Paris Peace Conf. 860c.00/14
Colonel William R. Grove 14 to General Marlborough Churchill
Warsaw , January 9, 1919.
Subject: Conditions in Poland.
- On the afternoon of Jan. 7th, Dr. Vernon Kellogg, Chief of the Food Administration Mission to Poland, and I, called on Mr. Paderewski, who spoke frankly about the political situation here. He considers that Pilsudski is a good man, but that he represents a party only, and not the whole of Poland; that what is necessary is a. National Council, which would include Galicia and Poznania; that certain members of the Ministry are impossible, having had no training whatever for the work at hand, and apparently having been put in solely to placate certain interests, these interests being in the main either socialistic or Bolshevistic, that industrial conditions are rapidly becoming intolerable, account of lack of work, high prices demanded by labor to meet living conditions, lack of food and clothing at any price, and to some extent perhaps inefficient governmental control, [Page 428]though to me the contest [sic] seems excellent in the face of all the difficulties, which are tremendous.
- It is understood that all concerned are trying to get together in the formation of a National Council, and that a meeting to complete this arrangement will be held Sunday, Jan. 12th.
- The situation in Warsaw is apparently growing worse, and the fear of Bolshevikism is prevalent on all sides. The Polish Army is apparently loyal to the present government, but there is a peculiar situation with respect to the regular army and National guard or militia. The Army is under control of the Minister of War, and the National Guard under control of the Minister of the Interior.
- The Jews in Warsaw are supposed to have large quantities of ammunition, as well as rifles, hidden away, and there are daily combats of a very local character between the soldiers searching the Jewish quarter for hoarded supplies of food, etc., and the Jewish merchants, shots being fired by the soldiers, presumably more to frighten the people than to do actual harm.
- The food supply in Warsaw is not yet desperate. The bread and soup lines are long, and there is some scrambling for place in line, but the very mild weather (no snow on the ground), makes suffering much less than there would be with colder weather, which usually comes about this time of the year.
- Wilna fell into the Bolshevist hands on the 5th, (the Germans having evacuated on the 4th), according to our best information. The Polish cavalry escaped, but we understand the Polish Infantry garrison was captured by the Bolshevists, who have declared a sort of Holy War on the Poles, and the Poles here fear that the Polish population of Wilna (total population about 1,000,000,—80% Poles) will be terribly punished, and many massacred. The Poles could not relieve Wilna, as it was on the other side of the German “corridor”, which they, (the Germans), are keeping for the return of the Germans out of Ukrainia. This corridor extends along the line Rowno, Kowel, Brest-Litovsk, Bialystok, Koenigsberg. I saw this morning a representative from Grodno, which is on the other side of the corridor. He believes that his town will next fall into Bolshevist hands, and says the Germans are facilitating Bolshevist advances by supplying munitions, rolling stock, etc.
- Everyone with whom I have talked says the Germans are aiding the Bolshevists on the eastern Polish border, the evident intention being to convert Poland to the Bolshevist rule, in order to divert her as a competitor for Danzig and Poznania. This appears to be a matter for action on the revision of the Armistice on January 17th. It at least shows that the Germans have not yet decided to entirely [Page 429]give up the struggle for Poland. On the other hand, the Poles may be making claims for territory to which they are not ethnographically entitled. The great outstanding fact is that something must be done quickly to stop the westward advance of Bolshevism.
- Brest-Litovsk will, it is understood, be evacuated by the Germans about Jan. 15th. It will then be entirely controlled by the Bolshevists. This will put them within 120 miles of Warsaw, and unless some sort of relief in the way of arms and munitions comes to the Poles, Warsaw will undoubtedly be taken, as there are many Bolshevists within the city, and at a time like this, when there is much actual suffering and dissatisfaction, any change would perhaps be welcomed by many of the people of the lower classes.
- Lemberg is still in possession of the Poles, though their hold on it is uncertain. I expect to visit it on the 15th in connection with relief work. The Germans are said to be providing the Ukrainians also with arms and munitions. There is said to be real destitution there, and we are endeavoring to arrange a rush shipment of canned milk and some hospital supplies through the branch of the American Red Cross in Switzerland. This would have to come by train through Austria and Czecho-Slovakia.
- I enclose copies of three telegrams handed me by 2nd Lt. Gosta Melin, of the Polish Army.15 They were taken from alleged copies of the original and I cannot vouch for their authenticity. They are only sent as having some possible bearing on the actions of Austria after the Armistice of Oct. 31st. One appears to be unintelligible, possibly due to faulty copying.
- The Polish army officers with whom I have talked, including the Acting Minister of War, consider that if the Allies could at once supply the necessary war materials, such as small arms, artillery, transport, uniforms and medical supplies, the Poles could defend themselves from [apparent omission].
- Before this could be done it would, of course, require the recognition of Poland’s government by the Allies. It is believed that the Poles are trying hard to reorganize their government so such recognition would be possible.
- As a representative of the Political Mission to Poland, Lt. Foster, U. S. Army, arrived this morning, and as my work on the food relief will doubtless become more pressing, I will refrain from writing you unless something exceptional should develop as the result of one of my trips.
Wm. R. Grove