June 18, 2012

STALIN'S COURTROOM: THE TRIAL OF THE 16 POLISH LEADERS

Leaders of Polish Underground - Moscow Trial June 1945

The Trial of the 16 was one of the most sinister crimes perpetrated by the Stalinist regime against the Polish nation. From June 18 to June 21, 1945 a series of staged trials were held in Moscow at which sixteen leaders of the Polish underground movement were accused of allegedly "drawing up plans for military action against the USSR." In the presence of international observers and journalists, the Soviet court brazenly ignored legal precepts, and sentenced innocent men to prison on trumped up charges. Even more shocking was the fact that the governments of the United States, and of Britain tacitly accepted the courts' rulings and made no attempt to intercede on behalf of the Polish leaders.

Before World War Two, Stalin had conducted many mock trials and purges to eliminate political opposition and consolidate his power. Those victims however were Russians - the old bolsheviks, heads of the Soviet secret police, members of the Politburo, diplomats, among others. Before the Great Purge which took place from 1937 to 1938, there were the Moscow Trials from 1936 to 1937 which consisted of three major trials. the Trial of the Sixteen, as well as the Trial of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Center; and the Trial of the Twenty-One. In every case, the modus operandi was the same. The Russian defendants, or rather, the victims were allegedly charged with the crimes of plotting to assassinate Stalin, overthrow the Soviet regime, and conspire with the western governments to destroy communism, dismember the Soviet Union, and restore capitalism to the masses. The Russian defendants were all sentenced to death, and shot. They had confessed to the crimes under torture.

Katyn Massaacre WW2 -aerial photo of mass graves -   Polish officers executed by Soviet NKVD
(1943) Polish bodies exhumed - Katyn
The Stalinist regime made similar accusations against the Polish leaders in the 1945 Trial of the 16. But this trial was just one scenario of a much larger conspiracy. From the very inception of the war it was Stalin's mission (as well as that of Hitler's) to erase every vestige of Polish leadership and authority - the belief that a headless Polish state could more easily be conquered and repressed. Among the Soviet crimes against the Poles were the infamous Katyn Massacres in which over 16,000 Polish officers were arrested by the Soviet NKVD, deported to Russia and systematically executed. Over a million Polish civilians including members of the intelligentsia, had been deported to Russian gulags and either executed or worked to death. This was genocide - the calculated destruction of the Polish people, their culture, and their leadership.


Prisoners in Russian Gulag
Typical of Soviet chicanery, Colonel Pimenov of the Soviet NKVD, on behalf of General Ivanov, sent cordial invitations to the Polish leaders to attend a conference in the city of Pruszkow, Poland and, giving his "word of honour", guaranteed their personal safety. Incidentally, that the Soviets chose Armii Krajowej Street as the location for the conference could not have been a coincidence, I believe, but rather a devious means to lull the Polish leaders into a false sense of security. These gestures led the Polish leaders to believe that they were being called upon to form a Polish Provisional Government. In reality the future of Poland had already been decided by Stalin. It was fait accompli. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Big Three (Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill) agreed upon a Polish Provisional Government which would hold "free and unfettered elections", as soon as possible. But it was a ruse. Just a month earlier the Polish Provisional Government had been taken over by the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation (or PKWN). The Polish Government in Exile was outraged and issued a statement protesting the actions of the Soviet Union as having "taken over the sovereign rights of the Polish nation.

Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin at Yalta Conference February 1945
Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin at Yalta Conference February 1945

On March 26 and 27, 1945, the Soviet NKVD captured and arrested the sixteen Polish leaders and deported them to Moscow where they were imprisoned in the infamous Lubyanka prison and subjected to months of brutal torture. The Polish leaders were accused of numerous crimes: such as having collaborated with Nazi Germany; acts of sabotage and terrorism against the Red Army; creating propaganda against the Soviet Union; planning a military alliance with Nazi Germany; owning a radio transmitter, printing machines and weapons; and membership in the Polish underground.

Immediately after the arrest, the Polish Government in Exile sent a message of protest to Washington and London calling for the immediate release of the sixteen Polish leaders. But it fell on deaf ears. Stalin attempted to deflect scrutiny by declaring that the whole episode was merely a ploy concocted by the so-called "Fascist Polish Government", in their effort to discredit the Soviets, and that it was nothing more than fabrication. Even when the truth finally came out on May 5th, Stalin shrugged it off, saying that, "there is no point in linking the case of the Trial of the Sixteen with the support for the Soviet-backed government of Poland because the sentences will not be high." Apparently, the American and British governments agreed hence no action was taken to intervene.

