Saturday, March 14, 2009

Poland and the Anglo-Soviet Treaty

Davies on page 162 of No Simple Victory, writes, “A formal Anglo-Soviet treaty . . . was very slow to materialize. The main sticking point lay in the Soviet demand that Britain recognize the western frontier of the USSR, which had been agreed with the Nazis in 1939 and which ran through the middle of Poland. Soviet intransigence on this issue, which thanks to the German advance was a pure abstraction at the time, was wonderful to behold. . . Churchill decided to show goodwill without standing on ceremony. The first Arctic convoy sailed from Scapa Flow to Murmansk on 21 August 1941. The treaty was not signed until 26 May 1942.

“The phraseology of the agreement sounds harmless enough. But it conceals an ugly reality. ‘Non-interference’ meant that a supposedly democratic state had resigned its right to protest against its partner’s inhuman practices of slave labour, concentration camps and mass murder. . . .”

“The Soviet-Polish Treaty of 30 July 1941 was attended by still more painful negotiations. Less than two years earlier Stalin had helped Hitler to dismember Poland. His dreaded security forces had carried off huge numbers of Polish citizens. And his only explanation for the c.25,000 missing officers – that they might have ‘escaped to Manchuria’ – was preposterous. Yet General Sikorski, Poland’s prime minister, was obliged to bear it all with fortitude, knowing that his government was dependent on Churchill, and that Churchill wanted a result. He was mortified to find that all attempts to discuss the frontier issue were met with a stony refusal. In essence, he agreed to cooperate with the USSR in the war against Germany on condition that Stalin released the surviving deportees, and to raise a Polish army in Russia from the resultant pool of manpower. The deal was struck. Stalin duly approved a so-called ‘amnesty’ for hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And General Wladyslaw Anders was let out of the Lubyanka jail to take command of the army. . . .”


Did Poland get an apology? Here is a response by a Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in 2002: “We don’t have to apologize. We lost 600,000 lives to liberate Poland. Stalin fought so that Poland should become an independent state, and we have helped Poland to build dozens of factories and enterprises.”

Does Poland want an apology? They did on May 9, 2005: “. . . yes, but we want this to be full of dignity and historical truth,’ President Aleksander Kwasniewski told TVN television during a visit to Washington. . . words should be heard . . . words of condemnation of Ribbentrop-Molotov pact . . . .”

Katyn, if not the Anglo-Soviet treaty or the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, remains a subject of interest for Poland. Anna M. Cienciala, et al wrote Katyn, a Crime without Punishment, which was published in 2008. An reviewer writes, ‘This single volume has everything: History of events leading up to and including the Massacre, the decades of western silence and Soviet denial, Soviet admission of responsibility, the 1943 and 1990’s forensic investigations, and implications for Polish-Russian relationships. In view of the fact that the Russians are once again hardening their attitudes regarding Katyn, this book is more relevant than ever.”

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