Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Participants: Jozef Winiewicz, Polish Ambassador
George C. Marshall, Secretary of State
Present—Llewellyn E. Thompson, Chief, Division of Eastern European Affairs

The Ambassador said he was returning to Warsaw to report to his Government and was grateful for an opportunity to see me before doing so. The Ambassador stated he had considered his mission here to be to improve Polish-American relations. The last half year had not been a happy period, and he wished to know if I could suggest any way in which either the Embassy or the Polish Government in Warsaw could take steps to improve those relations. He referred to the difficulties of Poland’s position due to the fact that it finds itself sandwiched in between two great Soviet Armies, one in the Soviet zone of Germany and the other in the Soviet Union itself. He felt that the chief difficulty in Polish-American relations arose out of the deterioration in the over-all political situation.

The Ambassador said that when the Polish Minister of Industry, Hilary Mine, visited the United States he had made clear that Poland’s objective was to keep a balance between East and West. Relations with the East were satisfactory, and he wished to improve them with the West. Mr. Mine had concluded some preliminary agreements relating to the release of Polish gold, compensation for nationalization of American property, and a cotton loan. With the exception of the gold, nothing concrete had developed out of these preliminary arrangements.

The Ambassador referred to the fact that when he was with the Polish Government in London during the war, they had constantly been urged to come to an agreement with the Soviet Union including the cession of their eastern territories. Poland had done this, but the result was the deterioration of their relations with the West. He repeated that he wished to know what could be done to improve those relations.

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I thanked the Ambassador for his very frank statement, and remarked that he was well aware of the natural friendship which existed in this country for Poland. A large number of our citizens were of Polish extraction, and our people were well aware of Poland’s tragic history and sufferings. In reply to his question as to what the Embassy could do to improve relations, I pointed out that he had already done much by his frankness. The question of what his Government could do was, of course, another matter. I referred to our efforts to get the European countries to take steps to cooperate in improving their efficiency in order to bring about their own rehabilitation. It was a matter of deep concern and regret to us that Poland was not among the 16 nations meeting in Paris on this problem. I said that we, of course, knew why Poland was not there. I went on to point out that Poland had much to contribute and much to gain from being a party to such an undertaking. She had coal which was badly needed and she had needs of her own which could only be supplied from outside Poland. So far as the United States Government is concerned, we have to help those who help themselves, as limits were placed upon what we could do by the demands which we receive for assistance not only from Europe but also from the Far East. I stated that we deplored the division that had developed in Europe, even though foreign propaganda often suggests that we had attempted to bring about such a division. I said that at Moscow I had tried to get unity in Germany. This had failed. I had also tried to get an agreement upon a security pact but had been unable to do so. In this we had been defeated and defeated purposely. Since these two efforts had failed, we had made this recent approach. Our efforts often met with an offensive and accusative attitude which we deplored. I emphasized that it was not our purpose to force action on the part of any country by financial or any other methods. I added that we were faced with the need for coming up with such a sound program that we could get the support of the American people and of the American Congress. Being a democracy we had to have such support, and there were limits beyond which we could not go. It was essential that a situation would develop in Europe which would overcome the destructive efforts that were being made. Poland was in no-man’s land and we had great sympathy for her position. I repeated that there was no idea of coercion but I was hopeful that opinion in Poland would crystallize in such a way that Poland could do something for itself. This concerned the Polish people and Government and was outside my ken. What was essential was a program in Europe to facilitate recovery. I concluded by stating that I had worked hard to get an agreement in Moscow for the carrying out of an agreement we had already reached at Potsdam. Since this had failed, I had made this new approach.

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The Ambassador replied that the Polish Government wished to make closer contacts with the West and cited in proof of this the conclusion of a trade agreement with Great Britain and a cultural agreement with France. He said that Poland had concluded trade agreements with 12 of the 16 countries meeting in Paris. Trade negotiations now being carried on with France had the objective of enlarging Polish coal shipments in return for hydroelectric plants. The Ambassador pointed out that the share of the Soviet Union in Polish trade had been decreasing. In 1945 the Soviet Union accounted for 95% of Polish foreign trade; and in 1946 this had dropped to 62% and the current year would be even less. This had been brought about by increasing exports to the West and, in the case of coal, by reducing shipments to the Soviet Union. The Ambassador said there were forces in Poland, patriotic forces, and not agents, who were sincerely trying to persuade Poland to adopt a complete Eastern orientation. They asked him what he and his friends were getting from the West and argued that the only supplies they could receive were from the Soviet Union. He said that our refusal to include Poland in our relief plans had been a great shock to Western oriented Poles. He said that the inclusion of Poland would have meant the presence of a relief mission and more newspapermen in Poland which would have been tangible evidence of our interest. In his discussions on the matter here the Ambassador said he had never emphasized any specific amount but felt it essential that Poland receive some assistance. He said that expressions of sympathy were not sufficient. Ambassador Griffis had quite rightly recently expressed his sympathy for Poland but what was needed was some token or material evidence of this sympathy. The Ambassador said he had pressed hard for this and quoted Churchill as saying that Allies should not be ashamed to ask for assistance from Allies.

The Ambassador referred to Mr. Mine’s effort to obtain a cotton loan and said that the outcome of his failure was that they had to go to Moscow to ask for cotton. The net result was some kind of embitterment and further turning to the East.

I replied that I recognized the logic of some of the things the Ambassador had said, and said I could tell him confidentially that we had tried very hard to keep Poland on the list for receiving assistance but that we had been unsuccessful. I had been much interested to hear his analysis of the situation.

The Ambassador said that when he was appointed to Washington he had obtained the approval of his Government to encourage an exchange of visitors and had been able to follow a liberal visa policy. One hundred and fifty Poles are now enroute from Detroit to visit relatives in Poland. A number of relief missions are active in Poland [Page 441] and other activities, such as those of the Y.M.C.A., have been carried on. Such missions could not go to the Soviet Union, and this furnished proof to the Polish people and the world that Poland was not in the same situation as the Soviet Union. He said that every journalist wishing to go to Poland had received a visa and although their articles were often, to say the least, inaccurate, his Government felt it was better to let them in in order that something should come out about Poland. He referred to the forthcoming visits of Congressmen to Europe and said he had been instructed by his Government to grant visas to any of them who wished to visit Poland.

The Ambassador said that Poland had great need for grain, and particularly seeds, and had been unsuccessful in negotiations to obtain grain from the Soviet Union. He said he understood this because the economic level of Poland was so much above that of the Soviet Union. The Soviet people had been told that Poland was a socialized country but when they came to Poland they saw from the things in Polish shops that Poland had more than they did. He said the Russians wished to have Eastern Europe unified not only on a political level but also unified on a common economic level. He also referred to the impression made on Russian soldiers who had been outside the Soviet Union.

The Ambassador handed me the attached memorandum1 and said although he had already talked to Mr. Wood about it and understood nothing could be done, he wished to repeat his plea for some relief assistance to Poland. If that were not possible, he wished especially to ask that Poland be allowed allocations for the purchase of grain in this country which they were prepared to buy with proceeds from the sale of their gold reserves.

In conclusion the Ambassador said that the Polish delegation to the United Nations’ Assembly would not be determined until he returned to Warsaw. He intended to suggest that his Foreign Minister head the Polish delegation, and he wished to know that if the Minister came to the United States whether he could arrange to see me.

I replied that I should be glad to see him.

George C. Marshall
  1. Not printed; it reviewed Poland’s need for grain during the period July 1947–July 1948.