Sunday, 6 September 2015

When Churchill and Roosevelt betrayed a nation.

Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud are the authors of "A Question Of Honor  The Kosciuszko Squadron" *'Forgotten Heroes Of World War II *  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).

It is a thrilling and disturbing book.

It was not only Britain which, according to Churchill "shall never surrender".

The Polish Government and Military never surrendered to N-zi Germany or Soviet Russia.

Poland was the only German occupied State where no citizen of any stripe was found to become a Quisling, a N-azi Puppet Ruler.

It was Polish cryptographers who had enabled and provided the initial information for cracking Enigma.

Scores of thousands of Polish soldiers, sailors and pilots escaped Poland to join the fight against tyranny.

The Polish fighter pilots in exile became renowned for their skill and bravery.  R.A.F. pilots had much to learn from them.

Of the "few" who defended my native Island in the Battle of Britain none were more valiant or successful than the Poles.  I quote from the book "The presence of 142 well trained,combat-experienced Poles - 76 of them in British Squadrons, 66 in the two all Polish Squadrons -- proved critical".

Hugh Dowding, former head of Fighter Command,  commented thus after the Battle of Britain: "Had it not been for the magnificent [work of] the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the battle would have been the same".

When the war in Europe began to turn in the Allies favour it was the Polish  Fighter Pilots who developed the most successful strategy to escort and defend the lumbering B-17 "Flying Fortresses" -  so much so the the U.S. Army Air Forces requested that all the R.A.F pilots should adopt the Polish ways.

Poles were no less courageous on the ground.  It was the Polish Infantry who "took"  (with great losses) the German defences on Monte Cassino.  It was the Polish infantry who liberated many of the towns and cities on Italy's east coast right up to Bologna.

Yet for all this, and despite all of Churchill's rhetoric, he and Roosevelt betrayed the Polish Nation and people at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences.

Both were very tired, and Roosevelt was very sick by the time of Yalta.  Both had  arrogant estimations of their own abilities, and both failed either to read, or to comprehend the briefings their staff had so carefully prepared.

Roosevelt cozied up to "Uncle Joe".  In their eyes there was no "big three" (Church, Stalin and Roosevelt)  -  they alone were the "Big Two".

In the Yalta talks F.D.R.conceded east Poland to the Soviets, accepting  a disgraceful boundary known as the * Curzon line.

He (F.D.R.)  trusted that Joseph Stalin, a comrade in arms, would be a man of his word: viz that Poland, east of the Curzon line would be incorporated into Russia,  and that Poland, west of the Curzon line would be a free and independent country.

Churchill concurred.

Surely he and FDR knew that Uncle Joe had designs on the whole of Poland. Surely they understood that Stalin's word was not to be trusted.  Surely they knew that they were abandoning Poland.


Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia were also abandoned and betrayed.

But the most ignoble betrayal was that of Poland.

That nation and people deemed worthless by H-tler and Stalin;

that nation for whom Great Britain had declared war on Germany;

that nation of cultured and courageous citizens;

that nation which had given so much for the cause of the Allies was clearly and knowingly  handed into the violent and cruel hands of the Soviets.

On the V.E. day parade in London soldiers, sailors, airmen from the many nations of the western alliance marched past the King and Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

No Polish combatants were invited to join that parade, for fear of offending Josef Stalin. 

WSC and FDR had betrayed and abandoned Poland.


*  I can understand why Churchill and Roosevelt would not wish to prolong the European War, with the Pacific War yet to be won. They and their peoples were war- weary.  

What I cannot fathom is why they put up no more than token resistance to Stalin's bullying, or why Churchill on February 27th 1945  said (of the Soviets)  to the House of Commons "I feel that their words is their bond" I know of no other government which stands to its obligations..more solidly than the Russian Soviet government". He knew that was not the case.

*  The most passionate defence of the Poles in the House of Commons that day came from a Conservative M.P. with the name of Lord Dunglass. (He was not a Peer, but  he held an honorary title since he had not  yet inherited his father's Peerage). Lord Dunglass later inherited the peerage, and then renounced it  so that he could   serve in the House of Commons as the Prime Minister. British people know him  best as Sir. Alec Douglas Hume. See *** (2)

* The post World War II Labour Government under Clement Atlee was of a mind to repatriate the Polish fighters to Soviet dominated Poland.  The R.A.F High Command interceded with very strong language. That intercession was at first rejected by the Labour  Government which placed great pressure on the Poles to go "home".  In the end less than 20% of the Polish military returned to Poland, and bowing to the inevitable, the Labour Government set up a Polish Resettlement Corps in mid-1946.

* We must thank N-zi propaganda for the notion that that Poles were poor fighters. The propagandists were given leverage when, early in the German invasion, a Polish Cavalry Unit, on routine patrol, "happened upon"  the advancing Panzer Divisions.  That gave birth to the myth, strongly promulgated by Herr Goebbels, (and believed by many in the west to this very day), that the Polish Military was inept and weak. 

*  Despite the vicious N-zi regime in Poland,  the underground created a Relief Council for Polish Jews. After the war this Council was one of only three organisations to be  recognised by the Holocaust Memorial ( Vad Vashem) in Israel for rescuing Jews.   Of the 19.000 individuals honoured by Israel for rescuing Jews, nearly a third are Poles. 

It is estimated that despite all odds, some 40,000 Jews were saved by Poles.  It's a tiny fraction of those who perished, but as a former Vad Vashem official said  (book page 209) "This is no doubt a tiny percentage of prewar Jewry..but nonetheless, it's a glorious human achievement.


*  With all this in mind, please do not refer to "dumb Polaks", and do not tell Polish jokes. If you choose to so do I will hit you on the head with the 495 page book:-

 "A Question Of Honor  The Kosciuszko Squadron" *'Forgotten Heroes Of World War II *  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).

* Don't risk being hit over the head.  Instead, buy the book (or borrow it from your local Library), and read it.

It will help you to:

1)  Gain a new and respectful understanding of the people of Poland.

2) Understand that Roosevelt and Churchill were great leaders - with feet of clay. Unrestrained hagiographies of these men are dangerous.

3) The true winner of WW II in eastern  Europe was none other than "Uncle Joe".

* See (1)  re Curzon line

*** (2)  See  re Lord Dunglass

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