WWII: The Soviet Union Joins the Allies | Reporting the uneasy alliance made with Stalin's Russia

A Report from Poland for a Meeting of the BBC Polish Broadcasting Service.

The importance of wartime news and the dangers of listening to it in Poland.

BBC ARCHIVES
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1941

Memorandum

Page 1 of 4

STRICTLY CONFIDENTAL.

MEMORANDUM FOR MEETING OF FRIDAY, February l4th, 1941.

1. A report has just been received from two ladies who left Warsaw in January
1941. The report is of very great interest and a summary of it is given below:

"The number of wireless receiving sets has decreased. Some of them were
discovered and taken away by the Germans, but the majority is not working in view
of the fact that their owners have hidden them away and are not listening in as
they are afraid of the death penalty imposed for this. Nevertheless quite a few
sets are still regularly used and the Polish community in Warsaw is well informed
of what is broadcast by English stations.

"The news is spread in two ways: 1. repeated by word of mouth, which is largely
the practice in Warsaw, and. 2. by means of secret papers which are the chief
source of information for the provinces. In view of the reduced number of receiving
sets in use each set has to serve some thousands of people. In Spite of this,
however, news is spread on the average within 2-3 hours.

The chief stations listened to in Warsaw are before all London /the number of
broadcasts listened to depends on the knowledge of languages of the listener and,
of course, tne Polish broadcasts are listened to before all/, and also Ankara and
Russia. Russian stations are listened to because of reports unfavourable to the
Germans which are broadcast from time to time by them. the London medium wave
broadcasts are badly jammed and are practically impossible to listen to. The wave
lengths most frequently used are the 30 and 49m. bands The 30 m. band is fairly
often, but not always jammed. Polish broadcasts are listened to at 8.45, 17.15
and 22.20 /Polish time/.

The Polish broadcasts from London are sometimes criticized. It is generally
pointed out that the Polish community longs for concrete news and news given
rapidly at that, and not merely repeated after the English news has already been
given. The people who listen in, risk their lives by so doing and they therefore
consider it a dangerous waste of time if the broadcasts consist of talks which are
sometimes of no particular interest. Sermons, for instance, are considered
superfluous. It is frequently pointed out that the population attends church and
thus hears

Page 2 of 4

an entirely sufficient number of purely religious sermons and certainly does not
want the very short periods of time allotted by the B.B.C. to Polish broadcasts
to be wasted in this manner.

The wishes expressed in this respect can be described shortly as follows:
listeners want news to be given them as quickly as in English broadcasts, but
with the inclusion of Polish matters in addition. In Polish affairs they want
before all to hear concrete news regarding the activity of the Government and of
the Polish Army. As regards the Army, they also would like to hear news
concerning the popularity of Polish soldiers in England and signs of approval of
them both on the part of official circles and of the community. Furthermore they
would like to hear not only information regarding terrorism in Poland, but also
reports showing that the Polish Government and world opinion are informed of what
the Germans are doing in Poland. This sort of thing is most encouraging for the
Polish community and helps them to hold out.

Amongst other wishes, one might mention that more information regarding events
in France /this is of particular interest to the Polish community/ and events in
other territories occupied by the Germans would be very welcome.

In general it must be stated that the thirst for information amongst the
population of Poland is such that the Poles living abroad can have no idea of it.
Every report has to be repeated time and again to the same people such is their
craving for news. This craving can be satisfied only by the wireless and for this
reason it is greatly desired that the Polish broadcasts from London should be
organised to meet these needs."

