Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/22
Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Wednesday, 29 January, 1919, at 11 a.m.
- America, United States of
- President Wilson
- Mr. R. Lansing
- Dr. Lord (Mission to Poland)
- Dr. Bowman (Polish Expert)
- Mr. A. H. Frazier
- Mr. L. Harrison
- Col. Williams
- British Empire
- Mr. A. J. Balfour
- General Botha
- Sir Esme Howard
- Mr. E. Phipps
- Captain G. Brebner
- M. Clemenceau
- M. Pichon
- M. Dutasta
- M. Berthelot
- Captain Portier
- M. Orlando
- Baron Sonnino
- Count Aldrovandi
- Major A. Jones
- Baron Makino
- Viscount Chinda
- H. E. M. Matsui
- M. Saburi
- M. Kimura
- M. Dmowski
- M. Piltz
- America, United States of
Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.
Instructions for the Mission to Poland M. Clemenceau stated that they had met this morning to examine the instructions for the Commission that was proceeding to Poland. M. Pichon had prepared a text of these the instructions and the British Government had suggested certain amendments thereupon. This document, however, proved to be too long, and Mr. Balfour had looked into the matter and curtailed it considerably, and reproduced a further draft instruction which was submitted to the meeting. This draft instruction contained the contents both of the original draft instruction of M. Pichon as well as the amendments made by the British Government.
(The draft instruction as finally drawn up was then read.)
M. Clemenceau thought that the last paragraph of the draft instruction was not suitable, and Mr. Balfour agreed.
(Consequently, it was agreed that the last paragraph should be omitted. For text as finally adopted see Appendix “A.”)
Baron Sonnino said that Italy had some Polish prisoners ready to go to Poland and wished to know whether Italy should await the report of this Commission before the soldiers should proceed.[Page 773]
M. Clemenceau was of opinion that they should wait, particularly as the decision would depend upon what was going to be done with the Polish soldiers in France.
Statement by M. Dmowski Thereupon M. Dmowski, accompanied by M. Erasme Piltz were called in in order to enlighten the meeting as to the position in Poland.
M. Dmowski wished to know on what particular point he should first attempt to speak, or what points the meeting specially desired information upon.
M. Clemenceau replied that it would perhaps be best that he should say whatever he might have to say so as to place the meeting in a position to consider the question as a whole. It would be possible later on to take the various points in rotation.
President Wilson stated that he was anxious to know the whole case, but that the present object of the Allies was to assist Poland, as far as the Allies could, and they were certain that his views on that subject would be most interesting.
M. Dmowski then proceeded to state that the Poles had not been protected to any large extent by the Armistice, but two things did have reference to the situation in Poland. By Article 12 of the Armistice the Germans were obliged to occupy the Eastern Frontier until such time as the Allies should request them to withdraw their troops. And, secondly, Article 16 provided that access should be given the Allies to Poland via the Dantzig-Thorn railway. If the German troops had remained, under the terms of the Armistice, in the Eastern Provinces, their presence would have protected the Poles against the Bolsheviks; and if the route through Dantzig had remained open Poland would have been able to have obtained all the arms and ammunition and supplies that she might require. The revolution in Germany had prevented the carrying out of the terms of the Armistice, and the German troops withdrew in a disorderly manner before the Allies had requested them to do so. On their way they were guilty of committing crimes, and they carried away supplies and railway material with them as they went. Dantzig was situated within German territory and was in German possession after the signing of the Armistice. The railway from Dantzig to the Frontier of Poland (a distance of some 100 miles) ran through German territory, and since the conclusion of the Armistice the Germans had shown more and more hostility towards the Poles. Secondly, Article 16 was altogether a dead-letter. In order to make it effective it was absolutely necessary to occupy Dantzig and the railway line running to the Polish Frontier so as to allow of arms, ammunition and supplies being forwarded to Poland. Unless this was done, both Articles would remain a dead-letter.
