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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Poland During the World War

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"POLAND DURING THE WORLD WAR. - Thus the declaration of war in 1914 found the Poles with no definite national policy. The various political parties were united in that theyhad one common end in view, the restoration of an independent Poland, but their opinions were divided as to the means of attaining this end. In Galicia the majority of the Poles were pro-Austrian. In Russian Poland the National Democrats, under the leadership of M. Dmowski, were strongly in favour of working for an autonomous Poland under the Russian crown, and this policy seems to have been supported by the majority of the Russian Poles. In opposition to this party was a strong anti-Russian element, of which the most notable supporter was Pilsudski. Having been forced to flee from Russian Poland in 1907 Pilsudski had taken refuge in Galicia, where he had utilized the sokols (athletic clubs) and shooting clubs for the purpose of organizing an efficient military force to use against Russia in case of war. At the outbreak of war he mobilized his forces, as the Polish Legion, and, advancing across the border, seized Kielce. The actual military result was of no great importance, but " it soon became clear that his bold decisive action had powerfully impressed the national mind." On Aug. 14, in answer to the anti-Russian campaign which the Germans had been organizing in Warsaw, she Grand Duke Nicholas issued a proclamation announcing Russia's intention of establishing a united Poland " under the sceptre of the Russian emperor," a Poland which was to be " free in faith, language and in self-government." By the National Democrats this proclamation was welcomed as being the first stage towards the fulfilment of their aims. By the followers of Pilsudski, however, the proclamation was received with no favour: proposals for conciliation with Russia tended only to emphasize Polish divisions.

Polish resistance to the Russians took a political as well as a military form. On Aug. 16 two existing Polish organizations, the Confederation of Independent parties and the Polish Military chest (skarb ), were merged in the Supreme National Council of Galicia, which contained representatives of all parties in the Galician Diet and Reichsrat. Though the National Council was formed with the object of offering political resistance to the Russians, it was not altogether in agreement with Pilsudski and his legionaries. It was inclined to be monarchical whilst Pilsudski was Socialist Republican. Accordingly the Council laid down the following regulations: The Polish legions were to form a separate Polish command but to be subject to the Austrian Army Command. The Polish language was to be used. Legionaries were to take the Austrian Landsturm oath and F. M. L. Durski, a Pole in the Austrian service, was placed in command. Pilsudski, having taken the oath under protest, was given the command of the first regiment.

At first both the Austrians and the Germans distrusted the movement as they stood to lose should Pilsudski achieve the national independence for which he was working. Austria moreover was hostile to any idea of Polish union and to anything which might lead to increased autonomy in Galicia. Recruiting, therefore, was forbidden. Later the Germans, realizing that the strength of Russia would be decreased as the strength of the Polish legions was increased, allowed recruiting to take place among the Russian Poles.

The Galician situation, however, was somewhat changed by the Russian advance. On Sept. 2 Lemberg was taken by Russian troops and for the moment " the Austrian solution was at a discount." The divisions

among the Galician Poles became apparent. By some, who had ties of blood and religion with the Russians, the invasion was welcomed and the new rule accepted with alacrity. The most noticeable effect of the pro-Russian sympathy is to be found in the dissolution of the E. Galician Legion, which took place in Oct. and which caused an estrangement between the Conservatives of the National Committee and the E. Galician Conservatives. Bobrinsky was appointed governor of Lemberg, his policy being that of systematic Russification.

In 1915 the Polish situation was again changed by the military campaigns. On June 22 Lemberg was retaken from the Russians and on Aug. 5 the Germans entered Warsaw: thus German power was established in Russian Poland and Austrian power reestablished in Galicia. Among the Poles themselves, in 1915, party differences seemed to decrease. In Dec. the Radical Socialist elements formed a central national committee. It was composed of the Peasants' party; the Union of Workers; the Polish Socialist party and the Club of Polish Statehood (Studnicki). The aim of the league was to work for independence; it was dissolved in Feb. 1917.

