The Ambassador in Poland (Cudahy) to the Secretary of State

No. 1470

Sir: I have the honor to report, as of possible interest to the Department, an evaluation of existing Polish-German relations based upon developments since my departure from Warsaw on leave May 25, 1936.

The most significant of these developments have been the friction over Danzig and the recent French loan to Poland (despatch No. 1449, January 16, 193724).

Any appraisal of existing Polish-German relations must proceed from the Declaration of January 26, 1934,25 which committed Germany and Poland to adjust any controversial matter between them by “peaceful means”. This neutrality measure was, it will be remembered, construed in France and by the foreign press generally as inimical to France and as a weakening of the Franco-Polish Alliance. It was in fact asserted during the months which followed the ratification of this treaty that Poland had concluded a political alliance with Germany and this Embassy received several confidential communications from other American Missions stating, upon assurances of high authority, that Poland had turned away from France and had become an ally of Germany. Such assertions were made more persuasive by the embarrassing overtures of German friendship, such as the visits to Poland of Goebbels, Goering, von Ribbentrop,26 and other personages high in the councils of the Nazi Party. But this Embassy consistently took the position that the Declaration of January 26, 1934, was in fact a negative treaty, a contract of peace between Poland and Germany; that it had no further connotation or implication, and that no unwritten agreement supplemented the treaty.

It will be remembered that the Declaration came as an abrupt surprise following incidents during the spring of 1933 indicative of [Page 33] strained relations between the two countries, one of the most significant of which was the reinforcement of the Polish garrison at the munitions depot of Westerplatte, situate on a peninsula at the entrance of the Danzig harbor. The depot had been established by the Poles because of the refusal of the Danzig port authorities to unload ammunition for the Polish army in the war of 1920 against the Soviets. Under existing treaties Poland was allowed to maintain 88 men to guard these munitions but owing to differences with the Danzig authorities the guard was increased to 200 on March 6, 1933. The Council of the League of Nations, in reviewing this action of reinforcing the guard, decided that existing treaties had been violated and, accordingly, Poland reduced the garrison to the number permitted. But though the incident was thus liquidated relations between Poland and Germany, none too friendly before this occurrence, were strained still further and the story was current that when Józef Lipski was appointed Minister to Germany in July 1933 he was given instructions by Pilsudski27 to tell Hitler, in very plain language, that Poland was ready for war or peace; the choice was in the hands of the German Chancellor. This story has never been reported to the Department because, although it has been admitted in general outline by the Polish Foreign Office, this Embassy has never been in possession of concrete evidence regarding the statements made by the Polish Ambassador to Hitler. The Embassy was able to report, however, a conversation with Ambassador Lipski (despatch No. 410, September 6, 193428) in which he told me that only ten days elapsed from the beginning of negotiations until the formal execution of the treaty. The subject matter of the agreement was perfectly clear and authority rested in the hands of two men, Chancellor Hitler and Marshal Pilsudski.

It is easy to understand how Poland would accept any guaranty of peace with its powerful western neighbor and traditional enemy even if this guaranty were only for a limited term. Foreign Minister Beck has repeatedly stated that the essentials of Polish foreign policy are the maintenance of satisfactory relations with Germany and Russia and also the maintenance of a strict impartiality concerning any controversy between these two nations.

This, Beck has assured me, is his guiding impulse in the conduct of his office and this Embassy accepts this statement at its face value, not so much because of the Foreign Minister’s emphatic words, but because the inherent logic of the situation demands a pliable neutrality on the part of Poland vis-à-vis Germany and Russia.

[Page 34]

The only question in entering into a pact of neutrality with Germany, as far as Poland was concerned, was the good faith of the Reich. Hitler in Mein Kampf had written disquieting sentiments concerning the recovery of territory in Europe taken from his country by the provisions of the Versailles Treaty29 but opposed to these was the fact that the Führer, a Bavarian,30 did not emphasize Prussian ideology, and it is Prussia which has been since an early day the arch enemy of Polish liberty. Further the cardinal doctrine of Hitler’s political faith was irreconcilable and belligerent opposition to Communism. The Poles, in estimating the friendship of Hitler, reasoned that if any government than that of the Nazis controlled Germany it would be a government of Communism and sandwiched in between the Communism of Russia on the East and of Germany on the West, the existence of Poland might well be a precarious one.

