860C.24/10–445: Telegram

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

347. Mytel 342, Oct 3, noon.10 I had further, conversation with President Bierut, Oct. 3. After informing him of conversation Oct 2 with Mine and Bola-Zymierski I told him that developments in Poland today give me increasing concern. I said that there are three factors in situation which are disturbing: [Page 384]

Lack of reasonable rate of exchange. I said that this question although of great importance from practical point of view was in my opinion not so vital as second and third points. Although Foreign Office had over a month ago offered us rate of 150 zlotys to dollar now only 100 was offered. Foreign Office now suggesting establishment of Govt store at which diplomats can make purchases at reduced prices and arranging for more normal prices in Hotel Polonia where all foreigners would have to live and board under this plan. I said that this was merely following Soviet plan to restrict activities of foreigners and to make difficulties for American businessmen and correspondents coming to Poland. I said that unless suitable rate is fixed I would probably lose large number of my staff. I recalled that President had at last week’s interview11 emphasized that Poland did not wish to adopt Soviet economic system but from our recent observations it appears that she is doing so specifically through clearing agreements and suppression of private foreign trade.
Lack of freedom of press. I regarded this situation as even more serious than foregoing. Furthermore, it is contrary to Potsdam Agreement. I related to Pres conversation with Modzelewski described in mytel 104 [304], Sept 26, noon. I observed that tactics of Foreign Office were not only obstructive but would if successful create a serious antagonism in US towards present Polish Govt. I said that I felt it far better for correspondents to tell the truth even though unpleasant rather than to have whispered and distorted versions of happenings here reported by word of mouth. I said that I could not imagine anything more unpropitious at the very moment when Poland desires to obtain a large credit from the US for activities of American correspondents to be impeded. I said that I had insisted that no censorship be imposed on American correspondents and that I assume they would be able to continue reporting without any impediment whatever.
Arrests by security police. I said that I had spoken to President last week regarding the situation approaching terror existing in Poland. Since that time 10 persons presumably American citizens had been reported to Embassy arrested for political reasons. I gave to President a list of persons arrested which I will report in separate telegram.12 I said that besides my official interest in fate of these American citizens I am seriously concerned with fate of many thousands of Poles who had been arrested for political offenses without trial and held incommunicado (news of these arrests will undoubtedly make most unfortunate impression on American people and I reminded him that opposition had been expressed in US to proposed grant of one billion dollar credit to Soviet Govt13 and one reason in my opinion [Page 385] was reports of lack of freedom of speech and of political arrests in Soviet Union. I said I hoped that he would understand what I meant. He said he understood perfectly.

In reply to three points which I raised President admitted that we have legitimate complaint regarding no existence of reasonable rate of exchange and he authorized me to take up this phase of the problem with Mine which I shall do. He said he appreciated that nonexistence of rate of exchange could have very serious effect on negotiations for credit.

As to situation of correspondents he confirmed former assurances that they are free to report what they wish but he hoped that reporting would not be slanted in such a way as to discredit present Govt in the eyes of the US. He requested my cooperation in impressing on correspondents necessity of reporting objectively. I said that I felt sure that correspondents appreciated this. On the other hand I suggested that President receive American correspondents in a group to explain to them his point of view. I felt sure they would report his statements correctly. He said he would be glad to receive them. I said that what disturbed me was evident policy on part of Foreign Office to prevent news about Poland from reaching outside world.

As to arrests President promised to investigate immediately 10 cases cited of alleged American citizens. He also promised to investigate detention incommunicado of Thaddeus Halpert Folier private secretary to Paderewski14 who had been tentatively employed by WSA.15 He said that if the cases cited by me involved American citizens arrested for political reasons they will be released at once. He admitted that great difficulty is being experienced in Poland regarding administration. He said that I was correct in describing situation as one approaching terror by [but] that Govt will not persecute anyone for political opinions.

I said that I realized both from statements made by President to me last week and also from reports and observations that Govt itself is not responsible for all of arrests which in many cases such as that of Halpert were probably instigated by non-Polish authorities. This situation, however, cannot give sense of security within the country or satisfaction in the US which desires a free and independent Poland.

President then referred to great benefits which would accrue to US through granting of credit. He said that favorable action would result in creating universal gratitude in Poland towards US and would help to put Polish industry on its feet. He said that refusal to grant [Page 386] credit would not be understood in view of repeated assurances of American friendship. I said that in my opinion three conditions which I had outlined would probably greatly influence our Govt in extending credit.

At the close of our interview I said specifically that I could not recommend the granting of any credit which would be used for the benefit of the security police if that body is responsible for the many arrests of private citizens for political reasons. I said that the granting of such a credit by the US Govt for the benefit of the political police would be interpreted in Poland as acquiescence on our part of activities which are repulsive to the American people. The President endeavored to excuse activities on ground that Poland is in state of transition after 6 years of foreign occupation and that they will not be continued permanently. He asked me if I considered detention of 1000 Poles for political reasons to be unwarranted. I replied in affirmative.

It was obvious from my talk which was cordial throughout that in addition to practical benefit this Govt is most desirous of obtaining a large credit to indicate to the Polish people its friendship with the US Govt and thereby to solidify its position politically within the country.

I shall telegraph my views regarding the credit after further talk with Mine.

  1. Not printed; it reported on a conversation with Minister of Industry Mine and Marshal Rola-Zymierski; Mine said he would make a formal request to the United States for a 500 million dollar economic credit; Marshal Rola-Zymierski emphasized the need for clothing for the Polish Army of 350,000, including militia (860C.24/10–345).
  2. See telegram 296, September 25, noon, from Warsaw, p. 376.
  3. Telegram No. 353, October 6, 10 a.m., from Warsaw, not printed. It reported the names of 10 American citizens who had been arrested in Poland for political offenses; it further reported that President Bierut had said he would investigate these cases at once, and if the persons mentioned were American citizens and had been arrested for political crimes, they would be released immediately. (3600.1121/10–645)
  4. For documentation regarding the conclusion of wartime assistance from the United States to the Soviet Union and consideration of a supplementary agreement for extension of aid for postwar reconstruction and credits, see pp. 937 ff.
  5. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, renowned concert pianist, a leader of the Polish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and briefly Premier of Poland during the same year. Paderewski died in the United States in 1941.
  6. Presumably, War Shipping Administration.