Book on Poland’s Independence Belonging to Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane

Case For Poland's Independence-Arthur Bliss LaneI found this book several years ago by pure chance in a bookstore in San Francisco selling old and antique books.

Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane’s daughter, Peggy, lived in San Francisco, which may explain how the book ended up in a local book shop. She died at a relatively young age from a sudden illness when Bliss Lane and his wife were visiting her in San Francisco. As she was already married, perhaps her husband kept the book and it eventually ended up for sale. I was simply amazed seeing Bliss Lane’s name, Warsaw and the date 1919 written on the inside cover page.

What a coincidence and what an amazing discovery for someone interested in the history of U.S.-Polish relations, in which Ambassador Bliss Lane played an important part.

Arthur Bliss Lane was the first post-World War II U.S. Ambassador to Poland and had served earlier as Ambassador to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. He also had served in Poland as a young U.S. diplomat in 1919.

Arthur Bliss Lane – Ambassador to the Government of Poland in Exile Nomination (1944).  Source: Daniel Rice,
Arthur Bliss Lane – Ambassador to the Government of Poland in Exile Nomination (1944). Source: Daniel Rice.

Appalled by Stalin’s violations of the Yalta Agreement on free elections in Poland, he resigned from the State Department and wrote his book “I Saw Poland Betrayed.”

In my view, his book launched a long but eventually successful process of reversing the mistake of U.S. foreign policy at Yalta.

Arthur Bliss Lane also helped Zofia Korbonska, an anti-Nazi and anti-communist resister, get a job at the Polish Service of the Voice of America and later helped to establish Radio Free Europe. I wrote about him and Zofia Korbonska in my article “Interweaving of Public Diplomacy and U.S. International Broadcasting” in American Diplomacy, December 2011.

I also wrote this post a few years ago about Ambassador Bliss Lane.

I Saw Poland Betrayed by Arthur Bliss SAN FRANCISCO — Arthur Bliss Lane (16 June 1894–12 August 1956) was the United States Ambassador to Poland (1944–1947). He served earlier as the U.S. Ambassador to the wartime Polish Government-in-Exile in London and was with the U.S. diplomatic mission in Poland in 1919. During the interwar period, he had a number of other diplomatic assignments in Western Europe and Latin America.

Arthur Bliss Lane served as Minister to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from June 1936 to September 1937, and was later transferred to Yugoslavia. He remained in Belgrade until the German occupation of April 1941. Later during the war,  he was Minister to Costa Rica, October 1941 to April 1942, and Ambassador to Columbia, until October, 1944.

From October 1944 to May 1945, he was Ambassador to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London.  In May 1945, he became Ambassador to the Polish Government in Warsaw after the United States and the United Kingdom transferred their recognition to the Soviet-dominated regime in Poland.

Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane resigned from the State Department in 1947, after a distinguished career in U.S. diplomatic service, in protest against what he saw as the betrayal of Poland by the United States and other Western allies toward the end of World War II and in the immediate period after the war.

In his book I Saw Poland Betrayed An American Ambassador Reports to the American People, he criticized President Roosevelt’s naive trust in Stalin and his concessions to the Soviet Union at the expense of Poland and other East Central European nations. The cost of Roosevelt’s deals with Stalin was not only decades of Soviet domination and communist repression in Europe but ultimately the Cold War, wars in Korea and Vietnam, thousands of American lives lost and billions of dollars in U.S. defense spending.

Roosevelt’s intentions, however, were not evil. In fact, they were noble and idealistic by the standards of international politics of his time. Roosevelt refused to see Stalin for what he really was, a ruthless dictator who had earlier made a deal with Hitler to divide Poland and take over the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and parts of Finland and Romania.

Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane’s book was published in 1948.  

A book about Poland which Arthur Bliss Lane had with him while serving at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Warsaw in 1919. The book is now in my library.
A book about Poland which Arthur Bliss Lane had with him while serving at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Warsaw in 1919. The book is now in my library.

The Yale University Library, where Arthur Bliss Lane’s private papers and documents are archived, has on its website additional information about his diplomatic career and his public activities after he resigned from the State Department.

“From April 1947 until his death in August 1956, Arthur Bliss Lane undertook a number of lecture tours, radio programs, articles and letters by which he worked to stimulate public opposition to the activities of the Soviet Union, particularily in Eastern Europe. In his speeches and writings, … Lane denounced both the spirit of the Yalta Agreement and the manner in which it was carried out. He became a critic of the Roosevelt Administration and of the Democratic Party.

During this period, Arthur Bliss Lane was a member and participant in many Polish charities and anti-Communist organizations, including committees supporting the investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Lane campaigned vigorously in 1952 among the Slavic ethnic groups for the Republican Party and Dwight D. Eisenhower. After 1952, he urged diplomatic relations with the Vatican.”

As the Wikipedia article about this remarkable American diplomat correctly points out, while in Poland, “Lane was so saddened” by the Soviet domination of the country and the communist suppression of Polish patriots and democrats that he resigned his post on February 24, 1947. He wrote I Saw Poland Betrayed, “which detailed what he considered to be the failure of the United States and Britain to keep their promise that the Poles would have a free election after the war. In that book he described what he considered betrayal of Poland by the Western Allies, hence the title, I Saw Poland Betrayed.” The book was translated into Polish and published  by an underground publishing house in Poland in the 1980s.

The Polish Wikipedia has a much longer and more detailed biography of Arthur Bliss Lane.