Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/48


Stenographic Report of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, on Thursday, June 5, 1919, at 11:30 a.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson
    • The British Empire
      • Mr. Lloyd George
    • France
      • Mr. Clemenceau
    • Italy
      • Mr. Orlando
      • Mr. Paderewski,
        Premier of Poland
    • Secretaries
      • Sir Maurice Hankey
      • Count Aldrovandi
Interpreter: M. Mantoux
Stenographer: C. L. Swem

President Wilson: We are trying to go over the various counterproposals and objections made in the German reply to the treaty, and we learn from various sources that one of the parts of the treaty which troubles German opinion most is the Upper Silesia part and in general the Eastern Border, the border between Germany and Poland; and we therefore had that memorandum made by Sir Maurice Hankey1 sent you as an outline of what ought to be restudied, and we were very anxious to have your views upon the matter before going any further.

The main point, I take it, is not so much the slight redrawing of the boundary so as to leave as many Germans outside of Poland as possible, but the question of Upper Silesia. My own judgment is that, notwithstanding the fact that they admit that it has an overwhelming Polish population, the very great mineral riches of Silesia are of great concern to them. We have been considering a plebiscite under international supervision and under such rules as an international commission should set up, to get the German troops out and any German officials who might be interfering with it, and it was on that general series of subjects that we were anxious to have your views.

[Page 192]

Mr. Paderewski: I beg to express first of all my sincere and deep appreciation of your thoughtful and gracious action in having me come here to be informed about your intentions. Of course, the destiny of my country is entirely in your mighty hands and you could have very well disposed of it without notifying me about these intentions. I beg to thank you most warmly and most sincerely indeed.

As to the plan as it has been presented to me, I have made some remarks. The general plan has been made in a very wise and just manner. There are, however, a few exceptions. In some districts the plan leaves a certain majority of German population in Polish hands, but in some others, and they are more numerous indeed, it leaves a great majority of Polish population in the German hands. So, if any correction is to be made, justice requires that the Polish majority should go to Poland, as well as the German majority shall go to Germany.

The President asked Mr. Paderewski to begin with Silesia, as the ethnographic map which they were awaiting had not yet arrived.

Mr. Paderewski: In Silesia there are two districts with a decidedly Polish majority, namely Gross Wartenberg and Namslau. On the other side there is a district wherein the majority is German, and that is the district of Loebschütz. The upper Silesian territory is divided into two sections, one of which, the eastern, is mining,—industrial,—and the other, the western pact, is agricultural. The western part of the Silesian territory is under the influence of the Catholic clergy. That Catholic clergy has been brought up in a very strong German spirit by the Archbishop of Breslau, and the influence of that clergy is most dangerous for us, because those people rule absolutely our people, and in the case of a plebiscite, they would, even in spite of our majorities, amounting in many districts to ninety per cent arid more,—they would decidedly follow the orders of that German clergy. From that point of view a plebiscite is absolutely impossible. In the eastern district the people, of course, are free from that influence; they are more conscious of their nationality and of their political aspirations, and they would, of course, declare themselves for Poland.

Mr. Clemenceau: In what district is it that the Catholic clergy is so strong?

Mr. Paderewski: In the western part of Silesia. In the eastern part the labor population,—the workers, the miners,—with them it is different. We are not afraid of that. The vote would be decidedly in our favor, but there would be some inconvenience in having that district alone assigned to us, because it would put the whole mining industry, the whole of those industrial plants, on the frontier. [Page 193] Consequently, they would be quite accessible to any invasion, accessible to the destruction of any gunshot. It is positively on the border. We could not really,—if we were asked,—agree to a plebiscite.

Mr. Lloyd George: Where is the majority of the population? Is it in the west or the east?

Mr. Paderewski: Almost equally divided. You may judge from this map. (Illustrating.)

Mr. Lloyd George: Can you give me any idea what the population would be in the industrial and mining area, and what it is in the agricultural area?

Mr. Paderewski: In the mining and industrial area, there would be about 900,000 of Poles and about 400,000 of Germans.

Mr. Lloyd George: That would be 1,300,000. What is the population in the agricultural area?

Mr. Paderewski: About 540,000. I could not tell you precisely these figures, but the population is twice as large in the industrial area. The whole population of Upper Silesia is 2,200,000, of which there are 1,500,000 Poles, and about 700,000 Germans.

Now, as to the economic conditions as proposed in that little note, I think there would be no difficulty. We understand perfectly well. We have to exchange certain commodities of life and to oblige each other in every civilized and humane way. We do not object to those concessions.

