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History of Poland
At the end of nineteenth century a large number of Poles became involved in the struggle against Nicholas II and the Russian autocracy. In 1893 Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches formed the Social Democratic Party of Poland. As it was an illegal organization, they went to Paris to edit the party's newspaper, Sprawa Robotnicza (Workers' Cause).
During the 1905 Revolution Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches returned to Warsaw where they were soon arrested. Eventually they were released and joined the Bolsheviks in exile and began planning the possibility of gaining Polish independence by taking part in a world revolution.
Others in Poland strongly disagreed with this approach. Roman Dmowski, the main leader of the Polish nationalist movement, believed the best way to achieve a unified and independent Poland, was to support the Triple Entente against the Triple Alliance.
Josef Pilsudski, a nationalist leader based in Galicia, disagreed and saw Russia as the main enemy. Pilsudski began building a private army that he hoped would enable Poland to fight for its independence from Russia.
Other Polish revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Radek, Felix Dzerzhinsky and Leo Jogiches were opposed to the First World War and joined with others in Russia such as Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky in calling for soldiers to use their weapons to overthrow the Nicholas II.
Other Polish revolutionaries such as Josef Pilsudski took a different view of the war. Pilsudski built a private army that he hoped would enable Poland to fight for its independence from Russia. In 1914 Pilsudski and his 10,000 men fought with the Austrians against the Russian Army.
Josef Pilsudski became the new leader of Poland and during the Russian Civil War his army made considerable gains and the Soviet-Polish Treaty of Riga (1921) left Poland in control of substantial areas of Lithuania, Belorussia and the Ukraine.
After his success at Munich that led to the takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1938, H believed that Britain and France would not interfere in Europe as long as Germany headed east towards the Soviet Union. He therefore began to make plans for his next step. Poland was the obvious choice as it was in the east and included areas of land taken from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler began to make speeches demanding the return of Danzig, and German access to East Prussia through Poland.
Neville Chamberlain now changed tactics in an attempt to convince Hitler that Britain would indeed go to war if Germany continued to invade other countries. He made a speech in the House of Commons promising to support Poland if it were attacked by Germany. The British government also sent diplomats to the Soviet Union to talk to Joseph Stalin about the possibility of working together against Germany.
The British government were still uncertain about signing a military agreement with the Soviet Union, and while they hesitated Germany stepped in and signed one instead. The Nazi-Soviet Pact took the world by surprise. Fascists and communists had always been enemies. However, both Hitler and Stalin were opportunists who were willing to compromise for short-term gain.
In August 1939, a group of concentration camp prisoners were dressed in Polish uniforms, shot and then placed just inside the German border. Adolf Hitler claimed that Poland was attempting to invade Germany. On 1st September, 1939, the German Army was ordered into Poland.
Following the German invasion of Poland a Polish Home Army was established under the leadership of its commander-in-chief, General Tadeusz Komorowski. During the Second World War it was heavily involved in the resistance to German occupation.
On 21st September, 1939, Reinhard Heydrich told several Schutz Staffeinel (SS) commanders in Poland that all Jews were to be confined to special areas in cities and towns. These ghettos were to be surrounded by barbed wire, brick walls and armed guards.
The first ghetto was set up in Piotrkow on 28th October 1939. Jews living in rural areas had their property confiscated and they were rounded up and sent to ghettos in towns and cities. The two largest ghettos were established in Warsaw and Lodz.
In October 1939, the SS began to deport Jews living in Austria and Czechoslovakia to ghettos in Poland. Transported in locked passenger trains, large numbers died on the journey. Those that survived the journey were told by Adolf Eichmann, the head of the Gestapo's Department of Jewish Affairs: "There are no apartments and no houses - if you build your homes you will have a roof over your head."
In Warsaw, the capital of Poland, all 22 entrances to the ghetto were sealed. The German authorities allowed a Jewish Council (Judenrat) of 24 men to form its own police to maintain order in the ghetto. The Judenrat was also responsible for organizing the labour battalions demanded by the German authorities. Conditions in the Warsaw ghetto that in two years an estimated 100,000 Jews died of starvation and disease.
