April 16, 2012



The Katyn Massacre was one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against the Polish nation by the infamous Soviet NKVD. Even after seventy-two years the tragedy of Katyn elicits little if any attention by the West. A veil of secrecy was cast upon Katyn during WWII, by Anglo-American politicians in an effort to maintain and nurture the tenuous alliance or collaboration of their Soviet counterparts. Their objective was to win the war against the Nazis at whatever cost. Extraordinary measures were taken by Churchill and Roosevelt to portray Stalin as a friend of the West, going so far as to refer to him as "Uncle Joe". But there was nothing benign about Stalin. He was by far the most evil dictator and mass murderer, outranking even the perverted insanity of Hitler.


Stalin decreed the deaths and execution of millions of people. Though statistics vary among historians, the total numbers are quite likely closer to 40 million, which included the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, executions , purges, deportations, and deaths by starvation and overwork of prisoners held at gulag camps. Among the victims were Polish nationals - Jews as well as Christians, as well as Russians and other nationals.

Notebook: Great Names in Russian History
What is most disturbing is that there are many Russian people today who glorify Stalin. In a Russian survey, Stalin was ranked third by a television audience as one of the greatest men in Russian history. Particularly worrisome is the recent sale of school notebooks targeted to young Russian students, depicting the image of Stalin on the front cover - blatant propaganda.(Thankfully, many Russian citizens and ministers of government have voiced their opposition to this trend.)


On September 1, 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland from the north, west and south and seventeen days later the Soviet Red Army invaded Poland from the east, partitioning Poland in two - the result of a secret pact (Molotov-Ribbentrop) signed on August 23, 1939 between Germany and Russia. Their objective was to eliminate the Polish state, beginning with its leaders, military and intelligentsia. While the Nazis inflicted their reign of terror against the Polish people in the west, the Soviets swept through eastern Poland arresting and deporting from 250,000 to 454,700 Polish soldiers, officers, and policemen to Russian gulags. Many Polish were able to escape but about 125,000 remained imprisoned in Soviet NKVD camps. By 1941 over 1.5 million Polish people, citizens and military men had been deported to the work camps and gulags. Hundreds of thousands were either executed, or perished from the severe cold, disease, and starvation.


In March of 1940, upon the recommendations of the NKVD Chief, Lavrenti Beria, Stalin decreed the execution of thousands of Poles. About 20,000 Polish prisoners were massacred, including an admiral, 14 generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captain, 3,420 NCO's, 200 pilots, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 43 officials, 85 privates, 131 refugees, 20 university professors, 300 physicians, several hundred lawyers, engineers, teachers, more than 100 writers and journalists, priests, artists, judges, an Olympic athlete, and the Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army.


After decades of denial, on April 13, 1990 the Soviet Union finally admitted that the Stalinist regime was responsible for the massacres but it wasn't until April 2011 that declassified documents confirmed the gruesome statistics: 21,857 Polish internees were executed after April 3, 1940. Of the total number, 4,421 were from Kozelsk, 3,820 from Starobelsk, 6,311 from Ostashkov and 7,305 from prisons in Belarus and the Ukraine. Among the victims was one woman. About 8% of the victims of the Katyn massacre were Polish Jews.

According to sources, the NKVD spared the lives of 395 Polish prisoners, although no mention has been made of their names other than that of Stanislaw Swianiewicz and Jozef Czapski, both of whom were transported first to camp Yukhnov and then to Gryazovets.


Katyn Executioner Vasili Blokhin
Under the command of Major General P.K. Sprunenko, head of the NKVD POW department, Polish prisoners were organized into "selections" or groups and were executed at various locations including at Katyn. One of the locations was at the NKVD headquarters in Kalinin, Russia (Tver). Thousands of Polish prisoners were summoned one by one to appear in the presence of Vasili Blokhin, Soviet Major-General and the official NKVD executioner. Blokhin was personally responsible for devising and carrying out the system of executing as many Polish prisoners as possible. In April 1940, the NKVD shot 300 Polish prisoners per night for 28 consecutive nights.

It was a scene from a macabre nightmare. The walls of the execution room were heavily padded to ensure soundproofing. The floor was constructed of concrete and tilted at a sloping angle and was installed with a drain and a hose. One by one the Polish prisoners were led to a small red antechamber which the Soviets referred to as the "Leninist room". There, each prisoner was subjected to a brief identification, after which they were handcuffed and led to the next room - where the execution would take place.

Each prisoner was shoved against a log wall and without any formalities, or reading of sentence, Blokhin, wearing a leather butcher's apron, cap and shoulder-length gloves, entered the room, took aim with his pistol and shot each prisoner once at the base of his skull. It was done very quickly and efficiently with no interruptions. Blothkin later boasted that he averaged one prisoner every 3 minutes.

To add to the horror, Blokhin carried around his own briefcase filled with pistols. He had particular preference for the German Walther Model 2 .25 ACP pistol, because he considered them more reliable under heavy use. As a matter of fact, this choice in weaponry provided the NKVD with a plausible argument in denying Soviet culpability when the grave sites were discovered by the Germans in 1943. It was fairly easy for the Soviets to convince everyone that the Germans were responsible, since the Walther pistol was standard issue to Nazi agents.

