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.
|THE MOST EVIL MASS MURDERS IN HISTORY|
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|
|POLISH OFFICERS CAPTURED BY RED ARMY SEPT 1939|
VICTIMS OF THE KATYN MASSACRE
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.
|PHOTOS OF A FEW OF THE POLISH OFFICERS WHO WERE MURDERED AT KATYN|
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|
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.
|NKVD EXECUTION ROOM TVER|
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.
|KATYN MASSACRE - HANDS TIED BEHIND BACK - CORPSE OF POLISH OFFICER|
|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."
|CORPSES OF POLISH OFFICERS PILED INTO MASS PITS - KATYN FOREST|
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 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|
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.
THE SECOND KATYN
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.
THE SECOND KATYN TRAGEDY
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|