94. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, October 20, 1956, 5 p.m.1
- Discussion of Situation in Poland
- Mr. Spasowski, Ambassador of Poland
- Mr. Jaroszek, Counselor of Polish Embassy
- Mr. Murphy, G
- Mr. Beam, EUR
- Mr. Bennett, G
After some difficulty of arrangement (the Ambassador having been at first reported as “very sick”), the Polish Ambassador came to the Department at 5:00 p.m. on Mr. Murphy’s request for a discussion of the developing situation in Poland. He was accompanied by Mr. Jaroszek, Counselor of the Embassy.
Mr. Murphy began the conversation by saying that the Department was greatly interested in the reports emanating from Poland concerning changes in the government there and the visit of a number of ranking officials of the Soviet Union, headed by Mr. Khrushchev. Mr. Murphy continued that there were a great many newspaper reports on the situation but that we did not have much official confirmation as yet.2 He emphasized that, as the Ambassador knew, there is very deep interest in the United States in Poland, and he was hopeful that the Ambassador might be able to provide some information which would help in clarifying the confusing welter of information which we had been receiving today.
Turning to a collection of news reports on the table before him, Mr. Murphy remarked that there were two or three points which he particularly wanted to ask about. He mentioned first the reports of statements by Khrushchev on his arrival in Warsaw to the effect that Soviet blood had been shed in the defense of Poland against the Germans and that the USSR would never permit Polish leaders to turn their country over to “American imperialists”. There were also other allegations and threats reported as having been made by Khrushchev during his visit in Warsaw. Mr. Murphy said that he wanted to make it clear that, if Khrushchev’s statements had been correctly reported, [Page 257] they were quite indefensible. The United States, while deeply sympathetic to the Polish people and hopeful of Polish independence, has always recognized that Poland’s destiny is for the people of Poland alone to decide. We could not, therefore, accept the Khrushchev allegations, which deserved to be vigorously denounced. The Ambassador replied that the destiny of Poland is indeed close to the Polish people and declared that he had no way of knowing whether Khrushchev had in fact made such statements. Mr. Jaroszek commented that the newspaper reporters always tried to make things dramatic; he suggested that the reporters must be very alert since they were quoting things as happening both at the arrival of the Soviet delegation and then later as having come from private meetings at which they were not present. Mr. Murphy pointed out that similar reports were being received from a variety of sources, including American, French and Swedish correspondents.
Mr. Murphy then called attention to the stories of troop movements near Warsaw and from East Germany into Poland. There were even some reports of clashes between Soviet and Polish forces. The Ambassador again replied that he was unable to confirm any of these stories, and he frankly admitted there were so many press reports coming in that it was extremely difficult to know what the situation was in fact. He said that it seemed confirmed that Mr. Gomulka had been reelected to the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party but asserted that, so far as he knew, he had not as yet been named First Secretary of the Party. It was the Ambassador’s understanding that elections to the Politburo would be held today or tomorrow. So far as he knew, Marshal Rokossovsky was still a member of the Politburo, although he could not say what changes might be made in the Politburo as a result of the scheduled election.3
Mr. Jaroszek mentioned that the Central Committee would also be considering a 6-year economic plan for Poland. In this connection, in what was perhaps a calculated hint,4 he made reference to the difficult economic situation of his country and the problems which the Government would be facing in that regard.[Page 258]
Mr. Murphy also called the Ambassador’s attention to the long article in Pravda attacking the Polish press and criticizing articles which had appeared there airing complaints of conditions and urging democratization in Polish life.
The atmosphere of the conversation was friendly throughout. The Ambassador, although under a certain amount of strain, appeared to be rather pleased at being called in.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 748.00/10–2056. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Bennett.↩
- According to President Eisenhower, he received “fragmentary intelligence reports” while he was on the campaign trail flying in the Columbine toward Denver. He called Dulles that evening at 9:30 from the Presidential plane. The Secretary received the call at the theater; no record of the conversation has been found in Department of State files. See Waging Peace, pp. 58–60.↩
- When the Eighth Plenum adjourned on October 21, Rokossovskiy was no longer a member of the Politburo. The Natolin faction of the PZPR, which opposed liberalization and the more independent course favored by Gomulka, fared badly in the election and Zenon Nowak, Franciszek Mazur, and Franciszek Jozwiak-Witold also lost their places. Newly elected with Gomulka and Loga-Sowinski were Stefan Jedrychowski and Jerzy Morawski.↩
- In his published account of this meeting, Beam recalled that “Spasowski’s brash young aide loudly interrupted that, of course, assistance from the United States would be appropriate and welcome.” See Beam, Multiple Exposure, p. 64.↩