Defending the Rights of Others. The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Rights, 1878–1938

397 113 13MB

English Pages 416 Year 2004

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Defending the Rights of Others. The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Rights, 1878–1938

Citation preview


The Great War

"For a universal war for the Freedom ofthe Peoples, We beseech thee, 0 Lord."J "Thinking of Poland and her tortured Jews, Between Goth and Cossack hounded, Crucified. "2 "I do not think it is easy to exaggerate the international power of the Jews. "3

The outbreak ofWorld War I opened a calamitous era for Europe's minorities. Millions of Alsatians, Croats, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Serbs, and Ukrainians were forced to fight their kindred while those who remained behind, especially in the fi'ontier regions, faced official and popular suspicion and persecution along with threats fi'Oln the invader. 4 The four-year conflict was especially catastrophic for Poles and Jews. Almost equally divided between the belligerents and inhabiting one of the war's main military and political battlefields, one group prayed for liberation while the other lay vulnerable to the depredations of all sides. 5

1. Adam Mickiewicz, "The Pilgrim's Litany" (IR32), PtlCI/IS by Adlll/l Mirkic",irz, "trans. by variolls hands," ed. by George Rapall Noyes (New York: Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1944), p. 415. 2. Israel Zangwill, "For Sm all Mercies" (April 1915), published in Tlte H1/r jiIT fhe H't,rld (London: Heinemann, 1916), p. 274. 3. Lord Robert Cecil (Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and nephew to Balfom), March 1916, ql10ted in Abramsky, Tltcjewish Dilellll/ltl, p. 14. 4. Panayi, "Dominant Societies and Minorities"; Schnütt and Vedeler,' H{"./d ill fhe Crllcible, pp. 457-fl. 5. There were 6 million ]ews residing in the Allied collntries and some 2.5 million in the Central Powers. Duker, "]ews in the World," and Szajkowski,jclI's, r'({lrS, 'l11d COllllllllllislIl, Vol. I, pp. 35-6. Twelve million Poles were in Rl1ssian Poland, five in Alistrian Poland and three in GermaIl Poland. Machray, Pc,IIIlId, p. 27.



None ofthe original combatants had entered the struggle to liberate the oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe. The six belligerents, all rulers of restive peoples, claimed to be fighting a traditional defensive war and hesitated to unleash a war 'of nations. But everything changed at the end of 1914. Having failed to achieve a quick and decisive military victory, both sides broadened the contest into aglobaI struggle. In their search for new allies and to open new batdefields, the Great Powers offered major inducements at their enemies' expense, commitments that affected millions of lives. Of the two camps, the Central Powers, a tense alignment of three multinational empires plus tiny Bulgaria seemed the less likely champions of oppressed peoples. Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were both threatened by internal nationalist movements and by their neighbors' territorial appetites; and Bulgaria merely sought revenge for the Balkan Wars. Nonetheless, it was the Central Powers' senior partner, Imperial Germany, that transformed Eastern Europe. in World War I. This conservative regime, with its long illiberal record toward its non-German population, 6 developed a forcenll wartime program to revolutionize the East. Ignoring its allies' sensitivities and weaknesses, Berlin was bent on creating astring of tributary buffer states between the Baltic and Black Seas. Toward this end, the Reich aligned itself with nationalist and radical left-wing groups and even gave lip service to minority rights. This crusade in the East also had its propagandistic purpose: to attract Entente liberals and win neutral support, particularly in the United States. 7 The Entente's stance toward Eastern Europe, if less radical, was also laced with inconsistency. Tsarist Russia toyed with plans to subvert AustriaHungary by championing its Slavic and Orthodox population, while Britain and France, although fearing to destroy an ancient pillar of the European balance of power, wooed Italy and Romania with specific Habsburg territories. H More ambitious, and contentious, were their plans to dismember Ii. Blackbourn, The LJ/lg Nilleteellth Celltllr)', pp. 260-1,264-5, 267-R; Hagen, Gerlll.llls, P"les, tllldJell's,

