Poland From the Inside.
Famous men quoted

There was a tendency at one time to describe the Polish Corridor in brief but pithy phrases. General Weygand called it "useless in peace, and not to be defended in war." M. Herbette, formerly French Ambassador at Moscow, said in an interview with the Zürcher Zeitung that the "return of the Polish Corridor is inevitable."

The Corridor has been criticised by numerous prominent Englishmen at various times. Lord Dickinson, an expert on minority questions, thought that no one could travel in East Prussia or Danzig without coming to the conclusion that the present state could not go on. Lord Rothermere described the division of Germany by the Corridor as the worst part of the whole Peace Treaty and referred to the Corridor as a provocation for Germany and a danger for England. Professor Dawson, one of Lloyd George's collaborators, and expert in German-Polish frontier questions, stated that the Poles did not need the Corridor. Mr. Garvin, Editor of the Observer, declared that England would not go to war for the Corridor. Lord d'Abernon regarded the Corridor as [111] the chief danger in Europe after the danger on the Franco-German frontier had diminished. Sir Robert Donald, formerly Editor of the News Chronicle, considered the Corridor to be a threatening area.

Americans have held the same views. Senator Borah stated in an interview that a revision of the frontier of Upper Silesia and the Corridor was necessary. Senator Johnson, in the New York Sun, said that Wilson had told him that three things had disappointed him, and that one was the handing over to Poland of German areas. Colonel Powell described the Corridor as a powder-barrel left by Wilson.

Dozens of other similar statements might be added, but no purpose could be served by printing pages of such quotations, which all amount to the same thing. Lloyd George, Signor Nitti, Senator Borah, Marshal Foch, General Weygand, Ambassador Herbette, Lord Rothermere, Lord Dickinson, Mr. Garvin and Senator Johnson were only a few of the many authorities who adopted the same point of view, i.e. that the Corridor was a danger that would have to be dealt with sooner or later.

The Polish Ambassador, M. Filipowicz, once tried to persuade Senator Borah that the Corridor was Polish, and the Senator ironically remarked that there would certainly soon be 100 per cent. Poles in the Corridor if Poland continued her present policy.

The really astonishing thing is that the Corridor was ever decided upon as an emergency solution at all. [112] And just why it was considered necessary to find an emergency solution is not clear. President Wilson opposed the idea, at least until the end of 1918, as being against the principle of self-determination, and in October of that year he asked Paderewski and Dmowski if a free harbour would not meet their needs. But the view that the national rights must be respected did not begin with Wilson. Throughout the War, British Ministers said they would stand by it. The first of them was the late Earl of Oxford and Asquith (then Mr. Asquith), who, as Premier, stated in the House of Commons on August 6th, 1914, two days after the outbreak of hostilities, that Britain was fighting for two things. The second, in Asquith's own words, was "to vindicate the principle - which in these days when force, material force, sometimes seems to be the dominant influence and factor in the development of mankind - we are fighting to vindicate the principle that small nationalities are not to be crushed in defiance of international good faith by the arbitrary will of a strong and overmastering Power."

But the principle mentioned, that small nationalities should not be crushed, was clearly forgotten in 1919. President Wilson on April 2nd, 1917, asserted that "we are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them. Just because we fight without rancour and without selfish object, seeking nothing for our- [113] selves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for...."

There can be no doubt but that these words were spoken in all earnestness, and represented the view of the speakers at the time they were used; but by 1919 all this was forgotten. Who referred to "the principles of right and of fair play" when it came to satisfying the various insatiable delegations who all demanded slices of Germany?

I have remarked that if Danzig shall become German again, as it wishes to, this is merely the fulfilment of the words of Asquith, Lloyd George and Wilson, who favoured self-determination. Wilson said on February 11th, 1918, that nationalities and land must not be treated as though they were pawns in a game. All the speeches of British and American statesmen made during the War, of which I have quoted two characteristic examples (Asquith and Wilson) verbatim above, were against regarding groups of people or plots of land as chess-men. The Danzigers became figures in a game of chess in spite of that: the Polish Corridor was another pawn in the game.

Upper Silesia was a third. The Allies said it should be left to Germany, but the Poles immediately checkmated.

[114] It is impossible for any fair-minded person to deny that Wilson's Fourteen Points did not permit such German areas to be placed under the control of other Powers.

And if we consider the Ukrainians, we find that the same applies. No nationality was to become a pawn in the game; fair play was to be assured; America, according to Wilson, was "but one of the champions of the rights of mankind."

The Ukrainians were divided between Russia, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Rumania by the peace treaties. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying we had a quarrel with them. Neither England nor America has ever had a quarrel with the Ukrainians in the whole of their history. We cannot claim that the Ukraine was split up in the interests of the balance of power, for these people would have helped to establish such a balance. If we had created an independent Ukrainian State, we should have earned their gratitude and had a friend with a population of 45 millions in Europe. The rights of small nationalities were simply ignored at Versailles and Trianon. The case of the Ukrainians proves this clearly enough.

The least we can do even now is to assure them their own local government. Or should we fight for the Poles in order that they may prevent the Ukrainians from teaching their children their own language?

