Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Sid Guttridge » 23 Oct 2019 10:57

Hi Guys,

To give a fuller picture of the parts of the British-Polish Agreement under discussion:

ARTICLE 6. (of the main treaty)

(1) The Contracting Parties will communicate to each other the terms of any undertakings of assistance against aggression which they have already given or may in future give to other States.

(2) Should either of the Contracting Parties intend to give such an undertaking after the coming into force of the present Agreement, the other Contracting Party shall, in order to ensure the proper functioning of the Agreement, be informed thereof.

(3) Any new undertaking which the Contracting Parties may enter into in future shall neither limit their obligations under the present Agreement nor indirectly create new obligations between the Contracting Party not participating in these undertakings and the third State concerned.

This is referred to in the secret annexes thus:

3. The undertakings mentioned in Article 6 of the Agreement, should they be entered into by one of the Contracting Parties with a third State, would of necessity be so framed that their execution should at no time prejudice either the sovereignty or territorial inviolability of the other Contracting Party.

It seems that the British certainly informed the London Poles under (1) and (2), and that the territorial changes with the USSR were finally agreed under (3) with the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity after the war.

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The Border Agreement between Poland and the USSR was signed by the two governments on 16 August 1945. It was almost the same as the Curzon Line, which the Bolsheviks had grudgingly agreed to in the early 1920s, but which the Poles had not.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Steve » 24 Oct 2019 03:26

Hi, there is no doubt that the British informed the London Poles the problem is they did not inform them for nearly a year. The new border was formally/legally agreed to at the Potsdam conference in 1945 though Poland’s western border was not. Perhaps it can be argued that prior to Potsdam the British had not betrayed the London Government because they never signed an agreement recognising the new eastern border.

I refer the reader to article 6/3 in the previous post and article 3 of the secret annex also in the previous post. At Tehran one of the contracting parties namely Britain entered into a verbal agreement with a third state namely the USSR. There can surely be no doubt that this agreement violated the sovereignty and territorial inviolability of the other contracting partner namely Poland. In British law a verbal contract or agreement can be legally binding especially if there are witnesses which there were to Churchill’s agreement with Stalin over the Curzon Line. Did the British legally recognise the Curzon Line as Polands border prior to July 1945?

If the British Government broke the 1939 agreement could Poles who suffered as a result of the border change sue the British Government for being complicit in their material losses and suffering? This may not be as silly as it seems since both Dutch and French state railway companies have paid compensation for being complicit in the transportation of Jews to death camps. Presumably Poles could only claim for the year the area was under Soviet occupation prior to the July 45 agreement,

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wm
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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by wm » 24 Oct 2019 09:12

The international justice system was solely based on voluntary arbitration, so no, they couldn't.
The only other choice was to use force or made the life of the offender miserable. In this case, the strongest wins, not the victim.

The actions against railways are good examples of that, even better was the earlier case of Switzerland.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Oct 2019 12:16

Hi Steve,

You write, "At Tehran one of the contracting parties namely Britain entered into a verbal agreement with a third state namely the USSR. There can surely be no doubt that this agreement violated the sovereignty and territorial inviolability of the other contracting partner namely Poland."

Was there a verbal agreement, or discussions on the subject? Besides, the issue was raised with the London Poles well before anything was signed.

You post, "In British law a verbal contract or agreement can be legally binding especially if there are witnesses which there were to Churchill’s agreement with Stalin over the Curzon Line." But are international treaties subject to British law? Did Churchill have authority to make such a binding verbal agreement? The PM is first among equals in a collective cabinet and subject to the Crown and Parliament. He is not an arbitrary dictator.

You ask, "Did the British legally recognise the Curzon Line as Polands border prior to July 1945?" That is the point. The Polish Government only signed off the new border in August 1945. Was it even possible for the British to have signed up to it earlier?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Steve » 25 Oct 2019 04:40

Hi, to answer wm’s point, a court action in the UK would not be based on the international justice system but rather on the way Iraqi civilians sued the British Government over harm done to them by the British military. I have no idea whether people living east of the Curzon Line could sue the British Government for complicity in what happened to them but I think it is an interesting idea.

To answer Sid’s points, more than a general discussion took place at Tehran over the Curzon Line. There was a lot of detailed discussion over Poland’s eastern border, Germany’s new eastern border and East Prussia with maps being studied by the big three. The UK the US and the USSR all kept an account of what was said at Tehran.