Mr. Lloyd George: If you have finished with Silesia, before the map comes, you might say something about Memel.

Mr. Paderewski: Memel concerns Lithuania, and it is very dear to us. We have some trouble with Lithuania now, as we have had with every population which was formerly belonging to the Polish Republic, but we know to whom we owe these troubles,—to the Germans,—and we naturally understand it. Memel is on the Lithuanian territory, of course. It used to be called Klajpeda. It is a very important harbor, a harbor which is essential for Lithuanian life, and practically it would be the only real and strong harbor for a large population which is living principally on the export of timber. So it is of vital necessity for that country. I don’t think that Germany is in need of harbors. She has plenty of them. We don’t know yet what kind of status Eastern Prussia will have, whether it will form an integral part of the Prussian Monarchy or a part of the German Republic, or a republic in itself. It would really make things much clearer to the whole world if it had been stated in the preliminary conditions of peace.

[Page 194]

Mr. Lloyd George: I thought that we had made it quite clear that Eastern Prussia is to be an integral part of the German Republic.

The President: I don’t know that that is stated in the treaty, but that certainly was our purpose.

Mr. Lloyd George: By the necessary operation of the treaty.

The President: In other words, it does not alter its status.

Mr. Lloyd George: Is Memel a German town?

Mr. Paderewski: The majority of these towns are German, but the rural district is mostly Lithuanian. There is another city on the River Niemen, Tilsit, which is also a Lithuanian city, though with the majority of the population of German origin,—of German language anyhow, because a great many people in that country have been Germanized, and consequently their nationality is rather superficial.

Mr. Lloyd George: Has the population outside been Germanized at all?

Mr. Paderewski: Very little.

Mr. Lloyd George: They are Lithuanians, then?

Mr. Paderewski: Yes. The Lithuanians in Eastern Prussia are very conscious of their nationality, and they have even developed in the last few years a considerable literature. It is a very small population,—about 2,200,000 in the whole.

Mr. Lloyd George: It is really like setting up Wales as a separate republic—exactly the same population,—2,000,000.

Mr. Paderewski: Mr. President and Gentlemen, I call your attention to the fact that the changes which you intend to introduce into the treaty might endanger the whole situation, not of my country alone, but of Eastern Europe. For the last few months Poland has been a stronghold of peace and order in the East. We have had no sign of revolution, no sign of Bolshevism, and if there is fighting, it is unfortunately fighting on the borders. It is not due to our people. It is due to the necessity of defending ourselves. We have not attacked anyone, and I am ready to prove the truth of my statement by facts and at any moment.

Mr. Lloyd George: There was a telegram this morning which I read that you are still advancing in the Ukrainian part of Galicia.

Mr. Paderewski: There is some misunderstanding concerning Ukrainia and Galicia. There are two Ukrainias and there is only one Galicia. The people in Galicia pretend to be Ukrainians on account of the similarity of their language with the real Ukrainian people. These people are not Ukrainians. They are under the influence of Germany. There is an accusation of the Poles persecuting the Ruthenians in Galicia. There is an influence there of Germany, there is an influence of Austria, and altogether the people are not in harmony with the real Ukrainia. Galicia represents a territory, a [Page 195] small territory comparatively speaking, with the population of 3,300,000 Ruthenians and 4,700,000 Poles. On the other side, there is the real Ukrainia, which represents eight provinces, each of them being much larger than Galicia itself; and there are two distinct governments. There is the former government of Stanislau, and the government of Ukrainia directorate formerly of Kiev and Odessa, and at last of Rovno, which is under the leadership of Petliura.