2. Report of member of Partja Pracy /Labour Pary/ in Krakow, received by the Polish
Ministry of Information through Portugal /on February 7th/:

"The Polish press in Krakow consists of 5 secret papers: "Dziennik Polski" - a daily,
and 4 others wnich appear from time to time. The most important of the latter is the
'Surma', a nationalist paper. 'Dziennik Polski' is typewritten and is composed of two
sheets: the first contains all the news obtained from the Polish broadcasts of the
B.B.C. The second sheet gives home news from German and Soviet occupied Poland

Page 3 of 4

and contains warnings of impending arrests and searches. The 'Surma' consists of
several pages. It has a leading article on the political situation, a special page
devoted to news received through the Polish broadcasts of the B.B.C. A complaint
has been made by many Poles that the London broadcasts never include news from
Soviet-occupied Poland. Also the wish has frequently been expressed that news of
persecutions in Poland should be given. It is generally felt in Poland that it is
important that these persecutions should be common knowledge.

3. On Sunday, February 9th, a distinguished Polish speaker, Msgr. KACZYNSKI,
chaplain to the President of the Polish Republic and a high official of the Polish
Ministry of information was to broadcast in Polish after the Polish news. In his
address the following phrase was included: 'Our ports of Danzig, Gdynia, Puck and
Wiadysiawowo became an outlet to the world'.

When Msgr. Kaczynski came to Broadcasting House on Sunday, he was asked to withdraw
the word 'Danzig' from this statement. He did not comply with this request and was
reproached for this afterwards.

I have been instructed by my authorities to say that we should like to do our best
to clear up this matter in order to avoid any such differences of opinion between
the British censor and the Polish speakers for the future. In this particular case
of Danzig I should like to point out that the statement made by Msgr. KaczinSi was
entirely correct. /Paras. 100-108 of the Versailles Treaty. Heroic defence of
Westerplatte by Polish garrison in Sept. 1939/.

This incident must have been due - I am sure - to some misinterpretation of
instructions by the B.B.C. censor, but, in order to prevent the reoccurrence of
such incidents in the future, I should like to make the following suggestions:
1. That the Polish talks should be sent to the B.B.C. sufficiently early to be
passed by the censorship and all matters cleared up beforehand. 2. As all the
problems dealing with the Polish outlet to the sea are of outstanding political
importance to the Poles, both in Poland and in Great Britain, it would perhaps be
useful for us to be informed to what extent we may raise this question in the
Polish broadcasts.

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We are very sorry that this incident occurred and that our distinguished speaker
did not desist from speaking altogether rather than fail to comply with the
censor's request. We consider, however, that his statement was entirely fair and
that his refusal to accept the correction is entirely in keeping with the
standpoint of every Pole.

4. From a report dated Dec. 23rd, 1940, received from the Polish Consul General
in Cape Town we see that it is impossible to hear the B.B.C. Polish broadcasts
there, even when using a very good set.

5. The Polish morning news bulletin, which used to be broadcast both on the short
and medium wave lengths, is now broadcast only on the short wave. In consequence
it is most difficult to listen to it in England and I am urgently requested to
appeal to the B.B.C. to revert to the wave lengths formerly used /261 and 285m. in.
in addition to the short waves/.

6. I have been asked by the Head of the Civil Chancery of the President of the
Polish Republic to say how much the President appreciated the programme broadcast
at 3.30 p.m. on Feb. 13th about the Polish Army in France.

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Document Type | Report

14 February 1941

Document version

Writtenin

1941

Synopsis

A report reaches the BBC's Polish Service from Warsaw that urgently emphasises the need for news from a trusted source and points out that people are willing to risk the death penalty to listen to it. This fascinating document outlines the various methods being used for circulating news and the frustration people felt when they put their lives in danger only to hear irrelevant broadcasts.

Did you know?

Since the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the subsequent carving up of the country between Germany and Russia, Polish authorities considered themselves to be in a state of war with both countries until June 1941.

Hitler's demand for the return of Danzig [Gdansk], which had been granted to Poland at the end of World War I, was the pretext for the start of World War II in 1939. The city had a Polish majority but separated the German province of East Prussia from the main body of the German Reich. It and East Prussia became part of Poland at the end of the war.

Contributors

Monsignor Kaczynski
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