Background: This is a translation of from an East German summary of arguments for agitators. It is an attempt to explain the loss of German territory to Poland after World War II. This was a publication of the Abteilung Massenorganisation of the SED (the East German Communist Party). It was subtitled “Arguments for daily discussion,” and according to a note from the editorial staff, it was to help “convince the masses of the rightness of our policies, our methods and our aims.”
The source: Frage und Antwort, Nr. 6 (1950)
Why is the Oder-Neiße Line a Peace Border?
Question: What led to the loss of the districts in the East?
Answer: The cause is the second war of conquest unleashed by German imperialism. As in the First World War of 1914-1918, German imperialists attempted in the Second World War to conquer and subordinate other countries. In both cases land once belonging to Germany was lost. In 1918 Germany lost Schleswig, Eupen, Upper Silesia, and so on. In 1945, it lost the areas east of the Oder-Neiße Line. Those parts of Germany that have been lost in the last fifty years were lost only because of war.
The fault rests with those who wanted war and prepared for it: German imperialists.
Question: Wasn’t the Second World War an attempt to regain the regions lost to Germany as a result of the Treaty of Versailles?
Answer: No. This war of conquest was an effort of German imperialists to reverse the defeat and its consequences of World War I.
As the Potsdam Conference demonstrated, the conquest of Poland and other areas in Eastern and Southeastern of Europe and the extermination of these peoples was the primary goal of German Fascist politics in its insatiable drive for world domination.
These destroyers of Germany who have gained the upper hand in the West are eager to play the role of lackeys of Anglo-American imperialists in the hopes of catching a few crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.
Question: They did not tell that to the people?
Answer: That naturally could not be told to the people then or now. They always find new lies with which to deceive the people. One such lie was Nazi propaganda’s claim that Germans living in Poland were being “freed.” Another lie is the propaganda by Anglo-American warmongers for a revision in the Oder-Neiße Line.
Question: When and where was the Oder-Neiße Line determined?
Answer: The Oder-Neiße Line was determined at the Yalta Conference in February 1944 and the Potsdam conference in August 1945.
Question: Who signed the treaties?
Answer: President Roosevelt signed the Yalta Agreement for the government of the United States, Prime Minister Churchill for England, the Chairman of the Ministerial Council Stalin for the USSR. Truman signed the Potsdam Agreement for the USA, Attlee for England, Stalin for the Soviet Union. The French government added its official approval later.
Question: Why was the Oder-Neiße Line fixed as the German-Polish border?
Answer: According to the Yalta and Potsdam Declarations, the Oder-Neiße Line was drawn to make a new German attack impossible and to give the Polish people a secure western border.
Question: Did the Polish people have reason to be concerned about their security?
Answer: As the history of the last one hundred years teaches, yes. Prussia and later Imperial Germany were hardly peaceful neighbors, but rather ones intent on conquest. The Polish people were not the only ones constantly threatened by Imperialist Germany. The Russian people were as well. The broad fruitful plains of the Ukraine and the rich mineral resources of the Urals were long coveted by the German cannon kings and Junkers. The path to these areas always went through Poland. The policy of Prussia and Imperial Germany therefore always aimed the division, denationalization and exclusion of Poland. That was true before Bismarck, during his era, during the Weimar Republic, and above all under Hitler.
Although the fascist war of conquest was broken by the heroic resistance of the Soviet people, today’s Anglo-American warmongers and their obedient “German” politicians once again want to “move East.”
Question: Did the Allies agree with Poland’s need for security?
Answer: Naturally. That is why they, too, were in favor of the Oder-Neiße line during the war.
The English Undersecretary of State Cadogan, today a member of the UN Security Council, wrote on 2 November 1944 to the former minister of the Polish government Romer:
Then President Roosevelt wrote to Minister President Mikolajczyk of the Polish government in exile:
Churchill told the English House of Commons on 15 December 1944:
Question: Why were the Germans expelled?
Answer: The German population was expelled from the former eastern territories because they to a great degree had joined Hitler’s war of conquest. The existence of German minorities in foreign states was always the occasion of National Socialist propaganda aimed at “freeing the brothers to the east.” To end this once and for all, a radical, hard but consistent policy of removing all Germans from the eastern territories was carried out.
Question: Was not the incitement of the Germans in Poland the result of the Nazis? Had not the Germans and Poles lived peacefully together before that?
Answer: One cannot speak of friendly relations between Germans and Poles either earlier or at the end of the war. After the “victory” over Poland, the majority of Polish families was moved to the Generalgouvernement and replaced by Germans. As the war went on, millions of Poles were brought to Germany as forced laborers and were treated as people of second class. They either could not ride the streetcar, or were restricted to certain cars. Signs at the entrances to most shops, theaters and restaurants forbade them to enter. Several million Poles were killed in the notorious concentration camps at Maidanek, Auschwitz, etc.
To keep all that from happening again, the Polish people demanded the Oder-Neiße Line and the expulsion of all Germans.
Question: But is not the expulsion hard for the German people?
Answer: The expulsion of millions of people is certainly hard for us Germans. However, one cannot make the German anti-Fascists who fought against Fascist barbarism responsible for it. It is the fault of the war criminals.