pp. lIR-322; Pulzer, P,,/itiml Allti-SelllitislII. 7. Fischer, GWII'J//)':' AiIllS, pp. 120-54; Farrar, Dil'ide "lid C"lIqller. Germany's incitement offoreign revolutions harked back to Bismarck's wooing ofthe Hungarians in lR66. Even after unification, the Iron Chancellor had proposed that, in a future German-RllSSian \var, Genllany should ignite an uprising in Rllssian Poland regardless of the repercl1ssions in Prussia's own Polish OstlllClrk. R. Linke, Dtls ztlrische RIISsltllld, pp. 41-61; Rothwell, Hritish H11r AiIllS, pp. 75-9; Nere, P"rcicQII Pt,/ic)' •!f PnJ//ce, pp. 4-9.

the Ottoman Empire, with Russia, Britain, and France, their belated Italian and Greek allies, and their Armenian, Arab, and Jewish clients, all vying over the succession. 9 Throughout the war, there was a great discrepancy between the Entente's liberationist propaganda, directed at potential allies and neutrals, and the treatment of the subject populations in the British, French, and Russian empires. Threatened by the Reich's subversion, all three maintained tight internal security and all suppressed nationalist movements. Despite the huge moral and political damage of tsarist persecution of the Jews, Russia's Western partners shrank from criticizing an ally whose military contributions were crucial to victory and were prepared to satisfy all its territorial demands. 10 Thus for four years, the shibboleth of victory obscured the complexities of national liberation and minority rights. 11 A few brave voices warned of the present and future dangers unleashed by the war. 12 Socialist, pacifist, and women's organizations, and, especially, the Jews, issued their grün forecasts and reports of atrocities and pleaded for international intervention. During the four years that the Central Powers dominated Eastern Europe, the defenders ofminority rights focused largely on Berlin; but after the Russian Revolution and America's entry into the war in the spring of 1917, everything - including the future of minority rights - changed dramatically.


After colluding for 100 years to keep the Polish question off the international agenda, the three partitioning powers suddenly styled themselves as Poland's deliverers. In the opening days of the war, to spark recruitment, material support, and loyalty in their exposed border regions, each made sweeping pledges. Tsarist Russia promised to create an expanded, autonomous Congress Kingdom by adding German and Austrian ten-itory, Austria-Hungary, to mute the Congress Kingdom and Galicia as the third pillar of the Habsburg Monarchy, and Germany, to make a liberated 9. 10. 11. 12.

Gottlieb, Secret Dipl"lIItlc)'; Zeman, The Gelltlelllell NecQ.,titlttJrs; Stevenson, The Pirst 1'11,rld I,Hn. Frendl, Hritish Strateg)', pp. 42-55, 167-8,207-10,221-2. Macartney, Ntlti,,"t11 States tllld Ntlti"lItll Mill"rities, pp. 212-13. The most active of all wartime organizations was the pacifist, neutral Organisation Centrale pour une Paix Durable (OCPD) based in The Hague that, under the direction ofthe Norwegian historian and politician, Halvdan Koht, developed visionary proposals for balallCing minority rights with stare sovereignty and international stability. See Rtlpp"rt presellte par !vI. Htlh,dtlll K"III (The Hague, OCPD, 1917),45 pp.; OCPD, Remeil de mpp"rts Sill' le" dt!Terellts p"illts dll pr"cQnllllllle-lIlillillllllll, Parts 1-4 (The Hague: NijhofI, 1916-18); Doty, The Celltnil O';Qtllliztlti"lIjt" tI DllmMe Petlce, pp. 90-4. Also, Balch, The Gretlt Sefflelllellt (New York: Huebsch, 1918) .