A Polish government-in-exile was formed in London under the leadership of Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz, Wladyslaw Sikorski and Stanislaw Mikolajczyk. Following the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Army, Joseph Stalin agreed in June 1941, to invalidate the Soviet-German partition of Poland.
At the Wannsee Conference held on 20th January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich chaired a meeting to consider what to do with the large number of Jews under their control. Those at the meeting eventually decided on what became known as the Final Solution. From that date the extermination of the Jews became a systematically organized operation. It was decided to establish extermination camps in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000).
Between 22nd July and 3rd October 1942, 310,322 Jews were deported from the Warsaw ghetto to these extermination camps. Information got back to the ghetto what was happening to those people and it was decided to resist any further attempts at deportation. In January 1943, Heinrich Himmler gave instructions for Warsaw to be "Jew free" by Hitler's birthday on 20th April.
Warsaw contained several resistance groups. The largest was the Polish Home Army. There was also the Jewish Military Union and the communist Jewish Fighter Organization (ZOB) led by Mordechai Anielewicz, Yitzhak Zuckerman, Gole Mire and Adolf Liebeskind.
On 19th April 1943 the Waffen SS entered the Warsaw ghetto. Although they only had two machine-guns, fifteen rifles and 500 pistols, the Jews opened fire on the soldiers. They also attacked them with grenades and petrol bombs. The Germans took heavy casualties and the Warsaw military commander, Brigadier-General Jürgen Stroop, ordered his men to retreat. He then gave instructions for all the buildings in the ghetto to be set on fire.
As people fled from the fires they were rounded up and deported to the extermination camp at Treblinka. The ghetto fighters continued the battle from the cellars and attics of Warsaw. On 8th May the Germans began using poison gas on the insurgents in the last fortified bunker. About a hundred men and women escaped into the sewers but the rest were killed by the gas. It is believed that only 100 Jews survived the 1943 Warsaw Uprising.
In the spring of 1943 the Nazi Government in Germany announced that a mass grave had been found in Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union. Over 1,700 bodies were discovered and the Germans claimed that men were Polish soldiers who had been murdered by being shot in the head. It was suggested that the men had been killed by the NKVD.
A Polish government-in-exile in London demanded an investigation of the deaths by the Red Cross. Joseph Stalin refused claiming that the Poles was a victim of Nazi propaganda. When they continued to complain Stalin decided to break off relations with the Polish government.
In the summer of 1944 the Red Army began to advance rapidly into German occupied Poland. The advancing Soviet troops refused to accept the authority of the Polish government-in-exile and disarmed members of the Polish Home Army they met during the invasion.
The Polish government-in-exile in London feared that the Soviet Union would replace Nazi Germany as occupiers of the country. On 26th July 1944 the Polish government secretly ordered General Tadeusz Komorowski, the commander of the Polish Home Army, to capture Warsaw before the arrival of the advancing Russians. Five days later Komorowski gave the orders for the Warsaw Uprising.
The Home Army had about 50,000 soldiers in Warsaw. There were a further 1,700 people who were members of other Polish resistance groups who were willing to join the uprising. The men were desperately short of arms and ammunition. It is estimated they had 1,000 rifles, 300 automatic pistols, 60 sub-machine-guns, 35 anti-tank guns, 1,700 pistols and 25,000 grenades. The army also had its own workshop and were attempting to produce pistols, flame-throwers and grenades.
On the first day of the rising on 1st August, 1944, the Poles managed to capture part of the left bank of the River Vistula in Warsaw. However, attempts to take the bridges crossing the river were unsuccessful.
German reinforcements arrived on the 3rd August. The German Army used 600mm siege guns on Warsaw and the Luftwaffe bombed the city around-the-clock. British and Polish airmen flew in supplies from bases in Italy but it was difficult to drop the food and ammunition to places still in the hands of the rebels. The Royal Air Force and the Polish Air Force made 223 sorties and lost 34 aircraft during the uprising.
