Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/23


Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Wednesday, 29 January, 1919, at 3:30 p.m.

  • [Present]
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson.
      • Mr. R. Lansing.
      • Dr. Lord (Mission to Poland).
      • Dr. Bowman (Polish Expert).
      • General Kernan.
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier.
      • Mr. L. Harrison.
      • Col. U. S. Grant.
      • Capt Ewell.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P.
      • Gen. The Rt. Hon. Louis Botha.
      • Sir Esme Howard.
      • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey.
      • Mr. E. Phipps.
      • Major A. M. Caccia.
      • Captain G. Brebner.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
      • M. Pichon.
      • M. Dutasta.
      • M. Berthelot.
      • Captain Portier.
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando.
      • Baron Sonnino.
      • M. Montagna.
      • General Romei.
      • Count Aldrovandi.
      • Major Jones.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
      • Viscount Chinda.
      • H. E. M. Matsui.
      • M. Saburi.
      • M. Kimura.
    • Czecho Slovakia
      • Dr. Kramartz.
      • Dr. Benes.
    • Poland
      • M. Dmowski.
      • M. Piltz.

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

Territorial Claims M. Dmowski, resuming his statement, stated furthermore that the whole territory of Eastern Germany was not naturally German but was Germanised, and quoted Von Bülow as saying what Germany had lost in the West as a result of the break up of the Empire of Charlemagne, she had gained in the East. He quoted Dantzig as an illustration, saying that though, according to the German statistics, only 3 percent of the inhabitants were Poles, he felt certain that at least 40 percent belonged to that nationality. As the Poles were mostly employees, they would be afraid of stating that their nationality was Polish for fear of being dismissed, and he referred to the fact that soon after the Armistice a protest meeting had been held by the Germans against Dantzig being incorporated in Poland. When the petition which had been drawn up at that meeting was circulated for signature, [Page 781] only 16 signatories were to be found, and of those 14 were those of officials. Ethnographically, the limits of Poland were irregular, and pointed to the fact that some wrong would have to be done East Prussia. Either a small island of German[s] must be left in the midst of Polish territory, or the large Polish population must remain under Germany. His suggestion was that the small island of German people should be made a republic with its capital at Königsberg. He maintained that it would be more just to expose a small Germanised country to infiltration by Poles, than to deprive all Poland of economic independence and to expose it to German aggression. Summing up the question of what is, or what is not, Polish territory, he said that a rough definition would be that such territory as had been oppressed by anti-Polish laws was Polish territory. From the point of view of the preservation of peace, it was evident that if the coast belonged to one nation and the land to another, there would be mutual tendency to conquest. This had been fully appreciated by the Germans with the result [that] was apparent in their policy, which had aimed at the gradual absorption of Polish lands, and pointed out the colonisation schemes not only in German Poland but also in Russian Poland, and in this connection he quoted Herr Bobel, the Socialist Democrat in his work Die Frau: “Our task is not to colonise Africa, but to colonise the Vistula.” It could not be expected that this idea of absorbing Poland would die amongst the Germans. Therefore, he urged that the frontiers should be so arranged that Poland should no longer be exposed to this danger.

Eastern Frontiers of Poland Polish land reached to the Dnieper and the Dwina when the union of the colonies of Poland and Lithuania took place in the 13th and 14th centuries, but to-day the bulk of the population of Lithuania was not Polish, though the Lithuanians were closely allied, so he conceded that the Eastern Frontiers of Poland should be curtailed and a large portion remain under Russia. Both Lithuania and Ukrania he excluded, and did not lay claim to these countries as part of Poland.

Finally, he suggested that the subject of Poland should be viewed from the standpoint of a League of Nations and he defined a nation as a race of men capable of so organising itself as to be able to express collective will and of organising its affairs both externally and internally. In a word, it must be able to govern itself and to oppose oppression. Tested by this test Russia, strictly speaking, was not fit for admission to a League of Nations, nor were the Lithuanians advanced far enough in national unity or ideals to be included amongst the nations. The Ukrainian State at present was really organised anarchy and the Ukrainians were not so far advanced [Page 782] as the Lithuanians on the road to nationality. The great need in Eastern Europe was to have established Governments, able to assure order and to express their will in foreign and in internal policy. It was too early to think of Lithuania or Ukrainia as independent States. Therefore, it would be best that, if organized as separate states they should be united in some other state, and as the Lithuanians were closely allied to the Poles, he suggested Poland as the best state to which they should be united. All that remained East of Poland, he feared, would remain for a long time subject to anarchy. He expressed the opinion that in Russia there would be a despotism for some time to come, because the masses were too indolent and passive. They were able to be ruled but not fit to rule. The red despotism of Bolshevism would last for some time but the reaction would come and a possible return to Czardom with all its vices. In Poland they were afraid to [of?] the anarchy prevalent in the Eastern districts of old historical Poland and, therefore, they were satisfied to renounce these districts for the sake of preserving peace and order within their own borders.