After each execution, the NKVD agents or guards would then drag the bodies of the Polish soldiers from the room and hose down the floor of all the blood. This scene was repeated continuously throughout the night until just before dawn the next day. The corpses were taken through the back door of the execution room and loaded onto covered flat-bed trucks. Twice each night these trucks drove to Mednoye where the bodies were dumped into large trenches that had been prepared in advance. Blokhin made arrangements for a bulldozer to be sent to the site with two drivers who dug up at least 24 trenches measuring a total of eight to ten meters. By daybreak the graves had all been covered up with earth. The NKVD worked this way without stopping for ten hours throughout the night and at dawn, Blokhin rewarded his accomplices with vodka.

Thousands more Polish prisoners were executed in Katyn forest. They had been told that they were being repatriated to Poland. The first group boarded a train, but strangely it was not travelling east but rather westward. Trains arrived at Gniezdowo station about 18 kilometers from Smolensk, others reached Smolensk, just outside of Katyn forest. From there the Polish prisoners were herded into black vans, with the windows blurred, and driven to a clearing in the woods. When they stepped out of the van, NKVD agents forced them to kneel at the edge of a huge pit. Their hands were tied behind their backs with rope or wire, and a choke knot tied around their necks and hands to prevent them from struggling.  They were surrounded by dozens of NKVD agents, who systematically shot each Polish man at the back of the head, and dumping their bodies into the open pit. These massacres went on continuously throughout several weeks. By mid-May over 4,500 Polish officers had been executed and buried in eight large mass graves, the largest one containing 12 layers of corpses.


Corpses of Polish Officers Exhumed from Mass Graves April 1943 KATN FOREST

Sir Owen O'Malley, the British Ambassador to the Polish government-in-exile, described the grisly scene in his report:

"In the broad deep pit their comrades lay, packed closely around the edge, head to feet, like sardines in a tin.... up and down on the bodies the executioners tramped, hauling [the corpses] about and treading in the blood like butchers in a stockyard."

Polish prisoners from Kozelsk camp were transported to Smolensk and executed in Katyn Forest. No fewer than than 4,410 prisoners were murdered.

Polish prisoners from Starobelsk camp were transported to Kharkov and were taken to the basement of an NKVD prison where they were executed by shots below the back of the head. Their bodies were buried in mass graves on the grounds of the NKVD sanatorium (region 6 of forest-park zone) approximately 1.5 kilometers from the village of Pyatikhatka (near Kharkov). No fewer than 3,739 prisoners were executed there.

Polish prisoners from Ostashov camp were taken to the NKVD prison in Kalinin, where they were killed by a shot at the back of the head. No fewer than 6,314 prisoners were murdered.

Map of Polish Deportations - NKVD prison camps - and location of KATYN MASSACRE April 1940

On July 30, 1941 the Sikorski-Maisky agreement was signed between Russia and Poland whereby Stalin agreed to the release tens of thousands of Polish prisoners from Soviet gulags, and granted them so-called "amnesty" - preposterous since the Polish were not guilty of any crime. Nevertheless, it was agreed upon that a Polish army would be created on Soviet soil to fight alongside the Soviets. Despite Soviet assurances of cooperation, the fledgling Polish army was plagued by starvation, and subjected to training with wooden rifles. After considerable pressure by Generals Anders and Sikorski, Stalin finally relented and agreed to the evacuation of Polish troops through Persia (Iran), Iraq, to Palestine. As evacuees began to arrive in Palestine, it became evident to General Anders that there were thousands of Polish officers unaccounted for, and whose whereabouts could not be explained. Despite intense inquiries by Polish authorities, Stalin remained unresponsive, providing only flimsy explanations as to what may have transpired. He claimed that they may have gotten lost somewhere in Mongolia. It remained an unresolved mystery for the next two years.

Acting on information provided by a local Russian peasant, the Nazi-occupiers found the mass graves at Katyn forest in April 1943 and it was apparent that the Soviets were responsible for the atrocity. It set off a series of virulent Soviet, and Nazi denials and counter-accusations - and a controversy which lingered for decades after the end of the war. Polish officials were all too familiar with Soviet deception and chicanery and made every effort to convince Churchill and Roosevelt of Soviet culpability in the massacre but to no avail. Though Britain and the United States were aware of the facts, neither wanted to acknowledge it for fear of offending Stalin. When General Sikorski called for an investigation of the massacre by the International Red Cross, Stalin broke off all diplomatic ties with the Polish government in exile, and proceeded to install a puppet government in Soviet-occupied Poland. The Polish government-in-exile was severely chastised by Churchill and made out to be the villain.

With the end of the WWII and throughout much of the Cold War, the subject of Katyn was kept secret and hidden. But it was not over by any means. By the early 1970s Polish emigres communities in the UK began to question the HMG about Katyn, and lambasted British officials for their complicity. Surprisingly, even three decades after the war, the Brits were still ill at ease to enter any discussion on the subject for fear of provoking Soviet wrath.