Heinrich Himmler gave instructions "that every inhabitant should be killed" and that Warsaw should "be razed to the ground" as an example to the rest of Europe under German occupation. As soon as territory was taken the Nazi's took revenge on the local people. In the Wola district alone an estimated 25,000 people were executed by firing squad.
When the Old Town was taken by the German Army on 2nd August, the Polish resistance fighters were forced to flee via the sewer canals. This network of underground canals were now used to move men and supplies under enemy controlled areas of Warsaw.
On 20th August the Polish Home Army captured the Polish Telephone Company building and the Krawkowskie Police Station. Three days later they took control of the Piusa Telephone Exchange.
On 10th September the Red Army led by Marshal Konstantin Rokossovy, entered the city but met heavy resistance. After five days Soviet forces had captured the right bank of the city. Rokossovy then halted his troops and waited for reinforcements. However, some historians have argued that Rokossovy was following the orders of Joseph Stalin, who wanted the Germans to destroy what was left of the Polish Home Army.
The insurgents were forced to leave Czerniakow on 23rd September. Three days later they were forced to leave the Upper Mokotow area via the underground sewers. On 30th September General Tadeusz Komorowski appointed General Leopold Okulicki as head of the Polish underground.
Running out of men and supplies General Komorowski and 15,000 members of the Polish Home Army were forced to surrender on 2nd October 1944. It is estimated that 18,000 insurgents were killed and another 6,000 were seriously wounded. A further 150,000 civilians were also killed during the uprising.
After the Polish surrender the German Army began to systematically to destroy the surviving buildings in Warsaw. By the time the Red Army resumed its attack on Warsaw, over 70 per cent of the city had been destroyed. Over the next few weeks the Soviet forces took control of the city.
In February, 1945, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt held a conference in Yalta in the Crimea. With Soviet troops in most of Eastern Europe, Stalin was in a strong negotiating position. Roosevelt and Churchill tried hard to restrict post-war influence in this area but the only concession they could obtain was a promise that free elections would be held in these countries.
Poland was the main debating point. Stalin explained that throughout history Poland had either attacked Russia or had been used as a corridor through which other hostile countries invaded her. Only a strong, pro-Communist government in Poland would be able to guarantee the security of the Soviet Union. As a result of the conference the Allies withdrew their recognition for the Polish government-in-exile.
The Polish Home Army, under the leadership of Leopold Okulicki, continued the fight against the Red Army. In March 1945, 16 leaders of the army were arrested and sent to the Soviet Union where they were convicted of sabotage.
Joseph Stalin established a communist dominated coalition in Poland after the war. Wladyslaw Gomulka became vice-president in the new government. However, Gomulka resisted attempts to impose a Stalinist government on Poland. He was dismissed from office in 1948 when he gave his support to Josip Tito in Yugoslavia. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, the deputy prime minister, fearing for his life, fled the country.
During the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union's political prisoners to be released.
Krushchev's de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. In June 1956 there was a massive anti-government and anti-Soviet demonstration in Poznan. The marchers, protesting against poor living standards, low wages and high taxes, were dispersed by Soviet tanks.
Nikita Khrushchev visited Poland and in October 1956 agreed that Wladyslaw Gomulka should be given the post of first secretary of the Communist Party. Gomulka was told that as long as the Polish government supported the Soviet Union in foreign affairs they could develop their own domestic policies.
Gomulka liberalized the communist system in Poland. Only 10 per cent of farmland was collectivized and the country traded extensively with capitalist countries in Western Europe.
In 1970 Poland experienced an economic crisis. After riots took place Wladyslaw Gomulka resigned from office and was replaced by Edward Gierek. In an attempt to solve the country's economic problems Gierek instigated an ambitious industrialization programme. This plunged the country into debt and in 1980 the country suffered from food shortages.
Lech Walesa, along with some of his friends in the anti-communist trade union movement, founded Solidarnosc (Solidarity). It was not long before the organization had 10 million members and Walesa was its undisputed leader. In August 1980 Walesa led the Gdansk shipyard strike which gave rise to a wave of strikes over much of the country. Walesa, a devout Catholic, developed a loyal following and the communist authorities were forced to capitulate. The Gdansk Agreement, signed on 31st August, 1980, gave Polish workers the right to strike and to organise their own independent union.