The following comes from The Turning Point by Keith Sainsbury pages 277 & 279, which is about the Tehran conference. Churchill “The German territories in question, being both agricultural and industrial, were a good deal more valuable than the Pripet marshes in the east. He felt he could tell the Poles that they were getting a good bargain and should accept it. He personally was not prepared to break his heart over Lwow”. By the last day there had not been complete agreement over borders. “Churchill reverted to the topic which was still clearly on his mind- Poland. He asked Stalin if he would agree to the formula that the new Polish state should lie between the Curzon Line and the Oder, with East Prussia and the German district of Oppeln included in Poland. …………. For the first time Stalin made a claim on German territory, Russia, he said would like that part of East Prussia which included the port of Konigsberg. …………….If this was conceded, he said, he would accept Churchill’s formula”.

The border issue had been raised with the London Poles prior to Tehran and they had rejected giving up eastern Poland. At Tehran Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin agreed that the Curzon Line would be Poland’s eastern border. This was sprung on the Poles later at the Moscow conference. The matter was decided at Tehran with a verbal agreement and signed off at Potsdam.

Churchill did not return to the UK straight away as he was feeling ill but a briefing on Tehran was given to the war cabined by Eden and Brooke. There was apparently no dissension. Did Churchill have the authority to commit Britain to a treaty with a foreign power by a verbal agreement? I really don’t know without delving further into the subject than I care to go but a quick search on the internet showed that among his powers he could declare war. Maybe a cabinet revolt could stop a declaration of war and in theory the monarch decides but they now act on advice. I am guessing that all UK international treaties are subject to British law, for example I doubt that you could include in a treaty that all political refugees from the other country will be sent back.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Sid Guttridge » 25 Oct 2019 10:09

Hi Steve,

If what you write, ["He (Churchill) felt he could tell the Poles that they were getting a good bargain and should accept it."] is true, there was clearly no agreement at Tehran. Churchill was going to put it to the London Poles with the recommendation that they accept it.

International treaties are concluded with His/Her Majesty's Government, not with the Prime Minister personally. His administration negotiates them, but they have to go to Parliament and the Monarch to be enacted and enforceable. Churchill did not have the constitutional powers to unilaterally conclude any agreement on the Polish border. Indeed, that could only be done by the Polish and Soviet Governments themselves. This they did in August 1945, after the war was over.

The power to go to war was much weakened by David Cameron over Syria. The French were prepared to go in if others did. The US was prepared to in a wider alliance and waited on the British decision. There was less than unanimity in cabinet, so Cameron decided to put the proposition to parliament, even though he didn't need to, in order to gain political cover. However he lost the vote in Parliament. This influenced the US decision not to go in and the French were hung out to dry. As precedent has a key role in developing British law, Cameron's action has compromised the ability of future prime ministers to act decisively in going to war without getting prior parliamentary approval.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by wm » 25 Oct 2019 10:12

The Iraqi civilians weren't successful if I'm not mistaken, and anyway, they sued over alleged crimes that were real crimes under British law.

Maybe it would better to use the Nuremberg Principles, especially Crimes against Peace:

- participation in a common plan or conspiracy (that happened certainly),
- planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances

The USSR waged undeclared (so we have a war crime) war against Poland (later supported in that by the Western Allies), although the war was hidden "inside" the Soviet war with Germany.

The USSR annexed Polish territories two times in 1940 and 1945, attempted a (cultural) genocide there, committed crimes against humanity including mass murders and mass deportations, subjugated Poland, installed a puppet government there.
It was no different than the German conquest of Norway although certainly much more brutal.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Sid Guttridge » 25 Oct 2019 10:46

Hi wm,

The Soviet Union could argue that it was essentially implementing the British Curzon Plan, which it had agreed to in the early 1920s, but which the Poles had not.

It should also be borne in mind that the displaced Poles were compensated at German expense with, according to what Steve posted above, richer lands. Had Germany not had to give up land to Poland, it would have escaped virtually any territorial punishment for the misery and destruction it caused in WWII.

The Poles lost lands in most of which they were a minority. Their claim to rule east of the Curzon line was essentially one of conquest, not demography.

It is difficult to see that any great injustice was done to the Poles collectively as a result of the post-war settlement, though doubtless many suffered losses during the resettlement. Indeed, Poland gained far more off Germany than it had ever claimed after WWI.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by wm » 25 Oct 2019 11:38

Well, "The Soviet Union ... implementing the British Curzon Plan" is another example of participation in a common plan or conspiracy.
That it was Curzon or British doesn't make it word of God or international law. It was just a plan.
It was an equivalent of the Munich Agreement where the Czechs were told to remove themselves from territories where they were in minority.

