740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 512
Briefing Book Paper
top secret

Polish Territory Annexed by Germany in 1939


The territory of pre-war Poland annexed by Germany in 1939 should be returned to Poland.

basic data

Poland acquired the so-called “Corridor”, the Poznań [Posen] area, and the major part of the Upper Silesian industrial area from Germany after the first World War, in the Treaty of Versailles.1 Although President Wilson had played a prominent role in establishing an independent Poland and in acquiring for it the Corridor outlet to the sea, the United States in the separate treaty which it signed with Germany, August 21 [25], 1921,2 disclaimed (Article II, paragraph 3) any obligation for the territorial provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

Poland’s possession of this territory formerly a part of the German Empire was the source of much friction between Poland and Germany from 1919 to 1939. This territory was re-incorporated into Germany after the military defeat of Poland in September 1939. It, along with Danzig and additional territory which had not been a part of pre-1914 Germany, was organized into two Reichsgau, Westpreussen–Danzig and Wartheland.

At the time of the conquest the American Secretary of State3 issued this statement (October 2, 1939):

More than twenty years ago the United States recognized and has since maintained diplomatic relations with the Polish Government. Poland is now the victim of force used as an instrument of national policy. Its territory has been taken over and its Government has had to seek refuge abroad. Mere seizure of territory, however, does not extinguish the legal existence of a government. The United States therefore continues to recognize the Government of Poland as in existence. …4

The population of the annexed territory (excluding Danzig), which comprises the richest agricultural and industrial parts of pre-war Poland, was in 1939 about 10,000,000 of which only 680,000 were Germans. After the German conquest, many Germans, approximately [Page 750] 500,000 Volksdeutsche from the Baltic states and Eastern Europe and another 500,000 Reich Germans, were settled in the area in accordance with the Nazi plan to Germanize the annexed territories. There is no reliable data as to how many Germans remain there now, but it is presumed that a substantial majority of them fled before the advancing Red Armies. Nor is there as yet any reliable information as to whether the Poles plan to expel all Germans, as their pre-liberation statements indicated, or whether the Germans will be retained in order to make use of their labor.

  1. See document No. 513 (and attachments), infra.
  2. Treaty Series No. 658; 42 Stat. (2) 1939.
  3. Cordell Hull.
  4. Ellipsis in the original. For full text, see Department of State Bulletin, vol. i, p. 342.