711.60C/6–1947: Telegram

The Chargé in Poland (Keith) to the Secretary of State


971. I called on Foreign Minister 17th and expressed views contained Deptel 450, June 9.1 I showed him Szpilki cartoon and he immediately said “bad taste” (mauvais goût). I referred to many articles appearing in press which attacked US and which we considered unfounded. He inquired if I saw what appeared in American press which presented Poland in unfavorable light. I told him that ours was a free press and people could write as they chose so articles were naturally both favorable and unfavorable. He tried to minimize influence which government had on Polish press but he said that he believed in reciprocity [Page 431] and that he would be glad to speak to those persons concerned with Polish press and would tell them not to attack US, if our Government would do likewise with American press. I said it would appear from his offer that he could control Polish press but that it was not possible for our Government to control American press. He replied that we had other means of control and mentioned that Johannes Steel had been prevented from broadcasting. He went on to say that politics controlled press and with this I disagreed as far as US was concerned.

When I told him I could not recall in my time here having seen any article in Polish press which had seemed to show enthusiasm for US he said that I could be sure that there would be if Secretary Marshall were to say that frontier problem had been settled on basis decided at Potsdam. This led him into a further remark that at Potsdam President Truman had made a statement which he interpreted as meaning present frontier would be confirmed at peace conference, adding that present frontier was one subject on which all Poles were united. Suggestion of Secretary for an arrangement for international control of the boundary was, he said, against Poland’s rights.

He then cited recent comments in our press about what had happened in Hungary. I asked him if he did not think they were justified. He smiled and evaded an answer. He referred subsequently however to manner in which we were endeavoring to intervene in Hungary, recalling in this connection our attempts to do so in Poland some months ago prior to elections here.

He then went on to mention friendliness which we were showing for Greece and Turkey stating that there was a balance of equipment under surplus property agreement which Poland could not obtain because of priority given to Turkey and Greece. (Please advise Embassy on this point.) He also remarked that he understood Poland was now being excluded from relief contemplated in recent act of Congress. I told him that I thought we must recognize that public feeling towards any country could not help but reflect attitude which was displayed by other country and that when we were being attacked as we were in press, it was bound to have unfortunate effect. Modzelewski then referred to reference in our press about Poland being a satellite country under Soviet control and remarked that it should be understood that Poland was Poland but that it expected to have friendly relations with Soviets.

Modzelewski then spoke of Ambassador Lane’s statements and articles about Poland. He said it was something which he had never heard of in any other instance when someone still accredited as Ambassador could go back to his home country and make statements as Lane had done, and he cited particularly his first interview with press which was given in Department. Modzelewski went on to say that [Page 432] Polish attitude would change if we were to perform some “grand act” which would show friendliness of Americans towards Poles and alluded to manner in which relations with Britain had improved through recent understanding with them.

Modzelewski then asked me if I had any details of Secretary’s plans for cooperation of European countries in rehabilitation of Europe. I replied in the negative. He said there must be some detailed plan because he understood subject was being discussed with Bevin. He said he would be delighted to go to US if invited by Secretary to discuss this subject but that he did not “dare” invite Secretary to Warsaw. He said there were certain subjects, of course, of interest to big powers such as atom bomb which did not concern Poles so much because they would never have one [apparent omission] notes the first time this has ever happened. Entire interview was carried on in good humor and I am convinced that Modzelewski, as well as I knew that what we were discussing were in a sense details in view of fact that basic political ideas of Polish Government and US are definitely opposed to one another just as American and Soviet ideas differ.

Towards end of our conversation, I told Modzelewski that we both must recognize that our countries disagreed about certain things. For example, I said he and I both knew how US had regarded Polish elections and I said that he must know that Americans would not forget them. He smiled and said, “You mean not in 1948?” I recalled our previous discussions on same subject and again remarked that I did not think US would forget.

I told him that my idea in talking with him on matter of press was to try to see what could be done to help improve our relations and that certainly a different attitude in the press would aid. I said it would also help if perhaps they would at times be able to meet some of the requests which we made. He asked me what I had in mind and I said for example the subject of aviation. He felt that they had been the ones to do things to help; that they had suggested the mixed nationality commission and that arrangements had been made to provide zlotys for US some months ago, He then inquired about aviation in which connection please see immediately following telegram.2 Before our [conversation ended Modzelewski said again?] that the cartoon was in bad taste and that he would speak to the officials interested in the press and talk the matter over with them.3

  1. The telegram under reference authorized that representations be made to the Polish Foreign Ministry regarding the publication of an anti-American cartoon in the June 3, 1947 issue of the magazine Szpilki. The telegram added:

    “In as much as Pol press is known to be subject to strict Gov censorship Dept is obliged to conclude that such unfriendly references to US have Pol Gov’s full approval. You may inform FonOff this Gov greatly disturbed at increasing tendency on part Pol press to present distorted picture of US and its foreign and domestic policies and that continuance of such practices will not serve to improve relations between two countries.” (711.60C/6–947)

  2. Telegram 972, June 19, from Warsaw, not printed; it reported on Chargé Keith’s conversation with Modzelewski regarding the interest of the United States Government in obtaining interim air rights in Poland for the American Overseas Airline (811.79660C/6–1947).
  3. On July 7, Ambassador Winiewicz told Llewellyn Thompson that he had been informed by the Polish Government that they were taking steps to endeavor to prevent the publication of such offensive material (711.60C/7–747).