Mikołajczyk Papers

No. 1385
Memorandum by the Polish Deputy Prime Minister (Mikołajczyk)2


Meeting of the Three Foreign Ministers on July 24, 1945, at 12:30

Secretary Byrnes, as Chairman, opens the meeting: We have invited3 the representatives of the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity to come here so that they would have the opportunity to explain to us their point of view with regard to the Polish western frontier. Who is going to speak on behalf of the Polish Provisional [Page 1518] Government in answer to our invitation? I should like to ask President Bierut to name the speaker who will present to us the position of the Polish Government.

President Bierut: (Expresses thanks for the invitation to the Conference and begins the report.) In connection with this World War, Poland has been placed in a situation which changes her boundaries. Resolutions of the Crimean Conference4 determined the eastern boundary of Poland, but the western boundary was not established. We accepted the eastern boundary in accordance with the resolutions of the Crimean Conference and the Moscow Conference.5 Our government would like to express its opinion with regard to the western boundary of Poland. I should like to point out that the Government of National Unity has unanimously arrived at the following conclusions: we should all like to ask, when our western borders are established, that there be taken into consideration the vital interests of Poland, i. e., the factors without which Poland will not be able to exist.

Poland is a state which became the object of German aggression. As a result of this war Poland has suffered the most heavily in population and material of all the states participating in the war. Our country was damaged more than any other country in this war. We realize that in order to establish a lasting peace in all Europe Poland, which suffered great losses in the war for that peace, must also make certain common sacrifices at this time, in the same way as other nations. From the territorial standpoint, Poland had to give up an area of 180,000 square kilometers in establishing her eastern boundary. We consider it proper and just that the eastern boundary was established in accordance with ethnic principles. I believe that the equivalent which Poland should receive in accordance with the decisions of the Big Three should include such a territorial increase as would guarantee to Poland a boundary appropriate from the standpoint of security as well as an area which would be a compact unit from the standpoint of economy and defense of the state. In our plan we drew up precisely such a boundary, based in the north on Swinemünde, which gives Stettin to Poland and runs along the Oder and the Neisse to the Czechoslovak border.6 It is true that from the territorial standpoint the establishment of such a boundary would return to Poland less than what Poland has lost in the east, but from the economic standpoint it would guarantee better conditions for development. The total area of Poland would be reduced from 380,000 square kilometers to 309,000 square kilometers, i. e., by approximately 70,000 square kilometers. From the demographic standpoint [Page 1519] the total population of Poland would decrease from 34 million to 26 million, but the new figure would represent a homogeneous Polish population.

Secretary Eden: Are we to assume that all Germans have been expelled from Poland?

President Bierut: Most of the Germans have fled from these former German territories; we should assume that the remaining German population does not want to move to areas which are inhabited strictly by Germans. According to our figures about 1 to 1½ million Germans still live there.

Secretary Byrnes: How large is the Polish population which came under Russian rule?

President Bierut: The areas to the east of the Curzon Line7 are inhabited predominantly by a Ukrainian, White Russian, and Lithuanian population. There were about 4 million Poles in those areas. Most of these 4 million have probably already moved to Polish territory.

With regard to the population, the important fact is that the average population density in Poland was 83 per square kilometer. The new boundaries which we propose would slightly increase the population density. If we take the prewar density of 83 persons, we would have to have an area of 314,000 square kilometers. Under the plan we would have only 310,000 square kilometers. Thus the population density would slightly increase, but the areas claimed are richer from the economic standpoint; they would therefore absorb the people and alleviate their lot so that the population would no longer need to emigrate.

Deputy Prime Minister Mikołajczyk adds: Either to America or to Germany.

President Bierut: I wish to draw the attention of the High Commission8 to the fact that a large part of the agricultural population has emigrated from that area every year. With regard to the agricultural population, the western territories which we have claimed depended mainly on the production of Polish labor, except that it was the Germans who benefited from it. I consider it unjust that the Polish population should supply the labor and that the Germans should obtain the fruits of this labor. Every year hundreds of thousands of our people migrated to these German areas.

In order to present our arguments fully, I should like to ask the Chairman for permission to let my colleagues, Minister Rzymowski and Deputy Prime Minister Mikołajczyk, testify also on this subject.

[Page 1520]

Secretary Byrnes consents.

Minister Rzymowski: In the Second World War the Polish state became the first victim of German imperialism. Poland remained under occupation for the longest period of time, and the conduct of the Germans, whose victims we became, shows that the basic purpose of their aggression was to undermine the national and economic existence of Poland. Poland was a country where the German occupation created many death camps so that the Polish population could be destroyed and our territory converted into Lebensraum for German settlement and colonization.