We have been asked to stop that fighting, or, to put it more clearly and precisely, I have been asked by General Bliss in behalf of you, Mr. President, to agree to an armistice, which I did in principle. The Commission was appointed and some deliberations have taken place. Then I was told by you, Mr. President, that I should avoid or prevent Haller’s army from taking any part in the fighting in Ukrainia, to which I also agreed and I notified the Government of Poland. I beg to call your attention to the fact that during the time the negotiations were going on for an armistice here in Paris, the bombardment of the unfortified city of Lemberg was still in progress, and that many people were being killed by these so-called Ukrainian Armies in Galicia. Upon my arrival in Warsaw, I went immediately to the chief of the state and told him about your wishes. Haller’s army was still in the neighborhood of Galicia, not in Galicia itself, but on the Volhynian front, and the offensive,—not the offensive, but rather the defensive advance, to put it properly,—was ordered by General Iwaszkiewicz. When I was talking to the Chief of the State we received the telegram of General Pawlenko, the Commander of the Ukrainian forces, notifying us that the Ukrainian army would stop all the hostilities in view of the negotiations then taking place in Paris, and that they hoped on our side we should cease also every hostility. We gave orders to General Iwaszkiewicz to stop every preparation for that advance on the 11th of May. I must not forget that the situation of the country was really very dangerous. The excitement and the discontent of the people when they learned that the offensive was called off, and every movement against the Ukrainians was postponed, reached such a pitch that we were really on the verge of revolution. I called together all the leaders of the party and I offered them my resignation, which they, however, did not accept. Hundreds of meetings took place in the country protesting against that action and we were really in a very dangerous position. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however it may be called, on the 12th of May the Ukrainians, in spite of these telegrams sent to us, wanted to improve their position anyhow and they attacked us on two places which were quite new in their military action, but they attacked us also north of Lemberg. However decisive were our efforts, we could not keep back those boys of twenty [Page 196] years of age. They went on. They simply marched like a storm. They made thirty-five, forty kilometers a day without any opposition, and they took back that territory, and if you are interested in the fact that there should be no bloodshed in the country, I am able to tell you that the whole offensive in Galicia has not cost us a hundred people in killed and wounded. There were no battles. In many places, the population, stimulated by the news of Polish troops advancing, took the matter in hand themselves. The Polish population is very numerous there,—about a third of the inhabitants being Poles,—about thirty-seven percent.

Mr. Lloyd George: Does Poland claim the whole of Galicia?

Mr. Paderewski: Historically, yes.

Mr. Lloyd George: Do they claim that the whole of Galicia should be annexed to them?

Mr. Paderewski: We have given autonomy to this country. We claim the whole of Galicia. We claim it for the simple reason that it is absolutely impossible to define ethnographically this country, because, curiously enough, and we should rather be proud of the fact, in the center of Galicia there is more of a Ukrainian population than on the border. The fartherest districts of Galicia are more Polish than the immediate surroundings of Lemberg. There isn’t a neighborhood of Lemberg which contains eighty percent.

The President: Pomerania is German, isn’t it?

Mr. Paderewski: It has been Polish, but it is more German now. It has been Germanized.

The President: If Upper Silesia voted as a unit, do you think the influence of these portions (illustrating on map) would outvote that part?

Mr. Paderewski: I am afraid it would.

I suppose that as the system of voting has been already adopted in Prussian Mazuria and in this part of Eastern Prussia, it should also be applied to the Upper Silesia, by communes.

The President: Then your expectation would be that the agricultural communes would go to Germany?

Mr. Paderewski: Yes.

The President: Then your frontier would probably be the Oder?

Mr. Paderewski: Yes.

Mr. Lloyd George: If you took the opinion of Silesia as a whole, it would be German?

Mr. Paderewski: Yes, as a whole it would be German.

If there is any essential change in that which has been already granted to Poland, I should immediately resign, because I could not return to my country if there is any such change as a plebiscite here, or any essential change in the disposition of the territory [Page 197] which has been already made public as granted to my country. If there are such changes, I couldn’t have anything more to do with politics, because it would be absolutely impossible to rule my country. You know that revolutions begin when people lose faith in their leadership. These people have belief in me now, because they were told by me, and most emphatically, that these things promised to them would be given to them. Well now, if something is taken away from them, they will lose all faith in my leadership. They will lose faith in your leadership of humanity; and there will be revolution in my country.

Mr. Lloyd George: No promises were made. We made certain proposals to the Germans. Nobody ever suggested that those were an ultimatum, and that the Germans must accept them, every line without alteration. We are actually considering now certain questions which affect my country and France. If we thought that this was an absolute ultimatum, there would be no use discussing it.

Here is Poland that five years ago was torn to pieces, under the heel of three great powers, with no human prospect of recovering its liberty; certainly without the slightest chance of recovering it by its own exertions. Why, during the four or five years of the war the Poles were actually fighting against their own freedom in so far as they were fighting at all. We were capturing Poles on the Western front, and capturing them on the Italian front. That was the condition of things. Now, you have got at the very least, even if you took every one of these disputed parts away,—you have got twenty millions of Poles free, you have got an absolutely united Poland. It is a thing which no Pole could have conceived as possible five years ago; and in addition to that, they are claiming even populations which are not their own. They are claiming three millions and a half of Galicians, and the only claim put forward is that in a readjustment you should not absorb into Poland populations which are not Polish and which do not wish to become Polish. That is the only point that is put. The Poles had not the slightest hope of getting freedom, and have only got their freedom because there are a million and a half of Frenchmen dead, very nearly a million British, half a million Italians, and I forget how many Americans. That has given them their freedom, and they say they will lose faith in the leadership which has given them that, at the expense of millions of men of other races who have died for their freedom. If that is what Poles are like, then I must say it is a very different Poland to any Poland I ever heard of. She has won her freedom, not by her own exertions, but by the blood of others; and not only has she no gratitude, but she says she loses faith in the people who have won her freedom.

