Ownership history. What you don’t get in a kindle

We have a copy of The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression inscribed thus:

‘With best regards for Mr. F.L. McDougall the author St Mikolajczyk Washington, March 5th 1949’.

As the reader knows, my ignorance is next to boundless and I had to look both these people up.

From wiki we discover that the author had every reason to write this book, with the explicitly emotive title.

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (July 18, 1901 – December 13, 1966; Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland, before the USSR took political control of Poland.

His importance in the period of the 1920s-late 1940s to the history of Poland would be hard to overestimate. If I were in the habit of using modern journalistic jargon, I would call him a key player. Fortunately I am not. The wiki entry continues:

Mikołajczyk’s family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as the Province of Posen. He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work in the wealthy mining regions, as many Poles—known as Ruhr Poles—did in the 19th century. He returned to Poznań as a boy of ten. As a teenager he worked in a sugar beet refinery and was active in Polish patriotic organisations. He was 18 when Poland recovered its independence, and in 1920 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He was discharged after being wounded near Warsaw and returned to inherit his father’s farm near Poznań.

In the 1920s Mikołajczyk became active in the Polish People’s Party “Piast” (PSL), and after holding a number of offices in the government of Poznań province, he was elected to the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) in 1929. In 1935 he became Vice-Chairman of the executive committee of the PSL, and in 1937 he became party President. He was an active opponent of the authoritarian regime established in Poland after the death of Józef Piłsudski in 1935.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, Mikołajczyk was a private in the Polish army,[1] and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned.[2] He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy.[2] By the end of November, Mikołajczyk had reached France where he was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council.[3] In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski’s Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of almost 22,000 Polish officers who had been murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Wood. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this, but Mikołajczyk’s government refused to do so, and Stalin then severed relations with the government in exile.

When Sikorski was killed in a plane crash in July 1943, Mikołajczyk was appointed as his successor.[4] “We do not wish to see only a formal democracy in Poland,” he said in his broadcast to Poland on taking office, “but a social democracy which will put into practice not only political, religious and personal freedom but also social and economic freedom, the four freedoms of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke so finely. In any case there is and will be no place in Poland for any kind of totalitarian government in any shape or form.”

But Mikołajczyk faced daunting challenges. It was obvious by this time that the Soviet armed forces, not those of the western Allies, would seize Poland from German occupation, and the Poles feared that Stalin intended both imposing Communism on Poland and annexing Poland’s eastern territories, which were populated by Poles, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

During 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption talks between Mikołajczyk and Stalin, but these efforts broke down over several issues. One was the Katyń massacre. Another was Poland’s postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the eastern territories should remain in Soviet hands. Mikołajczyk also opposed Stalin’s plan to set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.

As a result, Stalin agreed that there would be a coalition government in the Soviet seized territories of Poland. A Socialist, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, became Prime Minister of the new Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej – TRJN), and the Communist leader Władysław Gomułka became one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikołajczyk resigned as Prime Minister of the government in exile to return to Poland and become the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.

Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland. The government in exile maintained its existence, although it no longer had diplomatic recognition as the legal government of Poland.

Mikołajczyk immediately set about reviving the PSL, which soon became by far the largest party in Poland. He was helped, ironically, by the radical land reform pushed through with the support of the Communists, which created a new class of small farmers who became a firm political base for the PSL. The Communists knew they would never win a free election in Poland, and so they set about preventing one, despite the pledges given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference.

In June 1946 the 3xTAK referendum was held on a number of issues. The PSL decided to oppose the referendum calling for the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the Communists: two-thirds of voters supported Mikołajczyk, but the Communist-controlled Interior Ministry issued faked results showing the opposite result. Between then and the January 1947 general elections, the PSL was subjected to ruthless persecultion, and hundreds of its candidates were prevented from campaigning.

From 1946 to 1948, military courts sentenced 32,477 people, most of them members of democratic parties for ‘crimes against the state’. Only then the elections were held. In order to be sure that the elections would produce the ‘correct’ results, the Polish security apparatus recruited 47% of the members of electoral committees as agents.[5][6]

The elections produced a parliament with 394 seats for the Communist-controlled “Democratic Bloc” and 28 for the PSL, a result which everyone knew could only been obtained through massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the opposition claimed that it would have won as much as 80 percent of the vote had the election been conducted in a fair manner.[7] Mikołajczyk, who would have likely become Prime Minister had the election been honest, immediately resigned from the government in protest. Facing arrest, he left the country in April. Winston Churchill, upon seeing him in London, remarked: “I am surprised you made it out alive”. In London the Polish government in exile regarded him as a traitor for having co-operated with the Communists. He emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1966. In June 2000 his remains were returned for burial in Poland. His papers are in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

As for the owner of this book, FL McDougall, we find him well-preserved in the records too, this time in the Dictionary of Australian Biography. Frank Lidgett McDougall (1884-1958), public servant and economist, is perhaps best described as as wheeler-dealer. After serving as an Anzac in WWI, he soon became indispensable to PM Bruce:

…who encouraged his advice and later observed that McDougall ‘brings me a new idea every morning’. Bruce summoned him back to the Prime Minister’s Department in Melbourne in 1924, then arranged for him to return in January 1925 as part-time secretary of the London agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board with the direction: ‘in your more uplifted moments you can call yourself the confidential representative of the Australian Prime Minister, when less inflated a secret service agent!’

He seemed spot on with his assessment between the wars of the problem of Germany:

A member of the Empire Marketing Board in 1926-32, during the Depression he preached that governments should increase food consumption and improve diets and that Australia should produce more food to feed the hungry. At the International Economic Conference in Geneva in 1927 and as a member of its economic consultative committee he extended his horizons, stressing the need to reactivate trade in Europe and substitute ‘a reasonably fat Germany for a desperately lean one’. McDougall was a regular adviser to Australian delegations at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1928 until its demise in 1940. At the 1935 assembly Bruce and McDougall evolved the slogan ‘Marry health and agriculture’, promoted so effectively by Bruce that a permanent committee (including McDougall) was set up to report back to the assembly on nutrition in relation to health and economics.

The ADB entry for McDougall is fascinating, do take a moment to read it in full.

The early 1940s found him in Washington, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and dining at the White House. It is this Washington connection that we see joining the author and owner of the books. The ownership history of any book lends something to the book itself, but in such a case as this, the meeting of these two important figures of twentieth century history, it is all the more enticing. I find it hard to imagine we will sooner or later end up in a world where the book will no longer have its own history and memories. Humbug on technology!

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