The Tagesspiegel granted this fact when it wrote on 25 November 1945 that the expulsion of the refugees was consequence of Hitler, “since one cannot break all the laws of humanity twice within twenty years and go unpunished.”
Question: But the Potsdam Conference agreed that the final decision should be made at a peace conference. Since there is still no peace treaty, is not the border as yet not fixed?
Answer: No, it is final, for Paragraph 13 of the Potsdam Agreement says:
Even the most eager troublemaker cannot deny that the expulsions were assisted by the four occupying powers.
Question: So what will the peace treaty have to say about the Oder-Neiße Line?
Answer: The peace treaty will give legal status to what has been in practice the result of the Potsdam Agreement. Such a serious policy as the expulsion of millions of people could only be decided and implemented when one assumes that these areas would belong to Poland permanently.
Question: But are not there now English and American statesmen who no longer favor the Oder-Neiße Line?
Answer: They no longer favor many things that they agreed to at Potsdam (e.g., the creation of a unified Germany, the withdrawal of the occupying powers, the establishment of a united government, the signing of a peace treaty, etc.).
Question: Why have they changed positions?
Answer: Because their thinking has proven false. The imperialists in Washington and London wanted a Poland that was controlled by big landowners, industrialists, and generals. They assumed that such a Poland would be in constant conflict with both the Soviet Union and a democratic Germany and would assist the Anglo-Americans with their Eastern policies.
Question: That means that things have changed in Poland?
Answer: Yes. As in other countries in East and Southeastern Europe, a powerful transformation has occurred. The landlords and industrialists are no longer in charge, but rather the workers and farmers. This people’s democracy has become a nation with friendly relations to its neighbors, in particular the Soviet Union, to which it owes its liberation and resurrection.
Question: Why do the English and American imperialists favor a “revision” of the Oder-Neiße Line?
Answer: The Anglo-American warmongers are not really interested in a revision of the eastern border, nor in the German or Polish peoples. If instead of the socialist Bierut the reactionary Micolajczyk was at the head of the Polish government, the warmongers would not care if the German eastern border was the Spree.
Question: What do they really want, then?
Answer: They want confusion and hatred between both peoples. Their aim is to drive Germany, the trouble spot of Europe, to war against Poland and the Soviet Union.
Question: Which interests determine the policies of the Anglo-American imperialists?
Answer: Our fate is of no interest to the armaments industries and generals in London and Washington. They want war to increase their profits. The German youth are to be the cannon fodder, as Mr. Cannon, the chairman of the Finance Committee of the American House of Representatives says:
Question: Are not some German politicians also of this opinion?
Answer: Yes, there are some. But just who are these “German” politicians? They are monopoly capitalists whose property was seized in the German Democratic Republic, along with their cronies in West Germany. They are the Junkers who lost their land and moved to West Germany. They believe that they can regain their estates through a new war. They are the war criminals and militarists who dream of new deeds of “heroism” and the lackeys of the Anglo-Americans, like Adenauer, Blücher, Kaiser, Schumacher, etc. The broad masses of the German population do not want a new war, but rather want to live in peace with other nations and in peace gain clothing, housing, and food.
Question: Can we Germans grow enough food without the eastern territories?
Answer: Yes, we can. History shows that a nation’s ability to feed itself is less a question of its size than of the political conditions and advances in technology.
There were 6 million unemployed in Germany in 1932 who lived in misery. There are already 2 million unemployed in West Germany today, where the old destroyers of Germany are back in power. The German Democratic Republic, on the other hand, has a labor shortage. The United States has around 5 million unemployed, the Soviet Union has long has a shortage of workers. As a result of the changes which since 1945 have affected every aspect of life in the German Democratic Republic, the provision of the population with food and manufactured goods of every sort has improved.
Question: How can we produce even more?
Answer: On the one hand by the manufacture of high quality industrial goods, which will allow us to import more food and raw materials. On the other hand, we must improve our methods in farming by using the most modern scientific methods. We aim to do this in the Two Year Plan and in the Economic Plan 1950 by improving the quality of peacetime harvests.
Peaceful work and friendship with all nations is the way to improve a people, not war and the conquest of foreign lands.
Question: Would we not have sufficient food if we had not lost the eastern territories?
Answer: Naturally not. Let us stick to the facts here. About 65 million people live in Germany today, west of the Oder-Neiße Line. The actual loss of food production in comparison with the present population of Germany is about 10 to 12%. If we still had this at our disposal, we could increase rations by 10 to 12%. That would mean, for example, an increase of the bread ration from 400 to 440 grams a day, 11 grams of fat a day instead of 10, 28 grams of meat instead of 25.
Question: But aren’t the Poles incapable of settling the areas and farming them?
Answer: This argument is also false, and demonstrates German feelings of superiority. In the areas Germans have left, several million Poles have already settled.
