740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 513
Briefing Book Paper
top secret

Introductory Statement Concerning Germany’s Eastern Frontier

The Inter-Divisional Committees on Germany and on Russia and Poland1 have recommended that Germany should be required to cede Upper Silesia, East Prussia and the portion of Pomerania east of the Kreuz–Dramburg line and that the remainder of German territory east of the Oder, and the territory between the Oder and the Neisse, should remain in German possession.

For the purposes of this present series of summary recommendations the eastern frontier of Germany has been divided into the six segments discussed on the following pages.

Two underlying documents (H–160 and CAC–341)2 have attempted to analyze the character of this whole frontier problem and to make as reasonable a recommendation for settlement as could be devised, given the complexity of the factors which need to be taken into consideration.

It has been recognized, however, that these recommendations represent a judgment of what appears to be the most desirable solution and not as an unbending resolution on the part of this Government. Patently it would be out of the question for us to say that we would accept only the frontier line here suggested and would have nothing to do with a frontier moved farther to the West. The position here taken rests on the thought that this Government should counsel [Page 751] against, and express grave reluctance to approve, a line west of the one recommended. If the Polish and Soviet Governments press insistently, and if they are supported by the British Government, we shall have no recourse but to agree to the cession of the area east of the Oder. It is believed, however, that this Government should refuse to sanction at this Conference the transfer to Poland of the territory between the Oder and the Neisse.

[Attachment 1]
East Prussia
top secret
Recommendation:—East Prussia (except for the Koenigsberg district, which presumably will go to the Soviet Union) should be ceded to Poland.
Basic Data:—East Prussia remained under German sovereignty, although physically separated from the rest of Germany, after the “Corridor” was transferred to Poland by the Treaty of Versailles.3 The western and part of the southern boundaries of East Prussia were fixed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, August 16, 1920, following a plebiscite in the Marienwerder and Allenstein districts,4 held in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. Under the final settlement, Poland received a narrow riparian strip along the east bank of the Vistula, varying in width from a few feet to a half mile.

The area of East Prussia under the 1920 boundaries was 14,283 square miles, its population (May, 1939) was 2,496,017. According to the census of 1925—the most reliable index of linguistic distribution—the Polish population of East Prussia was 40,502, to which might be added the 62,596 Masurians, Slavs who speak a dialect akin to Polish, residing in the district of Allenstein. Polish sources estimate the Polish population of East Prussia at over 400,000. The whole of East Prussia is claimed by the Warsaw Polish Government. The Soviet Union favors Polish acquisition of East Prussia or all of the province except for the northeastern sector, including the chief city and part [port] of Koenigsberg which it intends to annex. The Polish Government insists on the deportation of ail Germans from the area to be annexed, to Germany.

[Page 752]
[Attachment 2]
top secret
Recommendation:—The former Free City of Danzig should be ceded to Poland.
Basic Data:—The Danzig area was renounced by Germany in the Treaty of Versailles, June 28, 1919, and proclaimed a Free City with a High Commissioner appointed by the League of Nations on November 9, 1920, in accordance with the terms of this treaty.5 It was re-incorporated in Germany on September 1, 1939.6 It is claimed by Poland as a port essential to Polish economy. In the post-war disposition of the former Free City, whose legal status is quite complex, the League of Nations and Danzig itself, as well as Poland and Germany, are interested parties. The question is closely connected with that of East Prussia.

The total area of the Free City of Danzig was 731 square miles. The population in 1936 numbered 412,000. According to the Danzig census of 1923, out of a total of 366,730, there were 12,027 persons speaking Polish or Kashub; the remainder were German-speaking. The Polish Government apparently intends to expel to Germany the German population of the Danzig area.

[Attachment 3]
German Upper Silesia
top secret
Recommendation:—German Upper Silesia (Oppeln district) should be ceded to Poland.
Basic Data:—The area in question is the former German Regierungsbezirk of Oppeln, which included the territory awarded to Germany by the Conference of Ambassadors, October 19, 1921,7 following a plebiscite held in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, plus several local districts to the west of the plebiscite area. Its area is 3,750 square miles, its population about 1,500,000. It is a highly industrialized region closely affiliated economically with the larger complex of heavy industries in southwestern Poland. The greatest concentration of industry is in the extreme east, covering about one-tenth of this total area and including one-third of the population. In addition to coal, iron and steel production, the area [Page 753] was responsible (in 1937) for about two-thirds of Germany’s zinc ore output and over a quarter of its lead ore.

