Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles E. Bohlen, Assistant to the Secretary of State 18

Present— The Secretary Ambassador Harriman
Mr. Eden Ambassador Gromyko
Mr. Molotov Mr. Dunn
Lord Cranborne19 Mr. Pavlov
Sir Alexander Cadogan Mr. Birse20
Sir Archibald Clark Kerr Mr. Bohlen

The Secretary said that he had asked Mr. Molotov to meet with him and Mr. Eden to discuss the Polish question. He said that at their last meeting Mr. Molotov had intended to consult his Government in regard to certain suggestions which had been put forth. Last night, however, just before his dinner, Mr. Moltov had told him that he understood, as did Sir Archibald Clark Kerr that the Polish leaders concerning whom an inquiry had been made for some time by the British and American Governments, had been arrested on charges of [Page 282] diversionist acts against the Red Army. He had conveyed this information to President Truman who had been seriously disturbed at the implication of this action of the Soviet Government and had also talRed the matter over with Mr. Eden. He had felt it was necessary, under the circumstances, to have a frank discussion.

Mr. Eden said that Mr. Molotov would recall that when he saw him yesterday afternoon at the Soviet Consulate, he had asked about this group of Poles and Mr. Molotov had no information to give him. However, later in the evening, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr had told him of Mr. Molotov’s news. He said he must tell his two friends that he was very gravely perturbed at Mr. Molotov’s announcement. He said he wished to emphasize that they knew nothing about General Okulicki and had not made inquiries about him. However, if the sixteen included those about which inquiry had been made to the British Government, he must say that he was astounded and shocRed since the British Government knew them to be patriots and democrats who had outstanding records of resistance to the Germans and who, furthermore, stood for friendly relations with Russia. It was for this reason that we considered some of those leaders suitable for inclusion in the list for consultation with the Moscow Commission. He said the British Government must ask Mr. Molotov for the fullest information concerning these men, the circumstances of their arrest, et cetera.

Mr. Molotov replied that he had not had the information yesterday afternoon when Mr. Eden called and that he had only received the telegram containing the news before dinner and had immediately told Mr. Stettinius and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr. He said that the telegram did not contain names or details but since it was in answer to his message regarding the fifteen Poles who were said to have disappeared, he inferred that it referred to them. He said the telegram stated sixteen had been arrested by the Soviet military authorities and would stand trial for diversionist acts committed against the Red Army which had lead to the death of more than one hundred officers and men. He said that many English newspapers had published very one-sided information concerning this matter and had not mentioned General Okulicki. He said this man was the principal figure in the group and was well known to the Soviet authorities as an open enemy of the Soviet Union. He had been Chief of Staff to General Anders. Mr. Molotov added that in addition to the activities which had caused the death of one hundred officers and soldiers under the direction of General Okulicki they had operated an illegal radio station on Polish territory. Under these conditions, it was not to be expected that the Soviet authorities would remain indifferent or inactive; that in any event, the facts would come out in the trial. Mr. Molotov concluded [Page 283] by saying that he could understand that the President should be upset at this development but he repeated his statement that the Soviet authorities had no other course.

Mr. Eden repeated that he wished again to state that he knew nothing of General Okulicki and for all he knew he might be guilty but as to the others it was a different matter. He said that he knew the arrest of these democratic leaders would create a most disturbing impression in England and he believed also in the U. S. This action on the part of the Soviet Government would certainly not help a solution of the Polish matter. He must ask for the fullest information from Mr. Molotov and until he had consulted his Government, he could not continue conversations here in regard to Poland.

Mr. Molotov suggested that the British Government should inform themselves in regard to the activities of General Okulicki.

Mr. Eden repeated that they had no reports concerning his activities and that their interests centered in the others who were regarded as patriotic and democratic Polish leaders, friendly to Russia. He said that the British had been very anxious to work with the Soviet Union and had done everything possible to that end, but frankly, it was difficult to believe, with the exception of General Okulicki, that these democratic leaders had been guilty of the charges.

Mr. Molotov said that General Okulicki was well known as an enemy to the Soviet Government. In regard to the others, it was possible that not all would be equally guilty. In any event, this would emerge in the proper time at the trial. He added that some of the men arrested might be on the British list for consultation but the majority were not.

Mr. Eden said he had one other question; namely, was there any truth in the report that these Poles had been approached by General Ivanov with a view to discussing a basis for broadening the present provisional Government? He said that reports indicated that this contact had been made at the end of March.

Mr. Molotov repeated that General Ivanov had no authority or right to carry on political [discussions?].

Mr. Eden said he merely wished to know whether the fourteen Poles about whom inquiry had been made had gone with General Ivanov.

Mr. Molotov said he did not know the details but repeated that General Ivanov had no political mission. He then repeated what he had said before about General Okulicki and the holding of the trial at which proof of the charges would be examined.

The Secretary said that he could only associate himself with what Mr. Eden had said and add that this development would have a most unfortunate effect on American public opinion.

[Page 284]

Mr. Molotov said he regretted that but he again wished to state that there had been one-sided reports in the British press since no mention had been made of General Okulicki who was the leading figure and a well known enemy of the Soviet Union. He said the other men arrested had been connected with General Okulicki. He repeated that the Soviet authorities could not remain indifferent with over 100 officers and men murdered as a result of the activities of these Poles as Russia had had many casualties in this war and the life of every soldier was dear to her.

The Secretary said that he must repeat that this would have a disturbing effect on American opinion in the U. S. and neither the Government nor the people of this country would understand why, at this time, the Soviet authorities should prosecute democratic Polish leaders.

Mr. Molotov said he was sure that Marshal Stalin would inform President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill directly about this matter.

In conclusion, both The Secretary and Mr. Eden said that until they had an opportunity to consult with their Governments and to receive a full explanation from the Soviet Government, the conversations on Poland would have to be suspended.

Mr. Eden added that it would be difficult to explain why it had taken the Soviet Union so long to reply to the inquiry from the British Government which had first been made over four weeks ago.

  1. Meeting held May 4, 1945, 10 p.m., at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, California.
  2. Viscount Cranborne, British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and Delegate to the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco.
  3. Major Birse, interpreter for the United Kingdom delegation to the San Francisco Conference.