Poland From the Inside.
A Nationality State

There is no doubt that Poland is a State of nationalities, as the Poles themselves readily admitted until this summer. This view is also expressed in the Polish publication Poland Old and New by Joseph Statkowski (Arct, Warsaw, 1938), intended for English consumption, and printed in English. On page 107 M. Statkowski says that the "largest national minorities in Poland are the Ukrainians," and he quotes some figures to show what a big percentage they form.

The writer admits that there are 70% Ukrainians in the voyvodship of Stanislawow, and the same number in that of Volhynia. Actually, the percentage is much higher; the object of Poland Old and New is to defend Greater Poland. The book is prefaced by a map showing the Slav tribes as formerly extending as far as the present Danish-German frontier. But the author also admits that the Ukrainians form a compact minority, for he remarks that "the majority of the Ukrainians inhabit the south-eastern provinces of Poland." Even in Tarnopol, he adds, 46% of the inhabitants are Ukrainian. He estimates the natural increase of the Jews in Poland at 50,000 a year, and [71] admits that "the excess Jewish population is finding it gradually more and more difficult to get a livelihood," while the "economic problems of the peasants" and the "continued crisis in agriculture" have "brought the Jewish question in the villages into a greater prominence than ever."

In one week I saw five cases of Jews being arrested in Warsaw, and it must be remembered that most Jews live in their own districts, where I only spent a matter of some hours.

M. Statkowski agrees that there is a "White Ruthenian" national minority (referred to by me as White Russians, to prevent confusion with the Ukrainians, who are also called Ruthenians, but without the prefix "White"), but he estimates it as only 1,500,000, and adds that there are "less than 90,000 Lithuanians." It will thus be seen that even nationalist Polish writers (I have quoted a typical example) do not deny the existence of large minorities, although they do try to minimise their importance. The same writer says that most of the Germans "left Poland of their own free will when this country regained her independence," and that there are at present "about 200,000 Germans in Poznania (Posen)." This number is well underestimated, but the admission that most of the Germans left when the provinces fell under Polish rule is illuminating.

There were actually some 2,500,000 Germans in the former German provinces awarded to Poland, but a [72] big percentage left. A few, no doubt, did so of their own free will, rather than become Polish citizens, but the majority left because they were subjected to petty annoyances, in some cases, and actual persecution, in others. Their land was taken in the manner already described, many of their schools were closed; their organisations were declared illegal, and they were debarred from working in many walks of life. Official positions were practically impossible to obtain. Often enough, it was considered an offence for Germans to chat in the streets in their own language.

I gave special attention to this point in Kattowitz, which is mainly German to this day. Walking quickly through the streets, I heard Polish being spoken here and there, but not a sound of German reached my ears. I then strolled slowly along, listening attentively, and I heard German being spoken in undertones. Whilst the Poles chatted loudly, the Germans spoke in undertones. I approached a group of four people talking German quietly and their conversation ceased. Again, on one of the squares, where there are many seats, I sat down, and the conversation ceased. One young couple exchanged a few words of - broken Polish. I turned to three young men on the other side of my seat and asked them in German the name of the square, adding that I was English. Smiles of relief were noticeable, nods exchanged, and low voices began talking German again. My new friends explained that talking German [73] led to trouble; they would be asked questions, perhaps even arrested. One of them had a German novel - absolutely non-political - with him, but it was in a Polish paper cover, so that no one might notice he was reading German. In 1938 there were 107 German periodicals published in Poland, and the number is still round about a hundred, all of which sell reasonably well, but one seldom sees people reading them - unless it is in their own homes.

There were no less than 122 Ukrainian publications in Poland in the same year and the figure remains steady.

Poland Old and New is a semi-official Polish publication, and when even such a book had to admit that Poland is a "nationality State," it would be difficult for others to deny it.

Other German towns include Königshütte and Oderberg, while the Olsa area is Slovakian. This was, for some reason which I am unable to explain, awarded to the Poles, but was included in Czecho-Slovakia when the latter was founded after the War. The population is not Polish but Slovak. Possibly the mistake arose owing to the fact that the population is not Czech, so that it was supposed to be Polish. This, of course, affects only that part of Poland added to the realm in 1938.

A glance at the historical maps of almost any encyclopaedia shows that Poland had never had a coast-line. In the middle of the 14th century, for [74] instance, Thorn was a northern frontier town of Poland, the Corridor belonging to the Teutonic Knights, who were, as the Poles themselves admit, German. Upper Silesia was even then German. Pomerania, however, was once under Polish sovereignty, but only for a brief period.

