840.48 Regis. Commission for Polish Relief, Inc.

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)

Dr. Rhachman26 called with the Polish Ambassador to discuss the Polish relief question. He had been in conversation with Mr. Hoover27 on several occasions. The last time was this morning. He has been sent, or has had himself sent, by the Polish Government to the United States to discuss the question of America’s participation and control of relief for Poland.

[Page 214]

He described the development of the movement and its present status.

The Polish Government is in possession of all of its gold. They are under obligation not to use it. The expenses of the Polish Government are being now paid by loans formerly contracted but until recently not executed in the form of payments from the British and French Governments. The gold supply remains intact.

The Polish Government agreed to advance one million dollars to an American organization. Presumably this would be Mr. Hoover’s organization. The grant was made conditional upon a grant from the British Government of one million pounds and the French Government of one hundred million francs, all to be expended under the direction and control of an American agency, with the hope that the American Government would make a similar or a larger contribution. The French Government has indicated that it will make its payment when the British Government decides its course. The British Government is reported to be willing to make its payment, depending on the arrangements made by Germany for the supervision and control, and depending somewhat upon the attitude of the American Government.

As regards the arrangements for control of the foodstuffs in Poland, it develops that there are two possibilities which are details in the general scheme. The first is that there should be preventive control which would insure representation on the part of the commission authorized to dispense relief in Poland so that they could prevent, by the exercise of some authority, supplies falling into the hands of the German agencies or being used by the German agencies; and second, Communal distribution, which would retain control of the bulks of supplies until they were actually distributed in Communal kitchens. This would necessitate a vast number of representatives.

Dr. Rhachman said that it was not contemplated that it would be necessary to ship into Poland certain supplies; potatoes, for instance, which are composed 80% of water, could be bought in Poland and so could other supplies. In response to the question as to from whom they could be bought, he replied that they could be bought from the German agencies in control or from other sources in Poland.

It occurred to me that it was somewhat unusual for outside agencies to purchase within a given territory supplies which were already there when the object of the relief was to send supplies in on the theory that there were not sufficient supplies there.

It is considered worth while to comment briefly on the question of Polish relief as envisaged by Dr. Rhachman.

First, for the American Government to make a contribution to a fund to which contributions would also be made by the Polish, British and French Governments would place the American Government in the position of being aligned with three belligerents who are the belligerents opposed to Germany.

[Page 215]

Second, if the American Government should authorize a person to undertake the work of administering funds largely contributed by Governments at war with Germany and actually supervising and directing the shipments and details of relief on behalf of Governments opposed to Germany, we might very easily find ourselves in a position of opposition to Germany and be drawn within the orbit of the conflict in Europe.

Third, the Polish Government has all of its gold supplies but has not yet been willing to make a contribution for the welfare of its own people except on the condition that the French and British and now the United States Government make contributions to the pool.

Fourth, the British and French Governments are under obligations to the Government of Poland. The United States Government has no such obligation.

An entirely different situation would exist if contributions from individual people of the United States were made out of the generosity of their sentiment for the relief of the Polish people. There would be no Governmental obligation and the Government of the United States as such would not be involved. The control which England would exercise over the shipments before they reached Germany and the control which would be exercised by Germany in the territories under her occupation and supervision by her military forces would not be matters which would involve the Government of the United States.

B[reckinridge] L[ong]
  1. Ludwik Witold Rajchman.
  2. Herbert C. Hoover, former President of the United States; honorary chairman, National Committee on Food for the Five Small Democracies (in 1941, “Five” was omitted from the title).