Briefing Book Paper
Suggested United States Policy Regarding Poland
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The Crimea Conference2 settled the problem of Poland’s Eastern frontier by adopting a slightly modified Curzon Line3 as forming the Polish-Soviet boundary. The Conference also recognized that Poland should receive substantial accessions of territory in the North and West and that the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be consulted with regard to their extent by [but?] the Conference declared that the final delimitation of the Polish-German frontiers should await the peace conference. With the rapid liberation of Polish territory which was accompanied by a large scale withdrawal of the German population therein, the Lublin Government took over almost immediately all the territory of pre-1939 Poland. Later, it likewise took over with the consent and the assistance of the Soviet authorities the territory of the Free City of Danzig and extensive areas in East Prussia and Western [Eastern] Germany stretching approximately to the Oder Neisse Line. Both the British Government and ourselves protested vigorously to Moscow against the formal transfer by the Soviet Government of this territory to Poland and its incorporation into the Polish State by Warsaw.4 We felt that this transfer was an [Page 744] infringement both of the Crimea Decision and of the general tripartite understandings regarding the disposal of occupied German territory, and saw in it an effort by the Soviets and the Soviet-dominated Poles to confront us with another “fait accompli”. While the motivation for these excessive territorial demands is not clear, it is possible that the following factors figured in the Soviet, if not the Polish calculations:
- By including a large section of German territory in Poland and the probable transfer of some eight to ten million Germans, the future Polish state would in all probability be forced to depend completely on Moscow for protection against German Irredentists’ demands and in fact might become a full-fledged Soviet satellite.
- If it should not in the end prove possible to establish a workable world security organization and the Soviet Union should elect to rely on its own resources for its security, the advantages are obvious of having the Polish frontier as far West as possible, particularly if the future Polish Government should be more or less under the domination of Moscow.
- By giving the future Polish state maximum compensation in the West, it may be the hope of the Soviet authorities that the Polish people would more willingly accept the loss of 42 percent of former Polish territory in the East.
While it appears that the Soviet Government is now sponsoring “compensation” for Poland from Germany, up to the so-called Oder–Neisse River Line (line (a) on attached map5) which would include the cities of Stettin and Breslau in Poland and make it necessary to transfer from eight to ten million Germans from these areas, and while the British Government may not object to “compensation” for Poland up to the Oder Line (line (b) on attached map), the United States Government should use its influence to obtain the less radical solution outlined below which it is felt would, from a long range point of view, contribute materially to the future peace and tranquillity of Europe. Moreover, the suggested solution would in [Page 746] all probability be much more acceptable to world opinion and increase the prospects of [that?] completely wholehearted American acceptance of membership in a world [organization would?] not be jeopardized from the start by having to accept untenable settlements such as that suggested by and already put into effect in certain respects by unilateral action on the part of the Lublin Poles.
Our policy regarding the unsettled frontier shall be as follows:
In the North, Poland should receive the Free City of Danzig and the bulk of East Prussia and in the West, the only rectification of 1939 Polish-German frontier should be to include in Poland a small strip of German Pomerania west of the so-called Polish Corridor in order to eliminate the German salient in this area and to give Poland additional sea coast and Upper Silesia which is predominantly Polish in population and is particularly important from the industrial point of view.
While this solution would reduce considerably the size of Poland compared to its prewar frontiers, it would include only areas which are predominantly Polish, would make for a viable Polish state from an economic point of view and would reduce to a minimum the problem of the transfer of populations (these boundaries are indicated on the attached map).
In regard to the British attitude, Mr. Churchill has already indicated that he favors compensation for Poland in the West which would stretch broadly along the Baltic Sea on a front of two hundred miles. This statement would indicate that the British Government’s plan for compensation from Germany would correspond roughly with line (c) on the attached map (which approximates the suggested American solution outlined above.)
Since the British Ambassador at Moscow6 has recommended to Bierut and other members of the Polish Government that the question of Poland’s western boundaries be taken up with the “Big Three” immediately after the formation of the New Government of National Unity, it might be well to make an effort to attain tentative concurrence with [by?] the British on our proposed solution. Thus when the consultations on this matter provided in the Crimea Decision take place, it would be ensured that the British and ourselves do not work at cross purposes in face of apparent agreement on the part of the Poles and the Soviets to face us with a “fait accompli” in this matter.
If our full and determined efforts to attain this solution fail, we should then concentrate on obtaining a solution of the Polish frontier which would minimize the possibility of irredentism and population transfers and should only with reluctance accept the Oder Line (line b) and should resist to the utmost acceptance of the Oder–Neisse Line (line a).[Page 747]
In connection with any final frontier settlement agreed upon, we should insofar as practicable and in collaboration with the other United Nations be prepared to assist in the orderly transfer of minority groups provided the Polish Government so desires.
