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Poland's Place in Europe

Poland's Place in Europe: General Sikorski and the Origin of the Oder-Neisse Line, 1939-1943

Sarah Meiklejohn Terry
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Poland's Place in Europe
    Book Description:

    The author explores a variety of questions related to General SikorskiÕs policies, such as his effort to maintain an independent Polish Arms' in the Soviet Union. Drawing on extensive British, American, and Polish archives, her work describes the defeat of a radical solution to the perennial instability of Central Europe.

    Originally published in 1983.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5717-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note on Geographical Terms
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Part One The Historical Setting

    • I Introduction
      (pp. 3-12)

      The so-called “Polish Question” in World War II is one of those issues which have been so overworked in the literature of recent European history that the author rash enough to reopen any aspect of it has an obligation to reveal at the outset what new and dramatic evidence has been unearthed to make the exercise worth the reader’s time. In this case, it is the question of the origin of the Polish-German boundary on the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers¹ that I propose to reopen and, in particular, the contribution made to the concept of such a boundary by...

    • II The Burden of History
      (pp. 13-34)

      Few nations can rival Poland in the variety of configurations that she has assumed throughout history, ranging from her status as the largest European state at the height of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the fifteenth century to her disappearances from the political map following the three partitions of 1772 to 1795, and once again in 1939. For all this, one of the more astonishing aspects of her checkered existence is the fact that her present boundaries approximate those within which she began her recorded history more than a thousand years ago—a fact that might seem to make her geographic...

  7. Part Two Program and Promise

    • III The Unlikely Iconoclast
      (pp. 37-45)

      The touchstone of General Sikorski’s policy was his conviction that Poland’s international posture must be a realistic reflection of her geography. As one wartime adviser wrote of him later: “Sikorski felt that sentiments should not obscure the realities of politics and history. Emotions pass, but geography remains. And geography has placed Poland between Germany and Russia.”¹ This was a conviction that was at once unexceptionable, yet one that marked a significant departure from the underlying assumption of twenty years of Polish foreign policy: to wit, that Poland could successfully and more or less singlehandedly maintain a balance between her two...

    • IV Sikorski’s Russian Gambit
      (pp. 46-65)

      While Sikorski’s conciliatory stance toward Russia was a radical departure from the policy of Poland’s prewar governments, it in no way marked a change in the general’s personal position; indeed his approach to Polish-Soviet relations was characteristic of the distance that separated him from the Sanacja. Throughout the interwar period he saw Germany as constituting the greater danger to Poland and, at least in the latter half of the 1930s, advocated the formation of an anti-German coalition including the Soviet Union; he held his own country at least partially responsible for the failure of such a coalition to materialize. Writing...

    • V Toward a New Central Europe
      (pp. 66-118)

      As we have already seen in Chapter II, the contentious nationalisms that dominated the mood in the Central European successor states following the First World War gave little quarter to suggestions for an effective regional organization. By the 1930s, however, their patent incapacity separately to solve their problems had revived interest in plans for cooperation, especially in the economic sphere. On a smaller scale, the idea of Polish-Czechoslovak cooperation followed a similar pattern. Although early ruminations over a federation fell victim to the poisonous state of political relations engendered by the Teschen dispute, proposals for looser forms of association were...

    • VI The Eastern Boundary: Encounter with Necessity
      (pp. 119-136)

      Intimately related to Sikorski’s vision of Poland’s future geographical and political orientation, and most particularly of her relations with the Soviet Union, was his position on the boundary that would divide the two states Yet this comprises a separate and fourth aspect of his program in the sense that substantial territorial concessions in the east were in all probability not part of his onginal conception of a rapprochement with Moscow, or at the very least a step he hoped he could avoid Rather, it seems likely that he came to accept the need for such concessions only gradually and reluctantly...

    • VII Synthesis: The Precarious Balance
      (pp. 137-144)

      We have already examined in some detail the interdependence of Sikorski’s proposal for a Central European federation and his concept of Poland’s future western boundary, with each reinforcing the need and, at the same time, providing justification for the other. It should be obvious by now that much the same kind of reciprocal relationship existed between these two aspects of his program, on the one hand, and his desire for a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, on the other. For instance, the proposed federation reinforced the need for good Polish-Soviet relations, because the reluctance of the Czechs to do anything...

  8. Part Three Agony and Aftermath

    • VIII Setting for Disaster
      (pp. 147-198)

      The obstacles that General Sikorski faced in attempting to realize his program fell into two categories: one external and almost wholly beyond the influence of the Poles; the other internal and, if presumably within the control of the Poles as a nation, certainly beyond the control of one man, even as prime minister of the Government-in-Exile. The first category consisted of the currents and cross-currents within the Grand Alliance, not only over the “Polish Question” itself, but more generally over the premises of a postwar European settlement, and even over wartime relations among the Big Three. While the Poles might...

    • IX Retreat from Rapprochement
      (pp. 199-244)

      Our retrospective view, distorted as it often is by the prism of later events, does not generally recognize the Polish Army-in-Exile as a failure, even a qualified one. Freshest in our minds are the memories of the Katyń discovery, which made a mockery of the idea of Polish-Soviet military cooperation, and the unquestioned gallantry of the Poles on the western front, which seemed to justify fully their evacuation from the Soviet Union. What we may forget is that Katyń was not the reason for the evacuation. While it is true that the search for the missing officers cast a deepening...

    • X Boundary Politics: East versus West
      (pp. 245-314)

      The reader will undoubtedly recall a point that was stressed on several occasions in Part II: that Sikorski’s vision of Poland’s postwar western boundary evolved quite independently of his ideas concerning the eastern boundary. Whereas in the west his primary consideration was securing the strategic and economic prerequisites for Poland’s security and independence in federation with Czechoslovakia, his gradual acceptance of concessions in the east was a product of necessity, stemming from his conviction that reconciliation with Russia was more important to his country’s future security than retention of the Riga line. To the extent that he saw territorial gains...

    • XI The Consequences of Failure
      (pp. 315-350)

      Of the three facets of Sikorski’s postwar strategy—rapprochement with Russia, westward territorial expansion, and Central European federation—it was the last mentioned that, in the early stages of the war at least, seemed to hold out the greatest promise of success. On November 11, 1940, the Polish and Czechoslovak exile governments had issued a joint declaration of their intention “on the conclusion of this war, to enter as independent and sovereign States into a closer political and economic association which would become the basis of a new order in Central Europe and a guarantee of its stability.”¹ This was...

  9. Epilogue Sikorski: Realist or Visionary?
    (pp. 351-358)

    In the preceding chapters, we have examined Sikorski’s program and the Allied response to it largely from the Polish perspective. What remains is, first, to review the balance sheet on the general himself and, second, to set the Allied response to Sikorski’s efforts in the broader perspective of Great Power responsibility to the lesser nations over whose fate they preside.

    In retrospect it is all too easy to criticize Sikorski. Clearly he was excessively optimistic about the possibilities of achieving a genuine reconciliation with the Soviet Union, one that would lead to a compromise settlement of the eastern boundary question...

  10. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 359-367)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 368-378)
  12. Index
    (pp. 379-394)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 395-395)