Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs (Durbrow)
Last evening I spent over two hours alone with Mr. Mikolajczyk and discussed with him at length various phases of the Polish situation and developments in that country. He was most frank during the entire discussion and because of this, he asked me to take more than usual precautions to see that his remarks received only very limited distribution.
Mr. Mikolajczyk stated that he wished to start from the beginning and discuss political developments from the time the Polish Government of National Unity was set up. He stated that at Moscow, until almost the last minute when agreement was reached, the Lublin Poles did not wish to set up a Government of National Unity and it was only because of the insistence of the Americans and British that Stalin finally turned the tide by giving his approval to the plan that was finally worked out. It was obvious that the Lublin Poles felt that if other political leaders were included in the government they (the Lublin Poles) would in all probability lose what little hold they had on the people. He added that his suspicions in this regard were more than confirmed after he got to Warsaw, when the Lublin Poles tried in every way to freeze him out of the picture by trying to force him to join the Rump Peasant Party which had been established under Lublin with stooges.67 He not only resisted this but was successful in forcing the Lublin group to permit him to set up a completely independent party.
In regard to political parties, he stated that a good part of the Rump Peasant Party has now joined his Peasant Party and that he [Page 405] has actually been embarrassed by the large number of workers’ groups which have themselves set up Peasant Party groups in their factories. He explained that he did not wish to encourage this development since he wished to keep his party as the agrarian movement and not have it become the catch-all for all the groups who were against the communists. He therefore is making every effort to encourage the development of the Christian Labor Party led by Mr. Popiel, which has not as yet been recognized by the government as an independent party, and the Socialist Party as the two parties which should represent the urban classes. He asserted that it was his belief that the government would eventually have to recognize the Christian Labor Party and he said a most interesting development is taking place in the Socialist Party. This party which in its Lublin version was hardly distinguishable from the Communist Party is now, because of pressure from the rank and file, assuming more and more the same position it had before the war. He added that the Socialist Party was split into two distinct groups, with a small minority endeavoring to hold the original Lublin line, and the other group forced by strong pressure from the rank and file, taking on the same character as it had in the 1930’s. He pointed out that even Osubka-Morawski, who in the beginning played the Lublin game to the hilt, is now acting as a loyal Polish Socialist.
Because of these developments Mr. Mikolajczyk believes that if elections were to take place now the Communist Party would receive not more than two percent, while if the elections had taken place four months ago they might have received a maximum of 20 percent. He stated that the principal reason for this was the extremely unethical conduct of the Red Army in Poland. He pointed out that the Polish people had suffered great hardships and indignities at the hands of the Germans for six years, which made them appreciate more than ever what it was to be free and independent, and that when the Red Army liberated them they would immediately regain their freedom and independence. On the contrary, instead of receiving aid and assistance from the Red Army and regaining their independence, they learned that their “friendly liberators” treated them in many ways even worse than the Germans had. This development has had such a profound effect on the entire population that Mr. Mikolajczyk is certain that unless the Soviet authorities decide to increase greatly the Red Army forces in Poland and carries on a reign of terror and suppression, there is no possibility of Poland’s going communist.
It is for this reason that he is convinced that the United States and British Governments should immediately use their full influence to see that the Red Army leaves Poland. He stated in this connection that he had been told by the President and Mr. Attlee at Potsdam [Page 406] that Stalin had promised categorically that the Red Army would leave before the end of the year and he therefore felt that we should remind the Soviet Government of this promise and use all appropriate pressure to bring this about. He stated that in actual fact a large part of the Red Army had left the country and that at present there are less than 300,000 men stationed in Poland. Despite the fact that the number of Red Army troops is not large he nevertheless felt that it would be difficult to have free elections as long as the Red Army remained in the country.
On the basis of the arrangement made by Mr. Mikolajczyk shortly before his departure from Warsaw, the amount of land held by the Red Army for purposes of cultivation had been reduced to approximately 12,000 hectares and he therefore felt that except for the food that is raised on this land, Poland would no longer be drained of its food resources to feed the Red Army. He added, however, that the Red Army is still slaughtering some cattle for feeding its forces.
In connection with the general political situation he said that he was in personal secret contact with agrarian leaders in other Balkan countries and was gratified to learn that the situation developing in Poland is similar to that in the other areas, namely, that the non-totalitarian left is gaining in prestige. He stated that it was his belief that the Lublin Poles are very much worried about the developments unfavorable to the communist policies and that for this reason they desire to postpone the elections until next June or July in the hope that unforeseen developments will take place, such as a possible break-up in Big Three collaboration, which would permit the Polish Communists to regain lost ground and actually make a much better showing in the elections than they could at present. In this regard he stated that the Lublin Poles at first were very much elated with the results of the British and French elections since they believed that these two countries would look with more sympathy on the communist elements in Poland than the previous governments had. They now realize that this was wishful thinking and that the elections had actually encouraged the non-communist democratic elements.