[Page 198]

Mr. Paderewski: I am very sorry I gave you that impression. Perhaps I did not express myself precisely enough. If I say that I would not be able to lead these people any more because they may lose faith in my leadership, I don’t mean to imply that they are losing faith in your leadership.

Mr. Lloyd George: I was only referring to what you said. We won freedom for nations that had not the slightest hope of it,—Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others. Nations that have won their freedom at the expense of the blood of Italians and Frenchmen and Englishmen and Americans. And we have the greatest trouble in the world to keep them from annexing other nations and imposing upon other nations the very tyranny which they have themselves endured for centuries. You know, I belong to a small nation, and therefore I have great sympathy with all oppressed nationalities, and it fills me with despair the way in which I have seen small nations, before they have hardly leaped into the light of freedom, beginning to oppress other races than their own. They are more imperialists, believe me, than either England and France, than certainly the United States. It fills me with despair as a man who has fought all his life for little nations.

Mr. Paderewski: I beg to protest emphatically against the accusation that we are imperialists. I am a representative of a nation which has fought for liberty for others; where other nations were oppressed, Poland was always there to fight for liberty,—wherever liberty was fought for. As a proof, I may perhaps read to you the resolutions adopted by the Diet, which absolutely denies the accusation of imperialism. We are not imperialists and we do not want to annex any country or any people. We have never imposed upon any nation or foreign language. We never persecuted any religion. We never imposed upon the people different customs, and the proof of it is this, that after six hundred years of common life with primitive people, like the Lithuanians, like the Ruthenians, even like the Ukrainians, these people are still existing and even with our assistance, with our practical help,—are regaining their individual character. These accusations are entirely based upon rumors which are spread by our enemies,—in the newspapers—

Mr. Lloyd George: Newspapers attack me just the same.

Mr. Paderewski: If we are fighting in Galicia, it is because we must defend ourselves. Yesterday, I received a letter from one of the noblest men in my country, though he is a Catholic archbishop. There are some Catholic people who are very honest and very good. I ask your permission to read it.

(Mr. Paderewski reads the telegram, which requests him to protest to the Peace Conference against the outrages committed by the Ukrainian armies, the killing of defenseless priests, etc.)

[Page 199]

Mr. Paderewski: You wanted us to make an armistice with the Ukrainians in Galicia, and we thought that your information was not correct, that you had been misled by some reports; that the Ukrainians of Galicia were not the people to address for an armistice. Instead of addressing ourselves to a fraction of a nation, which represents only 3,300,000, we thought it would be better and more proper to talk to the people who represent 27,000,000. I think that we were right and this is the proof of it. This is a document which shows that we are not such imperialistic people. It reads as follows:2

Mr. Lloyd George: I ought to say that you and I have been very good friends, Mr. Paderewski. I don’t want to have any dispute with you. What I mean by imperialism is the annexation of peoples of a different race against their will, or even a people of the same race against their will. I consider the annexation of Alsace, though the race was German, as culpable as the annexation of Lorraine, where the people were French. It is the annexation of people against their will, whether it is by a big race or a small race.

Mr. Paderewski: Mr. Lloyd George, you admit that the representatives of a nation should be believed, if they speak as representatives, as of a constituent assembly of a country.

Mr. Lloyd George: If they represent that particular population, certainly.

Mr. Paderewski: The resolutions which have been unanimously adopted by our constituent assembly ought to be a proof of what our intentions are and what our character is, don’t you think so?

Mr. Lloyd George: You mean that the intentions of the Poles are not imperialistic. I am just hoping that they will not be, and that they do not mean to annex foreign populations. That is all I want.

Mr. Paderewski: They don’t; but you must find it natural that we try to protect people of our own speech and our own blood if they are attacked, if they are murdered, if they are slaughtered, in Ukrainia and by these people under the Bolshevist regime.

Mr. Lloyd George: They are making the same accusations against your troops. I only saw a Ukrainian once. The only Ukrainian I have ever seen in the flesh was upstairs. I haven’t seen another. It is the last Ukrainian I have seen, and I am not sure that I want to see any more. That is all I know about it.

