The Atlantic Conference : The Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile (Biddle) to the Secretary of State
Previous Document Contents Next Document
740.0011 European War 1939/15422

The Ambassador to the Polish Government in Exile (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

NO. 46 LONDON, September 12,1941. [Received September 26.]

SIR: I have the honor to report that on August 26, General Sikorski (1) informed me that the Allied Conference, called for August 27, for the purpose of passing a resolution in support of the Atlantic Declaration, formulated by President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, had been postponed for two weeks. This had been due, he said, to requests from the Yugoslav, the Czechoslovak, the Greek and the Polish Governments, for more time in which: to study the contents of the Declaration. Moreover, the Free French Administration had made a like request. The General said that insofar as his Government was concerned, it would hay; to examine the various points in light of their bearing on Poland's interests. While it might accordingly be considered necessary to make certain "mental reservations", these, he thought, might be set forth in a confidential memorandum to be attached to the resolution.

Subsequently, Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raczynski, elaborated the Polish point of view. He said that he and his associates had greeted with deep satisfaction the close solidarity of the United States and Great Britain, as manifested by a joint British-American program of war and peace aims. They had considered it, moreover, a political move of most far-reaching consequences. It had also provided Allied "political warfare" with a basis upon which to work. The Polish Government, he said, had hailed the Roosevelt-Churchill Declaration in the same spirit of solidarity which ought to unite all nations struggling for the freedom of the world. The Polish nation, just as other nations of the European continent, would regard this Declaration, together with British-American solidarity therein symbolized, as a guarantee of Allied victory and of the freeing of Europe from the German yoke.

Minister Raczynski went on to say that his Government was profoundly convinced that the principles of this Declaration would be applied in future in the spirit of justice, in accordance with the Declaration of the Secretary of State, as of August 6 [4?], 1941;(2) namely, with due consideration of the merits and the demerits of individual nations in the present struggle against German hegemony.

There were several points in the Declaration however, which had engaged his Government's concern.

While his Government was deeply sensible of the great importance of the Declaration, his Government felt however, that the abstract character of the policy of justice, as set forth therein, would render its practice inadequate to meet actual conditions on the continent. For example, mass deportation which had taken place in certain sections of Poland, rendered the principle of self-determination set forth in point 2 of the Declaration, difficult, to say the least. Moreover, in Yugoslavia, mass slaughter had almost wiped out certain sections of the country. These were just some of the complications involved.

Moreover, the Declaration made no distinction between the Allies who had originally chosen to fight, rather than to collaborate with Germany, and those who had either succumbed to German pressure at the outset, or had come to terms with the Germans in the course of the fight. Moreover, the Declaration made no reference to compensation for losses inflicted by the invader-no reference to righting the wrongs already done.

The Polish nation, he said, which had consistently rejected, and continued to reject all German suggestions of collaboration with the Nazi regime, and which was the first nation to 'oppose the military power of Germany at a tremendous cost in masses of victims, in the cultural achievements of many generations, and in material worth, had the undoubted right to expect reparations of the wrongs inflicted on it. Destruction and removal of machinery, he emphasized, great loss of man power, including so many of the nation's foremost intellectuals, and the choking off of education, had already cost Poland a serious national set-back.

The Declaration, as it was understood by the Polish Government placed security against another war, and the achievement of economic prosperity, in the forefront, as the principal aims of a new democratic order. These aims were also those of Poland. The British Prime Minister had, in his broadcast speech on August 25, given assurances that Great Britain and the United States did not wish to repeat the mistakes of 1918, by believing that this war was certain to be the last.

It followed that prevention against aggression and the outbreak of a third World War, would remain as a major problem of the post-war period. The remedial measures against a new war should be varied, as were also the causes of the outbreak of the two wars.

Point 8 of the Joint Declaration concerning the disarmament of nations guilty of aggression, represented an important guarantee. It could hardly, however, remain as the sole guarantee. Experience of the past 20 years was there to prove it. It would be necessary to find other additional guarantees, such as limiting the war potential of nations which had shown an inclination to provoke wars-also strengthening of the defensive position of nations which were the victims of the first or second war. Insofar as Poland was concerned, Poland earnestly hoped for greater security in light of strategic considerations. In the Polish mind, this called for straightening out of the age-old Polish-German tangle on the Baltic: for securing Poland's position on the sea, and for doing away with the East Prussian enclave, which had for so long afforded Germany a strangle grip on Poland.

The solution of the problem of European security, as well as the task of assuring prosperity to Europe, were unthinkable without a close collaboration of the continent with the British Empire and the United States of America. The continental nations would assuredly see in the Roosevelt-Churchill Declaration, a new proof that the two Democracies were determined to maintain their interests in the continent after victory over Nazism had been achieved.