By the same logic, Poland had rights to entire Ukraine, Belarus or even Tadzhikistan because the Russians were a tiny minority there.


The Poles lost lands where they were a minority but still, they were the largest national group there.
It was quite strange when in the twenties the Poles were lectured about minority rights by two countries that were basically prisons of nations (the British were 10 percent minority in their Empire, similarily the Russians outside the Russian Republic.)

Poland lost about 40 percent of its territory and the new territories weren't that good. The cities and the infrastructure there were built in the 19th century, and in 1945 were seriously decapitalized and run down (as much as 85 percent). And the territories were stripped bare from valuable assets anyway by the Soviets.

And we should remember Poland didn't receive any reparations from Germany and the USSR but the US, Britain, the USSR did - they allocated to themselves a large chunk of German wealth (and that included the entire German Merchant Marine.)

Crime is crime, that someone rapes a girl and then gives her a Ferrari doesn't absolve him from guilt, he will be tried and sentenced anyway and the girl will still keep the Ferrari.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Steve » 26 Oct 2019 02:14

Hello Sid, I do not disagree about the constitutional position today but what was it in 1943? I am guessing that in 1943 there was no requirement for a treaty or something along those lines to be put before Parliament. The reason for my guess being that when Chamberlain on May 31 1939 informed Parliament that the UK Government was now committed to aiding Poland there was no vote in Parliament. He did though answer some questions. Also when on August 25 the ratification of the Anglo Polish Treaty of Mutual Assistance took place there was again no vote in Parliament.

Actually Iraqi civilians did not lose all the cases they brought. The most famous one they won was that of Baha Mousa who was tortured to death while in British army custody. An army doctor who examined Mousa prior to his death never noticed he had serious injuries and an officer who had been nearby never heard or noticed anything. Seven soldiers were put on trial; six pleaded not guilty and were acquitted. One must have had a conscience and pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment; he was jailed for a year and dismissed from the army. The family of Mousa and nine other men who were also tortured received £2.83 million. As for wm’s other points which he has expressed in his own inimitable manner I would not disagree with him.

Poles were not a minority in the cities of Vilnius and Lwow and it was particularly hard to give them up. Very likely the Polish government would as a last resort have been prepared to accept the Curzon Line if these two cities could have remained in Poland. For Poles living east of the Curzon Line there was probably little difference between Nazi occupation and communist occupation except that under Nazi occupation Siberia was not an option. The Ukrainian UPA may have even surpassed the Nazis and communists in brutality which was some achievement. With the benefit of hindsight Poland is probably better off now than it would have been if it had stayed more or less within the 1939 borders with large minorities.

The following is from a broadcast Churchill made on the BBC in October 1 1939 “Russia has pursued a policy of cold self interest. We could have wished that the Russian armies should be standing on their present line as the friends and allies of Poland instead of as invaders. But that the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace.” Four years later he still thought it necessary that Russia stood on the same line. He was at least consistent. Poles are lucky Churchill was not in charge of compensating them in the west as Poland would now be a smaller country and Germany a larger country.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by wm » 26 Oct 2019 09:36

On November 15th, 1939 Churchill said this to the Soviet ambassador in London:
Russia has every reason to be a dominant power in the Baltic, and should be one. Better Russia than Germany. That's in our, British, interests. I don't see why we should put a spoke in your wheel as you build naval and air bases on the Baltic coast. I consider your claims towards Finland to be natural and normal.
You have every right to demand that the Finns rectify the frontier on the Karelian Isthmus and give you a few isles in the Gulf of Finland.
we now have a moral obligation to help Russia strengthen her position on the Baltic Sea.
Finland should not impede rapprochement between Britain and the USSR, which is my chief political objective.
The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James's, 1932-1943
Here, he is selling Finland and the Baltic states down the river in exchange for Soviet favors.
He did the same on October 1st, 1939.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Oct 2019 10:52

Hi wm,

Whatever his personal opinions, Churchill was not in a position to sell anyone down the river in 1939, as he was not yet Prime Minister.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Churchill - Katyn - Appeasement

Post by wm » 08 Nov 2019 22:53

Of course, he wasn't.
But he did it when he was - in 1945.

Pre-ww2 borders could have been changed by agreement, or by force. And really nothing changed after the war, Polish borders were changed by force, not by agreement.

They say it was the third way - that the Allies represented the world, the conscience of the world so their will was lawful.
But in reality, they didn't, they represented their own geopolitical interests - and it was as usual two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

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