70. Telegram From the Embassy in Poland to the Department of State1

9. Department pass Defense. Embassy telegram 1.2 Eyewitness, secondhand and regime press reports Poznan riots understandably disagree many details. However, broadest outlines based above sources seem fairly well established although definite verification lacking several points. Following is composite picture based all sources.

Regime admits that as result recent cut wages and inability support selves Zispo (Stalin Works) workers sent delegation Warsaw recently make “just demands” re betterment economic status. Delegation allegedly delivered ultimatum that continuation status quo would result demonstration Poznan. Bureaucratic regime apparently did nothing or at least moved too slowly to suit workers.

Consequently, demonstration began about 0800 June 28 as peaceful demand betterment material life workers and, according to some reports, demand freedom Zispo delegation and leaders of strike few days previous who at time reportedly imprisoned Poznan. Large number students and children were in the crowd.

Peaceful demonstration became mob action probably as result combination following:

Cumulative “mob” feeling arising from thousands (estimates run to 20,000), packed in University Square;
Authorities (possibly UB) shooting over head crowd;
Alleged killing some children during warning shots;
Emotional effect crowd singing traditional national anthem;
Feeling mass power since this first large popular demonstration Poznan if not Poland since war;
Quick popular reaction to inflammatory statements less responsible elements.

When crowd became mob, militia, troops and tanks appeared but took no immediate effective action. Regime says reason was orders were issued deal peacefully with crowd; contrarily, other sources claim many militia and soldiers refused fight, soldiers left tanks, because they sympathized with crowd. Some said abandoned tanks subsequently manned by Russians in Polish uniform. Embassy not only unable confirm but on basis information available to date inclined to disbelieve this.

Sources allege (and regime implies) first shots against crowd fired by UB. Militia and soldiers later helped restore order, including use gun fire.

Seems certain mob:

Attacked UB building and burned some UB documents;
Overturned streetcars, etc.;
Invaded jamming station, threw equipment out window and smashed it;
Changed [garble] anti-Soviet and anti-UB slogans;
Carried banners expressing similar sentiments;
Released prisoners from jail;
Tore down Red flags (USSR and Chinese) displayed in connection with the fair; flags then torn into banners with slogans scribbled thereon in school chalk.

Allegedly, mob concentrated fury on UB. Several unverified stories described extremely vicious killings UB agents by mob.

Mob partially armed. Sources arms not clear. Variously reported as arriving from Zispo (where arms produced) and obtained from raid police headquarters.

Regime admits 48 dead. Embassy believes number high. As previously stated most reports say 200 maximum. Several hundred wounded.

Later telegram with Embassy view re causes riot3 will follow and then another telegram on possible repercussions.

Department pass as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/7–256. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Moscow, Bonn, USAREUR, and USAFE.
  2. This telegram, July 1, reported that all was quiet in Poznań and promised speculative comments on the Poznań events after further study. (Ibid., 748.00/7–156)
  3. Infra.