I asked Mr. Mikolajczyk when he thought it would be appropriate to hold elections in Poland. He replied that since it had been informally suggested at Potsdam that the elections take place in the early part of next year, he believed that it would be advisable to hold the elections in February–March of 1946. He explained that he felt that to delay the elections any longer would give the Lublin group more time in which to force upon the country basic decrees which would tend to crystallize policies which in fact were detrimental to the best long-range interests of the Polish people. He therefore, ex pressed [Page 407] the hope that the United States and British Governments would press now for the withdrawal of the Red Army and as soon as this had been accomplished, press for the holding of elections early next year.
In this connection Mr. Mikolajczyk stated that he hoped that arrangements could be made to induce the Polish army in the west to return to Poland as units rather than as individual displaced persons. His feeling in this regard is based upon the theory that if the troops come back as units, many of the units can be incorporated immediately into the Polish Army and thus act as a democratic corps in the army which is at present composed of a large number of men who have received full Soviet indoctrination.
He also expressed the hope that a large proportion of the displaced persons could be induced to return to Poland and he stated that he felt that by next spring a large proportion of them would be willing to return. He felt, in regard to the army in the west as well as the displaced Poles, that their presence is needed by the democratic forces in the country. He asserted, however, that despite the many statements made by the Government that the return of the Poles in the west was desired, this was not their desire since the Lublin group feared that their prestige would be lowered by the return of these persons. He stated that since he had induced the underground army to come out of hiding and assume their normal life as artisans, policemen, government officials, et cetera, the strength of the democratic groups had been greatly increased. He also favored this move since it automatically withdrew one of the principal propaganda weapons from the Lublin group who, while the home army was in hiding, had made use of that fact to claim that the reactionary elements in London were still in control of a large part of the population and were endeavoring to overthrow the new government.
Mr. Mikolajczyk again expressed his appreciation for the arrangements that were made at Potsdam to turn over to the Polish administration the eastern territories of Germany. He explained that if it had not been possible to arrange this, the millions of Poles coming from east of the Curzon line could not have been resettled since central Poland is too overpopulated to have permitted adequate resettlement. He stated that so far, about 1,500,000 Poles from east of the Curzon line have been resettled in what is now western Poland. He added that depending upon the way in which the option provisions of the Soviet-Polish repatriation treaty are applied, there would be between a million and two million additional Poles who would be eligible to return to Poland from the areas east of the Curzon line. He pointed out that while the new Polish areas had been stripped to a considerable [Page 408] extent of removable goods, the houses were intact, and except in the Silesian area, no Germans remained since they had fled with the advance of the Red Army. On the other hand, the fields in the new areas have not been cultivated and consequently were badly overgrown with weeds and a great deal of work had to be done to put the fields in shape for planting. It was for this reason that he hoped that through UNRRA and through credits arrangements could be made as soon as possible to obtain a large number of draft animals and tractors.
He said that during his trips throughout the country he had been very deeply impressed with the high morale of the people in general, despite the sufferings they have undergone since 1939. They all are willing to work. I asked Mr. Mikolajczyk whether, in the event that a truly representative government should be set up in the near future, it might not be blamed for the continued privations and hardships which are bound to come and thus be discredited and throw the population into the arms of the communist groups. He replied most emphatically that this would not be the case. He explained that he had had overwhelming evidence from all areas of the country that the people realize the difficulties under which he and the democratic leaders are working and the enormous problems ahead for the entire nation, which cannot be solved in short order. He stated that the people had given concrete assurances that they are willing to make further sacrifices for a year or more provided, in the end, they could really attain their freedom and Polish sovereignty. It is for this reason that Mr. Mikolajczyk pleaded most earnestly for credits to permit the people to work effectively and start on the road back to prosperity.
Having just talked to two Polish rabbis about the plight of Polish Jews, I asked Mr. Mikolajczyk about this situation and, in particular, about the alleged pogroms. He stated categorically that the allegations that there had been pogroms were not true. To prove his point he stated that he was in Radom and in Cracow when two of the alleged pogroms were supposed to have taken place. Instead of pogroms he explained that what had actually taken place were anti-Lublin group riots. He explained that in both cities Jews who are confessed communists and members of the Lublin group had endeavored to hold communist propaganda rallies and that the people became so incensed at the statements made by these leaders that rioting took place and these Jewish communist leaders were attacked. He stated that since there is a considerable Jewish element in the Lublin group, a certain amount of resentment has grown against these particular Jews. On the other hand, he stated that Dr. Sommerstein,68 the famous Polish Zionist [Page 409] leader, had told him that it was regrettable for the large majority of the Jews that there were so many prominent Jewish leaders in the Lublin group, which gave the impression that the Jews in general were favorable to Moscow. Mr. Mikolajczyk stated that he had suggested to Dr. Sommerstein that it might be worth while, in order to overcome this situation, to pass special decrees favorable to the Jews and assuring them equality. Dr. Sommerstein was not in favor of this move since he stated he was not in favor of encouraging Jews to remain in Poland. He desired to have them obtain permission to emigrate to Palestine. Dr. Sommerstein explained that he favored the emigration of Jews from the country since there were so few of them left, and those that were left had in most instances lost all the members of their families and therefore, psychologically, they could not return to their homes and take up life anew because of the haunting memories of the atrocities committed against members of their families.
[For the Polish record of an audience given Deputy Prime Minister Mikolajczyk by President Truman on November 9, see aide-mémoire from the Polish Embassy, December 5, printed on page 428.]