Poland in the eyes of World Powers

Poland in the eyes of World Powers

Sept, 1st 1939
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sojusz okupantów…

When attacked by the Third Reich, Poland had valid treaties with France (since 1921) and Great Britain (since August, 26 1939). They stipulated that our allies would declare war on the Third Reich should Poland be attacked. However they restored only to issue ultimatum, two days after the invasion, demanding Hitlera to stop the aggression and retrieve the troops. They did not warn us, though they knew the other day, of the Ribbentrop – Molotov Pactsigned on on August, 23rd 1939.

On Sept, 12th 1939 1939 in Abbeville the Prime Ministers of Great Britain Neville Chamberlain and France Edouard Daladier ) decided that the fate of Poland would depend on the result of the war.

Niemcy-napadly-na-Polske-300x210 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiNo military action against Nazi Germany was undertaken although it could have stopped the outbreak of WWII. It was confirmed later by Wilhelm Keitel during the Nurnberg Trials. The same was declared by gen. Alfred Jodl – „„In 1939 we were able to defeat Poland alone but we were not capable, neither in 1938 nor in 1939 to counterattack should there be a concentrated allied effort towards us. In 1939 we succeeded only because ca.110 French and British divisions remained idle in the face of only 23 German divisions.”„.

The idleness of Poland’s “allies” encouraged the USSR to attack Poland on Sept, 17th 1939 , who took control of the eastern parts of the prewar Poland according to Ribbentrop – Molotov Pact’s stipulations. This assault remained “unnoticed” by the western allies. They considered the invaded territories to belong to Byelorussians and Ukrainians. They approved of the Curzon line– the eastern Polish border proposed in 1920 (as the dividing line between Polish and Bolshevik troops). The territories taken over by Russia outside the border were to be brought back to the Polish state after the war. The Curzon line did not respect the ethnographic reality, i.e. Polish Vilnius area was separated from the Polish State and it had two contradictory versions as for Lviv.


December 1939 – Situation in occupied Poland
in: dokuments Prezydium Rady Ministrów (archiwum Liebermanowej)
Source: Instytut Polski i Muzeum im. gen. Sikorskiego sygn. PRM.12 s. 5-25


Alienated Poland

17-wrzesnia-1939-300x207 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiFrance and Great Britain did nothing to defend Poland in 1939 apart from formal disapproval of the Poland annexation by the Third Reich and the USSR. The USA declared themselves neutral. The western powers were naive to count for internal opposition inside the Third Reich to overthrow Hitler. Great Britain believed the war’s fire to be put down with Poland’s sacrifice. In March 1940 the British PM Neville Chamberlain would try to convince an envoi of the President of the USA that the peace might be attained provided Gdańsk was given to Germany.

On Sept, 30th 1939 Ignacy Mościcki the President of Poland who was interned in Romania, resigned and pointed to Władysław Raczkiewicz.  waived some areas of his presidential power according to the Paris Agreement. He pointed to Władysław Sikorskias the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and the Commander-in-Chief. In May 1940 France fell


Great Britain as an Ally
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Winston Churchill

On May, 10yh 1940 Winston Spencer Churchillbecame the new British Prime Minister. The British appeasement politics towards Hitler drew to its end. On June, 19th 1940 the new British PM met gen. Władysław SikorskiHe assured that Great Britain was in war with Hitler and would provide help to Polish army. We became allies but it did not impede Great Britain in October 1940 to suggest to Stalin that Polish annexed territory by the USSR might be already considered as Russian. Stalin ignored this proposal.