By the beginning of 1916 the Polish Legion was well equipped and in June the brigades totalled 18,000. When the Polish independence parties at Warsaw asked for the nomination of Pilsudski as the commander-in-chief of a Polish army all the concessions previously granted by the Germans were withdrawn. Pilsudski then appealed to the Austrians. The Austrians' ideas with regard to Poland had undergone a slight change, and though suspicious of Pilsudski and his legionaries, the Government decided to encourage them in the hope that a union might be effected of the Polish kingdom and Galicia under Austrian protection. In July Pilsudski felt himself in a position to appeal for concessions regarding the substitution of Poles for Austrians as officers in the legion and for the use of the Polish uniform and colours. There was some delay in considering the question of these concessions and as a protest Pilsudski, together with other officers, retired. The Austrians did make and were prepared to adhere to certain concessions. They therefore negotiated with Pilsudski to withdraw his resignation. At this point, however, the German command interfered and Pilsudski was dismissed on the grounds of insubordination. In Oct. the legions were withdrawn from the front.

The Germans and Austrians were in the meantime trying to arrive at some satisfactory solution of the Polish question. The tendency of the Poles themselves was on the whole pro-Austrian, this tendency being strengthened by the union of the province of Chelm (Kholm) to Poland. The first solution proposed by the Germans was that of an independent Polish state under a Habsburg king. This state was to consist of Russian Poland, Galicia, and those parts of Posen where the Poles exceeded 65% of the population. This solution the Austrians would not accept. It was not clear how much of Poland the Germans were willing to give up, but it was clear that their sacrifice would not be so great as that of the Austrians who were to lose all Galicia. The solution proposed by the Austrians was that of a genuinely independent Poland consisting of Galicia and Russian Poland. This new Poland was to be a third co-equal state with Austria-Hungary. The German Chancellor then issued new proposals and after a Polish deputation had been sent to Berlin to discuss the terms an agreement was brought about and the result was the Decree of Independence of Nov. 5. By this decree the Polish districts " snatched from Russian power " were to form an independent state which was to have a hereditary monarchy and a constitution. The organization, training and command of the Polish army were to be settled by mutual agreement.

From the point of view of the Germans the Polish state was to be closely united to the Central Powers, " especially in military matters." Their ultimate aim was to secure additional manpower against Russia. This settlement was not welcomed by Austria. She " had accepted unwillingly the German scheme as to Poland. .. but she hoped by her scheme of Galician autonomy so to embarrass the German settlement as to revive the Austrian solution which Berlin had rejected." 1 The independence of Poland was acknowledged on Dec. 20 by a joint Allied note and later in 1917 it was acknowledged by the Revolutionary Government in Russia.

The first attempt of the German Government to organize the new state was not successful. General von Beseler (primarily a savant and geographer), who as military governor held the chief power, issued a decree arranging for the election of 70 members of the Diet in the German sphere of occupation; eight members of the Council of State were to be chosen by these 70, whilst four others and the chairman were to be chosen by the governorgeneral; all resolutions of the Council of State were subject to the assent of the two governors-general. The unpopularity of this proposed organization was so great that certain modifications were introduced, and the following scheme adopted: the two Governments were to nominate immediately a council of 25, 15 from the German sphere and 10 from the Austrian; they were to elect their own chairman; they had power to regulate internal affairs and economic reconstruction and were to cooperate in the formation of a Polish army. The Council was composed eventually of 11 Conservatives, but no National Democrats, 8 of the Central party (pro-Austrians) and 6 of the Left (Socialists). It was liable to be over-ruled by von Beseler.

The powers of the Council were fairly extensive. "Education and justice were handed over to them practically without reserve; and for the first time for many years the native tongue was again heard in the schools and in the courts of law. Local representative bodies were called into being in the towns and in the country; and in Warsaw the municipality received control of all the public services, including police, prisons, posts (municipal), public sanitation and hygiene." 2 The finances were handed over to the Council " except in so far as the costs of the occupation" were concerned. A Minister of Political Affairs was appointed but he might hold official relations only with the Central Powers.

