I am well aware that not all the international volunteers for the Republican cause in Spain were knowingly fighting for Communism, but that was what they were doing, whether they were aware of it or not. Some did wake up to that fact. Franco was the lesser of the two evils. If the Marxists had won in Spain, the end result would have been much, much worse.
The record shows (and Wladek has commented on this) that Britain was prepared to betray Poland well before Teheran. Churchill faithfully followed that policy.
Churchill worse than Stalin and Hitler? In a sense, this is true. No-one disputes that the two erstwhile partners in attacking Poland had a higher number of dead victims than the British PM was responsible for. It is obvious that this is being looked at from the moral perspective. One expects one's enemy to do terrible things; one doesn't expect to be stabbed in the back by an ally. Isn't treachery one of the most odious crimes around? In any case, Churchill stands condemned by his own words: ex ore tuo te convincam.
Historians may claim the benefit of hindsight, but they are human beings with their fair share of bias, prejudice, etc. Some deliberately overlook the evidence because it does not square with their pet theories. It also goes without saying that historians are often at odds with other historians.
We agree that the actions of the British government in respect of Poland were understandable. However, you appear to hold that one can say, what else could Churchill and FDR have done, given the circumstances. In my book, treachery and betrayal are treachery and betrayal, and even more so in the case of the British and American leaders who mouthed lofty sentiments about freedom, Christian civilisation, etc. - and did the opposite.
There is no need to add anything further at this stage as Wladek and John Halucha have more than adequately covered the issue to date. In the meantime, I look forward to Wladek's next instalment...
From: Mark and Oyun <mark_oyun@...
Sent: Tue, 1 December, 2009 4:46:25 AM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Re: Poland Betrayed By Churchill & FDR
1.If I might stray off-topic for a second... the International Brigade did not fight in the Communist cause. Men like George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway did not go to Spain to fight FOR the Communists. They went to fight AGAINST fascism. The fact that they ended up embroiled in nationalist in-fighting was not why they were there. War is a horrible thing and atrocities happened on both sides, nevertheless if one wants to go down the body count road, fascism's record of murder is one that should reflected on also.
2.Back on topic. You wrote:
"As has been pointed out previously, Churchill and FDR didn't have to declare war on Stalin once Hitler had been vanquished - the least they could have done was to have refused to agree to Stalin's occupation of a large part of Europe." This part I would agree with. It was the only policy that would have made and sense. It would not have changed anything, but it would have been the right thing to do. This is all with the benefit of hindsight. In my view the options available at the time the decisions were being made were far fewer. When should Britain and America have "refused"?
At Teheran [November 1943] Stalin declared that he was going to keep the Kresy but to sweeten the pill, Poland was to be offered parts of Germany as compensation. What were the British and Americans to say? To them it seemed perfectly reasonable. They did not come from the Kresy and the whole multi-ethnic composition of the area was too complex to be bothered with. OK, the Poles were not consulted over this, but following the death of Sikorski and the whole Katyn disclosures, no one at Teheran was really interested in the views of Mikolajczyk. And, by the way, if we are going to bring up the Atlantic Charter and self-determination, we should also remember that the Polish Government-in- Exile was not averse to asking for a waiver of the Charter to allow Poland to occupy the German territory to the Oder-Neisse line. However, Churchill knew that Stalin could not be trusted but given that the Red Army was bearing the brunt of the fighting and the western
allies were having trouble providing the long awaited "Second Front", how much would one expect Churchill to protest.
By the time of Yalta [February 1945] the story was a foregone conclusion. For the "Big Three" the issue of Poland's borders had been settled in 1943. All that remained up for grabs was the nature of the government.. . and by extension... Poland's freedom! Stalin promised free elections. We know that Stalin's promise meant very little but it WAS believed at the time... although a great deal of hope and wishful thinking was involved. People like Mikolajczyk who returned to Poland to participate in the post-war Governemnt of National Unity must bear some responsibility for giving a veneer of legality to what [again with hindsight] was obviously going to be a sham. The communists were so unpopular in Poland that they would surely lose!!! Everyone underestimated the ability of the communists to falsify elections. To his credit General Anders had nothing to do with any of it and warned Mikolajczyk that he would soon be running for his life.
By the time of Potsdam [July 1945] it was all over. Both Britain and the US had new leaders and Stalin got his way. Mikolajczyk had resigned as Polish Prime Minister and was campaigning for the elections. The British Foreign Office was also playing a "wait and see" game to see what would happen, but the Head of the FO's Northern Department Robert Hankey was becoming more and more disillusioned with each month that past. More so since his primary responsibility was to convince the Polish Armed Forces to follow Mikolajczyk and do their patriotic duty in Poland. The British [Labour] Foreign Secretary declared in 1945:
"...I inquired from Marshal Stalin whether the Soviet troops were to be withdrawn, and I was assured that they would be, with the exception of a small number required to maintain the communications necessary for the Soviet troops in Germany. That is not unreasonable. There is also the question of the presence of secret police in Poland. That still needs clearing up, but, with these assurances, I would urge Poles overseas, both military and civilian, to go back to their country and assume their responsibilities in building a new Poland. They will render a far greater service there than they can do from outside."
By 1947 the position was:
"As you know, the Foreign Secretary has, on numerous occasions made clear his view that it is the duty of all Poles who feel able to do so to return to Poland, in order to take their part in the work of national reconstruction. I do not think that we can go any further than this. The fact is that conditions in Poland are thoroughly unsatisfactory, a steady drive towards Communisation is underway, and there have been many arrests of independent socialists and others who wish the tendency to be resisted. In the circumstances, we really could not accept the moral responsibility of advising men to go back."
Following the acknowledgement that the Polish elections were a farce, the British Government should have declared them void and the recognition of the Warsaw government similarly void. Prior to that, I can see no other course open for Britain faced as it was with de facto situation it had.
3.My final point. I, like so many who are members of this group, grew up listening to the stories of our parents and grandparents. My own grandfather had a particular loathing of Churchill. My parents tell me of the mild celebration on the day he died. Who am I to say they were wrong. I did not live through the events or the time. If I were in their position I would probably feel the same. However, being a historian has taught me that those who live through an event are not necessarily the best witnesses. Their views are, by definition, one sided. This is not a criticism; simply an observation. I am not sure how many modern historians could come out with a statement like: "Churchill was worse than both Hitler and Stalin" and still expect to maintain any credibility within the historical community. Everyone is free to hold their own views but to say: "It is disappointing to see such condonation and justification in this Forum, of all places." Why is it
disappointing? I have never argued that the British government was right or its actions were acceptable. Simply they were understandable. Because I do not subscribe to the theory that Britain had a conspiratorial anti-Polish agenda [for which I have yet to see any definitive evidence] and I refuse to join in the chorus of "Hitler: Bad... Stalin: Worse... Churchill: The Worst" does not make my view any less valid than any other contributor to this forum.
I remain, with best regards, Mark Ostrowski
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]