2020 Essays Competition on the History of Poland Poland's History Recommended Articles WWII

The Overlooked Extermination by B. Gaydos

Polonia Institute Katyn Competition 2020

Essay by Brian Gaydos

In 1939 Poland was set upon by its two aggressive neighbors, Germany and the Soviet Union. At this point in history, Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Joseph Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were working in concert as defined by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to bring an end to both the Polish political state and ethnic nation. The truth of Germany’s crimes is well researched and has been accessible for quite some time; however, the same cannot be said of the Soviet Union’s. The archives of the USSR and Russian Federation have consistently been tight-lipped on Soviet crimes.

One of the starkest examples of this cover-up is the Katyn Massacre, the execution of roughly 22,000 Polish military officers, policemen, intellectuals, and others in 1940 (Wasilewski). The purpose of this essay is to examine the numerous investigations of the Katyn Massacre, their conclusions, how this information was handled, and the consequences of each.

Following the joint invasion of Poland in 1939, the Soviet Union found itself in possession of “around a quarter of a million” Polish prisoners (Sanford 24). The Polish were considered a “national and class opponent” by Soviets, so “[t]he main aim of Soviet policy[ ]was to destroy Polish political, social and cultural influence” (Sanford 8, 24). As the Red Army was overwhelmed by the number of Polish prisoners of war taken, their custody was transferred to the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (abbr. NKVD), which sent many lower-ranking soldiers back to their homes (Cienciala 26). In October 1939, it was decided to separate the captured officers, policemen, intelligence agents, etc. to three separate camps called Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov, but some also remained in smaller NKVD prisons in Ukraine and Belarus (Cienciala 27).

On March 5th, 1940, Stalin personally approved a genocidal order to kill all these men and the one woman held by the NKVD (Wolsza, Cienciala 29). The estimated 21,875 prisoners from the camps were moved to Smolensk, Kharkiv, and Kalinin and executed by night from April through June, by roughly 125 trusted NKVD agents (Parrish, Wolsza). These Poles were then buried “in nameless graves in Bykivnia, Katyn, Mednoye and Piatykhatky” (Wolsza).

In July 1941, German forces took the land near Smolensk (including Katyn). Lieutenant Friedrich Ahrens’s 537th Signals Regiment was stationed in former NKVD buildings in the forest (Cienciala 215). Remains of Polish soldiers were found in early 1943, and orders were sent to “establish the circumstances and the numbers of those killed” in March (Sanford 128). On April 13th, Radio Berlin made the discovery of the graves known internationally following smaller internal publications the days before (Cienciala 216). Of course, the Soviets denied the German accusation and told a weak story to blame Germany until the Katyn forest could be reclaimed and a stronger defense prepared (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Depending on which story the Western Allies supported, the Allies would either be united against Germany while ignoring the blood on Stalin’s hands or the Allies would be divided with clear consciences in the West.

Naturally, the London-based Government of the Republic of Poland in exile made a request for the International Red Cross (IRC) to investigate the German discovery of mass graves in Katyn and pressed the Soviet government to release internal records related to Polish prisoners in the USSR (Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Unfortunately, the German government made the same request to the IRC at almost the same time (Sanford 129). This seemingly trivial coincidence snowballed into a critical problem for the Poles. This coincidence raised Allied suspicion of German-Polish collaboration and led to British and American support of the Soviet defense (Cienciala 217).

Allegedly as a result of Polish support for this investigation and baseless Soviet claims of Polish cooperation with Germany, the Soviet Union broke ties with the Polish government-in-exile on April 25th (Wasilewski). However, considering the fact that Stalin told Polish Communist leader Wanda Wasilewska months earlier in January 1943 that “he expected a breakdown in Soviet-Polish relations,” it is more accurate to say that the Katyn Massacre was an opportune time to execute an existing plan to end relations (Cienciala 214). Due to the pressure of their allies and the fact that the Soviets would never cooperate with an impartial investigation, the IRC inquiry was dropped after the IRC had already taken preparatory steps to investigate (Żelazko). Despite the harsh consequences Poland faced for seeking the truth, investigations into the massacre followed.