Congress Poland part ofits lvlitteleuropa. 13 Britain and France, both longtime advocates of Polish rights but bogged down on the western front, passively observed these hollow pronouncements that were clothed in grand forull1las of unity, freedom, and equality.14 All these liberation schemes had a powerful effect on the local population. Until the outbreak of the war the inhabitants of former Poland whether under German, Austrian, or Russian rule, had been split amon~ collaborators, rebels, and the many shades in between. 15 Now the occupied population would be tested still further. On August 27, 1914, when the Austrian High Command announced the forma tion of two Polish Legions to free Congress Poland, large numbers of Galician Poles and Jews, led by the Austrophile, right-wing Socialist leader, J6zef Pilsudski, flocked to the colors as the embodiment of a "fighting Poland." 16 Pilsudski's rival, the pro-Russian National DemoCl'at (or Endek) leader Roman Dmowski, set up the Polish National Committee (the Komitet Narodowy Polski, or KNP) in 'Warsaw, where he tried futilely to recruit Polish muts for the tsarist anl1Y and also castigated the pro-German Legion and the Jews. 17 Vienna raised the stakes in embattled Galicia by pronusing the Poles' rivals, the Ruthenians, not on1y to liberate their persecuted -brothers and sisters in the Russian Empire but also to create aseparate Ukrainian crown land by merging Eastern Galicia and the Bukovina. lK Germany, by contrast, did little to mobilize its Polish minority.19 Deternuned not to alienate Russia completely, the

