Józef Retinger – the Polish Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi
Marcin Święcicki (MP) is the President of the European Movement Forum, Poland.
Joseph Retinger was born in 1888 in Krakow just 380 km from Vienna, in which Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi was raised. Both cities were located geographically and mentally in the region called Mitteleurope. At that time politically Krakow and Vienna belonged to Austro-Hungarian Empire, conglomerate of many middle-European nations.
After graduating from the Catholic St. Anne high school in Krakow Retinger was accepted into the novitiate of the Jesuit Order in Rome, which, however, he soon left and entered the École des Sciences Politiques and the Faculty of Literature at the Sorbonne. He socialized with the elite of Paris becoming acquainted with many local artists and politicians. After defending a doctoral thesis Retinger became the youngest doctor of literature in Europe. Then he attended the classes for the study of psychology of nations in Munich, he was also in Florence and in London at the London School of Economics.
Over the next few years, until the outbreak of World War I, most of the time he spent in Krakow, where he became involved with the local artistic bohemia. In 1916 he was one of the people sent to Austria to negotiate peace with the emperor Charles I. As he wrote in his memoirs:
“At the time I dealt with exploring the possibility of a separate peace with Austria-Hungary. It seemed to me that I played an important role in international politics. But perhaps my actions were among the many simultaneously carried out. I have never examined whether the role I played, actually was so great as I thought. I can only say that I worked diligently, and when I found that the implementation of the plan is impossible, I simply even stopped to think about it. Maybe I treated myself too seriously, but at the time I was very young. ”
During World War I, in addition to activities for Polish independence, Retinger also met with the leaders of the Zionist movement – Chaim Weizmann, the future first president of Israel, Vladimir Żabotyńskim and Nahum Sokolov. He knew then (1917) Athur Capela – an Englishman, which began work on the book The World on the Anvil (“The World of the workshop”), which advocated the establishment of a world government based on the close alliance of France and England.
During the peace negotiations he antagonized a lot of parties and therefore had to leave France. He lived in Spain, where in the 20’s he moved to Mexico. There he met one of the local union leaders, the future minister in the government of Plutarco Calles, Morones Luis Negrete. With time, he was very involved with the Mexican administration becoming its unofficial adviser in many areas. When Calles and Morones lost in the mid-30’s power and were expelled from Mexico, Retinger returned to Europe. Until the outbreak of war, he was in constant motion between Warsaw, London, Paris, Prague and the Czech Moravian Ostrava.
During World War II, Retinger was a key advisor to the Polish Prime Ministers in exile. When Germany attacked France his connections helped to get permission from Churchill for evacuation of the Polish forces into England. In London Retinger formed an inter-allies secretariat composed of émigré politicians from Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Greece, Holland, Norway, Luxemburg, Poland and Yugoslavia. Jan Masaryk, Joseph Bech and Paul-Henri Spaak were among them. When Hitler attacked Soviet Union Retinger went to Moscow where he worked for the release of Polish detainees from Gulags in order to form Polish Army. Then Retinger was sent with the top-secret and extremely risky mission to the occupied Poland. He returned safely to England bringing secret Nazi plans for missile V-2.