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Churchill and Sikorski, 1940

After June, 22 1941 when Hitler attacked the USSR, Great Britain signed an agreement with Stalin. One of its side effects was an agreement as of 30th July 1941 (known as Sikorski-Majski Agreement) which normalized relations between Polish Government in Exile and the USSR. It enabled the amnesty for Poles imprisoned in Russia and the creation of the Polish Army in the USSR.

sikorski-majski-300x186 Mocarstwa wobec Polski

Podpisywanie układu Sikorski – Majski. Od lewej: Władysław Sikorski, Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill, Iwan Majski

A former Russian army officer in WWI, imprisoned at the NKVD Lubianka prison, Gen. Władysław Anders prison was released and became the commander of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSRThis was the moment when the search for lost officers on the territory of the USSR began. As late as in April 1943 it was revealed they were murdered in Katyn

The Agreement signed between Sikorski and the USSR ambassador Majski, did not include any references to the future Polish-Russian border. The Brits did not want to mention the case and Poles were incapable of playing it well using Stalin’s weakness at the time. However, Sikorski managed to block the approval of the Polish-Russian border from June 1941 asking Great Britain to sign a new agreement with the USSR on May,26 1942. It is still suspected by many that he paid with his life for that dying on July,4th 1943 in an air accident in Gibraltar..


The USSR as an opponent
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armia Andersa, Rosja, początek 1942 r.

Since autumn 1941 Great Britain made efforts to transfer the Polish Army formed in the USSR to the Middle East. In February 1942 the USSR demanded the to be sent to the front(which was armed by the USSR) - 5th Vilnius Infantry Division. Anders refused. There was a growing conflict related to admitting to the Army all former Polish citizens (Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Byelorussians). According to Soviets only ethnic Poles were to be accepted for admission. After Soviets fought back Germans in Moscow in December 1941 Stalin refused to enlarge the Polish Army. Although there were many volunteers escaping GULAG camps, he opposed their recruitment to the Polish units outside the USSR. In April 1942 Stalin finished recruitment whereas the Polish government was informed a month later. In spring 1942 Anders’ army units were transferred to Tashkent area (Uzbekistan).

armia-andersa-szlak-300x194 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiIn July 1942 Stalin yielded to the British demands and the Anders’ Army was sent to Iran which was under British and Soviet occupation. Churchill consented to accommodate there thousands of Polish civilians, children included. Stalin used this Polish exodus to accuse Polish government in Exile for being unwilling to fight the Germans. Polish-Russian relations deteriorated. On the Polish side many factors contributed to it i.e the conflict between Sikorski and Anders.. Anders felt a desperate need to evacuate the army outside the USSR and exceeded his duties (as we read in the evacuation protocol:-“The Polish Government does not consider it possible to use units formed in the USSR to be sent to the Soviet-German front”.).

Actually Anders was the only one willing to evacuate the army outside the USSR. Gen. Sikorski deemed it necesary evil. Stanisław Kotthe Polish Ambassador in the USSR was also against the plan. According to many historians, the evacuation of the Polish Army outside the USSR was against the Polish national interest and enabled the sovietisation of Poland later on. Most probably, it wouldn’t have stopped it but might have weakened it. 

After the Polish evacuation to Iran, Soviets denied the reunion of the families of the Polish soldiers. They launched the so-called passport operation, imposing Soviet citizenship to Poles who remained in the USSR. At that moment the western powers were no longer interested. When the Katyn Massacre was revealed in April 1943 and Poles asked the International Red Cross to investigate the case, Russia broke diplomatic relations with the Polish Government in Exile at the night of April, 25/26 1943.

Andrzej Chmielarz – Teheran
w: Biuletyn informacyjny AK nr 11 (247) listopad 2010, s. 22 – 25


Teheran Conference
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Big Three in Teheran

The Big Three leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition met in Teheran between Nov, 28th and Dec,1st 1943. A new Polish eastern border (the so-called Curzon line. Stalin he accepted on this matter proposall Churchil's:

“Basically it is concluded that the Polish state and the Polish nation are to have their land between the so-called Curzon line and the line of the Odra river, East Prussia and Opole region included. However the border will need to be further studied and civilian displacements may be necessary at some points.”

Europe and Germany were divided into occupation zones with Poland finding itself within the Soviet influence. Across the Polish territory transport was to be organized between the USSR and the Soviet controlled part of Germany. Due to presidential elections in the USA, Roosevelt asked the stipulations considering Poland to be classified. The Polish Government in Exile had no knowledge about the British and American position regarding the Polish case. We were cheated.