In 1981 General Wojciech Jaruzelski, replaced Edward Gierek as leader of the Communist Party in Poland. In December 1981, Jaruzelski imposed martial law and Solidarnosc was declared an illegal organization. Soon afterwards Walesa and other trade union leaders were arrested and imprisoned.
In November 1982 Lech Walesa was released and allowed to work in the Gdansk shipyards. Martial law was lifted in July 1983, but there were still considerable restrictions on individual freedom. Later that year, in the recognition of the role he was playing in Poland's non-violent revolution, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Reformers in Poland were helped by the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev had gained power in the Soviet Union. In 1986 Gorbachev made it clear he would no longer interfere in the domestic policies of other countries in Eastern Europe. Wojciech Jaruzelski was now forced to negotiate with Walesa and the trade union movement. This resulted in parliamentary elections and a noncommunist government and in 1989 Solidarnosc became a legal organization.
In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev revealled to the world that in March 1940, Joseph Stalin had given the orders for the execution of 25,700 Polish soldiers in Soviet prison camps. He also admitted that two other mass graves had been found in the Katyn Forest area.
In December 1990 Lech Walesa was elected President of the Republic of Poland. He was not a success and his critics claimed he developed an authoritarian style in running the country. His behaviour was erratic and he was criticised for his close links with the military and security services. In November 1995 Walesa was defeated by the former communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski.
In November 1995 presidential election Aleksander Kwasniewski (leader of the Democratic Left Alliance) defeated Lech Walesa (51.7 per cent against 48.3 per cent). Over the next few years he worked hard to get Poland admitted to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In attended summit meetings in Madrid and Washington and on 26th February, 1999, signed the documents that ratified Poland membership of NATO. In 2000 Kwasniewski was re-elected as president with 53.9 per cent of the vote.
(1) Neville Chamberlain, statement issued to the media (1st April, 1939)
As the House is away, certain consultations are now proceeding with other Governments. To make perfectly clear the position of the Government in the meantime before those consultations are concluded, I now have to inform the House that, during that period, in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their national forces, the Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish help. They have given the Polish Government an assurance to this I may add that the French Government have authorised me to make it plain that they stand in the same position in this matter as do his Majesty's Government.
(2) Anthony Eden, radio broadcast (29th August, 1939)
Our obligations to Poland will of course be honoured; not only because our pledged word has been given, but also because it is now universally understood that something of much greater significance is at stake than the determination of one frontier or even the freedom of one people, however brave.
The world has to choose between order and anarchy. For too long it has staggered from crisis to crisis under the constant threat of armed force. We cannot live for ever at the pistol point. The love of the British people for peace is as great as ever, but they are no less determined that this time peace shall be based on the denial of force and a respect for the pledged word.
(3) Janine Phillips was living with a family just outside Warsaw. She wrote down her thoughts about the invasion of Poland in her diary (1st September, 1939)
Hitler has invaded Poland. We heard the bad news on the wireless a few minutes after spotting two aeroplanes circling round each other. Just before breakfast about ten minutes to ten, I was returning from the privy when I heard aeroplanes in the sky. I thought it was manoeuvres. Then heard some machine-guns and then everyone
came out from the house to see what was happening. Grandpa said, "My God! It's war!" and rushed indoors to switch on the wireess. The grave news came in a special announcement that German forces have crossed the Polish border and our soldiers are defending our country. Everybody was stunned. With ears glued to the
loudspeaker we were trying to catch the fading words. The battery or accumulator, or both, were packing up. When we could no longer hear a whisper from the wireless set, Grandpa turned the switch off and looked at our anguished faces. He knelt in front of the picture of Jesus Christ and started to pray aloud. We repeated after Grandpa, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name."