13. In con:rast\~ith their public positions, the policies ofthe three partitioning powers were complicated by thelr ll~lhtary and polmcal calculatio!1s. Tsarist Russia, far example, was extremely reluctant to fulfill the 11llpetuous pledge of autonomy, issued on Aug. 14, 1914, by its cOlllmander-in-chief Grand Duke Ni~holas, and vehemendy opposed by reactionary cireles and by those hoping far ~ separate peace wlth Germany. The "Austro-Polish" solution had to be hidden from the J-Iungarians and sold to the hemant Germans. And the Reich's pledge to the Poles ofWest Pmssia to establish "an i?d,ependent Polish state linked to us" had to he squared not only with its token support for Austna s plans and wlth lts anll to crente a Germanized buffer region stretching from East Pmssia to Upper Silesia bm also with its hope to conelude a quick peace with tsarist Russia. See Conze H'{,I1~,'["e Nalioll, pp. 48-73; Grosfeld, Polil)'k.1 pm/sIll' cellllll/II)'C" lI',,"ec, pp. 33-4; Lemke, Allill"; IIl1d Ril'll/iliil, pp. 17-38; Linke, Das zarisc"e RlIss/alld, pp. 41-61; Leslie et al. , Hisltlf)' 0{ P,'/alld, pp. 110-14. . 14. Calder, Brilaill alld I"e Ort~ills ,!(Ihe Nel" Ellrope, p. 25. 15. Wandycz, Parliliolled Po/alld, pp. 193-330. 16. Lemke, I'llliallz IIl1d Ril'ldil.!l, pp. 1-17; Korzec,jll!(s eil PO/OgIIC, pp. 56-7. Leslie, HisI,,,,), o{Po/alld, p. 115, elaimed, "Pihudski's alliance with Austria was always purely tactical in character." Ti,e Polish Club in the AllStrian Reichsrat called on their countrymen to support Austria's crusade against the Russ/an oppressors. Kumaniecki, Od/mdoL/ia Pm/slll'o/flOsci Po/skici, pp. 16-17. 17. Wandycz, H/rliliolled Po/and, pp. 335-7. 18. Lemke, Allianz nnd Ri"a/il.!l, pp. 100--13. 19. Although reduced 111 strength and numbers by westward emigration and German colonization, the Poles of We~t Pmssia were a compact group, Catholic and nationalistic. Leslie, Hislor)' ;re had characterized Polish lews as elther mternatlOnalist Marxists who hated Poland or Zionist nationalists who wished to create a ]ewish state on Polish soil. Allize to FMAE, The Hague, Dec. 21, accused the]ews of"working for our enel1lies" and to gain U.S. support for the German canse at the peace conference. FMAE Z (~ologne) 60. 106. "Une methode d'action en Pologne," Paris, Dec. 20,1918, FMAE PA-AP Tardleu Rl; Wandycz, "The French barriere." Placing the Haller army under Allied cOl1lmand was part of Foch's grand scheme. Komarnicki, Polis" Rep"l>!ic, p. 256. French officials who hoped to restore a friendly Russia were concerned over Poland's eastern expansion; others worried over regional repercnssions of Polish imperialisl1l. Piltz report of conversation with Pichon, Nov. 8, 1918, AAN KNP 1944. 107. Althongh the Chamber (elected in 1914) on Dec. 29, 1918, gave Clel1len~e~u, the pere de la ,,;ct\>;rc a resounding 39R-93 vote of confidence to conduct the peace negotlatJOl1S, every party distrus'ted the elderly premier: the left his authoritarian tendencies, the right his anticlericalism, the center his contempt for parliamentary combinations, and everyone his brusque demeanor. ]ackson, CICIIICIlCCIlIl, pp. 209-10; Duroselle, CICIIICI/CCClII, pp. 724-6. 108. See especially Comite franc;aise d'information et d'action aupres desJuifs des pays neutres (a group which, "throughollt the war has fought for France's pr~~tige") t~ FM~, ~aris,. N~,v: 27, 1?!8, FMAE Z (Pologne) 60; Bigart to Pichon, Dec. 2, (detailmg the atroclous SituatIon In GahCla), and Ligne des "Amis du Zionisme" to FMAE, Dec. 2, 1918, ibid. Also, AllialIce [sraC!ile UlIit'crse/le, Pogromes de Lemberg, Nov. 1918, AlU U8. 109. Strong criticism of France's pro-Polish policies in Lc Figaro, Nov. 20, 1918, Le Te/llPS, Nov. 25, 191R, Le tdal;lI, Nov. 30, LI FralIce Uhre, Dec. 2, 1918, L'HlllllalIitC, Dec. 3, 1918. 110. Allize to FMAE, Berne, Nov. 22, 27. 1918, Conty to Pichon, Copenhagen, Nov. 23, Dec. 7, 1918, French ambassador to The Hague, Nov. 29, 1918, Delavaud to FMAE, Stockholm, Nov. 30, Dec. 5, 1918, FMAE Z (Pologne) 60. 111. See, e.g., ul1Signed cable on Dec. 5, 1918, to the French minister in Buenos Aires for the local ." . . ". Zionist organization, FMAE Z (Pologne) 60. 112. Pichon to Zamoyski, Paris, Dec. 7, AAN KNP 149, Cl ted hundreds of VICtlillS m Pola~d and Galicia, "including women and children," and el1ioined the KNP to l1se every means at lts dlsposal