Katyn-300x214 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiIn January 1944 the USSR published the report of the show investigation by the Burdenko commission of the Katyn Massacre. Germans were deemed responsible for executing ca. 22 000 Poles (incl. ca.10 000 Army and Police officers).The British tried for a long time then to convince the Polish side to make territorial concessions towards Stalin as for the eastern borders but it proved effective only partially. The Polish PM Stanisław Mikołajczyk on Feb, 15th 1944 declared that he was ready to accept a temporary demarcation line east of Vilnius and Lviv, which was to be a starting point for further discussion as for the final new Polish eastern border. 

1024px-Curzon_linia-300x273 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiThe British PM, Churchill resumed the position of the British government when addressing his minister A. Eden in January 1944: “I believe we should not give them any hope for further help or recognition if they do not support full-heartedly the resolutions we took with the Soviets. They must be vey stupid to believe that we could start a new war only because of the eastern Polish border. Nations that proved incapable to protect their country must accept reasonable indications of those who managed to defend themselves and who propose a perspective of freedom and independence”. (own translation)

katyn-2-300x207 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiRoosevelt contending for reelection in November 1944, did not disclose his stance. Still in June 1944 he assured the Polish PM Stanisław Mikołajczyk that he would do all his best that Lviv, Tarnopol and Drohobycz remain within Polish borders, with Konigsberg being retributed. At the same time he sent a letter to Stalin where he reassured that the Teheran decisions remain valid.

On June 3, 1944, the Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk and the chairman of the National Council, Stanisław Grabski broke down attempts to negotiate with the Soviet ambassador Viktor Lebedev. On this day also Red Army launched its offensive to “liberate” the eastern borderlands. The Home Army implemented with double force the Operation TempestRussians were implementing their own , criminal politics. Soviet security services - NKVD and counter-intelligence Smiersh – would arrest and demobilize the HA units. Soldiers of the HA were executed (i.e. Rozryszcz, Przebraż, Łozów and Antonówka) or incorporated in the Berling Army. The HA officers were sent to Siberia. In total, Soviet security services, mainly NKVD, incarcerated and sent to GULAG camps ca. 50 000 HA soldiers who took part in the Operation TempestThe Soviet strategy was to disseminate terror among the Poles who lived in the area (a dozen thousand were murdered). Vilnius may serve as an example, where 35 000 Poles were captured and deported. The western powers remained silent.


The Yalta Conference

On Dec, 31st 1944 Stalin formed a puppet‘Temporary Government’It was approved of by the USSR, the Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and exchanged representatives with France. Gen. Ivan Sierovwas pointed as its commissar and since Feb,1st 1945 the government started to form its administration (naming local authorities such as the heads of voivodships, towns and provinces) where Germans were already chased out of the territory. Till May, 8th 1945 it covered all parts of Poland except of Szczecin, which was still under Soviet military administration until the end of Yalta Conference.

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przywódcy mocarstw w Jałcie

Between 4-11 Feb 1945 the leaders of anti Hitler coalition, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosvelt and Józef Stalin met at a conference in Jalta at the Potocki Palace in Livadia on the Crimea. During this meeting further referred to as the Jalta Conference , the annexation of the Polish lands - Kresy by the USSR was cemented as well as the Soviet sovereignty over Poland and the third part of Germany’s land (Turingen, Saxony, Meklenburg, Brandenburg, part of Pomerania). In return for the annexation of the Eastern Borderlands Poland was to be given: Lubusz Land, West Pomerania, East Prussia, Silesia and Free City of Gdansk.