One of the first problems facing the new Council in 1917 was that of the economic reconstruction of the country. In his History of the War, John Buchan gives the following description of the condition of Poland under the German domination - " The German policy demanded a wholesale destruction and. .. Poland was methodically laid waste.. .. Only blackened ruins marked the site of villages, and since the German army ate up all supplies, famine stalked through the land.. .. The material damage can scarcely be estimated. .. all labour and industry have been swept away." In addition to the devastation, the currency was depreciated and the Customs, which might have provided revenue, were to go to Germany and Austria.

The Council was responsible for the drawing up of a constitution. A committee was formed in which all shades of opinion were represented. It was decided that a Ministry and a Senate should hold office until a genuine National Assembly could be established. As regards political matters the Council demanded that there should be a regent: that they should be given more control over local government: and that existing ordinances should be modified. These demands were not accepted by von Beseler.

The chief question which occupied the Council was that of the army. Pilsudski was attempting to raise a strong national army which would give the Council more chance of enforcing its decisions, but he was not prepared to raise it for German use.

The meeting of Council in which the political demands were formulated took place on May 1. Only unimportant concessions in education and justice were made, therefore on May 17 the Council suspended its functions, though through German intimidation it was forced to resume them on June 9. At the beginning of July three resolutions were passed: proposals for a regency, I Nelson's History of the War, xviii., 123. Butler's The New Europe, p. 113.

a Cabinet and a Senate were accepted; a military oath was to be taken exacting loyalty to the Central Powers and to the future king of Poland (thus excluding a republic); and a recruiting appeal was made. These resolutions proved the submission of the Council to Germany, and in protest Pilsudski and five of his supporters resigned.

After the passing of these resolutions on July 3 the Council was discredited. It had failed to cope satisfactorily with the economic crisis and it had failed to produce a practical settlement with regard to the army. As matters stood the army could be used against the Russians but not against the Austrians or the Germans. Finally the Council was discredited by the attitude of the Austrian Poles. The Government had delayed the grant of increased autonomy to Galicia and on May 28 the resentment of the Galician Poles culminated in a conference of Polish members of the Galician Diet and of the Austrian Reichsrat, in which they declared that " the desire of the Polish nation was to have restored an independent and united Poland with access to the sea." On July 30 Polish discontent was further increased by the arrest of Pilsudski, and a month later the Council resigned.

After the failure of the Council a regency project was introduced. By this scheme there was to be a regency of three, a Cabinet and Premier and a Council of State. The Premier and the Council of State were to be chosen by the Regency Council subject to the approval of the Central Powers. The functions of the Polish authorities were limited to education, justice, public welfare, agriculture, and finance as far as it concerned the departments assigned to their care. They might legislate on matters handed over to them but the German and Austrian governorsgeneral had the right of veto within a fortnight of the completion of the bill. The regency had no control over the army.

Such was the position of the Polish Government at the beginning of 1918. The German domination seemed more complete than it had ever been before. In 1916 the Poles could extract concessions from the Germans in view of the fact that their help was needed against the Russians. That help was no longer necessary, therefore concessions were no longer forthcoming.

When the negotiations opened at Brest Litovsk the Polish Government asked the Central Powers to admit its representatives. In spite of " weighty declarations " made at Berlin the demand was ignored and the Poles were excluded from the conference. On Feb. 9 the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed. As far as Poland was concerned the important clause of the Treaty was that which ceded Chelm to the Ukraine. On Aug. 17 1917 the Provisional Government of Russia had recognized Ukrainian autonomy. The Ukrainian state was composed roughly of the following territory: the western parts of the Governments of Lublin and Grodno, and the whole of the Governments of Kiev, Poltava, Kherson, Volhynia, Kharkov, Podolia, Yekaterinoslav, and Chernigov and excluded the Austrian Ukraine. On Nov. 20 1917 the Ukraine declared itself to be a republic and on Jan. i r 1918 the delegates of the Ukrainian Republic were formally recognized at Brest by the Central Powers. The territory of Chelm, which was ceded to the Ukraine at this Treaty, had been handed over to Poland by Austria only in June 1916, but its ownership had been disputed for many years and it had already before been in the pcnsession of the Poles.