Soon after tea, Uncle Tadeusz, my new Aunt Aniela and Papa arrived from Warsaw with some more bad news. Papa said that we were not going back to Warsaw because it was safer to stay here, in the village. He arranged for a wagon to bring our winter clothes and other belongings. I wondered what will happen to our school, but Mama said that when a country is fighting for its survival, there is no time for schooling. All evening Papa has been trying to get the wireless going but did not succeed. Tomorrow, he'll try to get to Warsaw and see what can be done about the set which is so vital to us just now. Please, dear God, let our brave soldiers beat the nasty Germans.
(4) Victor Klemperer, diary (1st September, 1939)
On Friday morning the young butcher's lad came and told us: There had been a wireless announcement, we already held Danzig and the Corridor, the war with Poland was under way, England and France remained neutral, said to Eva, then a morphine injection or something similar was the best thing for us, our life was over. But then we said to one another, that could not possibly be the way things were, the boy had often reported absurd things (he was a perfect example of the way in which people take in news reports). A little later we heard Hitler's agitated voice, then the usual roaring, but could not make anything out. We said to ourselves, if the report were even only half true they must be already putting out the flags. Then down in town the dispatch of the outbreak of war.
(5) Manchester Guardian (2nd September, 1939)
Germany's sudden attack on Poland yesterday morning has been followed by an ultimatum to Germany by Great Britain and France. Germany is warned that unless the German troops are immediately withdrawn Britain and France will without hesitation fulfil their obligations to Poland.
This announcement was made by the Premier last night in a crowded House of Commons. Mr. Chamberlain said :
"If the reply to this last warning is unfavourable - and I do not suggest that it is likely to be otherwise - his Majesty's Ambassador is instructed to ask for his passport.
We shall stand at the bar of history knowing that the responsibility for this terrible catastrophe lies on the shoulders of one man - the German Chancellor. He has not hesitated to plunge the world into misery in order to serve his own senseless ambitions.
Eighteen months ago I prayed that the responsibility might not fall on me to ask the country to accept the awful arbitrament of war. I fear I am not able to avoid that responsibility.
It only remains to set our teeth and enter upon this struggle, which we so earnestly endeavoured to avoid, with a determination to see it through to the end.
We shall enter it with a clear conscience and with the support of the Dominions and the British Empire and the moral approval of the greater part of the world.
We have no quarrel with the German people except that they allowed themselves to be governed by a Nazi Government. As long as that government pursues the method which it has so persistently followed during the last two years there will be no peace in Europe."
(6) Reinhard Heydrich, document, Jewish Question in Occupied Territory, sent to to Security Police Special Units in Poland (21st September, 1939)
I refer to the meeting that took place today in Berlin and want to point out once again that the overall measures planned (thus, the final objective) must be kept strictly secret.
Distinctions must be drawn between: (1) the final objective (which will require more extensive time periods), and (2) the phases towards fulfillment of the final objective (which will be carried out on a short-term basis).
It is obvious that the task ahead cannot be determined from here in every detail. The following instructions and guidelines will simultaneously serve the purpose of prompting the commanders of Special Units to do some practical thinking.
I. The first prerequisite for the final objective will be, for one, the concentration of Jews from the countryside into larger cities. This must be carried out expeditiously. Attention must be paid to the requirement that only such cities may be designated as areas of concentration which are either railway junctions or are at least situated on a railway line. One prevailing basic rule will be that Jewish congregations of less than 500 members will be dissolved and moved to the nearest city of concentration
II. Jewish Council of Elders.
(1) Each Jewish congregation must set up a Jewish Council of Elders it will be fully responsible, in the truest sense of the word, for an exact and prompt execution of all past or future directives.
(2) In case of sabotage of such directives, the councils will be advised that most severe measures will be taken.
(3) Deadlines given to the Jews for departure into the cities.
(7) Anthony Eden, Memoirs: The Reckoning (1965)
As I expected, Maisky defended Russia's actions in Poland and the Baltic States on the grounds that it was essential "that certain vital strategic points should be under her own control". He claimed that his country's demands had not been grasping. The Soviet frontier with Poland even now included less territory than Tsarist Russia had held. As for the Baltic States, the problem was once again strategic. In a world such as this, 'where wild beasts are loose, every country has to
take certain precautions for its own safety.' I replied that this did not justify the Soviet action in Finland, which country enjoyed great sympathy all over the world.