On Feb, 13 1945 the Prime Minister of Polish government in Exile Tomasz Arciszewski did not accept the Yalta conditions. On Feb 21 1945 the Polish underground Parliament The Council of National Unityapproved of the Jalta agreements underlining that without participation and approval of the representatives of the Polish State its stipulations inflict severe and harmful conditions onto Poland.At the Jalta Conference the representatives of the world powers decided on the creation of a Temporary Government of National Unity in Warsaw and obliged it to organize free and general elections. They assumed the government would be composed also of the representatives of Polish authorities from“the country and abroad”…


On Feb 21 1945 Władysław Anders met British PM Winston Churchillwho asked: “Aren’t you satisfied with the decisions taken at the Yalta Conference”? Gen, Anders he replied:

Wladyslaw_Anders-252x350 Mocarstwa wobec Polski„It is not enough to say that I am not satisfied. I believe it to be a great misery. As a nation we don’t deserved to be treated that way and as for us fighting here we could not have expected that.

Poland was the first to sacrifice its blood and endured huge losses. We were Great Britain’s ally from the very beginning and at the time of trial. Abroad, as soldiers on land, in the air and on the sea, we struggled the best we could. In occupied Poland, we formed the biggest resistance against Germans. Soldiers fought for Poland and freedom of the country. As commanders, what can we tell our soldiers now?

Soviet Russia which was in alliance with Germans till 1941, takes over half of our territory and in the remaining part aims at implementing its power. We know from our experience where it leads.”


Responds Churchill:

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“You are accountable for that yourselves. I have been convincing you for a long time to tackle the problem of your border with Russia and to give them the lands east of the Curzon line.

If you have had listened to me, the whole case would have looked different today. We have never guaranteed your eastern borders.

We have enough armed forces now and we don’t need your help any longer. You may take your divisions back. We can get away without them.” (own translation)


Temporary Government of National Unity

At the beginning of February 1945 Stalin had under control the whole territory of Poland and had his “own” government - Temporary Govermment.Great Britain and the USA did not do much to underestimate the Stalinist politics of “fait accompli”. In Yalta Brits and Americans agreed so that Stalin could transform the Temporary Government into Temporary Government of National UnityIt was supposed to be composed of non-communist politicians from abroad and inside the country who were to be given 25% power in the new government. The fact of the existence of the Govt. in exile was totally ignored.

On June 15th 1945 the Govt. in Exile declared that  that in the face of such tragic circumstances the formation of a legitimate and independent govt. of national unity based on the people’s freedom is practically impossible as long as Poland would be occupied by the Soviet army and the Soviet security police (NKVD) and as long as it remains cut off from its western allies and the whole civilized world..

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Temporary Government of National Unity, 1945

On June, 28th 1945 a Temporary Government of National Unity (TRJN – Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej) was formed: Edward Osóbka-Morawski (PPS) – as Prime Minister, , Władysław Gomułka (PPR) – Deputy PM, Stanisław Mikołajczyk (SL, from Aug, 22 1945 PSL) – 2nd Deputy PM, Minister of Agriculture, Władysław Kiernik (PSL) – Minister of Administration, Jerzy Sztachelski (PPR) – minister of Provisions and Commerce, Stanisław Radkiewicz (PPR) – minister of Public Security, Stefan Matuszewski (PPS) – minister of Information and Propaganda, Jan Rabanowski (SD) – minister of Transport, Władysław Kowalski (SL) – minister of Culture and Arts, Stanisław Tkaczow (PPR) – minister of Forestry, Marshall of Poland - Michał Żymierski (PPR) – minister of National Defence, prof. Michał Kaczorowski (PPS) – minister of Reconstruction, Czesław Wycech (PSL) – minister of Education, Mieczysław Thugutt (SL) – nominal minister of Mail and Telegraphs, head of the Ministry was in the hands of Tadeusz Kapeliński (SL), Jan Stańczyk (PPS) – minister of Employment and Social Security, Hilary Minc (PPR) – minister of Industry, Konstanty Dąbrowski (PPS) – minister of Treasury, Wincenty Rzymowski (SD) – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henryk Świątkowski (PPS) – minister of Justice, Franciszek Litwin (SL) – minister of Health.

A day after TRJN was claimed legitimate by Sweden and France, on July, 5th by the USA and GB. Soon other countries of the anti-Hitler alliance recognized it as in force. The TRJN was denied to participate in the UN Conference in April 1945 but it signed the UN charter on Oct, 16 1945, which led to treat Poland as the co-founder of the UN.