Soviet accusations against the Polish leaders were a complete sham, in particular allegations of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The fact is that the Polish Underground had fought ferociously against Nazi German occupation for the entire six years of the war, culminating in the heroic Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Neither did the Poles engage in any sabotage or terrorist activities against the Red Army. There is an abundance of historical documentation which attests to the fact that the Polish Home Army made many and frantic efforts to solicit the participation of and assistance by the Soviet Red Army in fighting against the Nazi Germans. The Poles fought alone. In a tragic and shocking turn of events, the Red Army advanced as far as the opposite bank of the Vistula, and then stopped short. The Soviet plan was to allow the Nazi Germans to slaughter as many Polish insurgents as possible before advancing on Warsaw and thus (so-called) "liberating" the Poles.

Moscow Trial June 1945 Trial of the 16 - Okulicki defending himself in Russian court
Okulicki defending himself in Russian court June 1945
In the Trial of the 16, the Soviet Union was guilty of countless violations of international law; of kidnapping and detaining citizens of a foreign country, of charging them with alleged crimes committed on foreign soil, of depriving the Polish prisoners of basic human rights, and subjecting them to torture. Moreover, General Okulicki's witnesses were expressly prohibited from even entering the court, and none of the Polish defendants were permitted to plead in their defense. Initially the judge conceded only three witnesses (though Okulicki requested six). But later the judge announced that the three witnesses could not attend the trial due to "bad atmospheric conditions." What's more, the prosecution was unable to provide evidence to support their claims against the Polish defendants. It was a travesty of justice doled out to absurd proportions.

On June 21, 1945, after only three days, the Soviet court delivered its verdicts. Of the sixteen Polish defendants, only one was not forced by the Soviets to admit to alleged crimes, while the others pleaded guilty. By 1951 only two survived. The United States and Britain remained tacit throughout the trial, and to add insult to injury, on July 6, 1945, formally withdrew their support from the legitimate Polish Government in Exile. For the ensuing twenty years, Soviet and Polish communists conducted large-scale man-hunts for former members of the Secret Polish State, and the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). The war had ended in 1945 - but not for the enslaved Polish nation.




POLISH LEADERS ON TRIAL


Leopold Okulicki Commander in Chief Armia Krajowa - WW2 Polish Underground Moscow Trials June 1945

LEOPOLD OKULICKI (Niedźwiadek)
Commander in Chief of the Armia Krajowa
Okulicki was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He died on Christmas Eve 1946.
The cause of death was attributed to complications brought about by a hunger strike, but speculation indicates that Okulicki may have been murdered.




JAN STANISLAW JANKOWSKI  Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and the Government Delegate - Polish Underground - Moscow Trials June 1945

JAN STANISLAW JANKOWSKI
Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and the Government Delegate
Jankowski was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He died in prison March 13, 1953 just two weeks before the end of his sentence.  Suspicions abound that he was murdered.





ADAM BIEN
MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
Bien was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.





STANISLAW JASIUKOWICZ
Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs
Jasiukowicz was sentenced to 5 years in prison.





 KAZIMERZ PUZAK
Head of the Council of National Unity, and
PPS-WRN Socialist Party
Puzak was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison and released in November 1945.
He returned to Poland and refused to emigrate.  In 1947 he was arrested again by the infamous secret police, Urzad Bezpieczenstwa and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Puzak died April 30 1950.





ALEKSANDER ZWIERZYNSKI
Deputy Head of the Council of National Unity and
Head of the Labor Party
Zwierzynski was sentenced to 8 months in prison.





KAZIMERZ BAGINSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Baginski was sentenced to 1 year in prison after which he was released. 
He was forced to emigrate to the United States.





EUGENIUSZ CZARNOWSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Head of Ziednoczenie Demokratyczne
Czanowski was sentenced to 6 months in prison.





JOZEF CHACINSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Head of the Labor Party
Chacinski was sentenced to 4 months in prison.





STANISLAW MIERZWA
Member of the Council of National Unity
Mierzwa was sentenced to 4 months in prison.





ZBIGNIEW STYPULKOWSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity.
Stypulskowski was sentenced to 4 months in prison. 
Upon his release he was forced to emigrate to the United Kingdom.





FRANCISZEK URBANSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Urbanski was sentenced to 4 months in prison.





STANISLAW MICHALOWSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Michalowski was acquitted of all charges.





KAZIMERZ KOBYLANSKI
Member of the Council of National Unity
Kobylanski was acquitted of all charges.





JOZEF STEMLER
Member of the Council of National Unity 
(interpreter for the group of 16)
Stemler was acquitted of all charges.





ANTONI PAJDAK
Deputy Government Delegate
Pajdak was subjected to a secret trial, and sentenced to 5 years in prison in November 1945.
He was not released until 1955.





Armia Krajowa Flag - Polish Home Army WW2



The soul of Poland is indestructible. She will rise again like a rock which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave 
but which remains a rock.
Winston Churchill.







Suggested Links:
You Tube video footage Moscow Show Trial 1938
Trial of the 16 - June 1945 (in Polish only)
Moscow Trial of the 16 Polish Leaders - June 1945 (in English only)








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