SLP-1934 League of Nations High Commissioner in Danzig, 1933.01.19-1937.02.26 (Sub-series)

Archive plan context

Ref. code AP:SLP-1934
Title:League of Nations High Commissioner in Danzig
Creation date(s):1/19/1933 - 2/26/1937
Contains also:The Status of Danzig:
The Free City of Danzig was an autonomous Baltic port and city-state established on January 10, 1920, in accordance with the terms of Treaty of Versailles of 1919.

When Poland was reconstituted under the Peace Treaty of Versailles, the country was ensured a free and secure access to the sea by what is known as the Polish or Danzig Corridor, formerly territory of the ancient Polish province of Romorze. This restoration and establishment of Polish territory, taken from German occupation, made a frontier that cut right through eastern Germany, separating east Prussia from the rest of Germany. This partitioning arrangement was bitterly resented by Germans, and stood in the forefront of the Nazi programme for treaty revision.

Poland's interests in Danzig are both political and economic. The Versailles Treaty gave her charge of the foreign affairs of the Free City and, in 1922, also by treaty, Danzig entered the Polish Customs Union.

Danzig was placed under the protection of the League of Nation. The chief preoccupation of the League of Nations during that period 1934-1936 was connected with Danzig.

A point not generally recognised is that this "free city" was, in fact, a tract of territory nearly as large as Wales. Danzig included not only the Free City of Danzig proper, but several other considerable towns, and no fewer than 252 villages (SLP-1936-Aug-25-P). The Free City of Danzig was far larger than Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco or San Marino. It comprised not only Danzig itself, but several other considerable towns and no fewer than 252 villages (SLP-1936-Sep-22-P).
Post of Danzig High Commissioner: Creation and Duties
The post of High Commissioner of the League of Nations for the free city of Danzig was established under Article 103 of the Treaty of Versailles and subsequent treaties concluded between Poland and Danzig. The nomination, emoluments and period of office of the High Commissioner were determined by the Council of the League of Nations. The term of office of the post (of the High Commissioner) was normally three years. The High Commissioner arbitrated on all matters in dispute between Poland and the free city of Danzig and examined petitions made by Danzig citizens. Poland and Danzig had the right to appeal against this decision to the Council of the League of Nations, whose decision was final. But before appealing to the Council of the League of Nations from a decision of the High Commissioner, the parties were bound to undertake direct negotiations under the auspices of the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner was in charge of supervising the manufacture, storing, and transport of war material in Danzig. He approved the external loans of Danzig. He exercised the right of veto on international treaties applying to Danzig. He sent to the Council of the League of Nations reports on all questions which fall under his jurisdiction, and followed the instructions of the League of Nations Council in these matters.

The role of the League of Nations Council and of the High Commissioner who represented it on the spot, was not only to settle whatever disputes that might arise between Danzig and Poland, but also to guarantee the Constitution of the Free City of Danzig. Both states had the right of appeal from the High Commissioner's decisions to the League of Nations Council at Geneva.

S. Lester, who had been the permanent delegate of the Irish Free State at the League of Nations since April 1929, took up his duty as High Commissioner of the Free City of Danzig officially on the 15 January 1934.
Danzig Papers: 1934-1936

S. Lester's papers for the Danzig period consist essentially of:

1) the confidential political League of Nations files for 1934, 1935, 1936, together with two more or less complete sets of "duplicates" which also, however, contain material not in the League of Nations files

2) Various papers, letters, etc., not classified in the above files

3) Press cuttings in albums, and loose

4) The "Diary" starting in October 1935, as copied and bound in 1970

5) A set of relevant League of Nations documents

6) An enveloppe of diary notes for end 1936 (which turned up in July 1986).

The archives of the League of Nations High Commissioner's office in Danzig no longer exist. They were either burnt or removed by the Gestapo or by the Russians, as S. Lester's family was informed by the Gdansk city archivist.

The three confidential annual files of the Political Section of the League of Nations for 1934, 1935 and 1936, contained the private reports from S. Lester to the Secretary-General. As indicated in Breycha-Vauthier's letter of December 1984, these three files were removed from Registry in 1940 and handed to S. Lester at his request: he feared they might fall into nazi hands and endanger persons mentioned in his reports from Danzig (on this occasion and for the same reason files on the Spanish Civil war were destroyed and Walters had Drummond's papers burnt). The three confidential files were returned to the League of Nations archives in October 1984. The non-confidential files of communications between S. Lester and the League of Nations had never been removed.
Archival Material Types:Paper File(s) / Document(s)


Entries:  Gdansk (Poland) (Subject\Geographical Descriptors\Europe)
  Lester, Sean (Persons\)

Related units of description

Related units of description:used for:
SLP-1934-VD (1) Text of Talk by S. Lester to the Scotish Club at Geneva, 1934 (Document)


End of term of protection:2/26/1997
Permission required:None
Physical Usability:Without limits

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