When the German authorities came to Kraków, which is the metropolis of Polish learning and culture, they started by sending university professors to death camps on the assumption that the destruction of Polish culture would be the best start toward destroying the nation. Since the destruction of the Polish nation was one of the basic aims of German imperialism, I consider it to be just if the triumph over the Germans manifests itself through the revival of Poland as a strong state capable of further development. It would be an expression of historical justice to give Poland a territory which would represent a guarantee of her strength and development, a strength capable of resisting German aggression. In the interest of friendship with the Soviet Union and of peace in the east we have given up territory inhabited by 4 million Poles. It is necessary to find a place for these Poles in the new Poland. The population which had previously been forced to emigrate to other countries—to France or to Germany—must find room in the territory of postwar democratic Poland. There must be room for the natural increase in Polish population, which amounts to 250,000 people yearly. I consider it to be just that for the territory which Poland has renounced in the east Poland should receive in compensation those areas which for centuries have been the base of German imperialism. If we had to cede lands to the east of the Curzon Line, then I consider it to be fair that the Germans also cede those territories which have been the base for their aggression. This is in the interest of security and peace in Europe. I believe that a territory for Poland which will extend to the Curzon Line in the east and the Oder–Neisse Line in the west will represent a territory on which the Polish nation can satisfy its economic, demographic, and cultural needs and achieve an appropriate foundation for its security. In the interest of the security of Poland, as well as in the interest of the peace of the world, the Germans must be deprived of those territories which they have used as a base for their aggression. The Poland which will arise in the proposed territory will be a country without national minorities; it will be a state of [Page 1521] one nationality, which means that it will acquire a most healthy and peaceful basis for its development.

I consider our proposed boundaries to be modest and moderate in view of the fact that the territory of the new Poland will be smaller by 80,000 square kilometers, and I also believe that in this smaller territory the population will have all the conditions necessary for prosperous development because its social structure will change. The industry of Silesia, which under German rule worked on the production of weapons to conquer the world, under the government of the Polish state will work to satisfy the peaceful needs of a society which has heretofore been at a very low level of social development. Our right to Silesia is based on the fact that that part of the territory is inhabited by a Polish population. It suffices to remove the cloak of oppression to become convinced that the population there belongs to the Polish motherland.

The boundary running along the Oder–Neisse Line is not an accidental boundary which we have drawn arbitrarily. It is an ancient boundary of a state which was the cradle of the Polish nation. In addition, the boundary along the Oder–Neisse Line is the shortest boundary possible between Poland and Germany. It is clear that the shortest boundary is at the same time the most secure one, the most favorable boundary from the standpoint of defense in case of renewed German aggression. The other borders of Poland consist of a seashore, which is a boundary of maximum security, and then of another boundary which is a frontier of peace and friendship with the Soviet Union, and also with Czechoslovakia. Therefore the only boundary which may create doubts as far as security is concerned is the Polish-German border. A boundary which is reduced to the shortest distance is the best guarantee for security against a new war. A long seashore and an industrial base in Silesia will provide the Polish state with a powerful lever for social and economic reconstruction. Before the war Poland was the only country in Europe which had such an unfavorably preponderant majority of rural population over urban population. The rural overpopulation, coupled with little urban development, was one of the basic reasons for the collapse of Poland. The approximately 4 million farm workers residing in rural areas represented a reservoir of unemployment in Poland. Cities could not absorb these farm workers. Therefore we consider the inclusion of Silesia up to the banks of the Neisse to be an economic necessity for Poland, because in that way we shall create an opportunity for the rural population to move into cities. The inclusion of Silesia is most closely connected with our postulate to acquire Stettin, because Stettin serves Silesian industry. Since Stettin serves Silesian industry, it should by the same token be in Polish hands.

[Page 1522]

Deputy Prime Minister Mikołajczyk: My views are the same as those of the previous speakers. In a few words I would like to raise two questions. We know that it is in the interest of all of us to prevent the Germans from causing another war. I see two sources of aggressive German imperialism: armaments, and profits which they derived from the fact that they were intermediaries between several nations. (1) One of the German military bases was precisely the territory which we are claiming for Poland. One of the basic raw materials was zinc. Out of the total production of 160,000 tons of zinc in Germany, 107,000 tons was produced in Silesia. I believe that it would be a good thing if those sources were not in German hands. There is also the question of coal. After the last World War, the Germans increased their exports of coal from 22% to 27% of the entire world export. The German exports increased by 5.1%, while the entire Polish exports amounted to only 6%. The transfer of this core of industry represents a source of world security. (2) Profits derived from acting as an intermediary: It must be taken into consideration that the value of German foreign trade in 1937 amounted to 926 million pounds sterling. If we take those figures, we see that the shipping of goods from Bohemia amounted to 2,300,000 tons; from Hungary, 400,000 tons; from Rumania, 500,000 tons; and from Yugoslavia, 200,000 tons—not to speak of the fact that Poland was also forced to ship its own products through Germany. Well, the shortest route for exports from those countries goes through Stettin. The Germans directed their exports through Hamburg. The exports from Poland would go through Stettin and would be under the control of a nation belonging to the United Nations.

Now about the reasons why the Oder and its basin ought to be in Polish hands.

