The Polish Ambassador (Potocki) to the Secretary of State

The Ambassador of Poland presents his compliments to the Secretary of State and has the honor to inform him that the Soviet Russian occupation authorities in Poland are actually proceeding to a general confiscation of objects of art of historic value (paintings, books and manuscripts, silver, porcelain, etc.) belonging to the Polish State or Polish citizens. This measure means a flagrant violation of Article 46 § 2 of the Supplement of the Fourth Convention of the Hague according to law and customs of war on land,28 the words of which are following:

“Private property may not be confiscated” same as Article 56 of Supplement of the same Convention: “Common property of establishments serving cults, charity and instruction, art or science should be treated like private property even if it belongs to the State.”

[Page 216]

All destruction or intentional damage of such establishments, of historic monuments, of works of art or science, is prohibited and should be prosecuted. The Polish Government refers to its protest of October 21 [23], 1939,29 against illegal incorporation of certain Polish territories, which according to international law continue being part of Poland, emits a new protest against violation of international law which Russia is proving itself capable of in confiscating goods belonging to the Polish State and Polish citizens. The Polish Government reserves itself the right to a complete reparation of the damages thus inflicted by Russia to the Polish State and its citizens, when the opportunity comes. In the meanwhile it wants to put on guard the Governments and citizens of other countries against Russian sale of articles in other countries, illegally confiscated and afterwards exported and sold. Such a deal will not give the buyers any right to the objects coming from Russian pillage.

No. 49–Sow/SZ–tjn–3.

[For the reply made by the Department of State to a note of the Soviet Union dated April 26, 1940, on the subject of claims connected with the nationalization of foreign properties in the territories of Western Ukraine and Western White Russia, wherein the Soviet Government was advised that it would be looked to “for the compensation of any American nationals or firms who may have suffered losses as the result of the acts of nationalization,” see telegram No. 276, May 16, 1940, to The Chargé in the Soviet Union, Foreign Relations, 1940, volume III, page 201.]

  1. Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed at The Hague on October 18, 1907, Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, p. 1204.
  2. Ante, p. 209.