860C.00/9–2545: Telegram

The Ambassador in Poland (Lane) to the Secretary of State

296. Mytel 291 of Sept. 24, 7 p.m.93 In talk with Bierut Sept. 24 I stressed my apprehension regarding economic situation in Poland referring to lack of rate of exchange, uncertainty as to Govt policy in nation[al]izing property and seeming impossibility under present conditions for private trade to function. Bierut admitted disorganization and lack of experience of Govt in economics and said that matter of general rate of exchange would have to be postponed pending commencement of exports from Poland. As to remittances from US, books would be opened here for recipients for amount of remittance thus enabling them to purchase merchandise locally at Govt stores at favorable prices. Dollar value of purchases would be debited against amount of remittance until latter was liquidated. Bierut admitted that this would virtually be the establishment of a rate of exchange even though the actual rate would not be specifically stated. He said Govt does not wish to admit existence of black market rate and added, in reply to my observation, that the zloty is tied to the ruble, that Govt’s economic policy is guided, and, although he did not say so, it was obvious he meant from the east. I said, however, that it is [Page 377] essential for Americans visiting Poland, such as businessmen and correspondents, to have means of obtaining local currency. Bierut said that a quota of foreign exchange might be established for Embassy which we could allot to visiting Americans. I indicated that this would probably not be feasible and told him that because of our inability to obtain a rate of exchange to cover Embassy expenses we are now going to make arrangements on the open market. He made no objections to this proposal but promised to call Minister Finance who would call me yesterday. (I have, however, not yet heard from him.)

As to nationalization policy he said that all foreign owned property which is still being used for same purpose as before war will be restored to owners intact. On other hand property which had been converted to other uses and had been improved could not justifiably be returned. I said that this would work hardship on owners who were not responsible for action of Germans in making alterations to property and that if property were expropriated by Government adequate compensation should be made. Bierut said that Government’s difficulty is that whole country was disorganized on departure of enemy and that Government’s only possible policy was to take over all property whether state or private owned. Private property is being restored to owners on receipt of proof of ownership except in case of industrial property if it had been improved during absence of owners.

I stressed unfortunate effect on relations between the two countries if economic uncertainty bordering on chaos allowed to continue. He admitted this and asked me to assure my Government that Government’s economic policy will, when formed, be more similar to that of US than to Soviet Union.

He said that agrarian reform has important sociological aim, the elimination of the aristocratic land owning class as a political factor in national life. The roots which this class grew between 1926 and 1939 will be difficult to extirpate.

I said that without desiring to interfere in internal political affairs I wished to make some observations relating thereto. I referred to Yalta decision providing that American Ambassador should report on conditions and said that I could not faithfully do so unless I had full discussions with him from time to time. He indicated acquiescence.94 I first thanked him for action in permitting American correspondents to come to Poland. He replied thanks were appreciated but unnecessary as Polish Government was only fulfilling promises [Page 378] made at Moscow and Potsdam. I then said that I am not convinced of freedom of press in Poland, that newspapers all take same editorial line, that some parties apparently unable to reach the public through the press. Furthermore, I am concerned over the arrests of persons for purely political reasons. I felt that if this condition were known in the US most unfortunate effect would be created towards Polish Government. I said that I had reported to the Secretary of State in London my concern over political conditions in Poland which did not seem to ensure the right of parties opposed to Government to have equal rights in the elections. I likewise said to Bierut that continuance of Red Army in Poland and incorporation of Russians into Polish Army were unhealthy conditions.

Bierut admitted that press is not entirely free although he said that out of 110 newspapers in Poland 20% are Catholic-controlled and therefore in opposition to Government. He said that there is no joint editorial policy of Government papers but that Government could not tolerate attacks made on it by “Fascist” elements which attempted to destroy present Government. I replied that use of term “Fascist” was very elastic and that some have defined “Fascist” as a person who is not in 100% agreement. I said I feared that this interpretation was being used by Polish Government. He denied this but said that there are members of Sanacja96 who are fighting Government with arms and are in clandestine radio communication with London. He defines these persons as Fascists. He asked me to bring to his attention any concrete cases of persons imprisoned because their political thoughts are contrary to Government. He said he would take immediate action to remedy any such cases. He admitted that “Fascists” are imprisoned and would continue to be as he did not propose his Government to allow itself to be destroyed by its enemies. This admission indicates to me what the real policy of the Government is regarding freedom of speech and free elections.

He said Polish Government had protested against leniency on part of Soviet authorities towards Soviet officers and men who had committed acts of violence. Polish Government had asked Soviet Government to supply officers to train Polish Army just as French had been so requested in 1918.97 About 10% of officers in Polish Army are Russian but will be reduced as quickly as possible.

Bierut said that Poland must depend on its friendship with Soviet Union. At times this friendship is under strain due to pressure put [Page 379] upon Poland. If, however, this pressure were resisted forcibly it would mean war and the extermination of Poland. He said that friendship with Russia should not exclude friendship with the US. In fact majority of Polish people desire to mold Poland on US pattern both economically and politically. I assured him that our Government also desired Poland and Russia to be on friendly terms as had been stated at Yalta and Moscow Conferences.

He complained bitterly to me as he had to Eisenhower98 regarding British attitude towards Polish Army abroad. He said that British Government is putting obstacles in way of Poles’ return and allowing Polish officers to terrorize men who expressed desire to return. I said that I could not speak for British Government but I had obtained impression in London from British officials that British Government desired to liquidate all military forces under British control at earliest moment, possibly not only because of tremendous expense involved but because of constant headaches of administration. I said that I was convinced of good faith of British Government in this regard. Bierut did not comment but said that US Government had acted with entire correctness regarding Polish troops and DPs99 under US control.

Interview was cordial and frank but I stressed my view that continuance of chaotic economic condition as well as lack of personal liberty and danger to private individuals might eventually create serious situation in US towards Poland. I referred to refusal of many Poles to settle Pomerania and East Prussia because of Soviet troops there and to nightly shooting in Warsaw streets even in front of our hotel. He said Government appreciates lack of safety and is issuing regulations shortly providing for drastic punishment of offenders. In reply to his query whether I consider that terror reigns in Poland I said “not exactly terror but fear and great uncertainty as to economic future”.

He ended interview by asking me to regard it as informal and expressed hope of further talks in near future.

Sent to Department as 296 repeated to London for Secretary as 41 and to Moscow as 57.

  1. Not printed; it reported that the Ambassador in Poland had had a 2-hour talk with President Bierut (860C.00/9–2445).
  2. In this telegram No. 561, November 15, noon, the Ambassador in Poland reported that during a conversation on November 14, President Bierut spontaneously stated that his Government accepted the principles and provisions of the Yalta decision respecting Poland and would fulfill them (860C.01/11–1545).
  3. The “Sanitation Party”, the popular name for the “Non-Party Bloc of Cooperation with the Government” which supported the regime of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski and its successors in Poland between World Wars I and II.
  4. Regarding the organization of the Polish Army in France during World War I, see Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i. pp. 878881.
  5. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commanding General, United States Forces in the European Theater, and Commander in Chief, U.S. Forces of Occupation in Germany. For a description of General Eisenhower’s visit to Warsaw on September 21, see Lane, I Saw Poland Betrayed, pp. 176–178.
  6. Displaced persons.