Dtftnding the Rights

'!! Others

troops to bring order to Poland,l13 France proposed a "prudent" solution to its partner across the Channel, to dispatch a small Allied COl11mission to conduct a!1 inquiry and recommend "further action. "114 Thus, less than a month after the Armistice, the Allies, stymied by their unfamiliarity with the actual conditions in Poland and their reluctance to make political and military commitments, devised a temporary machinery to assert their power and obtain information without bin ding themselves to 115 any future course. Instead of the substantial Allied military force to curb the violence in Eastern Galicia solicited by Poles and Jews alike, theyadopted a lesser alternative, which was welcomed by the Warsaw government but inevitably deepened their involvement in Polish politics.11 6 This also began the yearlong procession of foreign missions to Poland, whose political and military tasks soon outweighed their humanitarian responsibilities and whose reports, passed-on, post hoc "eyewitness" accounts and official explanations, added more obscurity than clarification to the November pogroms and their aftermath. 117 to ensure order and freedom in aPoland "resUfrected by the Allies' victory." The KNP's denial was based on "precise information." Zamoyski to Pichon, Paris, Dec. R, 1918, ibid. 113. Despite the warning of Minister ofW.,r General Alby to Pichon, Paris, Dec. 5, 191R, on the overextel15ion of the Eastern Army in the Adriatic and the Balkans (FMAE Z [Pologne] 60), the Frendl governl11ent on Dec. 15 decided on an intervention aoail15t the Boisheviks in sollthern Russia, an~ three .days .Iat~r its troops landed in Odessa. Thus :ny French military aid to Poland was concelved pnmarily 111 terms of dispatching the Haller army to the East. See Pichon to Clemenceau, Dec. 7, Pichon to P. Cambon, Dec. 13, FMAE Z (Polo"ne) 67. 114. Note. pour I'amba;sade de l'Angleterre, Paris, Dec. 2, FMAE Z (Pol~gne) 60. Italy also refused to ralse a protest 111. W.,rsaw. Sereni (president of the Italian-jewish Community) to Sonnino, Dec. 5, 191R, Sonnl11o to Orlando, Dec. R, 191R, Italy, Ministero degli Affari Esteri (hereafter " IMAE) (Polonia) 165. 115. Balfour minute, n.d., attached to Rumbold to FO, Berne, Nov. IR, 1918, GB FO 800/385. 116. Dutasta to Pichon, Berne, Dec. 2R, 191R, FMAE Z (Pologne) 60, conveyed Zaleski's messa"e of his governl11ent's "great satisf.1ction" in the dispatch of an interallied commission to inquire o~ the pogrom~ or "on a~lY other subject" and prol11ised to provide all f.1cilities to help its investigation. Earher suggestIOns had come from the KNP (SobaI1ski to Dnunmond, London, Nov. 16, 1918, AAN KNP 1909) and from Paderewski (Paderewski to Philipps, New York, Nov. 20,1918, AAN ~aderewskI 765/4), who had reconunended to the State Deparonent a c01nmission consisting of three Amencans, three Amencan jews, and three Al11erican Poles" to investigate the po"rom charges. After Paderewski's departure for Poland, the effort seems to have f.,iled. See Smulskl and Marshall to Paderewski, Mar. 3,1919, AAN KNP 26. 117. In his first report from PoznaI1, Britain's emissary, Colonel W.,de, blamed the Germans for the pogrom propaganda, whose "object is to convince the Entente that the Poles are uncontrolled and intolerant people"; GB FO 371/3R96. In his second,jan. 2, 1919, he repeared the "boilin" water" charges; twenty-eight Polish soldiers had been "badly scalded" in Lemberg; GB FO 371/3R96. Onjan: 23, 1919, Wade acknowledged that many "arbitrary" acts had taken place in Nov. 1918, but clauned tl~ere had been "no organized violence" and col15iderable "exaggeratiol15" by the jews, whose "ml1l1ense lInpopularity" was "caused by their profiteering and subserviency lmder the German occupation, their having escaped c01ubat service, their part in bolshevik a"itation and the Zionist claims for national autonomy." GB CAB 24/145 #CV (Jan. 30, 1919). Howard to Balfour, Feb. 22,1919 and Rowland Kenney report, W.,rsaw, Feb. 14, forwarded in Howard to Balfour, W.,rsaw, Feb. 22, 1919, GB FO 608/66, stressed the rift between Poles and jews.

121 Britain's was the first Allied mission, a three-member group headed by its attache in Denmark, Colonel H. H. Wade, whose vague mandate, much to the annoyance of the KNP, included the establishment of "informal relations" with the Warsaw authorities. 11H France rapidly foilowed, sending General M. -J. Berthelemy from the Eastern Army.119 From the United States came a food supplies mission under Herbert Hoover's authority as weil as the politicalmission of Lieutenant R. C. Foster. 120 The absence of inter-Allied coordination clearly indicated that each of the victors intended to acquire its own sources of information while carving out its own niche in the East. Cooperation on the spot nonetheless developed on its own. 121


As these foreign teams were taking shape, Pilsudski's Poland appeared increasingly volatile and vulnerable. Like Kerensky a year earlier, this brave but indecisive leader was besieged by the left and right,122 as weil as by foreign enemies. On December 26, 1918, Pilsudski watched helplessly as nationalist Poles seized power in Poznan, triggering angry protests from London



120. 121. 122.