Poland must also export on a large scale in order to compensate speedily for those losses which it suffered during the war and to provide employment for its population. One river system—the Vistula—is not sufficient. It would not be right if it could not be arranged for the Oder to be entirely in Polish hands. I recall the case of Danzig and how the blocking of the Vistula affected the Polish economy. Therefore I take the view that Stettin, not controlled by the Germans, ought to be completely under Polish control and in Polish hands. If we look at the problem more closely, we see that the Oder would not be such an easily navigable river if it were not for the supply of water which is concentrated below the Oder. In view of the fact that the supply of water is found between the Oder and the Lausitzer Neisse, if the Oder’s tributaries were controlled by someone else the river would be blocked. For that reason both problems are closely [Page 1523] connected with each other. In summing up, we come to the conclusion that: (1) the sources of raw material for armaments should be taken away from the Germans; (2) the Germans should be deprived of the controlling position and the profits resulting from their acting as an intermediary. By transferring these affairs to Polish hands, we perform not only an act of security and justice with regard to Poland and an act of security with regard to all nations, but we also create a new economic system which will make Poland a great transit area both for the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, as well as for all those countries which benefited from it before the war.

One more consideration with regard to the territorial basis of Poland: I should like to bring to your attention the fact that in spite of all, Germany, which lost the war, is losing less than Poland, because on a percentage basis Poland will be 20% smaller, while Germany will be only 18% smaller.

As to the exchange of populations, I should like to say that it was the Germans who began to expel the population in adjacent areas and turn them into slaves, while we intend to gather Poles who have resided in German territory.

I believe that the whole world will agree to such a settlement. Therefore in closing I should like to ask for a speedy and full decision, because it is necessary for us to repatriate our population both from the Soviet Union and from other territories of Europe to which the war has forced them to move. A rapid reconstruction of our state depends on that.

Secretary of State Byrnes: According to the decisions of the Crimean Conference, we were to consult the Polish Provisional Government with regard to the problem of the western boundary of Poland. However, the peace conference should decide on the size of the territory which will go to Poland. After it has expressed its views, the Polish Government will have to wait for the final delimitation of the western boundary. The Foreign Ministers were very pleased to hear the opinion of the Polish Government on the subject, and your arguments will be submitted to the Tripartite Conference9 for consideration.

(A brief discussion follows concerning the possibility of having a fourth delegate of the Polish Government make a statement. President Bierut mentions Professor Grabski, and Minister Molotov supports the desire of the Polish Delegation. Secretary Byrnes makes a reservation, saying that according to his understanding only three delegates were supposed to speak, and he adds:) If President Bierut desires to submit additional arguments to support his views, [Page 1524] then please formulate them in writing and I assure you that your arguments will be considered most carefully.

Minister Molotov: The position of the Soviet Union in this matter is a special one. The Crimean Conference examined the problems of both the Polish eastern boundary and the western boundary. As far as the eastern boundary is concerned, the problem refers to Soviet-Polish relations and it has been settled. As far as the Polish western boundary is concerned, we have heard here the arguments of the Polish Government and we want to give the Polish delegates an opportunity to present fully their arguments.

Secretary Byrnes: I have no objection to our meeting again, so that you can have the opportunity to discuss the problem again.

Minister Molotov: I believe that the problem of the Polish boundaries is one of historical importance. It has enormous historical significance not only for Poland and its neighbors but also for all Europe. The settlement of the Polish eastern boundary at the Crimean Conference was the result of an agreement between Poland and the Soviet Union as neighbors. Poland transferred to us the western part of the Ukraine and White Russia. For that reason we feel that we have special obligations toward Poland with regard to its western boundary. I do not say here anything that is new either to the representatives of England, the United States, or Poland. I feel obligated to support the Polish demands, because I believe that it is a question of justice. The Soviet Union considers the efforts of Poland to transfer its boundary to the Oder, including Stettin, and to the Neisse to be justified and timely. On the basis of justice Germany should lose the territory in favor of Poland. I consider such a solution to be in the interest of Europe and of the whole world. In international relations it means checking German aggression. It also means a revival of the Polish nation. A revived Poland will be again a pillar of peace in Europe. Germany will be weakened and Poland will become stronger not only in the present but also in the future. All Poles will be grouped together in one state. The Poland—a truly democratic Poland—which will be revived within these boundaries will be a homogeneous state from the economic and social point of view. Therefore the Soviet Delegation hopes that the Polish plan will meet with understanding.

(Minister Molotov stresses again the fact that the position of the Soviet Union is a special one, because it is Poland’s neighbor, and because in addition it has special obligations with regard to Poland.)

Secretary Byrnes: The United States is not Poland’s neighbor, to be sure, but the United States of America has always been Poland’s great friend.

Secretary Eden: And England entered this war to defend Poland.

  1. Cf. ante, pp. 332336.
  2. See document No. 1147.
  3. See document No. 1417, section vi.
  4. See vol. i, document No. 493.
  5. See vol. i, document No. 517 See also the map facing p. 1152 in this volume.
  6. For the origin and a description of the Curzon Line, see Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 793794. See also the map facing p. 748 in vol. i.
  7. i. e., the Foreign Ministers.
  8. i. e., the Heads of Government.