In 1925 the exclusively German-speaking element made up 57 percent of the total population in the territory which formed part of the plebiscite zone, 72 percent in the industrial district. The western districts outside of the plebiscite zone, with a population of about 323,000, are almost wholly German-speaking. The Warsaw Polish Government demands the deportation to Germany of the German population of this area.

[Attachment 4]
Eastern Pomerania
top secret
Recommendation:—That portion of Pomerania which lies east of the Kreuz-Dramburg line should be ceded to Poland.
Basic Data:—The area in question is that part of Pomerania which lies east of a line drawn from the confluence of the Netze and Draga rivers just west of Kreuz, thence to Neuwedell, from there to Dramburg, and west of Belgard to the sea. It comprises an area of 6,812 square miles with a population of 835,000, almost entirely German. It is among the poorer agricultural sections of Germany, with many large estates of low value per hectare. Its cession to Poland would represent no serious economic loss to Germany; together with East Prussia it comprises most of the region of the larger Junker estates. For Poland it would mean a greatly extended sea frontage on the Baltic and an improved strategic position in relation to Germany. This territory is claimed by the Warsaw Polish Government.
[Attachment 5]
German Territory East of the Oder
(Excluding East Prussia, Upper Silesia and Eastern Pomerania)
Recommendation:—The American Government would prefer a solution under which the territory would remain part of Germany. However, the British have agreed that all territory east of the Oder shall be ceded to Poland8 and this Government is not prepared to [Page 754] make an issue of the matter if, as is certain, it is pressed by the Russians.
Basic Data:—This territory consists of parts of the Prussian provinces of Pomerania, Brandenburg and Silesia. Its area is 10,473 square miles; its population in 1939 was 2,104,553, almost entirely German. Cession to Poland would establish as a frontier the most prominent geographic feature available as a line of demarcation in this area, but would destroy the natural unity of the Oder basin. If the river line were strictly adhered to it would divide the important metropolitan areas of Stettin, Frankfort and Breslau. The area is mainly agricultural and, in Silesia, of considerable value.

The Warsaw Polish Government has laid claim to this territory and also to the major cities lying on the west bank of the Oder. It has also hinted at the need of a further belt of territory west of the Oder, perhaps 30 kilometers in width, to strengthen the strategic frontier. The German population presumably, would be deported from the entire area annexed.

[Attachment 6]
Territory Between the Oder and Lower Neisse Rivers
top secret
Recommendations:—This territory should remain part of Germany. There is no historic or ethnic justification for the cession of this area (as well as of the trans-Oder region referred to immediately above) to Poland. Such action would doubtless create economic and population difficulties of the greatest magnitude for Germany and arouse an intense spirit of irredentism. Maintenance of the Oder–Neisse frontier might well become the most critical security problem in Europe during the coming years.
Basic Data:—This area includes parts of the Prussian provinces of Silesia and Brandenburg. It is a rich agricultural area of 8,106 square miles and a population of 2,700,000, almost entirely German. It is claimed by the Warsaw Polish Government; its annexation would, as in other similar instances, involve the deportation of its German population to Germany.

Cession of this area to Poland, in addition to East Prussia, Upper Silesia and other German territory east of the Oder, would reduce the Polish-German frontier to 250 miles and provide Poland with its most defensible frontier in the west. It would facilitate Polish-Czech communications and afford Poland primary railroad lines from the Baltic southward through Liegnitz and Breslau.

  1. Regarding these two interdivisional committees, see Notter, Postwar Foreign Policy Preparation, 1939–1945, p. 177.
  2. Not printed. These memoranda, prepared in the Department of State and dated, respectively, January 1 and January 4, 1945, were not included in the Briefing Book.
  3. See articles 27 (paragraph 7), 28, and 87 of the Treaty of Versailles, in Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 127128, 132, 208.
  4. See ibid., p. 231.
  5. See articles 100 and 102 of the Treaty of Versailles, Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 251, 253.
  6. See ibid., p. 250.
  7. See ibid., pp. 212215.
  8. During Churchill’s conversations at Moscow in October 1944. See Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 203; Toynbee and Toynbee, eds., Survey of International Affairs, 1939–1946: The Realignment of Europe, pp. 184, 186; Rozek, Allied Wartime Diplomacy, pp. 275, 277, 287.