General statements about the Polish Corridor, and Danzig in particular, seem only to be made by those who have never been there. Those who have visited these areas speak very differently. Sir Arnold Wilson, M.P., in The Times of July 7th, 1939, referred to his tour of Danzig and the Sudetenland as follows:

    "Some of your readers may care to hear something of the impressions left on my mind by a recent visit to parts of the Sudeten district of Germany and (last Sunday) to Danzig; there is calm at the centre of the cyclone and after a day spent there in the company of well-informed foreign as well as German residents, I scarcely recognise the picture painted in certain London Sunday and other newspapers which any Berliner can buy and whose lurid contents sufficiently explain the widespread belief abroad that Londoners are a prey to vain fears spread by occult influences."

The Daily Sketch recently stated that "no credence can be attached" to the rumours regarding Germany and Danzig. Dean Inge has written some interesting facts in the Church of England Newspaper, one quotation being as follows:

    [75] "Versailles had to be revised, with or without war. Hitler is trying to do it without war. He cannot be allowed to have everything his own way; but are we going to fight about Danzig, a thoroughly German town, which never ought to have been separated from the Reich?... Let us cease from the childish habit of personifying other nations as monsters."

According to The Times (July 12th, 1939), the Deutsche diplomatisch-politische Korrespondenz, official mouthpiece of the German Foreign Office, wrote that "The German solution to the Danzig question has always been regarded by the Reich as a peaceful solution in which the interests of the harbour as well as of its hinterland would be secured to mutual advantage. So far as a possible danger to the Polish access to the sea in case of conflict is concerned, nobody, and least of all in England - where claim is still made to some understanding about blockades - will seriously accept that with or without Danzig Germany would not then be in a position to shut Poland off hermetically from the sea. The settlement of the Danzig question, however, should, in the German view, have excluded such eventualities for ever."

In a leading article of the same date The Times clearly stated that "British interests are not the least involved in the local issue, and neither in Great Britain nor France could it possibly be a popular battle-cry to 'fight for Danzig.'"

Years ago British attacks on Polish chauvinism were [76] the order of the day. H. G. Wells in The Shape of Things to Come wrote of the restoration of Poland, but regretted that "instead of a fine, spirited and generous people there appeared a narrowly patriotic government which presently developed into an aggressive, vindictive and pitiless dictatorship." These are hard words, but Mr. Wells went on to say that the "most disastrous of all the follies of Versailles was the creation of the Free City of Danzig and what was called the Polish Corridor."

Marshal Foch, too, interested himself in this problem, claiming that the "Corridor area will be the cause of the next war."

Sir Arnold Wilson has been in Danzig three times during the last four years. I have already quoted the opening of his letter to The Times. This letter contains some further passages worthy of attention. For example, writing of progress in Danzig, he says:

    "...I have watched the slow but natural process of 'reversion to type' which is now complete. It is once more what it was in 1919, a microcosm of that part of Prussia to which it belongs geographically and racially. The will to revert to Germany is, for whatever reason, as strong as it was in the Saarland before the plebiscite. Whatever the merits of the status quo of 1919, its moral basis has disappeared. The principle employment is not transit trade but shipbuilding, which is very active. Some yards are working three shifts; all slips are full. All orders [77] come from or through Germany. But the importance of Danzig to Poland remains; Danzig can be blown to pieces from Gdynia, and vice versa. The treatymakers of Versailles intended that Danzig should be Poland's only outlet to the Baltic; Gdynia was made only because Danzigers in 1922, actively encouraged in every possible way by the British Labour Party, prevented the transit of arms needed by Poland to resist Russian aggression which they not merely condoned but applauded.

    "Herr Hitler stated on April 18 that he had proposed to Poland that Danzig should be incorporated within the Reich as a Free State (Staat). The phrase implies the continued existence of the Free Port in Danzig harbour (such as exists in Hamburg and Trieste); it also implies the absence of guns and fortifications on this sector of the Polish frontier.

    "Here is the basis of a settlement, if Germany could satisfy Poland that the natural desire for a corridor across Pomorze is not the precursor of a demand for Pomorze and Posen.... In Danzig at the moment there is more fear of a Polish than of a German coup. Memories of the very recent Polish descent on Teschen and Oderberg, of the Vilna coup, and of the exploits of Korfanty are as vivid as Tannenberg...."

On April 2nd, 1917, the late President Wilson made his celebrated speech before Congress. Almost everything he said is a complete refutation of the idea of including German areas in a non-German country. [78] For example, towards the end of his speech, he solemnly stated:

    "We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty...."

This is directly opposed to the principle of handing over areas predominantly German or Ukrainian to the Poles. Lloyd George opposed the idea of handing over so many Germans to the Poles, pointing out that the Poles had a different religion, and that they had never proved in history that they were capable of ruling themselves. He expressed the view that such an action would sooner or later lead to a new war in East Europe. Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, abandoned his principle of self-determination, and once remarked that he was for the Poles and against the Germans when there was anything to decide upon. No one has, apparently, ever troubled about the rights of self-determination in Poland since then. The minorities have fought alone - a losing fight against the Poles.

[Scriptorium notes: for a taste of the Poles' treatment of their German minority at almost the exact time that this book was published, click here!]

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Poland From the Inside