Primary Documents - Herbert Hoover on Polish Reconstruction, 19 August 1919

Herbert Hoover With Germany defeated in November 1918 the path was cleared for a newly constructed Polish republic to be established with Allied backing; this was duly declared on 10 February 1919.  This was however by no means the end of uncertainty for Poland, with the ultimate makeup of Europe yet to be agreed at the Paris Peace Conference, and with military disagreements with Russia, the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia rumbling on.

Click here to read the statement issued by the Polish Regency Council - established by the country's wartime German occupiers - on 11 November 1918 (the date of the armistice) which announced that General Josef Pilsudski, newly freed from German incarceration, was to be appointed to military command of Poland's Army.  Click here to read a subsequent decree, issued three days later, in which the Regency Council formally announced its own dissolution in favour of Pilsudski pending assembly elections.  Click here to read a statement issued by Pilsudski on the same day in which he outlined his immediate plans.

Click here to read an interview conducted with Pilsudski by a French newspaper in February 1919.  Click here to read the text of the U.S. government's formal recognition of the Polish government, by now politically led by Ignace Paderewski (with Pilsudski's blessing while the latter oversaw military matters).  Click here to read an address issued by Paderewski in May 1919 in which he summarised events to date at the Paris Peace Conference.  Click here to read a statement issued by Paderewski in September 1919 in which he expressed his support for Polish entry into the League of Nations.

Click here to read a statement issued by Herbert Hoover - head of the U.S. reconstruction organisation in Europe - dated August 1919 in which he documented his reservations with regard to the speed with which Poland's economic infrastructure could be rebuilt.

Statement by Herbert Hoover on Polish Infrastructure, 19 August 1919

As a result of seven invasions by different armies the country has largely been denuded of buildings.  The estates of the larger landowners have been destroyed, and while the peasants are cultivating approximately enough foodstuffs for their own supplies, these regions, which in normal times export large quantities of food, mostly from the large estates. are four-fifths uncultivated.

In normal times the town populations exist by exchanging manufactured goods to the peasants and landowners for food.

There has been virtually no import of manufactured goods for years, and the supplies of foodstuffs having vanished, the town populations are left entirely without support or employment.

As there have been no manufactured goods to exchange, and as the currency no longer has any purchasing value in goods and the peasants do not care to exchange foodstuffs for it, there has been a total breakdown of the economic cycle.

In addition to the destruction and robbery which accompanied the repeated invasion of rival armies, these areas have been, of course, through a cauldron of Bolshevist revolution and the intellectual classes either fled from the country or to a considerable extent were imprisoned.

Some were executed.  The Ruthenian peasants have been stirred up against the great landowners, which accounts for the destruction of the equipment of the large landed properties.

It appears to us that it will require years for this region to recover, for animals must be provided, agricultural implements imported and the whole agricultural production restarted.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VII, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A Greyback was a British Army shirt.

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