cells.  Adolf Sawicki is arrested.  An MP named Dubois is arrested and his wife tells the police that they have no right to do this.  In prison Kazimierz Baginski is told that the colonel will see him now.  Colonel Waclaw Kostek-Biernacki oversees a whipping of Baginski.  Witos is taken out of his cell.  He tells his tormentor:  "Go ahead!  Beat me up!  Isn't it your style!?"  Another man in trouble is Mieczyslaw Mastek.  Later the prisoners get out of prison on bail. 

Brzesc Trial.  Pac Palace, October 26, 1931.  There is a long military parade down the streets.  There is a big crowd of people outside the courthouse.  Bill of impeachment:  the accused stand accused of conspiracy and preparing a coup between 1928 and September 9, 1930.  On trial are those that organized and participated in the organization known as the Left Center.  There are a lot of defendants.  The defendants enter a plea one at a time.  They speak eloquently of the evils of the dictatorship and the injustices done to them.  Mastek is thrown out for condemning the dictatorship.  Witos gets up to speak. 

Court convenes again and the prosecution witnesses are heard. The defense lawyers reveal through cross-examination that some of the witnesses were rewarded for giving testimony against the defendants, such as rewards of jobs. 

The defense witnesses come next and some of them make a point or two here and there.

The prosecutor goes on a long rant against the defendants.  He draws an upsetting vision of Poland during a revolution, as if Poland would be another France during the French Revolution.  And it would be the people presently in government who would suffer and their wives and daughters would be made waitresses. 

At home Pilsudski says that the shouted complaints of the defendants in the trial are meaningless.

The defense lawyers get up and they make some good points about the struggle of men who want to be free against a dictatorship.  Later the defendants themselves say a few words in their defense.

There is no unanimity among the judges.  One of them says he will write a separate judgment.  This worries the other judges as the dissent will weaken their standings in the dictatorship. 

Pilsudski says his doctors tell him that he needs a rest, but how can he rest?  Who can he trust not to ruin what the dictator has striven for?  He has also worried about what Poland will be like after he dies? Will it all fall apart? 

The verdicts are read.  No one receives more than three years in prison.  The defendants and their families seem very relieved at the lightness of the sentences. 

"After two appeals, in October of 1932, the sentence was sustained." 


Long movie.  More than 154 minutes as I watch the credits roll by.  I knew there was going to be trouble when late in the film, there began a very important political trial of the Left Center movement.  The court case was a bit long for my tastes, but the defendants and their lawyers made some really good statements about democracy and its importance.  The court room audience often laughed at the silly things said by the prosecution witnesses.  The court case was often an indictment against the dictator Pilsudski and his policies.  A difficulty of the movie was that there were so many people introduced to the audience that it was sometimes confusing.  If you want that much detail, maybe it would be better to read the book about the dictator Pilsudski.  Nevertheless, I still say that it was a good movie, just a bit long. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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