He earnestly hoped, the Minister continued, that the spirit of his observations might be understood. The abstract character of some of the points as set forth in the Declaration opened the way for an interpretation which exposed some of Poland's historic interests, and thus did not present a very engaging vista for the future. As a matter of fact, the German propagandists were already vigorously engaged in radio broadcasting an interpretation of the Declaration in a light unfavorable not only to the people in Poland, but also throughout Eastern and Central Europe. At the same time, the Germans were broadcasting an appeal to Poles to join forces against the "Infidel".

Finally, the Minister said that all shades of opinion in Polish circles here believed freedom-loving peoples of the European continent would welcome an endorsement of the Declaration by the Soviet Union. Such a step would thwart German attempts to exploit any doubts which might exist in Europe about Soviet peace aims.

In weighing the Minister's remarks, I discern traces of a continuation (a) of reaction characteristic of exiled governmental mentality; (b) of reaction peculiar to a long-standing Polish point of view, in terms of Polish geopolitical considerations; and (a) a desire for territorial compensation against possible loss of Eastern Polish territory in case of an unsatisfactory final settlement of Polish-Russian frontiers.

In connection with (a) of the foregoing, I am mindful of the hopes of the Allied Governments established here of returning after the war to their respective countries, and of the fact that in the backs of the minds of most of the officials of these Governments there exists an ever present consciousness that they will in the future be judged by their respective peoples on the merits or demerits of whatever decisions they make here. Hence, they feel they must build up a record of having left no stone unturned in defending the interests of their respective countries.

In connection with (b) in the foregoing, I am aware that the Polish Government's thoughts on the subject of doing away with the East Prussian enclave, as above confidentially expressed by Minister Raczynski, find their roots in a long-standing aim on part of the Polish people as a whole. While, for political reasons this was not frequently expressed in pre-war public addresses or in the press, it was nonetheless shared by all shades of opinion in Poland. Only during the tense weeks which led up to the outbreak of war, did one hear it mentioned in public utterances, or read it in the Polish press. Even then, the devotion in the German press to those statements was so violent that it caused the Polish Government to "soft-pedal" further references to East Prussia. I recall having reported on this at the time of its occurrence.

In connection with (c) in the foregoing, I am aware that during the final phase of negotiations which led up to the conclusion of the Polish-Russian Agreement, the Polish Government gained the distinct impression that the Russian Government's ideas on a future settlement of Polish-Russian frontiers envisaged the retention of certain territories of Eastern Poland, on the grounds that the populations thereof were predominantly Russian.

The Polish Government, and according to its reports from Poland, the Polish people, intend, in event of an Allied victory, to insist vigorously upon the re-establishment of Polish-Russian frontiers as defined by the Treaty of Riga. (3)

I am aware, however, that notwithstanding the Government's set determination on this score, it is not unmindful of Moscow's no less determined point of view in the matter, and of consequent difficulties to be overcome, if ever a settlement satisfactory to Poland's standpoint is to be effected.

Moreover; the Polish Government's concern over Moscow's attitude is not without consideration for its own post-war political ambitions. Hence the acquisition of East Prussia is envisaged not only as the answer to Poland's long-standing "dream", but also as compensation to the people for whatever loss Poland might incur in a settlement of Eastern frontiers.

By way of rallying support for their own project, Polish officials shave been sounding officials of other Allied Governments as to their possible respective territorial ambitions, pointing out the potential effectiveness of collective action.

Among the first the Poles approached in the matter were certain members of the Netherlands Government. Replying they had no territorial ambitions, the latter asked whether it was East Prussia the Poles had in mind for themselves, and, if so, did they propose to evacuate the East Prussians, and where to. Perhaps, the Netherlands officials suggested, the Poles had in mind offering some other territory for the settlement of evacuated East Prussians. In response, the Polish officials admitted it was East Prussia they were thinking of, but added they had in mind' no territory for the accommodation of an East Prussian population other than Germany. To this remark the Netherlanders replied that any ideas of this character called for condieration [consideration?] of Germany's already dense population. Moreover, it seemed to them that what the Poles proposed was in the nature of an expulsion of inhabitants, more than a contemplated exchange of populations, which, in some cases in the past had proved mutually satisfactory.

In recounting the foregoing to me confidentially, the Netherlands official said he had done so only to illustrate the form which some of the - post-war aspirations of certain of his colleagues was taking.

Respectfully yours,

A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr.


(1) Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski, Polish Prime Minister and Commander in Chief. Back

(2) Department of State Bulletin August 9,.1941, p. 113. Back

(3) Signed March 18, 1921, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. VI, p. 151. Back

Previous Document Contents Next Document
World War II Page

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.