It would seem that the purposes of Germany in concluding the neutrality agreement with Poland were: To avoid the “preventative war” which Pilsudski threatened; to weaken Polish foreign relations, specifically the Franco-Polish Alliance; and to make use of Poland as a buffer state, an Eastern flanking force against Russia.

The first of these objectives has lost its significance by the great increase in German armament since January 1934 which has given Germany a feeling of military superiority over Poland. Also the purpose of alienating Poland from France has failed for the French loan which culminated in the enthusiastic Paris reception of Smigly-Rydz31 in September 1936, and the close cooperation between the French and Polish General Staffs which followed, indicates that relations with France are now more friendly and more satisfactory than at any time in recent years.

The third goal of the January 26, 1934 Declaration, to-wit: that of cultivating the friendship of Poland as a flanking force against Russia, has been more successful than the others and this mutual opposition to Communism is, in the opinion of this Embassy, the controlling force which sustains the adherence of Germany and Poland to the neutrality pact.

Nor has this ruling motive been weakened by the failure of Poland to become a party to the German-Japanese Anti-Communistic Pact.32 There is no evidence that Poland was ever asked to join this agreement against Communism although the British Embassy considered the possibility eminent enough to ask Colonel Beck about the matter. Beck’s reply was a denial to the British Ambassador on November [Page 35] 27, 1936, of participation or contemplated participation. Recently in discussing this subject with Mr. Nobubumi Ito, the Japanese Minister, he told me he had seen the Polish Foreign Minister shortly after the conclusion of the Anti-Communistic Pact and had never thought it worth while even to mention the subject of the pact to Colonel Beck. He said that it was not reasonable to think that Poland could even consider any act so openly hostile to the fundamental philosophy of the Soviet Government. “Only a powerful country could afford to enter into such an undertaking,” the Japanese Minister added significantly.

Although it maintains correct diplomatic demeanor towards its neighbor to the East, Poland combats Communism at every turn and mutual opposition to Russian Communism is the foundation of existing cooperative relations between Poland and Germany. This abiding mutuality should continue to sustain a common defensive front despite serious conflicting differences. Among these differences it should be remembered that all the German territory on the continent of Europe lost by the defeat of Germany in the War, with the exception of Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmédy, and Schleswig-Holstein, is now incorporated within the frontier of Poland; nor is this melancholy loss forgotten by Germans as witness Mein Kampf and the speech of Dr. Hjalmar Schacht at Frankfort on December 9, 1936, in which the German Minister of National Economy stated in a text given me by the German Ambassador that Germany had, by reason of the Versailles Treaty, been deprived of 15.4 percent of its cultivated land; that if it still had its pre-war boundaries Germany would never have to contemplate a food shortage. These remarks taken as a threat of territorial revision at the expense of Poland produced lively retaliatory comment in the Polish press. And the construction of Dr. Schacht’s speech is indicative of the precarious tenure from a Polish viewpoint of the Poznań agricultural area, the large industrial region of Silesia, and the “Corridor”. All intelligent Poles believe that Germany covets this pre-war German territory but as several have said to me in effect “the Declaration is a truce for a few years and that is enough cause for gratitude”.

The anomalous position of Danzig, purely German in character, with more than 96 per cent, of the population German, presents another constant source of friction brought into sharp focus by the political domineering methods of the Nazi Party in the Free City. The difficulties which have arisen in Danzig during the past six months are merely recurrences in a different form of basic German and Polish national antipathy. Danzig presents a strange spectacle of divided jurisdiction, a conception of the Middle Ages where there always will be endless conflict to be liquidated only by complete rehauling of the entire governmental structure.

[Page 36]

Another cause of disturbances between Poland and Germany is the situation in Upper Silesia. The Voivode, Dr. Michal Grazynski, makes the most of his almost unlimited autonomous authority to make life miserable for German residents, and under his leadership the “Polonization” of this rich industrial region has gone on with vigorous, ruthless despatch. This Embassy has, in a number of despatches, reported the loss of German capital by Polish confiscatory tax methods and the coercive measures which have forced many Germans out of work in Upper Silesia. During my first month’s residence in Poland I was at a shooting party given by the President near Cieszyn with Herr von Moltke the German Ambassador who, in a surprising outburst, told me that the situation in Upper Silesia violated “every principle of justice” and strained his patience to the breaking point. The openly hostile discriminatory tactics of Polish governmental authorities toward German industry and German residents in Upper Silesia have for many years been the cause of much tension between the German and Polish Foreign Offices.

