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After the outbreak of World War I, Beck was a member of the clandestine Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa, or POW) founded in October 1914 by Piłsudski. In 1914-1917 Beck served in the First Brigade of the Polish Legions, and was aide to Piłsudski. In 1926 he helped carry out the May 1926 military coup d'etat that brought Pilsudski to de facto governmental power.
In 1926-1930 Beck served as chief of staff to Poland's Minister of Military Affairs, and in 1930-1932 as Vice Prime Minister and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Groomed by Piłsudski to implement Poland's foreign policy, in 1932 he took office as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post he was to hold to the outbreak of World War II.
In his international diplomacy, Beck sought to maintain a fine balance in Poland's relations with her two powerful and predatory neighbors, Germany and the Soviet Union. Pursuant to this, in July 1932 he concluded a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, and in January 1934 one with Germany. He sought guarantees of security for Poland from the western powers: from Great Britain and France. His signal accomplishment in this realm was securing such guarantees from Britain in the spring of 1939, when it had become clear that Germany would not be swayed from embarking on war. Beck's policies could not avert war, but they did ultimately cause Germany's attack on Poland to embroil Germany in conflict with the western powers.
Beck also actively explored possibilities of realizing his mentor Pilsudski's concept of Miedzymorze ("Tween-Seas"): of a federation of central and east European countries, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and -- in later variants -- from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Such a polity would have formed a "Third Europe," between Germany in the west and the Soviet Union in the east, and might have been strong enough to deter the aggressions of both.
In May 1939 Beck firmly rejected German demands over the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) and for a German exterritorial highway to run across Polish Pomorze (Pomerania) to East Prussia, as well as Germany's invitation for Poland to join the Anti-Comintern Pact.
- "Peace is a precious and a desirable thing. Our generation, bloodied in wars, certainly deserves peace. But peace, like almost all matters of this world, has its price, a high but a measurable one. We in Poland do not know the concept of peace at any price. There is only one thing in the lives of men, nations and countries that is without price. That thing is honor."
After Poland had been overrun by her neighbors in September 1939 in a historic "fourth partition" of the country, on the night of September 17-18 Beck withdrew together with the rest of the Polish Government into Romania, where he was interned by the authorities. It was then that he wrote a volume of memoirs, Ostatni raport (Final Report). He died in Stanesti , Romania, June 5, 1944.
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