General Józef Haller 1873-1960 (Part 1 of 2)
by Robert W. Postula
Józef Haller was born August 13, 1873, in Jurczyce near Kraków. At that time Kraków was a part of the Austrian province, Galizien. Józef was the third child of Henryk Haller and Olga Treter.
The family lived in Jurczyce until 1882 when it moved to Lwów. They stayed in Lwów until 1887, and moved on to Koszyce. While in Lwów, Józef learned to speak German.
From 1887 to 1889, Józef attended intermediate school in Koszyce. His father died in 1888. His next schooling took place in Hranica from 1890 to 1892. After leaving there he attended the Technical Military Academy in Vienna from 1892 to 1895. At the conclusion of his schooling in Vienna he became an officer in August of 1895. serving with the Austrian army.
In 1903 he married Aleksandra Sala. Their only child Erik was born at Lwów in 1906. In 1909 Józef was nominated to become a captain. He served as an artillery captain in the Austrian army, and in 1910 retired from active service.
Austrian and Polish Armies
Haller returned to the military in 1914. He quickly rose through the ranks with multiple assignments and promotions. In August of 1914 he was assigned to the Eastern Legion. In September he was made Battalion Commander and subsequently assigned to the First Brigade, followed on October 1, 1914, to Regiment Commander. He was promoted to Major on October 31 and on November 15, 1914, Lieutenant Colonel as Commander of Regiment and Army Group. On March 15, 1915, he was nominated to the rank of Colonel, and on July 15, 1916. became Colonel Brigadier, Commander of II Brigade.
At the outbreak of World War I, Haller was an officer in Pilsudski’s Polish Legion, an anti-Russian force attached to the Austrian army. In 1917 Haller was given command of the Polish Legion’s Second Brigade. By March of 1918 he was made Commander-in-Chief of V Division of II Army Corps and ranked a general. In April he became Commander-in-Chief of the Second Army Corps. On May 27, 1918, he was made Commander-in-Chief of Polish Military Forces outside of Austro-German occupied territory.
After losing faith in the Central Powers’ assurance of Polish sovereignty, on February 15, 1918, he led his forces across the eastern front to Russia. From Russia they went on to serve with the Western Allies in France. There he was appointed commander-in-chief of Polish forces by the Polish National Committee headed by Roman Dmowski.
In a protest to decisions made by powers in Poland, one of the most interesting is a decision made by the Polish Legions who were stationed on the border of Bessarabia and commanded by General Zieliński, with Colonel Józef Haller as Brigadier. This body decided to sever its ties with the Central Powers and to wander forth into the chaos of revolutionary Russia, where they knew other Polish troops were forming. After a skirmish at Rarańcza. on February 15, 1918, Haller succeeded in separating from the Austro-German front line and united forces with the Polish Second Corps on the Russian side of the front at Kaniów. On May 11, 1918. Józef Haller and his forces managed with the self-sacrificing assistance of fellow-Poles in Russia, to reach the Murman Peninsula from which Haller and some of his soldiers went by sea to France to join the Polish army there.
(Continued in Part 2 of 2)
This article appeared in the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan's Journal, The Polish Eaglet, Fall 2001, pps. 180-81. It is reprinted here with permission from the family of Robert Postula and the PGSM. The photo included in this article was featured on the back cover of the same issue. All surnames are in bold text as is customary in The Polish Eaglet articles.