It is true that in 1945/46 and 1947 some areas were still unsettled, but that was also true in Germany. The reason was the war, not the incapacity of the Poles. They had to clear about 83,241 square miles of mines. A total of 5,890,000 mines were cleared. And homes were destroyed and there were shortages of livestock, machines and equipment, not to mention floods, etc. Despite these difficulties, the Poles have done remarkable things in the past five years. Otherwise it would not have been possible to steadily increase trade between the German Democratic Republic and Poland. We are importing growing amounts of food and raw materials, e.g. black coal.
Question: There is probably no possibility of the refugees returning to their old homes?
Answer: Those who listened to the warmongers have made this impossible. The Polish people have not forgotten the role of the Germans before and during the Second World War. The destruction of Poland was prepared by the nationalistic incitement of the German-speaking population and by their organization in the fascist people’s German movement. The Henlein movement had a similar role in Czechoslovakia.
Question: Didn’t the people’s German movement take an interest only in the cultural needs of the German minority?
Answer: That was only the cover beneath which hatred against the Polish people was promoted before and during the war. Many members of the movement were agents, saboteurs and traitors for the German Fascists. It is therefore understandable why Poland and other lands in the East no longer want Germans in their countries.
Question: What will become of the refugees?
Answer: The refugees are just as German as the rest of us and must have the same rights and duties. This principle is firmly established in the German Democratic Republic. Jobs in the state and administrative apparatuses are as open to them as anyone else. Their sons and daughters have the same opportunity to study and colleges and universities, thanks to educational reform. These and other measures in the German Democratic Republic prevent the refugees from becoming an army of rootless homeless people.
Question: Those are obvious steps. Is it any different in West Germany?
Answer: It is not that obvious. These measures were possible in the German Democratic Republic only because of our process of thorough democratization. In the West zones everything is different. There the refugees are seen as a burden and their incorporation into society is hindered. There is a danger that a large part of the refugees will fall prey to a second kind of political adventurism and be used for purposes that are not their own. The refugees in the West German states will receive real help only when the same economic and political changes that have happened in the German Democratic Republic happen there.
Question: What will happen if we Germans believe Anglo-American propaganda about the Oder-Neiße Line?
Question: The Oder-Neiße Line has brought only controversy. How can one call it a border of peace?
Answer: The controversy comes from those with no conscious and who have no interest in peace. As a result, Poland has made the question of recognition or nonrecognition of the Oder-Neiße line a question of war or peace. Only a recognition and acceptance of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements will allow friendly relations between the two peoples. Therefore we say with justice that the Oder-Neiße Line is a border of peace.
Question: That’s what the SED says, anyway?
Answer: No, that is not true. It is the view of all peace-loving, truly patriotic thinking and acting Germans. The anti-Fascist Democratic Block agreed on 19 August 1949 to oppose:
The government declaration by Minister President Comrade Grotewohl says:
Foreign Minister Georg Deringer spoke to the party congress of the CDU in Leipzig for the recognition of the Oder-Neiße peace border. The delegates accepted this proposal unanimously.
Question: Who gives the German government the right to accept such decisions?
Answer: It comes from the responsibility the government of the German Democratic Republic has to the German people. Germany needs peace to overcome the Fascist war of conquest and to build new homes, new factories, new farms to produce the goods we need. We also need genuine friendship with other peoples, a friendship that will help us along a new path. We have such friendship with the Soviet Union, with Poland, and the other people’s democracies.
The government of the German Democratic Republic has the right because it wants to secure peace and friendship.
Question: You accept the loss of the eastern territories. Why all the noise about the Ruhr?
Answer: Just as we say a clear yes to the Oder-Neiße Line, we resolutely oppose any change in Germany’s western border.
Answer: The borders were drawn (as Churchill rightly said in 1944) to maintain peace. The Oder-Neiße line is therefore a border of peace.
The separation of the Saar and the theft of the Ruhr, on the other hand, would strengthen the military capacity of the Anglo-American imperialists in the heart of Europe.
One border is a border of peace, the other makes easier the preparation of a new war.
Question: But isn’t separation still separation?
Answer: No. The border in the East was established by the Potsdam Conference. No international agreement proposed a change in Germany’s western border. We support the implementation of all points of the Potsdam decisions.
But that is only one side. The other side is that there are losses which are bearable and losses that are deadly for a people. The losses in the East, despite all the accompanying difficulties, are bearable for our people. The losses in the West would be fatal. That too is shown by history. The German imperialists were able to build an enormous military machine, despite the loss of Silesia after the First World War. That would never have been possible without the Ruhr
Question: What does the battle for the national existence of our people have to do with the Polish people?
Answer: A great deal. The Polish people along with all other peoples of East and Southeast Europe and peace-loving people everywhere, as anyone can see, support our struggle for national self reliance and independence. The Polish government has repeatedly stated its support for the rapid conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and the withdrawal of foreign troops. It recognized the German Democratic Republic immediately and exchanged ambassadors. The Polish people despite all the troubles it has had from the German people is ready for friendly relations.
Question: What do we have to gain from friendly relations with Poland?
Answer: Friendly relations with Poland are good for both peoples.
To the degree that we make our people free of Revanchist sentiments and prepare the way for democracy and peace, we will earn the friendship of the Polish people and contribute to the strengthening of peace in Europe.
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