As a protest against the lack of consideration shown them at Brest the Cabinet, under Kuchazewski, resigned and the Poles issued a formal protest against the violation of their rights. This, however, made little difference to the German policy, which demanded that Poland should " completely give over all those greater hopes which might be inconvenient to Germany." This policy was emphasized later in the year when Adml. von Hintze in a speech to the Reichstag proposed an economic union with Poland on the basis of a Customs union or Zollverein, that is to say on the basis of free trade between Poland and Germany.

In April the Poles made a statement of their programme at the Congress at Rome. They declared their aim to be " Reunion into one independent state of all the Polish lands, including those which the Central Empires are refusing to restore to Poland and those which they are bestowing as largess on their vassals." It was not, however, until the autumn that seemed possible for them to achieve the end at which they were aiming. In Oct. it became clear that the union of the Poles no longer depended on the wishes of Vienna and Berlin, but rather on the will of the Polish people. In the same month a national Polish Diet was convoked, and in Austria all the Polish parties left the Reichsrat and formed the National Council in Cracow, until there should be " a freely elected Parliament of a United and Independent Poland." On Nov. Jo Pilsudski, having been released from Germany, arrived in Warsaw and the Council of Regency proclaimed that the German occupation had ceased to exist.

After The ARMISTIc.E. - The predominating figure in the evolution of the new Polish state was that of Pilsudski, who, on the abdication of the Council of Regency, took the Government of the country into his hands and succeeded in overcoming the internal and external dangers which faced the country after the German collapse.

Pilsudski was by birth a Lithuanian Pole. In 1885 as a student of medicine at Kharkov University he became connected with the Socialist movement and three years later was banished for complicity in the attempt on the life of Alexander III. though in reality he had been strongly opposed to the plot. In 1893 he returned to Poland and became one of the chief founders of the Polish Socialist party in Russian Poland. The aim of this party was the independence of Poland. In 1900 he was arrested on account of his socialistic writings but he escaped to London, after simulating madness, and two years later returned to Poland. At this time he and his associates " adhered to Socialism because they recognized in it the only powerful revolutionary and democratic force of our time and their supreme aim was, by revolutionary means to win Polish Independence." In about 1904 Socialism in Poland became a wide popular movement. Pilsudski was responsible for organizing the military element in the new party. Primarily this took the form of the " Fighting Organization " but later systematic military instruction was given by means of Rifle Clubs, with the object of establishing a force which would be used in armed revolution against Tsarist Russia. The war gave them their chance and at its outset they fought against Russia, for " the fight against Tsardom had become to them a second nature." In 1915, however, Pilsudski stopped recruiting for his Legions, his aim being not to raise an army which was to be used for the purposes of Germany and Austria, but one which would ultimately become the army of an independent Poland. With this object in view Pilsudski

created the " Polish military organization." This organization was carried on secretly and was concerned chiefly with spreading propaganda in favour of a struggle for a Poland independent both of Russia and of the Central Powers. In 1916 after conflict with the Austrian commanders Pilsudski sent in his resignation. The Austrians refused to allow his resignation but when he withdrew his brigade from the front without any previous warning, the Germans insisted upon his dismissal.

