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343 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 154A LONDON, 9 November 1944, 3.30 p.m.


Addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin.

Dominions Office telegram 1638 of the 3rd of November. [1]

This telegram raises two important issues:-

(1) The taking of the far reaching decisions by the United Kingdom Government involved in the replies given to the three questions posed by the Polish Government [2] without consultation with the Dominions; and (2) The policy involved in such decisions.

With regard to (1) I have made a personal protest and have doubts as to whether you should let it pass without some comment. I feel, however, the necessity of sorting out the trouble between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Poles is so important and the time factor is so urgent that the need for the United Kingdom Government to act with speed has to be taken into account and that you may decide in the circumstances to let the matter pass.

With regard to (2) there are such grave differences of opinion on the issues involved that it is probably desirable that we should express our views so that they are on record, even if we feel compelled to acquiesce in the attitude which the United Kingdom Government has adopted.

To make this point clear it is necessary that I should indicate to you what are the various trends of thought at present current with regard to the future of Germany.

In my previous telegrams I have given you some indication of the direction in which these are going. It might, however, be useful if I summarised the position as I see it at the moment. While all schools of thought are agreed upon the necessity of rendering Germany impotent for aggression in the future, there is considerable divergence of view as to how this can best be accomplished. These views might be summarised as follows:-

(1) Those who hold that Germany should be ruthlessly broken up and large sections of her territory taken from her.

(2) Those who believe the disintegration of Germany is desirable, but feel that it should be accomplished by the Germans themselves who would be encouraged to adopt this course by the method of occupation in the post-war period.

(3) Those who hold that it is unnecessary to bring about the disintegration of Germany, either forcefully or voluntarily, and believe that Germany can be rendered impotent for aggression in the future by an international control of her heavy industries.

Between these positive schools of thought there is a great volume of indeterminate opinion which recognises the transcending importance of the issue. Among those in this class, and included among those who are advocates of (2) and (3) above, there are a great number who feel that in finding a solution it is necessary:-

(a) To avoid creating such a feeling of resentment among all German peoples as would form a bond for the maintenance and progressive development of German nationalism.

(b) To avoid the economic destruction of Germany because of the repercussions of such destruction upon the economy of Europe and of a world as a [whole]. [3]

[(c) To avoid creating a festering sore in the] heart of Europe from which political disturbances of all kinds will tend to spread outwards.

(d) To avoid the creating of German minorities, such as that in the Sudetenland prior to the war.

(e) To avoid the transfer back to a truncated Germany of large German populations which it is unable economically to maintain, thus creating for the first time a real problem of 'Lebensraum'.

Relating the above thoughts to the specific issues raised by the United Kingdom reply to the Polish Government's questions, I would draw your attention in particular to paragraph 5(2) of telegram under reference by which the United Kingdom Government are now committed to the [principle] that Poland should have the right to extend her territory up to the Line of the River Oder, including the port of Stettin, i.e., the German province of Pomerania.

This undertaking in my view goes too far and would involve either (d) or (e) above. While it is clear that the principle of territorial compensation (dangerous as past experience has shown it to be) to Poland has to be accepted, if for no other reason than to enable Mikolajczyk [4] to get away with a settlement with his own people, I see grave dangers in Poland's western boundary being extended as far as the Oder. It [is] possible that the Poles themselves may recognise this fact and in exercising the right it is proposed to confer on them will be more moderate than the United Kingdom Government's reply invites them to be.

If you agree with my views I suggest that a telegram putting on record our apprehensions in this regard would be useful.


1 On file AA:A989, 44/715/5/2, iii.

2 The three questions were, whether the U.K. Govt still felt bound to advocate proposed changes to Poland's western frontier, despite U.S. Govt opposition, whether the U.K. Govt favoured extending the Polish frontier to the line of the Oder and whether the U.K. Govt would guarantee the independence and integrity of the new Polish State.

3 Material in square brackets has been corrected/inserted from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, November 1944.

4 Polish Prime Minister.

[AA:A989, 44/715/5/2, iii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History