We must, in accordance with war pledges, do our best to see that each nationality enjoys all possible [115] independence. This includes the Poles. But why only the Poles? Why not the Ukrainians as well?

Twenty years have passed without anything being done for the minorities, who cannot be expected to wait another score or two of years. There is proverbially no time like the present. What we are prepared to do for Poland we should also be willing to do for Danzig, the Corridor, Upper Silesia and the Ukraine, i.e. to use our influence to gain each of these areas a maximum of liberty.

It was Clemenceau who talked Wilson over. But we must not blame Wilson too much. The negotiations were extended over a long period, and the people of U.S.A. were no longer interested in Europe. It displeased them to think that their President spent his time in the Hall of Mirrors instead of the White House. Wilson had little time to carry his points, and his power at home was on the wane. But this is no reason why we should not now try to make good the mistakes of those days.

Wilson saw what Clemenceau was aiming at, of course, for he remarked in April, 1919, that France's one interest in Poland was to weaken Germany. Lloyd George had intended to create a State composed of such Polish elements as wished to become part of such a State, and he made a statement to this effect on January 5th, 1918. It was not until after the Armistice that all these good principles were abandoned. Since it is never too late to mend, we [116] might assure a lasting peace in East Europe by doing now what Lloyd George and Wilson had intended.

Following their various and undisputed acts of aggression against Germany (when they took Upper Silesia), Russia (when they nearly lost their own independence), and Lithuania (when they seized Vilna), the Poles settled down under Pilsudski, who came to power in May, 1926. Himself a great soldier, Pilsudski determined to assure peace. Polish aggression ceased. In fact, in the following year the Poles placed a resolution before the Eighth Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, demanding that "all attempts to make war as a means of settlement of international conflicts" were to be forbidden. In 1931 Poland proposed moral disarmament to the League.

And New Poland lived up to her word. There was, it is true, internal dissension. The minorities were not treated as one might have wished. But under Pilsudski there were great improvements. In 1932 Poland signed a Pact of Non-Aggression with Russia, and in 1934 with Germany.

Pilsudski stood for strict independence for Poland, not only nationally but also internationally. For this reason Poland rejected the Eastern Pact which would, in certain circumstances, have permitted foreign troops to pass through her territories.

Under Pilsudski, Poles living abroad began to return to their Fatherland, though the foreign minorities still tended to emigrate. No less than 53,783 emigrants [117] were counted in 1935. The density of Poland's population is about 235 inhabitants per square mile at the moment of writing. This figure is likely to increase considerably since the population has risen by some five millions in the course of the last eleven years. Germany's increase of population in the same period was under four millions.

Mr. Chamberlain's pledge to assist Poland was given, to quote his precise words, "in the event of a clear threat to her independence which she considers it vital to resist with her national forces."

But is Danzig necessary to Poland's independence? Is the Corridor essential to the liberty of the Poles? Does Warsaw need to control the educational establishments of the Ukrainians in order to feel free? Must Upper Silesia be ruled by authorities foreign to the indigenous population to safeguard Polish rights?

Let us take one question at a time. Danzig is not at all necessary. Poland's trade, as I have shown through Polish statistics, does not depend upon Danzig and the Vistula at all. Danzig is a source of trouble to Poland and of unrest to the whole of Europe. It is admitted on all sides to be German, and can, under present circumstances, never become more than a thorn in the side of the Poles. Without Danzig, Poland would be richer and happier.

The Corridor is of importance to Poland, it is true, as an outlet to the sea. But that is all. The district is German, not Polish. Its loss would not affect [118] Poland so long as she were assured a free port and harbour through which her goods might pass free from all duty. Without such a port, of course, the loss would be great. But with it there would really be no loss at all, save in nominal area.

Upper Silesia, like all industrial centres, is thickly populated and provides no outlet for Poland's surplus. Other and all-Polish industrial centres would actually benefit by an increase of trade, Poland's unemployment figures would drop, and increased prosperity would result. This also applies to Oderberg.

The Olsa area, which is Slovak, would not affect Poland at all. It is merely part of the land taken from Czecho-Slovakia at the end of last year.

Autonomy for the Ukrainians would end one of the most frequent causes of Poland's helplessness throughout the centuries - internal dissent.

Mr. Bilainkin has agreed to the need of something being done. In an article headed "Let us confer - now!" in the Sunday Press (June 18th, 1939) he wrote:

    "Have Poland and Germany not a good deal in dispute?

    "Will a rich, growing Germany always be content with East Prussia cut off from the mainland by a Polish Province? Is it feasible to think that a German city, even though wholly dependent on Polish trade and goodwill for its existence, will continue to be satisfied for ever with non-German customs officials in its midst?"

[119] Even though this writer believes Danzig to be wholly dependent on Poland, he did not consider the City would be satisfied with that state of affairs for ever. But, of course, as I have shown, Danzig is no longer dependent only on Poland, else her army of unemployed would stretch from frontier to frontier.

The fact is that the reasons quoted for the status quo no longer apply; they are as dead as the dodo.

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Poland From the Inside