After the declaration of Polish independence Pilsudski was called upon to help in the formation of a Polish army, but this he refused to do, on the principle that a Polish army must not be formed without a true Polish national Government to direct it. In the summer of 1917 he demanded concessions from the Germans, and, in view of the feeble attitude taken up by his colleagues, he withdrew from the Council, at the same time ordering his followers in the Legions to refuse to take the oath. As a result about four-fifths of the Legion were disbanded. He was arrested subsequently by the Germans and imprisoned at Magdeburg. During his imprisonment the Polish military organization continued to develop secretly and when Pilsudski was released by the German Revolution in Nov. 1918 this organization formed the basis of the Polish army.

When Pilsudski returned to Poland in Nov. he found the country confronted with serious dangers. There was no effective Government, the Council of Regency having been dependent upon German control; the anarchy in Russia threatened to spread into Poland, and finally the danger was augmented by the 30,000 rebel German troops which were still in the country. On Nov. 14 the Council of Regency abdicated, leaving the supreme power in Pilsudski's hands. His first work was to establish an army on the foundations laid by the Polish militaryorganization. Through the prompt formation of the army the danger from the German troops was removed and the Bolsheviks were temporarily held back. Pilsudski's next work was to constitute a Government. " Only a Left government," it was well said, " with a programme of constructive democratic reform, could retain authority in the State. Pilsudski therefore formed the Labour Government of M. Moraczewski, and so forced the Left in this critical hour to undertake positive work instead of fruitless opposition and chaotic revolt." At the end of 1918, therefore, Pilsudski had become the head of the Polish State. The fundamental principle which underlay his policy throughout this period was that of pushing on the Polish State in the " path of modern organic social and political life." He realized that it was social reconstruction, not social unrest, which would consolidate the new state and enable it to hold its own against the anarchic elements which threatened its existence. In the New Europe in June 1920 Pilsudski's achievements were thus described: " Socialist, agitator and Leader: Brigadier-General in the Austrian Army: Head of the Polish State: the changes are kaleidoscopic. He has now undoubtedly ranged behind him the great majority of the Polish people, including some of his old enemies, the National Democrats; and this success is one of the greatest tests of his ability, because Poland contains at least a score of political parties." The first political event of importance in 1919 was the formation of a new Cabinet under M. Paderewski. At the beginning of the year there had been elements of discord between the Government at Warsaw and the Polish National Council which had been formed during the war in Paris, and of which M. Paderewski was the most prominent member. At the beginning of Jan., however, an agreement was made and when M. Moraczewski resigned his office as Premier, Paderewski succeeded him. The chief difficulties which faced the new Cabinet were that of the Bolshevik advance and the economic condition of the country of which the worst feature was famine.

At the beginning of Feb. a general election for a Constituent Assembly was held, and resulted in a victory for the non-Socialist parties, supporting Paderewski. The actual figures are reported to have been: Ministerial party 4 00, Socialists 80, and Jews 15.

In the summer of 1919 Paderewski, as Premier, was responsible for laying the Treaties of Peace before the Polish Parliament. The terms concerning Poland were briefly as follows: - Poland received the larger part of Posen and part of W. Prussia. A plebiscite was to determine the settlement of Masuria and Upper Silesia. Danzig was to be a free city under the protection of the League of Nations. This city was to be included within the Polish customs frontiers and its foreign relations and the protection of its citizens abroad were to be entrusted to Poland. " Poland also received the right of freely using and of developing and improving all water-ways, docks, and wharfs within the territory of the free city; and the control and administration of the Vistula river, and, subject to some restrictions, of the railway, postal and telegraph systems of Danzig." The actual details were to be settled later by a treaty between Poland and the free city. A provisional boundary was laid down between Poland and Russia, roughly corresponding to the course of the Vistula. In addition to these territorial changes, it was agreed to embody in " a treaty with the Allied and Associated Powers such provisions as may be deemed necessary by the Powers to protect the interests of inhabitants of Poland who differ from the majority of the population in race, language or religion," and also " such provisions as they may deem necessary to protect freedom of transit and equitable treatment of the commerce of other nations." The clauses concerning Danzig, and the plebiscites for Masuria and Upper Silesia could not fail to be met with disfavour in Poland as the territories were claimed as being Polish either historically or ethnographically. Moreover, the Poles resented the suggestion that they would oppress the national minorities in the country, and felt that the inclusion of this clause was unnecessary.