(8) William Gallacher, The Chosen Few (1940)
Efforts have been made by enemies of the Soviet Union to associate the Non-Aggression Pact with the invasion of Poland. Nothing could be further from the truth. Poland was betrayed when Colonel Beck, supported by Chamberlain and Daladier, refused the aid of the Red Army. There was no other means in this world of saving Poland. Hitler had an army over a million strong in East Prussia and along the Polish frontier, a great mechanised army, capable of carrying through the encirclement of Warsaw. The only possible way to stop such a movement was for two great Soviet armies to move into Poland, one from the north-west towards East Prussia, the other from the south- west towards Cracow. With such a deployment, Warsaw and all Poland would have been safe.
(9) Abraham Lewin kept a diary while living in Warsaw during the Second World War.
Yesterday the Germans, with the help of the Jewish police, rounded up young Jewish girls, and women both young and old, and also men with and without beards on the street and in particular among the occupants of 38 Dzielna Street. Two lorry-loads of German, air force, SS and men from other units, as well as a smaller vehicle with officers in it, drew up at the entrance of 38 Dzielna Street. First of all they photographed all the young girls - incidentally, they then picked out girls and women who were particularly respectable-looking and expensively dressed. Then they pushed all the Jewish men and women in to the bath-house that is in the corner of the courtyard of the above mentioned building. Once inside they photographed all the women again. Then they forced the men and women to strip completely naked. German officer divided them into pairs made of one from each sex from among the Jews. They matched young girls to old men, and conversely, young boys to old women. Then they forced the two sexes to commit a sexual act. These scenes were filmed with special apparatus that had been brought in for that purpose.
(10) Anthony Eden, Memoirs: The Reckoning (1965)
The Warsaw rising had begun on August 1st. It was set off by the local Polish commander without consultation with us and without co-ordination with the Soviet forces advancing on the city, though the Poles had tried, and continued to try, to establish contact with the Russians. However, the Soviets had themselves a direct responsibility, for it was their organization, the so-called Union of Polish Patriots, which had called on the population to rise on July 29th. When Mikolajczyk arrived in Moscow two days later, Stalin promised that he would send help to the insurgents.
It is true that a German counter-attack held up the Soviet advance and that it was not the Russian habit to assault a city frontally. Yet, when all is said, the conclusion seems inescapable that Stalin, surprised by the vigour and success of the rising, was content to see the underground and the remaining political and intellectual leaders of Poland destroyed. It did not suit him that the Poles should liberate their capital themselves; nor could he allow Mikolajczyk and his followers to return to Poland with their underground organization intact. He now refused to let American aircraft land on Soviet airfields after dropping supplies on Warsaw. British aircraft, many with Polish pilots, flew to their extreme range from the Mediterranean, but could hardly affect the issue.
(11) Anthony Eden, Memoirs: The Reckoning (1965)
The Polish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were at this meeting. They announced that the underground in Poland were prepared to come into the open and meet the conditions of the Soviet commanders without any prior agreement between the two Governments. As against this, M. Mikolajczyk told us that the underground were determined to maintain Poland's territorial integrity. This was natural enough for men who were risking their lives in a Poland remote from our discussions, but Mikolajczyk added that the fact that he was willing to discuss frontier questions had troubled the Poles in his own land.
Three days later I spoke to the Soviet Ambassador, telling him that the Prime Minister and I were anxious to reach a solution, not only because of the Polish question itself, but because failure would have repercussions on all Anglo-American-Soviet co-operation. The British people could never forget that they had gone to war on account of the invasion of Poland. I told him that, as leader of the House of Commons, I knew there was a growing feeling among many members that Poland must be given a fair deal. When I added that the Poles were suspicious that the Soviet Government did not wish their Government to return to Warsaw, but would prefer to set up a communist administration, Mr. Gusev emphatically denied this.