Situation in German Poland Dmowski next turned to the situation in German Poland specifically. He stated that, according to German statistics, there were four million Poles in Eastern Posen, Eastern Prussia, Western Prussia and Upper Silesia; but, according to the Polish estimate, this number was five million. These Poles were some of the most educated and highly cultured of the nation, with a strong sense of nationality and men of progressive ideas. Even according to the German statement, in these Provinces it was admitted that the Polish farmers and merchants were of a higher standing than the German ones. As soon as the opportunity offered itself to organise themselves, these Poles established a Government by pacific means and then waited until the Peace Conference should have decided upon the status of Poland. All they desired was that Germany should not put anything in the way of their joining up with the other Polish Provinces. But this movement, as showing the aim of the Poles, rather frightened the Germans who immediately proceeded to take steps to suppress it and organised a special corps, known as the “Heimatschutz Ost”, consisting largely of officers, with the idea of crushing this political movement. Troops had been concentrated in the Eastern Provinces waiting for the opportunity to attack. When M. Paderewski came to Posen, he was most enthusiastically received by the population, which remained quite pacific. But the Germans attacked them with machine guns. In consequence an armed conflict arose and fighting took place in the streets of Posen. The Poles were victorious and occupied the city and the fortress. Once that conflict had begun it was bound to spread, and it spread throughout the whole of the Province until the Germans were practically pushed out of the district. The Poles established a civic government which kept order without doing harm to the inhabitants: conduct very different from that of the Germans, possibly because the Poles were at home, or the Germans were in a foreign territory to them. Further, he reminded the meeting that the Conference had issued a declaration with regard to disputable territory, (see I. C. 119).1 The Poles in Posen would understand that this declaration and this warning was addressed to them as well, and as it is their desire to stand well with the Allies, they will certainly respect it and it will make a great impression on them. But the Germans certainly will not respect it, but are continuing their organisation against Poland. The result will be that unless the Allies stop both sides (the Germans as well as the Poles), Poland inevitably must be crushed. The Germans have a great respect for the power of the Allies, and M. Dmowski felt [Page 775] that if they received a similar order to cease fighting the possibility was they would accept the same.
M. Dmowski added that German Poland had as much in the way of supplies as she wanted, in fact more than she required, as the German soldiers, on their return, had requisitioned food along the way to carry themselves on. But the other Polish provinces were starving for want of food. He compared Germany to the god Janus. Germany had one face towards the West, where she had made peace, and the other face towards the East, where she was organising for war. Her troops there were concentrated and out for war. She might have given up the West, but she had not given up her plan for extending her Empire to the East. As regards German Poland, he made one proposition only, and that was that both sides should discontinue fighting, and should be ordered to stay where they were. The Poles were extremely anxious to keep the rolling stock at present at Posen which the Germans were threatening to take away as they themselves were short of rolling stock.
- Russian Poland Russian Poland found itself, after the Armistice, in a most difficult position. The nucleus of the Government, which the Germans had established in 1916, continued until the Armistice, but once the Armistice was concluded it could not stand, on the one hand because it had been established by the Germans, and on the other hand, because it was too conservative. The Government was then handed over to General Pilsudski, a member of the Socialist Party, who had become very popular as he had fought against Russia in the beginning of the war and afterwards had been imprisoned by the Germans. It was perhaps the safest thing for Poland that she now had a Socialist Government, because she had no arms or army to protect herself. On the one side there was a Socialistic Revolutionary Government, and on the other, a Democratic Government, which had established a revolution in Germany. Had this not been the case, the Socialistic Government of Pilsudski could not have lasted. As it was, his Government was in great difficulties, as there was a majority against them even in Russian Poland, but more particularly in German Poland and also in Austrian Poland, the two latter provinces being much better organised and more advanced than Russian Poland. But the greatest weakness of all was that the Pilsudski Government had no money. Inevitably, therefore, attempts were made to overthrow his Government, and even the National Council of the Poles in Paris was approached to aid in this object. The National Council refused because it felt that a Socialistic Government, situated between two extreme Socialistic Governments, was necessary for the safety of [Page 776] Poland at the time, and it concentrated its efforts on arranging a compromise with the Socialists. Consequently, the National Council sent M. Paderewski to Poland in order to establish a Government by compromise, his strong point being that he had so far taken no part in party politics. He was successful and formed a Government representing all portions of the provinces of Poland and also the main parties. We [They?] had, perhaps, taken too long to come to this compromise, but the reason was that Socialistic Governments were, from their very nature, not given much to compromise.
- External Situation Generally As already mentioned the German soldiers on returning from the Eastern front committed many crimes, but their worst crime of all was the fact that they assisted the Bolsheviks by leaving them their arms and ammunition, and also by allowing them to follow the Germans up in close succession. At the same time the German General at Vilna refused passage to the Polish troops. In this way the Germans were advancing the aim of Bolshevism to get into touch with German territory and so to join hands and make common cause with the Spartacist group inside Germany. Today the Bolshevik troops were threatening Poland and were about 150 miles from Warsaw. The difficulty of Poland was not the lack of men; she had enough to defend herself, but her difficulty was that she had no arms to arm them with or ammunition with which to fight. As evidence of the shortage of ammunition, he stated that the inhabitants of Poland had sent 8 million rounds of cartridges to Warsaw in order to assist in defending the country.
Ukraine and Eastern Galicia The Austrian troops on their return from Eastern Galicia distributed their arms amongst the people, and, at the same time, were guilty of atrocious massacres, particularly of land-owners. It was estimated that some 2,000 landowners with their families were murdered in this fashion. In Eastern Galicia, Ukrainian bands actually took Lemberg and held it for a few days, and even though they had been driven out, they were not far from the town.