In the face of peaceful professions an example of the alert attitude of Germany is the new regulation of the Reich Air Ministry of January 6, 1937, prohibiting the flight of airplanes over a quadrangular territory between the Oder and the Warta near the Polish border, roughly bounded by Landsberg, Crossen, Dresden, and Züellichau. The effect of this regulation is to force airplane traffic between Warsaw and Berlin to detour in order not to pass over the quadrangle mentioned. The territory in question is situate on the German side of the Polish-German border where that border most closely approaches Berlin and would be on the direct route of march of any army attacking the capital of the Reich from the East.

Trade should bring the two countries into closer harmony. Before the trade war of 1925 it will be remembered that as much as 50 per cent, of Poland’s foreign trade was with Germany and it was hoped after March 15, 1934, when this war ended, that much of this former business might be regained. Even during the long period of tariff conflict, goods in excess of one billion złotys annually were exchanged (1924—1,416,300,000 złotys) and it was hoped that this figure might be doubled under the provisions of the new treaty. But this hope has not been realized, the imports of Poland from Germany in 1936 (January 1–November 30 inclusive—December statistics not available) being only 14.3 per cent, of the total Polish foreign trade aggregate 130,832,000 złotys, while exports of 128,363,000 złotys were only 13.8 per cent, of the total exports. Despite the great need of Germany for Polish livestock, grain, butter, eggs, and poultry, and the demand of Poland for German machinery, automobiles, and chemicals, the disappointing results achieved under the trade treaty are due to the incapacity of the Polish market to absorb the German products.

[Page 37]

Nor is there any present prospect of increasing purchasing power on the part of Poland even under the most favorable reciprocal commercial agreements.

The Government’s agreement ancillary to the Declaration of January 26, 1934, for the suspension by both countries of all hostile publications, cinemas, text books, et cetera, has almost from the beginning proved disappointing. Count Jan Szembek, Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me recently that there was a growing feeling of distrust and hostility towards Poland reflected by expressions of public opinion in Germany which, according to him, was fostered by alien forces such as Communism unfriendly alike to Poland and to Germany. On December 23, 1936, while visiting the Polish Ambassador in Berlin he said to me that he was conscious of a much more unfavorable sentiment towards his country than that which had prevailed in Germany a year ago. And the German Ambassador in Warsaw told me recently that during the past six months he had become aware of a mounting hostility on the part of many Poles towards Germany. Yet despite the recrudescence of ancient traditional antagonisms, despite the troublesome problems of Silesia, Danzig, and the “Corridor”, this Embassy believes that the broad purpose of the January 26, 1934, Declaration continues the definition of existing Polish-German relations. The animating spirit of this Declaration, it must be repeated, is the menace of a common enemy, the Communism of Russia. If Russia and Germany ever come to an amicable understanding this Embassy predicts that commitments pledged under the Declaration of January 26 will be strained to the breaking point for every thinking Pole vividly remembers the “Partitions”; believes that a Russia friendly to Germany and a Germany equally well disposed toward Russia will be the end of Poland. The hostility of Germany to Communism makes that dismal premise a remote one and there is no present prospect of Polish-German relations being weakened in this salient aspect of mutual opposition to Communism. Current indications of present friendly relations are the projected visit of General Goering to the Bialowieża forest on a shooting trip during the latter part of February 1937, as reported in the press and confirmed to me by the German Ambassador; also the conference of Colonel Beck with Minister for Foreign Affairs von Neurath on January 20, 1937 (despatch No. 1463, January 23, 193733) when the Polish Foreign Minister stopped off in Berlin en route to Geneva.

Respectfully yours,

John Cudahy
  1. Not printed.
  2. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxvi, p. 495.
  3. Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Ambassador at Large, visited Poland October 4–6, 1935.
  4. Marshal Józef Pilsudski, Polish Minister of War.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Signed June 28, 1919, Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 55.
  7. Adolf Hitler was Austrian by birth.
  8. Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz, Inspector General of the Polish Army.
  9. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. i, pp. 390 ff.
  10. Not printed.