(12) Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (7th July, 1943)
We learned yesterday that the cause of the United Nations had suffered a most grievous loss. It is my duty to express the feelings of this House, and to pay my tribute to the memory of a great Polish patriot and staunch ally General Sikorski. His death in the air crash at Gibraltar was one of the heaviest strokes we have sustained.
From the first dark days of the Polish catastrophe and the brutal triumph of the German war machine until the moment of his death on Sunday night he was the symbol and the embodiment of that spirit which has borne the Polish nation through centuries of sorrow and is unquenchable by agony. When the organized resistance of the Polish Army in Poland -was beaten down, General Sikorski's first thought was to organize all Polish elements in France to carry on the struggle, and a Polish army of over 80,000 men presently took its station on the French fronts. This army fought with the utmost resolution in the disastrous battles of 1940. Part fought its way out in good order into Switzerland, and is today interned there. Part marched resolutely to the sea, and reached this island.
Here General Sikorski had to begin his work again. He persevered, unwearied and undaunted. The powerful Polish forces which have now been accumulated and equipped in this country and in the Middle East, to the latter of whom his last visit was paid, now await with confidence and ardor the tasks which lie ahead. General Sikorski commanded the devoted loyalty of the Polish people now tortured and struggling in Poland itself. He personally directed that movement of resistance which has maintained a ceaseless warfare against German oppression in spite of sufferings as terrible as any nation has ever endured. This resistance will grow in power until, at the approach of liberating armies, It will exterminate the German ravagers of the homeland.
I was often brought into contact with General Sikorski in those years of war. I had a high regard for him, and admired his poise and calm dignity amid so many trials and baffling problems. He was a man of remarkable pre-eminence, both as a statesman and a soldier, His agreement with Marshal Stalin of July 30th, 1941, was an outstanding example of his political wisdom. Until the moment of his death he lived in the conviction needs of the common struggle and in the faith that a better Europe will arise in which a great and independent Poland will play an honorable part. We British here and throughout the Commonwealth and Empire, who declared war on Germany because of Hitler's invasion of Poland and in fulfillment of our guarantee, feel deeply for our Polish allies in their new loss.
We express our sympathy to them, we express our confidence in their immortal qualities, and we proclaim our resolve that General Sikorski's work as Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief shall not have been done in vain. The House would, I am sure, wish also that its sympathy should be conveyed to Madame Sikorski, who dwells here in England, and whose husband and daughter have both been simultaneously killed on duty.
(13) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-53 (12th July, 1952)
After the conquest of Poland by Germany in September 1939 a Polish government in exile had been formed by General Sikorski in Paris; it later moved to London. This government in exile demanded territorial expansion in the West after the conclusion of the war against Germany, but it also demanded territorial acquisitions in the East, namely the Eastern Galician oil region which Poland had taken from Russia in the war of 1920 and which the Russians had ceded to the Poles in the subsequent Treaty of Riga. The Russians had taken back this area, under an agreement with Hitler, after the Germans had marched into Poland in September 1939.
Soviet Russia had no intention of giving up Eastern Galicia and the British government found itself in a difficult situation when, in the summer of 1941, Russia became Britain's ally. As Herr von Weiss told me more than once, the anti-Soviet tendency of the Polish exile government in London was quite obvious. In the meantime in Moscow a group of Poles friendly to the Soviets had constituted itself as the 'Union of Polish Patriots' on 1 March 1943.
(14) Winston Churchill, speech in Fulton, Missouri (5th March, 1946)
A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade Marshal Stalin. There is sympathy and goodwill in Britain - and I doubt not here also - toward the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships.
We understand the Russians need to be secure on her western frontiers from all renewal of German aggression. We welcome her to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent, and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty, however, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe - I am sure I do not wish to, but it is my duty, I feel, to present them to you.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the Soviet sphere and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone, with its immortal glories, is free to decide its future at an election under British, American, and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful in-roads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed of are now taking place.
The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern states of Europe, have been raised to preeminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy. Turkey and Persia are both profoundly alarmed and disturbed at the claims which are made upon them and at the pressure being exerted by the Moscow government. An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist Party in their zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.