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Bitter Legacy

Bitter Legacy: Polish-American Relations in the Wake of World War II

Richard C. Lukas
Copyright Date: 1982
Edition: 1
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Bitter Legacy
    Book Description:

    In this most timely book, Richard C. Lukas offers the historical perspective that any reader, scholar, or layman needs to grasp the political turmoil in Poland in the decades after World War II.Bitter Legacyis the first major analysis of Polish-American relations from the Potsdam Conference through the Polish elections of 1947, the critical period during which Poland became a satellite in the Russian sphere. Drawing on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, a number of which have never been used by scholars before, Lukas shows in detail why and how American policy was never able to reverse the process, begun at the Yalta Conference, that transformed Poland into a communist state. In a clear and unambiguous style, he deftly combines two traditions in the writing of diplomatic history -- one that stresses intergovernmental relations and one that emphasizes domestic concerns and pressures.

    The result is a revealing book that adds significantly to our understanding of Polish-American relations and of domestic history in Poland and the United States during this important Cold War phase. It will appeal not only to scholars but also to all those with an interest in Poland's history.

    Bitter Legacyis a sequel to Lukas's earlier volume,The Strange Allies, which has been acclaimed as the best treatment in English of United States-Polish relations during World War II. If offers the same impeccable scholarship and balanced interpretation that characterized Lukas's earlier study.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5043-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. I The Road to Potsdam
    (pp. 1-19)

    Recent events in Poland have reawakened considerable American interest in that county. One of the questions often raised today is how did Poland become a communist state. This study, which focuses on Poland from the Potsdam Conference through the elections of 1947, is an attempt to fill a major gap in the historical literature by offering a detailed account of why United States policy was unable to reverse the process begun at the Yalta Conference that transformed Poland into a Soviet satellite.

    American policy toward postwar Poland was based upon the unrealistic belief that the United States would be able...

  5. II Postwar Poland
    (pp. 20-40)

    Polish politics were far more fluid before the controversial elections of January 1947 than is often realized. Although the dominant group in the government was the PPR, the Polish communists were in no position to establish their domination over the entire country. During this dynamic period in the political life of postwar Poland, the PPR ruled in a coalition with the PPS and a few smaller political parties and regarded the PSL, which they identified with reaction, as its major threat.¹

    Ever since the creation of the Polish provisional government of national unity, the communists had held the vital portfolios...

  6. III From Potsdam to Kielce
    (pp. 41-59)

    Wahington recognized that Poland was in the Soviet sphere of influence, but it expected to exert some political and economic influence there after World War II. Whatever optimism Washington may have had about its ability to play a role in postwar Warsaw soon gave way to uncertainty, resulting in an ambivalence in American policy toward Poland. In the months following the Potsdam Conference, the United States believed that Polish reconstruction needs made Poland dependent upon American economic aid, which presumably would enable Washington to moderate communist rule in Poland and to safeguard the position of Mikolajczyk and the PSL, around...

  7. IV Credits and Elections
    (pp. 60-78)

    By the middle of 1946 American relations with Poland were seriously affected by Washington’s tougher policy toward the Kremlin. Soviet policies in Iran and Germany convinced American policymakers that it was necessary for the United States to take a firmer line toward the Soviet Union. Public confidence in Soviet willingness to cooperate with the United States continued to sag while Washington officials increasingly saw the primary motivation behind Soviet actions in terms of Marxist ideology.

    Little wonder that developments in Poland and America’s growing problems with the Soviet Union convinced Washington not to extend additional credits to Poland before the...

  8. V Denouement
    (pp. 79-95)

    The Polish elections were an important element in the growing split between East and West and left the United States with few if any options to prevent the complete satellization of the country. The Polish government, still very much in need of American economic aid, tried to put the best possible face on Polish domestic developments and to emphasize the importance to both countries of Poland’s ability to establish a more independent economic position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. But except for a few individuals in the administration, the United States was no longer seriously interested in extending credit to Poland...

  9. VI Relief and Repatriation
    (pp. 96-118)

    One of the most visible and rewarding areas of American contact with Poland in the immediate postwar period was through the relief assistance that had been sent to the Polish people. In view of the tense political relations between Warsaw and Washington, it was inevitable that even relief would become politicized by both sides. Nevertheless, millions of Poles benefited from American relief provided through the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and several major private agencies, including the Red Cross, War Relief Services of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the American Relief for Poland, and the American Joint Distribution...

  10. VII Polish Americans and the Polish Question
    (pp. 119-134)

    During World War II most Polish Americans supported the Polish government-in-exile and regarded the Soviet Union as an atheistic despotism which intended to force the communist system upon the Polish people. From May 1944 most Polish Americans were organized in the Polish American Congress, which represented approximately 6 million Americans of Polish ancestry. Through the Polish American Congress, they tried but failed to influence American policy toward the Soviet Union over the questions of Poland’s postwar boundary in the east and the complexion of the future government of Poland. President Roosevelt had misled not only the Polish American Congress but...

  11. VIII Conclusions
    (pp. 135-138)

    United States postwar relations with Poland were conditioned by the arrangements reached at the Yalta Conference. By agreeing to an imprecise understanding which provided no enforcement mechanism to insure that an expanded provisional government in Warsaw would hold “free and unfettered elections,” the United States took a major step in dissociating itself from Poland and eastern Europe. Neither Roosevelt at Yalta nor Truman at Potsdam pressed for international supervision of the promised elections, and thus implied American recognition of a Soviet sphere of influence over Poland. At Potsdam, it was possible for Truman to have linked the future Polish elections...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 139-169)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 170-182)
  14. Index
    (pp. 183-191)