Conference in Potsdam
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Conference in Potsdam

The leaders of the anti Hitler alliance met between July, 17 and Aug, 2 1945 at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam. Their aim was to accept a resolution which would liquidate the effects of the WWII. They were to decide also over the fate of Germany and world order after the war. For Poland, governed already at the time by a pro-stalinist government, two issues were of great importance – the border with Germany and war time reparations.

The western world powers which agreed to give away Poland to the Soviet sphere of influences did not want to accept the decisions over the border along the Oder and Nisse line. Churchil claimed that he would have never accepted it but he was defeated in the parliamentary election which took place before the conference and was not at the head of the British Delegation. The Big Three negotiated a silent agreement over the question of the border in exchange for decreasing the amount of the war reparations which were claimed by the USSR from Germany. It resulted in the expulsion of millions of Germans from territories which were given to Poland. It was also naïve to believe Stalin that TRJN would run free election in Poland.

A homogenous Poland as far as ethnicity is concerned was to guarantee the new European order. At the Potsdam Conference the representatives of TRJN made efforts for the Big Three to accept the Polish western border along the Oder and Nisse, which was also in the Soviet interest. Finally, two documents guaranteed the border (on Sept,12 1990 – agreement with the FRD (treaties 2+4) and on Nov,14 1990 - the Polish -German treaty confirming the existing border .

Polish war time losses have never been fully covered. According to the Potsdam Conference decisions, Poland was to receive 15% compensation based on the assets taken over by Soviets in the Soviet occupied Germany. However, it has never been estimated even what is the amount of “this 15%”. Finally, the governments of Polish People’s Republic and the USSR agreed that Poland would receive 7,5% of reparations and would resign from the remaining part. On January, 14 1946 in Paris the western states decided on the wartime reparations. Due to the stipulations of this agreement we received ca. 3859 kg of monetary gold of the Gdansk Bank (64%) which was stolen by Germans.

Henryk Stańczyk – Konferencja w Poczdamie i jej skutki dla Polski
w: Niepodległość i Pamięć,  2019 nr 4 (68)



Soviet Poland

polnocna-grupa-1-300x201 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiCaused by the Germans in the WWII losses meant for Poland the death of 6 mln citizens (Jews included) and the material losses estimated at 930 billion USD. $. The USSR took over the territory of Eastern Borderlands (Kresy) covering ca. 178 000 sq km (51,5% of the pre-war Poland). We received “Recovered Territories” which covered 101 000 sq km.

Drawing new borders was grossly incompatible with the regulations of the postwar international politics elaborated by Great Britain and the US in the stipulations of the Atlantic CharterHowever, Poland had nothing to say as we had become the background of the Soviet occupation zone in Germany.

polnocna-grupa-2-300x199 Mocarstwa wobec PolskiA million men Red Army marched across Poland in their chase for the fascists. Since January 1945 ca. 108 000 soldiers skilled in looting (so-called trophy units) actively pillaged Polish belongings. Ca. 1,200 factories were dissembled. They looted thousands km of railways as well as electric and telephone lines. Not to mention resources, crops and cattle. Only till Jan, 1 1948 ca. 283 000 wagons were sent to the USSR with looted things. Its worth is estimated at ca. 13,3 billion PLN In 1946 Poland paid for ca. 300 000 Red Army soldiers who remained on the Polish soil. Till October 1992  stationed in Poland Northern Group of the Russian Armed ForcesThe costs and losses related to that are estimated at 63 billion PLN. 

„Thanks to” western powers as well as home politics of poor decisionmakers, Poland had become booty for the USSR for years. Still today there are Poles who cannot mentally separate themselves from this dependence…


Tadeusz Panecki – Sprawa polska w II wojnie światowej
w: Niepodległość i Pamięć 2019 nr 4 (68), s. 127-152


Józef Smoliński – Wysiłek wojenny Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie (1939-1945)
w: Niepodległość i Pamięć 2019, nr 4 (68) s. 91-125






Text translated from Polish to English by Aleksandra Duda.
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