Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/68


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, June 14, 1919, at 4:45 p.m.

  • [Present]
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • British Empire
      • Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George M. P.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • Italy
      • M. Sonnino.
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino.
    • Poland
      • M. Paderewski.
      • M. Dmowski.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. } Secretaries.
M. di Martino
Professor P. J. Mantoux.—Interpreter.

1. Eastern Frontier of Germany: Alteration in the Treaty of Peace President Wilson explained that the Council had three points which they wished to discuss with the representatives of Poland. The first related to the re-adjustment of the frontier, which M. Paderewski was familiar. The Council wished to leave the Germans with no excuse for a grievance on ethnological grounds. The second related to Upper-Silesia and the proposal for a plebiscite. The third point with which he would deal first was a financial one. A general clause in the Treaty provided that by way of reparation countries like France and Great Britain could appropriate property or assets of German nationals in their countries and use them to make good the loss of French or British nationals in Germany. The German Government had to reimburse their nationals in their own country. The Council had felt that a different principle ought to apply in territory taken from Germany. In the Austrian Treaty for example they proposed to apply a different principle in the case of Jugo-Slavia and Czecho-Slovakia. Considering the application of this to the case of Poland, he said that German property in Upper-Silesia and in the part of Poland that had formerly been German could be liquidated by the Polish Government but under the proposed procedure the proceeds would have to be paid to the German owner. If he had any complaints to make he would refer them to a mixed tribunal. The proposal had first [Page 450] been made in the case of Upper-Silesia but it had been decided to apply it to the whole of the territory transferred from Germany to Poland. The Expropriation of German Owners in Territory Transferred From Germany to Poland

M. Dmowski asked if it was clear that this principle only applied to Polish territory taken from Germany and not to the remainder of Poland.

President Wilson explained that the Council had begun by applying it only to Upper-Silesia and then they had decided to apply it to the other territory taken from Germany.

Mr. Lloyd George said that the Economic Commission had recommended the adoption of this principle everywhere without discrimination.

M. Paderewski said that the Polish Government did not entertain the idea of any expropriation without payment.

President Wilson said the Council had felt assured of this but nevertheless had not felt at liberty to make the change without the approval of the Polish Government.

2. President Wilson said that as regards the frontiers, the desire of the Council had been not to give any excuse to the Germans for incidents disturbing the peace. The Germans did not Poland: deny the preponderance of Poles in Upper-Silesia. What they did deny was the desire of the population to become Polish. Provision was now in contemplation for a plebiscite by communes. He felt confident that the result would be that the industrial regions would elect to become Polish. In order to get rid of certain adverse influences the plebiscite was to be delayed as [and] during this period an occupation by the troops of the Allied and Associated Powers was under consideration. Frontiers of Poland: Upper-Silesia

M. Paderewski said that he could not conceal the fact that this decision was a very serious blow to Poland. First it would affect the people of Poland sentimentally. They believed President Wilson’s principles like the Gospel. The second reason was that it would cause bitter disappointment. If the plebiscite did not bring the result he hoped for it would be their poor neighbours of Polish race who would be the first to suffer. For centuries they had been treated like slaves. They had been driven out of their country and sent to Westphalia and compelled to forced labour in Berlin and elsewhere. They had hoped in future to live decent lives on their ancestral soil. If the plebiscite did not come up to expectations it would cause terrible disappointment. Thirdly, the country, owing to the plebiscite, would be in a chaotic condition and he hoped, therefore, that it would be taken within three or six months of the Peace, in order to quieten things down. It would increase the excitement in Poland. The plebiscite was not like an election, since it was to decide the destiny of the country perhaps for centuries. [Page 451] The people would become demoralised. All sorts of impossible and unreasonable promises would be made. This was why the people of Poland did not accept the idea. The Polish Delegation could only accept the decision with profound respect but with deep sorrow.

President Wilson said that M. Paderewski had taken up a very fine position which considerably shook him.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he also was much moved by the case put by M. Paderewski for whom he had the very greatest personal respect. It was only after the deepest consideration that he had come to the conclusion that a plebiscite was desirable. According to his information, M. Paderewski need not fear the result in the mining districts which were more independent than rural districts.

President Wilson said that an American observer who had just returned from Upper-Silesia reported that there was a general desire for attachment to Poland.

M. Dmowski said that he was fairly confident of the result, especially in the mining districts. Fifty years ago these people had only been Poles by language. Since then with the spread of education, had begun the development of national conscience. In the western districts if the plebiscite should now give the wrong results this development would nevertheless continue and within twenty years there would be a great desire for union with Poland.

President Wilson pointed out that the League of Nations had made provision for such conditions. It was recognised that the present Conference could not provide for all time and this was why this provision had been made under the Covenant of the League of Nations.

Mr. Lloyd George said that in the House of Commons he had made a great point of this and had emphasised the impossibility of laying down conditions for all time.

M. Dmowski asked whether provision was made for the evacuation of Upper-Silesia by the Germans during the interval before the plebiscite. When they were withdrawn what administration would be enforced?

President Wilson said that the Commission to be set up would arrange this.

M. Dmowski insisted on the importance that the Commission should employ equally Germans and Poles.

President Wilson said that the scheme provided fully for this.

M. Dmowski said that though he knew the decision was already taken he must, for the salvation of his soul, point out certain changes in the frontier, which, in his opinion, ought to have been made so as to include the districts of Bomst and Meserytz in Poland. In reply to a question he said he had put this point to the Commission.

M. Paderewski and M. Dmowski then withdrew.

[Page 452]

(Later in the Meeting, it was agreed that the plebiscite instead of being held within one to two years after the establishment of the Commission in the district, should be held “not sooner than six months or later than eighteen months after the establishment of the Commission in the district”.

A copy of the Articles relative to the carrying out of the plebiscite in Upper-Silesia, containing this amendment, was initialled by the representatives of the five Principal Allied and Associated Powers and handed to M. Fromageot and Mr. Hurst, who were present in connection with another question.)