In spite of these objections, the Peace Treaty was passed by the Parliament on Aug. r by 285 votes to 41.

At the end of Nov. a bill was drafted with proposals for a new constitution. It was proposed: - that the vote should be given to all citizens of both sexes over 21; that the National Assembly should be elected every four years; that there should be a bicameral form of Government, the Senate being quite small; that the President should be elected every seven years and that his powers should be considerable. The actual constitution was not finally drawn up, however, until March 1921.

In Dec. a political crisis took place, resulting in the resignation of M. Paderewski. It was decided by the Allied and Associated Powers that Eastern Galicia should be given autonomy for 25 years under the protection of Poland, after which settlement was to be made by plebiscite. Although the majority of the inhabitants of Eastern Galicia were Ruthenians the Poles claimed the territory and this decision of the Powers caused an outcry in Warsaw. Paderewski's explanations carried no conviction and he was forced to resign. On Dec. 15 it was announced that M. Skulski would form a Ministry.

During 1919 the Poles, with Gen. Pilsudski as their commanderin-chief, were engaged in three wars. Two of them, with the Ukrainians and the Czechoslovaks, were not of great importance. Hostilities were started with the Ukrainians on account of the disputed territories in Galicia. At the beginning of the following year a settlement was made after which the Poles and the Ukrainians joined forces to fight the Bolsheviks. The dispute with the Czechoslovaks was also on the subject of disputed territory. The duchy of Teschen, though small, is valuable because of its coking-coal and thriving industries, and for this reason both Poles and Czechs were anxious to possess it. In the summer of 1920 the dispute was settled by a decision of the Council of Ambassadors, which awarded to the Czechs the whole mining region and the chief railway running through the territory. As a result the town of Teschen is cut in two.

The third and most important war was that with the Bolsheviks. The war was caused by the German troops evacuating the eastern territories in a way which was contrary to agreement and which allowed the Bolsheviks to occupy the territory before the Polish troops could be brought up. The local population in the occupied zones appealed to the Poles for aid and, as a further advance seemed imminent, the Poles were forced to fight. The Poles have been accused of entering into this war with the Bolsheviks with imperialistic and aggressive aims. It seems clear, however, that this was not the case. The Polish army was small and was engaged in hostilities elsewhere and the financial and industrial condition of the country was such that unnecessary war would not be undertaken.

The policy of the Allies throughout 1919 was vacillating. At first direct military intervention was attempted but was given up. Later ammunition and war materials were sent to Denikin and Kolchak. Finally the " barbed-wire " policy was suggested, in which Poland was to play a leading part among the states which were to act as a barrier round Russia. This policy, however, lasted only 28 days.

In the autumn the Bolsheviks were prepared to make peace, on Poland's terms, and an armistice was suggested. M. Paderewski was advised by the Allied Powers to refuse these terms and to continue fighting. By the end of the year no further negotiations had been proposed.

During 1920 Poland " served as the centre of the resistance to the spread of Bolshevism," and her political history is very much bound up with her military history. In the spring there were some more peace negotiations, but as before these came to nothing. On April 27 a strong Polish offensive was begun, chiefly to the S. of the Pripet marshes. The Poles advanced rapidly, capturing guns and war material, and on May 8 they entered Kiev. The Bolsheviks, owing to the defeat of Kolchak and Denikin, were now able to concentrate all their forces against Poland and in May opened a counter-offensive campaign. There was serious fighting between the Dnieper and Dvina and the Poles were forced to retreat.