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- For other sections of this briefing paper, see documents Nos. 483 and 521.↩
- For the decisions of the Yalta Conference, see vol. ii, documents Nos. 1416 and 1417.↩
- For the origin and a description of the Curzon Line, see Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 793–794. See also the map facing p. 748, post. ↩
These protests were referred to by Stalin at the Fifth Plenary Meeting of the Berlin Conference, July 21 (see vol. ii, p. 209). Following is a summary of the protests in question:
Harriman wrote to Molotov on April 8, 1945 (Moscow Embassy Files—715 Boundaries–Poland):
“I have been instructed to inform the Soviet Government that my Government has received a number of press and radio reports attributed to responsible officials of the Provisional Polish Government now established in Warsaw to the effect that certain territories in the Soviet military zone, including the Free City of Danzig and several districts in Lower and Upper Silesia which were a part of pre-1937 Germany, have been formally incorporated into Poland. Apparent confirmation of these reports appears in the TASS report of Mr. Osóbka-Morawski’s speech which was published in Pravda for April 2, 1945.
“I am instructed to request on behalf of my Government information as to the facts underlying these reports. I should be grateful if you would send me this information at an early date.”
Kennan reported to the Secretary of State on April 18 that Vyshinsky had replied, in part, as follows (file No. 862.014/4–1845):
“It is well known that the German population of Silesia is leaving with the withdrawing German troops and that only the Polish population remains behind. The greater part of the German civilian population has also evacuated from Danzig to Germany. In these circumstances the urgent necessity of a base [the urgent necessity arose] for the creation of a civil administration from Poles who constitute the basic population of above mentioned areas. The direction of civil affairs in Silesia and Danzig has also been transformed to the competence of this Polish civil administration, all of which has no relation to the question of boundaries.”
On May 8 Grew instructed Kennan to deliver to Vyshinsky a memorandum substantially as follows (file No. 862.014/5–845):
“The United States Government fails to understand the statement in Mr. Vishinsky’s letter to the effect that the establishment and competence of the Polish civil administrations set up in the Free City of Danzig and certain Soviet occupied German territory have no relation to the question of the future boundaries of Poland. This statement and other statements in Vishinsky’s communication give rise to the impression that the Free City of Danzig and occupied German areas so administered remain effectively under Soviet military occupation with the local administration thereof entrusted only as a matter of convenience to indigenous Polish officials who are in no way the agents of or responsible to the Provisional Polish Government now functioning in Warsaw. The United States Government is unable to reconcile the assertions of the Soviet Government with the numerous reports and public statements made to the effect that the Polish Provisional Government now functioning in Warsaw has by decree formally incorporated into its state system certain enemy territory occupied by the Red Army and has appointed Poles from Poland proper as municipal and provincial officials to administer such enemy territory as integral parts of Poland. Moreover, additional reports from Poland ascribed to official sources there indicate among other things that the Provisional Polish Government now functioning in Warsaw is (1) setting up its complete state apparatus and enforcing its laws in these areas, (2) engaged already in a large scale transfer of Poles from other areas to this enemy territory and (3) planning the extension of its administration over additional enemy territory now under Soviet military occupation. Such reports declare that these and similar acts attributed to the Provisional Polish Government now functioning in Warsaw have been effected with the full knowledge and approval of the Soviet occupation authorities.
“In the above circumstances, the United States Government informs the Soviet Government that changes such as these in the status of occupied enemy territory arising from the unilateral action of the occupying power without prior consultation and agreement between the several United Nations concerned disregard the principles upon which the agreements setting up the control machinery for Germany and the Protocols on the occupation were based. The Government of the United States wishes to make it clear that the Free City of Danzig and occupied German territory now subjected to Polish administration, as well as all other enemy territory held by the Red Army, remain in fact enemy territory under Soviet military occupation, and must be held as such pending the conclusion of such agreements and understandings as may be reached after full and complete consultation and deliberation between the Allied powers concerned.”
Kennan was also instructed to state that the United States Government was “naturally prepared to recognize the Western frontier of Poland when delimited in accordance with the applicable decisions of the Crimea Conference” but that it “must until such time insist that no transfer be made of enemy territory under Soviet occupation to the Polish Provisional Government now functioning in Poland.” Kennan reported to the Acting Secretary of State on May 11 (file No. 862.014/5–1145) that he had carried out these instructions on that date. Kennan reported further on May 15 (file No. 862.014/5–1545) that Roberts, the British Chargé at Moscow, had sent to Vyshinsky a protest which followed “in general a parallel line”.
Kennan reported on May 17 (file No. 862.014/5–1745) that Vyshinsky had replied the day before to the United States protest of May 11.
“In his reply, which refers only to the establishment of a Polish civil administration in Danzig, Vyshinski states that it is quite natural that the Polish civil administration acting under the direction of the provisional Govt is functioning according to Polish law. He denies that this circumstance can be considered to disregard the principles on which the agreements for establishing control machinery for Germany and the protocols on German occupation were based. In justification of this position he cites the military necessity which he advanced in his letter of April 15 . . . . He insists that it is necessary to keep this fact in mind since the Crimea decision recognized that Poland must receive substantial additional territory to the north and west which, he says, thus not only does not exclude but presupposes the possibility of a Polish administration functioning in this territory. He again emphasizes as self-evident that the final determination of Poland’s western boundary will be made at the peace settlement as envisaged in the Crimea decision.”
- No map is attached to this paper in any copy of the Briefing Book which has been found. The various lines mentioned in the text appear, however, on a Department of State map dated January 10, 1945, which was annexed to the Briefing Book paper entitled “Suggested United States Policy Regarding Poland” prepared for the Yalta Conference. A reproduction of this map is here reprinted (facing p. 748) from Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, insert facing p. 233.↩
- Sir Archibald Clark Kerr.↩