Summary M. Dmowski summed up the position by stating that Poland was threatened on three sides; first by the Bolsheviks on the East, second by the Ukrainian bands on the South-East and by the Germans on the North-West. The problem to settle was not the question of supplying Poland with men, but with arms and ammunition and assistance to organise their army. This object could only be attained by using the railway running from Dantzig to the Polish frontier. It was impossible to use the Austro-Hungarian railway system, as that system was not extensive enough [Page 777] and it would take too long, and the question of assistance was extremely urgent. He suggested the temporary occupation by Allied troops of Dantzig and of the railway line between Dantzig and Poland. He further suggested that some agreement should be made with the Germans whereby arms, ammunition and troops could be sent along this railway line and the railway line be occupied by Polish troops. In his opinion it would be much better for the Allies to occupy this line in agreement with the Germans, as if the Poles were to do so the Germans might regard this as an aggressive act by Poland. If Poland could not be assisted and assisted quickly, she must be crushed and submerged by Bolshevism. The only way was to open a means of rapid and sure communication and the only sure and rapid route was that between Dantzig and Thorn. He expressed the opinion that there was not much fear of Bolshevism extending to German and Austrian Poland because those provinces were well organised and politically sound. In his opinion Bolshevism really was the rule of a despotic organisation representing a well organised class in a country where all other classes were passive and disorganised. In a country where the various classes were politically organised and enlightened, Bolshevism in the true sense of the word was not a serious danger. It was only possible where a country was passive and disorganised.
- Upper Silesia (Teschen) The province of Teschen in Silesia is occupied partly by Czechs and partly by Poles, the latter of whom are in a great majority. It was accordingly agreed in November, 1918,2 that that portion of the country where the majority of the inhabitants are Poles should be regarded as the Polish sphere, and that portion which is inhabited by the Czechs as the majority, should be the Czech sphere. This agreement, which had been concluded by the local organisations, was approved by the Polish Government, but not by the Czecho-Slovak Government and recently Czech troops had entered this disputed territory. This act was not only one of violence but it was a dangerous act because if the Czech troops continue to remain there bloodshed inevitably must follow and much more harm might be done to the ultimate settlement of this dispute. M. Dmowski urged that the only settlement was that these Czech troops should be withdrawn to the territory as arranged in the terms of the agreement of the 5th November, pending a settlement by the Peace Conference.
- German Policy Towards Poland M. Dmowski proceeded to direct attention to the anti-Polish policy of the Germans and referred to their anti-Polish laws, their prohibition of the use of the Polish language in the schools and their confiscation of the property of Poles. He quoted the special and powerful company which had been erected for the special purpose of colonising portions of Poland with German settlers and in that connection quoted von Billow’s remarks that the whole of Poland is an enemy and pointed out that Germany had employed means to influence both Austria and Russia to adopt the same line of policy. During the war there were two policies, one of annexation of Poland, but this plan was given up because there had been so much difficulty with the five million Poles in the German Eastern provinces, that it was felt to increase the number of recalcitrant subjects would only make matters more difficult. So the other programme was adopted of establishing a small kingdom consisting of some twelve million inhabitants and round it to place two other small states, Lithuania and Ukrainia. The latter two, in case of a German victory, would be completely under German domination, as neither Lithuania nor Ukrainia could, strictly speaking, be said to have reached the stage of nationhood. The national movement in Lithuania was not older than 40 years, and, although the movement had shewn great activity, the Lithuanians had not advanced so far yet as to entitle themselves to be called a nation fit to protect themselves and to accept the responsibilities and duties of the state. The same remarks applied to Ukrainia. The aim of this arrangement of establishing two small states was to split up Russia and Poland, both of whom were enemies. The whole idea dominating this programme was that by this means Poland would ultimately be strangled and submerged.
- Territorial Claims M. Dmowski suggested that in reaching the settlement of the territory to belong to Poland, we should start from the date 1772, Territorial before the first partition. This did not mean that she must be reconstituted on the same boundaries as then existed, but this must be the point of departure and the boundaries should be rectified according to present conditions. France, Italy, Great Britain and similar countries owing to the statistics they kept, and to their well-defined boundaries, were able to state immediately what their territory was, and what their people were. But not so with Poland. In settling the boundaries of Poland, the principle of including within those boundaries those territories where the Poles were in a large majority, must not be accepted altogether. In the West, Poland could not be satisfied with the historical boundaries of 1772. For instance, Silesia was lost in the 14th Century, but today 90% of the population, owing to the national revival, had kept its language and was strongly Polish. For instance, 15 years ago, [Page 779] Silesia sent a Polish representative to the Austrian Reichsrat. Furthermore, geographically speaking, Silesia falls within the whole territory of Poland.
(The Meeting adjourned until 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon.)
29 January, 1919.
- BC–9, p. 715.↩
- For text of agreement of November 5, 1918, see Commission polonaise des travaux préparatoires au Congrès de la Paix, Mémoire concernant la délimitation des frontières entre les é’tats polonais et tchéco-slovaque en Sitésie de Cieszyn, Orawa et Spisz, annexe B 4, pp. 27–31. (Paris Peace Conf. 186.3114/5)↩