Colonel Beek: Emissary of Europe's Interesting Country New and
By Our Special Correspondent
ColonehBeck's visit to London has served to draw the attention of the British public to the importance of Poland as a post-War European power. Colonel Beck received assurance from the Government Britain will see to it that the interests of Poland are safeguarded in the eventuality of a European crisis. Among other matters that were discussed at the Foreign Office were the question of Jewish emigration, Danzig, and the Locarno.
Not so long ago Poland was considered a rather barbaric state somewhere in Eastern Europe, and little attention was
paid to Polish happenings. But fortunately times have changed and it is becoming increasingly plain to all that Poland is perhaps the most important barrier to the outbreak of another European cataclysm that would inevitably mean the end of European civilisation.
Poland, torn into three fragments and under the heel of three different alien autocrats, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the World War.
Bigger Than Ever Before
To-day Poland is a great nation. The frontiers of ancient Poland are far exceeded by those of the Poland of to-day, with her 32,000,000 inhabitants and 388,000 square kilometres. And the exceedingly powerful and efficient Polish army is
without doubt a factor that may yet serve to keep apart the twin totalitarian states with their philosophies that are so virulently antagonistic and yet so strangly similar—Russia and Germany.
But Poland has many difficult problems to face, and none more so than the minority problem.
There are 23,000,000 Poles in Poland— of the remainder four million are Ukrainians, two million Jews, one million Germans, and one million White Russians, together with a number of Lithuanians and Letts.
Relations have, at times, been exceedingly difficult with all these minorities, save the Letts and the Jews (officially, at least). But at present this grave problem seems to have been at least temporarily solved—or partially solved.
Relations with the Ukrainians, if not cordial, are at least greatly improved. Relations with Germany are, if less cordial than for some little time, correct, and the grievances of the German minority are not aver-publicised, The Lithuanian minority is undoubtedly in a most unenviable position, but it is scattered, small and not homogeneous.
France and Poland
Traditional sympathies with ancient roots anchor Polish ,hearts to France.
It was natural that the resurrected Poland should pursue a foreign policy closely linked to that of France, and from 1919 to 1933 relations between Poland and Germany could hardly have been worse. Germany was more feared than Russia and Poland was among the leading anti-German nations.
A variety of factors altered this position in 1933.
French policy was not always intelligent as regards Poland. The proud Poles fiercely resented a conception dear to the French and others as well that Poland was but a second-rate Eastern European dependency of France. And a sudden offer of a ten years' truce and pact of nonaggression from Hitler was eagerly seized and left France gasping.
Since then Polish policy has steered a middle course and endeavoured to maintain the role of impartial observer of the gathering Germano-Russian conflict.
There is little doubt, too, that the late dictator, Pilsudski, did not dislike the new policy. The grim old warrior never ceased to regard Russia as the traditional enemy.
Expenditure Midst Poverty
But with Pilsudski's death there came a difficult period for Poland. The grinding poverty, particularly in Eastern Poland, and the colossal drain of military expenditure (proportionately the heaviest in Europe) were becoming menacing.
The old link had gone. The popularity of the Government was diminishing rapidly and the dread ghost of Cornmvnisnt that haunts the eyes of all Polish politicians was growing.
But a new leader was at hand. Marshal Rydz-Smigly, a personality far more gentle and humane than Pilsudski, has none the less shown that humanity can be combined with firmness, and his authority to-day is immense and undisputed. His strong proFrench tendencies indicate a gradual return to the policy of earlier years.
The German policy has never been popular with the masses who remain fundamentally anti-German. Marshal RydzSmigly's recent visit to Paris merely enhanced his already great prestige. And Franco-Polish co-operation appears once again to be a reality. in the economic as in the political sphere.
The Jews Anti-semitism remains •grave. Officially
Poland is not anti-semitic. But pogroms and riots are increasingly frequent and in some districts are causing very real anxiety. The peasants, too, are restless. Demands for the return of Witos, the great leader of the peasants, now in exile, are heard on all sides.
Nothing, however, has done more of late to increase difficulties with Germany than Danzig.
The corridor and the Baltic coast are Poland's very life-blood and, despite Nazi propaganda to the contrary, age-old Polish territory.
The miracle of Gdynia, the wonderful new pent which from a tiny hamlet has become a magnificent port that to-day surpasses Danzig, is the admiration of Europe. At first Danzig Nazis took pains to humour Poland, the custodian of Danzig's foreign policy. and all was well. But of late Nazi arrogance has grown apace and the Catholics and Socialists have been brutally molested and their rights abolished.
Protests are vain. And the Polish press is becoming very bitter, the military expert, General Michaelis, even declaring that Germany is Poland's only potential enemy. Moreover, there are signs that Poland intends to take a firm attitude and meet Nazi aggression and provocation with counter-measures that may surprise Danzig's over-confident Nazi leaders whose anti-Catholic and anti-Polish campaign is nearing a climax.
Mgr. Hudal, whose name appeared in the Catholic Herald last week in an article on Austria, was formerly rector of the Collegio dell'Anima in Rome, and not as stated of the German College.