In June a change of Government took place, a non-party Government being formed by M. Grabski. In view of the continued retreat of the Poles the Premier was sent to the Spa Conference to ask for help from the Allied Powers. In July Lord Curzon, as representative of the British Government, proposed negotiations on the basis of the acceptance of the provisional boundary laid down by the Peace Conference, corresponding roughly to the boundary of the Governments of the Vistula. On July 20 these terms were refused by the Bolsheviks.

In Warsaw another change took place in the Government, a War Cabinet being formed, which consisted of M. Witos, M. Daszynski, M. Grabski, M. Skulski, with Prince Sapieha as Foreign Minister. The policy of the new Cabinet was " to defend the full independence of the Polish Republic and conclude a just and lasting peace." The Bolshevik advance had, in the meantime, been steadily continuing and by Aug. 14 they were within 12 m. of Warsaw. Even if Warsaw had fallen it is possible that the Poles might have made a successful resistance, based upon the western province of Posen, which is in many respects the most important province of the new state. The end of July and the beginning of Aug. saw further attempts for peace. On July 3 o Polish officers were allowed to cross the Russian lines to conclude an armistice but they were forced to return with nothing accomplished as they were not authorized to sign the preliminaries of peace with which the Bolsheviks presented them. At the beginning of Aug. a peace conference at Minsk was arranged. As made known to Mr. Lloyd George the chief terms proposed by the Bolsheviks were: the reduction of the Polish army to 50,000, together with a small civic militia; the surrender by the Poles of all arms and war materials with the exception of those necessary for the reduced army; and the demobilization of all war industries.

Owing to Russian procrastination the peace conference was not held until Aug. 17, by which date the military situation had changed with remarkable rapidity. The Russians had advanced too fast and too far and were not prepared for any sudden counter-offensive. When Gen. Pilsudski, therefore, organized a general counter-attack the Bolshevik armies collapsed and retreated in disorder. By Aug. 21 the Poles had entered Brest Litovsk.

When, on Aug. 17, the conference opened at Minsk it was discovered that there was a difference between the terms actually offered by the Bolsheviks and those previously transmitted to Mr. Lloyd George. The terms relating to the civic militia were considerably enlarged. It was in reality to take the form of a force of armed trades-unionists, 200,000 strong and organized after the regular Soviet pattern. In short it was an attempt to foist Bolshevism on to Poland. The military situation, however, made it impossible for the Russians to enforce their terms.

In Sept. negotiations were moved to Riga, where on Oct. 12 the final treaty was signed. In the N. Poland obtained direct access to Lettland on the Dvina above Dvinsk. The Poles obtained Baranovichi, Pinsk, Kovel, Rovno and the whole extent of the Baranovichi - Rovno railway. With these boundaries the area of the new state is about 148,000 sq. m., and the population about 30 millions, but of this no accurate estimate can be yet formed. Poland ranks as the sixth state of Europe in size and population, and is by far the most important of the new states which the war has produced in eastern Europe.

In addition to the war with the Bolsheviks Poland was concerned with other foreign affairs. The treaty between Poland and Danzig was signed in 1921 but in the meantime there was " an unhappy amount of friction between the Poles, the Germans of Danzig and the British High Commissioner representing the League of Nations." The Poles in Danzig were frequently mobbed and in the summer of 1920, during the crisis in the Bolshevik war, guns and war material sent from the Allied Powers were held up in the port by the people of Danzig.

After Sept. 1920 there was friction with Lithuania. When the Bolsheviks retreated from Vilna both the Poles and the Lithuanians claimed the city, the Poles on the grounds of the language and population, the Lithuanians on the grounds of historical tradition. The Lithuanians at first took possession of Vilna but later Zeligowski with an army of White Russians turned out the Lithuanians and established an independent Polish Government.

THE Jewish Question. - One of the most important questions to be considered by the new Polish State is that of the Jews. Numerically they form roughly one-seventh of the population. In Warsaw a third of the population are Jews: in many provincial towns four out of every five inhabitants are Jews and in some nine out of ten, and of these the vast majority are Eastern Jews who in language, religion and customs differ from the population. Their language is Yiddish, a Middle-High German dialect; for the purposes of writing, Hebrew characters are used. Their dress is peculiar to themselves and their unclean habits and low standards of conduct " are neither European nor modern." The Western Jew is the more civilized type which is generally found in western Europe, speaking the language and conforming to the habits of Western civilization.

