Polemics & Exchanges

The Polish Question

In his review of Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War, by Frank Costigliola (“Diplomacy, Good and Bad,” December), George W. Liebmann writes, “Czechoslovakia had outflanked Poland in 1939 . . . ”  Fascinating.  It is especially fascinating in view of the fact that the Munich Pact of 1938 had dismembered Czechoslovakia, which rendered the Czechs powerless to stop the Poles, who, as one of the beneficiaries of the Munich Pact, seized the Teschen province of Czechoslovakia in October 1938.

But the above is easily matched by the statement that appears in an article by Christie Davies in the November issue (“Obama, the Death Camps, and Polish Anger,” Correspondence).  Professor Davies states—this is his sentence—“We Brits owe our freedom to the Poles.”  Absurd.  Four years of convoying and guarding convoys of ships bearing arms, ammunition, food, fuel—and, lest we forget, tens of thousands of armed Americans, who would fight side-by-side with the British—all for naught?  “We Brits owe our freedom to the Poles,” indeed.

        —Howard Sitton
Asheville, NC

Mr. Liebmann Replies:

The German invasion of Poland in 1939 came from the south as well as the west, because of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the defending forces were more dispersed than they otherwise would have been.  I thought my meaning was clear enough.

Professor Davies Replies:

I have never denied that the American convoys were essential to British survival.  This is well known.  What is neglected is that we nearly lost the war in 1940, thanks to heavy bombing of our country by the Luftwaffe, an air force well supplied with Soviet aviation spirit under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  We were producing new fighters at tremendous speed but were desperately short of pilots.  The Polish pilots filled the gap.  Likewise, they were vital to our breaking the Nazis’ Enigma code, and to destroying the rockets in Peenemünde.  In their different ways the help of both America and Poland was essential.  To call the Polish contribution absurd is absurd.

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