At the height of its power, the Commonwealth of Poland included Lithuania, Belarus, and much of Ukraine. It developed a unique form of government in which the nobility elected the king and a single dissenting vote (the liberum veto) stopped any legislation. This system invited foreign intervention and civil war, and made the country vulnerable to more powerful neighbors. In 1772, Austria, Russia, and Prussia conducted the First Partition of Poland. Attempts at reform leading to the Constitution of 1791 led Russia and Prussia to conduct a Second Partition in 1793. After suppressing a Polish revolt in 1794, the three powers conducted the Third Partition in 1795. Poland vanished from the map of Europe until 1918; Napoleon created a Grand Duchy of Warsaw from Prussian Poland in 1807, but it did not survive his defeat.
A Polish Republic was proclaimed on November 3, 1918. On November 14, General Joseph Pilsudski became head of state. On January 17, 1919, a cabinet was formed with pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski as its Prime Minister.
The Versailles Treaty of 1919 defined Poland’s western border and granted access to the Baltic Sea by creating a Polish Corridor along the Vistula River. Danzig (now Gdansk), which had a German majority, became a free city supervised by the League of Nations. The League of Nations proposed an eastern ethnic frontier known as “the Curzon Line.” Poland, however, attempted to secure its 1772 boundaries with Russia, leading to war with the Soviet Union in 1920. The Treaty of Riga ended the war in 1921, and established an eastern border well to the east of the Curzon Line.
During the Cold War, U.S.-Polish relations oscillated. Between 1956 and the mid-1960s when Gomulka was in power, U.S.-Polish relations improved; this friendship stagnated during the 1960s, but started to improve again once Gomulka was out of power after 1970. Since 1989, the United States and Poland have enjoyed warm bilateral relations.
Modern Flag of Poland
The thirteenth of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for an independent Poland with access to the sea. On January 22, 1919, Secretary of State Robert Lansing notified Poland’s Prime Minister and Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ignace Jan Paderewski, that the United States recognized the Provisional Polish Government.
The first U.S. consular post in Poland was a Consulate in Warsaw, which was then under Russian administration. It opened in 1871 and closed in 1917.
Since World War II, the United States has maintained consular posts at Poznan and Krakow. The post at Poznan opened as a Consulate January 16, 1946, became a Vice Consulate May 1, 1947, a Consulate again June 6, 1949, and was closed August 31, 1951. It reopened August 29, 1959, became a Consulate General in 1992 and closed in 1996. The Consulate in Krakow opened July 1, 1946 but closed April 17, 1947. It reopened as a Consulate General July 5, 1974 and is still in service.
Diplomatic relations and the American Legation in Warsaw were established on May 2, 1919, when Hugh S. Gibson, the first U.S. Minister to Poland, presented his credentials.
On August 18, 1919, Chief of State Pilsudski announced the appointment of Prince Casimir Lubomirski as Poland’s Minister to the United States. Prince Lubomirski was officially recognized on November 1, 1919, when he presented his credentials to Acting Secretary of State William Phillips. He was received by President Woodrow Wilson on May 15, 1920.
Alexander P. Moore was appointed as the first U.S. Ambassador to Poland on January 31, 1930, but died before he could be sworn in. John N. Willys was appointed March 8, 1930, presented his credentials on May 24, and served until May 30, 1932.
Poland’s Minister to the United States, Tytus Filipowicz, was promoted to Ambassador and presented his new credentials on March 4, 1930.
World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Ambassador Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. left Warsaw on September 5, and followed the Government of Poland to France (September 1939-June 1940).
When France fell to the Axis powers in June 1940, the Government of Poland-in-exile moved from Paris to London, and with it, the American Ambassador to Poland Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr. Biddle was also accredited to the governments-in-exile of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Yugoslavia, all of which were resident in London. Biddle left London on December 1, 1943.
The U.S. mission to the Government of Poland in London was terminated July 5, 1945.
With the end of World War II, the United States re-established its Embassy in Warsaw on July 31, 1945. Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane, who had been appointed September 21, 1944, presented his credentials August 4, 1945. He served until February 24, 1947.