Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Book Talk. “Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland” by Joshua Zimmerman
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Location Note

1219 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 12th floor

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event. Registration required for attendance. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.


Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a book talk with Joshua Zimmerman, author of Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland. Moderated by Mark Mazower, Professor of History and SNF Director of the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination.

This new biography is the story of the enigmatic Jozef Pilsudski, the founding father of modern Poland: a brilliant military leader and high-minded statesman who championed the independence of Ukraine and secretly proposed to France in 1933 a joint preventative war to remove Hitler from power. Pilsudski was a complicated figure. Passionately devoted to the idea of democracy, he ceded power on constitutional terms, only to retake it a few years later in a coup when he believed his opponents aimed to dismantle the democratic system. Joshua Zimmerman’s authoritative biography examines a national hero in the thick of a changing Europe and the legacy that still divides supporters and detractors. The Poland that Pilsudski envisioned was modern, democratic, and pluralistic. In Zimmerman’s telling, Pilsudski’s faith in the young democracy was shattered after its first elected president was assassinated in 1922. Unnerved by Poles brutally turning on one another, the father of the nation came to doubt his fellow citizens’ democratic commitments and thereby betrayed his own. It is a legacy that dogs today’s Poland, caught on the tortured edge between self-government and authoritarianism.


Joshua D. Zimmerman is the Eli & Diana Zborowski Chair in Holocaust Studies and Professor of History at Yeshiva University. His previous books include The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2015), Poles, Jews and the Politics of Nationalist: the Bund and the Polish Socialist Party in Late Tsarist Russia, 1892-1914 (2004), as well as two edited volumes – Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its Aftermath (2003) and Jews in Italy under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922-1945 (2005). His articles, mostly on Ukraine and Poland, have appeared in Washington Post, Politico, the Daily Beast, The Times of Israel, the Kyiv Post, Engelsberg Ideas, and Rzeczpospolita.



Mark Mazower is a professor of history at Columbia University and the SNF Director of the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination. He is the author of many books on the history of modern Europe, and he specializes in modern Greece. His last book, The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe was published last year by Penguin Press and won the 2021 Duff Cooper Prize.




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