Mr. Paderewski: On the day I left Warsaw a boy came to see me, a boy about thirteen to fourteen years old, with four fingers missing on this hand. He was in uniform, shot twice through the leg, once through the lungs, and with a deep wound in his skull. He was one of the defenders of Lemberg. Do you think that children of thirteen are fighting for annexation, for imperialists? I saw girls in the [Page 200] same position, also wounded through the chest, through the lungs, through the legs, also with fingers missing; they were all defending Lemberg. Do they fight for territory, or for oil, or for annexation, or for imperialism?

Mr. Lloyd George: Lemberg, I understand, is a Polish city. They were undoubtedly fighting for a Polish city.

Mr. Paderewski: There is one district near Lemberg which has an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, but on the other side there are five big districts, at the extreme point of Galicia, which are overwhelmingly Polish. That is the reason why we consider it is so very difficult to decide that question.

I would like to read you the resolutions which will give you an idea about the character of my country:

“The Polish Republic aspires to be a factor of international peace, founded on the right of all nations to independence and self-determination.

“Poland supports the idea of a League of free and equal nations, with the view of avoiding wars and of realizing lasting peace between nations.

“The Polish Republic tends to the union of all Polish territories, and guarantees to all national minorities equal rights as well as national and cultural autonomy, on territories with mixed population. The Diet states that the principles expressed and supported with great moral courage by Mr. Wilson, President of the United States, have found a loud echo and appreciation in this country.

“In accordance with these principles, the Republic aims at creating a peace with all states and nations, which will safeguard all important national and economical interests of the Polish nation.

“It is the tendency of the Polish Republic to liberate the territories of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania from foreign oppression, and to render possible to the nations inhabiting these territories the exercise of the right of self-determination concerning their future, as well as their relation to the Polish State. The Republic tends to a junction with the nationalities of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania on the basis of mutual political, economical and cultural interests. The legal and political basis of this junction shall correspond to the right of all nations to determine their own future. The principle of self-determination must, accordingly, also be applied to that part of Lithuania and White-Ruthenia in their historical limits, in which the Polish population forms a majority and which aspires to a union with Poland.

“The Diet declares that the Polish Republic does not intend to incorporate to the Polish State the territories of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania solely on the basis of a decision of the Polish Constitutional Assembly.

“The Diet recognizes the application of the principle of self-determination to the nations of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania as stated in the report of the Commission for Foreign Affairs, voted by the Diet on April 4th, 1919, as well as stated in the proclamation of the Commander in Chief issued in Vilna on April 22, 1919, without [Page 201] precising, for the time being, the way in which this principle shall be applied.”

Mr. Clemenceau: About the plebiscite: Let us suppose that we wouldn’t ask for a plebiscite immediately and that in the meantime the country would be occupied by troops of the Entente,—suppose Americans, we should say,—dont you think that then in that country there would be a great chance to have a fair vote?

Mr. Paderewski: There will be a fair vote in that industrial part of Upper Silesia, but there will be no fairness in the western part, because the officials and the land owners, and the clergy especially, would take the matter in hand. And, besides, there is a tremendous element of provocation in that country already. They are trying to create a revolutionary movement in order to have an excuse for suppressing it. The Germans are shooting every day some guns.

Mr. Lloyd George: That is an excuse for clearing them out.

Mr. Paderewski: On the tenth of May there was a sitting in Berlin, at which were present the representatives of Saxony, of Bavaria, of Gutenberg [Württemberg?], of Baden, and all the ministers, of course,—Mr. Scheidemann,—and a Colonel Hiser was the representative of the General Staff; and Mr. Scheidemann said that their economical position was absolutely desperate, but their political situation had greatly improved on account of their secret treaty concluded with Trotsky. He said that Trotsky promised him all the assistance needed provided he would send immediately three thousand instructors,—officers and sergeants,—to Russia, which he did; whereupon Colonel Hiser confirmed that report, adding that the spirit of the troops at this very moment was just as good as in 1914 and that they expected to receive through their mobilization at least one million good troops. As to the others, they gave up the hope of making anything out of them, because they are too demoralized, but one million more men can be got at any moment. As to the munitions, they have been manufacturing them here (chiefly in these districts) in Upper Silesia, and the Chief factor is, of course, poisonous gases. We have had already, a few days ago, some experience with it, because they sent a few shots of poisonous gas into the villages and killed a great many people. The day before yesterday there was an attack made here (illustrating) on a village. Several peasants were killed and several houses destroyed. Of course, it is not yet real war, but there are symptoms, and at any moment war may be a reality. And we have no munitions. We have no equipment.

(End of meeting.)

  1. See appendix II to CF–46, p. 186.
  2. The text of the document does not appear in the minutes.