On November 11, 1971, Poles in the UK created the Katyn Memorial Fund Appeal in an effort to raise enough money for the creation of a monument honouring the memory of the victims of the Katyn Massacre. The Katyn Committee proposed that a 20 foot high obelisk be erected at Cromwell Road Triangle. Though some British officials were favorable to the idea, the majority of them firmly opposed the plan for fear of long term negative effects on Anglo-Soviet relations. Those fears were magnified when on September 13, the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, S.P. Kozyrev, delivered the following message:

Attempts have again been made recently in Britain, with aims hostile to the Soviet Union, to propagate the slanderous invention of Goebbels propaganda about the so-called Katyn case... according to the British press, the initiators of this campaign have already received the approval of the local authorities to set up such a memorial obelisk in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea... The Ministry expresses the hope that the British Government will take all the appropriate measures for its part to oppose this provocative act, which can only bring damage to Soviet/British relations.

Former KGB Vladimir Putin
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and collapse of the communism, the truth about Katyn finally began to emerge. In 1990 Gorbachev made the first official statement admitting that the Stalinist regime was responsible for the Katyn massacre and released numerous documents to the Republic of Poland. Further evidence was released in 1991 and 1992 however full disclosure was never provided. In March 2005, the Polish Sejm voted unanimously in favor of an Act calling upon the Russian government to declassify all documents related to the Katyn massacre, and to admit that it was an act of genocide. Moreover, the Polish Foreign Ministry requested confirmation from the Russian government about the alleged film footage taken by the NKVD during the gruesome massacres in April of 1940. Apparently there was no response other than that given by Vladimir Putin, saying that the Katyn massacre was merely a "political crime" and not a genocide.

By 2007 several Russian politicians (pro-Soviet communists) began to deny Soviet guilt of the Katyn Massacre and claimed that the documents that had been previously released were fakes. By the end of the year several Russian newspapers (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and Nezavisimaya Gazeta) were printing stories that reiterated the time-worn refrain that the Nazis were responsible for the crime. Irregardless, on May 8, 2010, the Russian government released 67 volumes of de-classified reports and documents to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski which referred to "criminal case No. 159", an investigation that was instigated in the 1990s regarding the Katyn murders. Then Russian president Medvedev pledged that the Russian government would continue declassifying documents about the Katyn Massacre. While this is regarded as a positive step towards improving Russian-Polish bilateral relations, the rate of declassification of such documents is eternally slow, intermittent and piece meal.


In a cruel twist of fate, on April 10, 2010 the aircraft carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 87 high-ranking government and military officials, crashed near the Katyn Forest, near Smolensk, Russia. All aboard perished. They were en route to attend ceremonies commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. The news of the tragedy reverberated around the world plunging the entire nation and Polish citizens worldwide into national mourning. Not long afterwards conspiracy theories began to circulate. Though the crash was investigated and deemed an accident, some sources maintain that there was a sinister element which led to the tragedy. Tragically, one may never know the truth.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria,
 and government officials died in plane crash April 10, 2010
near Smolensk, Russia

Katyn-Kharkiv-Mednoye Memorial - KATYN MASSACRE SMOLENSK RUSSIA


  1. George Jaxa-MaderskiApril 26, 2012 at 2:16 AM

    About time such facts were printed. Sadly, most Americans know nothing about these heinous acts of mass murder commited by the Soviets. Stalin was indeed a monster. Just as a curiosity, what ever happened to Sprunenkho and Blokhin?

    1. Thank you for your comments, George. I cannot blame the American public for not knowing about the Katyn Massacre. I do however, criticize the past American governments for deliberately keeping these facts secret for so many decades. But now that the facts are public, every effort must be taken to ensure that people learn about Katyn. The only information I was able to obtain about P.K. Soprunenko was from an excerpt of a book written by Michael Parrish (The Lessor Terror: Soviet State Security 1939-1953). He mentioned that in 1991 the USSR Chief Military Prosecutor interrogated Soprunenko, but apparently Soprunenko was not cooperative and refused to give his signature. At the time he was 83, almost blind and recovering from cancer. I have not been able to locate any detailed information, nor the transcript of these interrogations. However there are two videos on the internet in which Soprunenko was filmed being interrogated but it is in Russian with no subtitles. Therefore, I cannot vouch for its authenticity. Vasili Blokhin was forced to retire after Stalin's death and was later stripped of his rank by Kruschev. According to hearsay, Blokhin became an alcoholic, went insane and died in February 1955. The official report of the Russian government indicated death by suicide.

  2. Everything I have read about this mentions a prince as one of the victims, but I cannot find his name. Have you ever come across it?

  3. Hello Anonymous. I am sorry that I could not mention the name of this Prince in my blog as I had no idea who he was. I was having the same difficulty as you trying to find information about him.
    I finally have his name, thanks to the help of a member of the Polish Forum! The name of the Prince was Konstanty Drucki-Lubecki. You can read about him in the Wiki site at pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstanty_Drucki-Lubecki ! Best Regards!