Proclamation of the German Emperor and the Emperor of Austria, respecting the establishment of a Kingdom of Poland
The Act of 5th November of 1916 was a declaration of Emperors Wilhelm II of Germany and Franz Joseph of Austria. This act promised the creation of the Kingdom of Poland out of territory of Congress Poland. Following the declaration, on December 6, 1916, the Provisional Council of State was created, with Waclaw Niemojowski as its president, and Jozef Pilsudski as chairman of its Military Commission.
To the inhabitants of the Government of Warsaw. – His Majesty the German Emperor and his Majesty the Austrian Emperor and Apostolic King of Hungary, sustained by their firm confidence in the final victory of their arms, and guided by the wish to lead to a happy future the Polish districts which by their brave armies were snatched with heavy sacrifices from Russian power, have agreed to form from these districts an independent State with a hereditary Monarchy and a Constitution. The more precise regulation of the frontiers of the Kingdom of Poland remains reserved.
In union with both the Allied Powers the new Kingdom will find the guarantees which it desires for the free development of its strength. In its own Army the glorious traditions of the Polish Army of former times and the memory of our brave Polish fellow-combatants in the great war of the present time will continue to live. Its organization, training and command, will be regulated by mutual agreement. The Allied Monarchs confidently hope that their wishes for the State and national development of the Kingdom of Poland will now be fulfilled with the necessary regard to the general political (p.142) conditions of Europe and to the welfare and security of their own countries and peoples.
The great western neighbours of the Kingdom of Poland will see with pleasure arise again and flourish at their eastern frontier a free and happy State rejoicing in its national life.
By order of his Majesty the German Emperor
von Beseler, Governor-General
The German and Austro-Hungarian Governments, taking advantage of the temporary occupation by their armies of a part of Russian territory, have proclaimed the separation of the Polish districts from the Russian Empire and their constitution as an independent State. The object of our enemies is evidently to obtain recruits in Russian Poland to supplement their armies.
The Imperial Government regards this action on the part of Germany and Austria-Hungary as a fresh and gross infringement by our enemies of the fundamental principles of international law, which prohibit the population in militarily-occupied territory being forced to raise armies against its own country. The Imperial Government regards this action as null and void.
Russia, since the beginning of the war, has already twice expressed her views on the whole Polish question, (p.142) and her intention is to create a complete Poland embracing all Polish territories, which will enjoy the right when the war is ended of freely regulating their national, intellectual and economic life on a basis of autonomy under the sovereignty of Russia, and of maintaining the principle of a united State. This decision of his gracious Majesty the Emperor remains unshakable.
In a proclamation issued at Warsaw and Lublin on the 6th instant, the German Emperor and the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, announced that they have agreed to create ‘in the Polish districts occupied by their troops’ an autonomous State under the form of an hereditary and constitutional monarchy, and there to organize, train, and dispose of an Army which shall be considered as appertaining to the State thus created.
It is an established principle of modern International Law that military occupation resulting from operations of war cannot, in view of its precarious and de facto character, imply a transfer of sovereignty over the territory so occupied, and cannot, therefore, carry with it any right whatsoever to dispose of this territory to the advantage of any other Power whatsoever.
In giving de jure application to their occupation of these territories, the German Emperor and the Emperor of Austria have not only committed an illegal act, but (p.144) have also disregarded one of the fundamental principles on which the constitution and existence of the society of civilized nations are based.
Moreover, in proposing to organize, train, and dispose of an army levied in those ‘Polish districts’ occupied by their troops, the German Emperor and the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, have once more violated the engagements which they have undertaken to observe, and by which, in accordance with the most elementary principles of justice and morality, ‘A belligerent is forbidden to force the subjects of its opponents to take part in operations of war directed against their own country’. (Article 23 of the Provisions annexed to the 4th Hague Convention of 1907, as ratified by the German Emperor and the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, November 29th, 1909).
The Allied Powers, in submitting these fresh violations of law, equity, and justice to the unbiased condemnation of neutral Powers, announce that they will not accept these violations as justification for any future action which the enemy Powers may wish to take in Poland, and they reserve to themselves the right to oppose this action by every means at their disposal.
Foreign Office, Nov.18, 1916