The Eastern Jew is essentially a business or commercial man, but rarely a producer. He is usually a middleman or intermediary. In towns the majority of the shops are owned by Jews, but they are a race apart, hated and despised by the rest of the population, devoted to their religion, which is a primitive t y pe of Judaism.

The Jews have been settled in Poland between Boo and 1,000 years so that they can hardly be considered " strangers " in the land, in fact the Sla y s cannot be considered very much more native than they. It was not, however, until about 20 years ago that the present quarrel between the Jews and the Poles began. The Tsarist Government drove the Jews out of Russia but gave them exceptional advantages in Poland. These Litvaks (as they were called) openly professed themselves the partisans of Russia and founded the Jewish press which set to work openly to fight against Polish autonomy. The Poles attacked the Jews before the war by means of a national boycott, the only means by which one subject race could attack another. During and after the war the hostility to the Jews was increased by the fact that in the German occupation the Jew was the willing tool of the invader, and by the close connexion between the Jews and Bolshevism. The hostility to the Jew was marked in 1918 and 1919 by excesses in which some 200-300 have in fact been killed, but which have been enormously exaggerated b y the Jewish press.

The following recommendations for the future treatment of: the Jews in Poland were made by Sir Stuart Samuel in his report o n his mission to Poland (Cmd. 674, 1920): - That the Polish Government be urged to carry out the clauses of the Minority Treaty of June 28 1919, in a spirit of sympathy with its Jewish subjects. That a genuine and not a " masked " equality be accorded to the Jewish population of Poland. That all outrages against the person an property of the subject, irrespective of race or religion, should be promptly punished and the names of the delinquents published. That the Jews in E. Galicia be restored to their official positions in the same manner as non-Jews have been. That no restrictions should be placed upon the number of Jews admitted to the universities. That a decree be published declaring boycotts illegal, and ordering all publications advocating boycott to be suspended. That all prisoners in internment camps be brought to immediate trial, and that humane treatment be assured to all interned prisoners. That facilities be afforded for the introduction of new industries into Poland with a view to converting a larger proportion of the Jewish population into producers. That the British Government should assist Jews wishing to emigrate from Poland by providing facilities to proceed to countries such as Palestine, Canada, S. Africa, Algeria and S. America, or any other country desiring to receive them. That banks be established possessing the confidence of the Jewish public, so that money might be deposited therein instead of being carried on the person or concealed in dwellings. Finally, that the desirability of a secretar y who understands and speaks Yiddish being added, to the staff of H.M. Legation at Warsaw be considered.

Capt. Peter Wright, in his very valuable and interesting report states (Cmd. 674,1920, pp. 17-36) that the great majority of the poor J ews are of the Eastern type and extreme orthodoxy (Chassidin). They form an immense mass of squalid and helpless poverty and Capt. Wright's only recommendation is that the richer Jews should study the condition of the poor Jews who either trade as small middlemen, as hawkers or touts, or labour as unskilled, or almost unskilled, and fill the sweating dens as sweaters or sweated when they emigrate. They are driven into all sorts of illicit and fraudulent practices and in England, in the East End of London, too large a proportion of convictions for such offence can be laid to their account. They are unfit for the modern economic world for want of education and for Western society because of their habits and want of cleanliness. They are devoted to their strange old religion but as they grow rich their piety, as the Chief Rabbi told Capt. Wright, is destroyed by wealth and they take too little interest in their poorer brethren. No one who knows Poland can be surprised at the Polish attitude or the desire of the Poles to be rid of this corrupting influence.


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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Poland During the World War'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/bri/p/poland-during-the-world-war.html. 1910.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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