In the same vein, Colonel William Grove ofthe Hoover Mission wrote onjan. 9,1919, "The lews in Warsaw are supposed to have large quantities of al11munition, as weil as rifles, hidden away, and there are daily combats of a very local character between the soldiers searching the jewish quarter for hoarded supplies of food, etc., and the jewish merchants, shots being fired by the soldiers, presumably more to frighten the people than to do actual hann." FRUS PPC, Vol. 2, p. 42R. Draftinstructions, Dec. 17, 1918, GB FO 371/3282; SobaI1ski to KNP, n.d., AAN KNP 31. W.,de, a1though the military attache in Denmark, was not traveling in a military capacity but lInder the authorization of the Foreign Office. The other members were R. E. K.imens, the prewar British consul-general in W.,rsaw, who knew Polish and had extensive contacts in the capital, and Rowland Kenney, who was charged with the task of establishing contact with the Polish lefr. Leaving inlate December, they were to travel in two groups (Wade from Copenhagen and Danzig, K.imel15 and Kenney via Berne, Vienna, and Cracow) and proceed together to W.,rsaw. On the origins of the mission, see Esme Howard memorandum, Nov. 2R, 191R, Gregory minute, Dec. 28, 1918, GB FO 371/3282. Derby to FMAE, Paris, Dec. 14, FMAE Z (Pologne) 60, described it as an "unofficial" mission to inquire into the "alleged" pogroms, and promised cooperation with a French mission. Note POUf le ministre, Dec. 12, 1918, FMAE Z (Pologne) 226; Pichon to Alby and Clemenceau, Dec. 23, 1918, Alby to Pichon, Dec. 27, 1918, ibid. Z (Pologne) 60. Because ofClemenceau's insistence on an "interallied mission," Barthelemy, accompanied by the British Colonel Smyth, rraveled to Poland from Salonika via Fiume and Budapest. Hoover to Lal15ing, Paris, Dec. 18, 1918, Hoover to Kellogg, Paris, Dec. 23, Herbert Hoover papers, West Branch, JA (hereafter Hoover) American Relief Administration (hereafter ARA) 1.'1. On Foster, FRUS PPC, Vol. 12, pp. 365-7. By mid-january W.,de and Barthelemy were informally cooperating in Eastern Galicia as media tors between the Poles and Ukrainians. Wade to FO,jan. 20,1919, GB FO 371/3897. Despite the brief alarm over the attempted Conununist coups in Lublin, Zamosc, and Warsaw, Dec. 28-29,1918, and over the histrionic rightist coup led by Prince Eustachy Sapieha and Colonel Marianjanuszatis, which was supported by the National Democrats, onjan. 4-5,1919, PiJsudski evidently f.,ced neitller a Polish Lenin nor a Kornilov.


Difending the Rights

if Others

and Berlin. 123 This blow was followed, in early]anuary, by the Ukrainian counterattack in Eastern Galicia and by the Soviet incmsions into Lithuania and Belorussi 500,000 200,000

100,000 - 499,999 50,000 - 99,999

Cities/places with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants are unnamed except for Kielce and Pinsk, cited in text. Population figures are based on 1921 data.


50 ,000


® 5,000 • City cited in text with fewer than 5,000 Jews.

Saurces: Pinkas Hakehi/lot, (Eneye/opedia of Jewish Communities): Po/and,. (Jerusalem, 1976·1999), 7 Bahdan Wasiutyriski, Ludnos(; zydowska w Po/see w wiekaeh X/X I XX: studJum statystyezne, (Warsaw, 1930), Eneyelopedia Jqdaiea (New Yark, 1972).