Eastern Galicia Eastern Galicia was, he admitted, a disputed territory, but he claimed that they were unable to organize a Government and pointed to the fact that in the intellectual professions, excluding small farmers and clergy, there were 400,000 Poles and only 16,000 Ruthenes. They might be entitled to home rule but they were unable to create a separate state.

M. Erasme Piltz wished to associate himself with M. Dmowski as to the danger threatened from the Bolsheviks, and expressed the fear that if troops were sent they would arrive too late. The point he wished to express most forcibly was the urgency of sending help to Poland as soon as possible.

Mr. Balfour remarked that the first portion of M. Dmowski’s statement dealt with the immediate and pressing question of the Polish situation. The latter part dealt with territorial questions which would have to be discussed later on by the Conference. To-day they were only concerned with the first question.

M. Clemenceau said that the Czecho-Slovak representatives were there to deal with the Teschen question, which is disputed territory.

(It was decided that the Czecho-Slovak representatives should be admitted).


Claims of Czecho-Slovakia to Teschen Province Dr. Benes, on behalf of Czecho-Slovakia, proceeded to make a statement as to the position of Bohemia, Moravia, and Eastern Silesia.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was sorry to intervene to point out that the meeting was not dealing with the whole question of Czecho-Slovakia to-day, [Page 783] but would have to enter into that whole question at a later date. They were dealing to-day with one narrow point, and that was the territory in dispute between the Czeeho-Slovaks and the Poles.

M. Clemenceau said he thought it was necessary to have the whole case of the Czechs as the meeting had had the whole case of Poland.

President Wilson suggested that the only question which was the business of the day was information as to the position in Eastern Silesia between the Poles and the Czecho-Slovaks, and suggested that the statement should be confined to that point only.

M. Clemenceau then requested Dr. Benes to confine himself to the dispute between the Czecho-Slovaks and the Poles.

Dr. Benes proceeded to deal with this question at length [on] statistical, ethnological, historical and economic grounds.

(Full details are available in the Pamphlet entitled “The Problem of Teschen Silesia” submitted by the Czecho-Slovak delegation. Copies of this pamphlet are obtainable at the office of the Secretary-General.)

Dr. Benes added, as regards the ethnological question, that his government disputed the correctness of Austrian statistics. For instance in the case of the town of Richvaldt the Austrian statistics gave as the population in 1900: 4,500 Poles against 11 Czechs; and in 1910, 2,900 Czechs against 3,000 Poles. This gives a clear idea of the manner in which Austrian statistics are compiled.

Dr. Kramartz asked to be allowed to emphasise certain points made by Dr. Benes and stated that he had always thought that the points of difference between the Poles and the Czecho-Slovaks would be settled by mutual agreement. To his surprise, the Poles invaded this territory, mobilized the male population, and even went so far as to fix an election day, and settled that the Courts should fall under the Court of Cracow. On representations being made to him by the population of that quarter, his reply was that the Peace Conference must decide the question of disputed territory, and that he had been informed by France and Great Britain that the Czecho-Slovaks were entitled to occupy the historical boundaries of the old Czech Kingdom. He had protested to the Polish Government, and has sent a second protest; but no reply was forthcoming. He was told that if this present condition continued, it was very likely the Bolshevist activity would follow, and therefore he had acted carefully so as to avoid bloodshed.

The second point he emphasised was the fact that the Czechoslovak Republic could not exist without the large coal area which was within the disputed area.

In conclusion, he stated that they had always endeavored to arrive at a private agreement with Poland, but this had failed. Therefore, [Page 784] they now desired to place themselves entirely in the hands of the Peace Conference, in the full confidence that the Great Powers would not forget the great sacrifices which they had made in their cause during the war, and that they would not lose sight of the economic requirements of the country upon which the whole prosperity of the Czecho-Slovak Republic depended.

Mr. Balfour suggested that the representatives of Poland and of the Czecho-Slovaks should meet the members of the Commission appointed by the Peace Conference to investigate Polish questions the following morning at 10 o’clock, so that they could commence that work of pacification and arrangements could be made in Paris immediately.

(This was agreed to.)

M. Clemenceau expressed the wish to hear what M. Dmowski had to say on this subject.

M. Dmowski in a short reply, regretted that apparently the Czechoslovak Government had not been fully informed as to what was taking place in Silesia, and stated that it was not the Poles that had invaded Teschen, but the inhabitants had organised themselves militarily; not a single soldier had been sent from Poland. He suggested that any further movement of the Czecho-Slovak Army should be stopped, pending the decision of the Conference.


Polish Commission to Enquire Into the Teschen Dispute Mr. Balfour suggested that the Commission which would meet on the morrow should also consider the question of supplying arms and munitions to Poland.

M. Clemenceau, in summing up, stated that the delegates would meet the representatives of Poland and of Czecho-Slovakia the following morning, Thursday, the 30th January, at 10 o’clock, at the Quai d’Orsay, and would report on the Teschen dispute as well as on the supply of arms and munitions to Poland.

(This was agreed to, and the meeting adjourned until 11 o’clock on Thursday, January 30th).

29 January, 1919.