Between the unfortunate incident with the IRC and the Soviet reclaiming of the Katyn Forest, two important investigations took place. The first investigation was carried out by a subgroup of the Polish Red Cross (PRC) called the PRC Technical Commission, and the second by a group called the International Katyn Commission. The PRC started investigating earlier than the International Commission, but their investigation lasted longer and did not end until after the International Commission’s investigation had started and ended (Sanford 131). The PRC’s team was made up of Polish medical experts including the PRC’s secretary-general Kazimierz Skarżyński (Cienciala 222). These Polish experts are often dismissed by historical revisionists as Nazi collaborators, but this could not be further from the truth; Skarżyński himself was an informant “to the Polish underground commissioner for civilian warfare in Warsaw” (which was occupied by Germany), to underground organizations like to the Home Army and to the Polish government-in-exile (Cienciala 222). Furthermore, despite the similar conclusions drawn by the German and Polish investigators, “[t]hey refused[ ]to support German propaganda or to get involved in anti-Soviet activity” (Sanford 131). The International Commission was comprised of medical, forensics, criminology, and forestry experts from across Europe. Its findings are also frequently dismissed as Nazi propaganda as its members were all from German-occupied or allied states (except for Switzerland’s Dr. François Naville), but this view is erroneous
(International 1).

At least three members of the PRC Technical Commission remained in Katyn to aid in exhumations while the International Commission was present, and they likely performed the gruesome exhumations alongside one another (Cienciala 222). These Polish workers would have served as a check against falsification of evidence by the German-backed investigators. Furthermore, in the early 1950s – well after the Nazis lost power– the International Commission’s Italian, Danish, Swiss, Hungarian, and Croatian representatives all confirmed: “the voluntary nature of their testimony, the absence of German pressure, and the unanimous nature of their conclusions that the Poles had been killed in Spring 1940” (Sanford 143). Another important note is that the International Commission was unrelated to the IRC despite the similar name the Germans gave to add legitimacy to the former. Even the International Commission’s own Dr. Helge Tramsen of Denmark informed a British intelligence agent that “he had been misled into believing that it was a fully independent Red Cross inquiry” (Sanford 131).

Both investigations drew similar conclusions, but each had unique methods that combine to support the integrity of their findings. As the International Commission was at least partially aimed at proving the Germans could not have committed this crime, their investigation focused more on pinpointing when the massacre took place. First, the properly fitted winter clothing, the dated documents, and the lack of insects remain on the bodies of the Polish victims indicated that they had been killed while the temperatures were low (International 2). Historical revisionists often note that the documents may have been tampered with in secret, but this is not possible due to the state in which the bodies were found. “Iron hooks, pickaxes, and spades” were needed to separate the decomposing bodies conjoined by thickened bodily fluids, and the personal effects of the victims formed “solid lump[s] stuck together with fatty body wax” rendering falsification impossible (Sanford 133, Cienciala 223).

Interviews with locals also informed the commission that “large railway transports of Polish officers were unloaded almost daily at the Gniesdowa railway station near Katyn” in March and April 1943 who were “never seen again” (International 1). Chief Forester determined the scrawny pines above the mass graves “were probably planted at [the] spot about three years [prior],” and Dr. Orsós of Hungary determined the time of death of the victims by examining their skulls (International 2). Based upon Orsós’s investigations of executions in Hungary in the 1920s, he was able to determine that the bodies had been decaying for at least three years due to the development of “multi-layered volcanic limestone incrustation on the top side of the loamy homogenized brain mash below” (Wolsza, International 2). The PRC also performed similar work but is most noted for the work it did preserving the documents found on the Poles, going so far as to disobey German leadership to do so (Cienciala 223).

These documents aided in the identification of many victims and, when combined with modern identifications, disproved German propaganda blaming a “‘Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy’” for the massacre by showing that somewhere between 700 and 900 of the victims were Jewish Poles (Fischer). The PRC never released an official report on their findings, but member Dr. Marian Wodziński personally released one in 1989 that agreed with the International Commission’s findings (Sanford 131, Cienciala 247). Following these inquiries, the Soviets recaptured the Smolensk region and the Soviet disinformation campaign began in earnest.

When the Red Army was again on Katyn’s doorstep on September 22nd, 1943, it was proposed that a special NKVD committee carry out “‘preparatory steps to expose the German provocation’” (Wasilewski). Three days later, the Red Army had retaken Smolensk and the coverup operation began (Żelazko).

On the 27th, Surgeon General of the Red Army Nikolai Burdenko requested to investigate the Katyn graves, but this request was denied for more than three months while “The Special Committee Composed of Representatives of Relevant Bodies” “investigated” (Wasilewski). This committee was led by Vsevolod Merkulov and Sergei Kruglov, overseers of the Katyn Massacre and the operations of Kozelsk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov prison camps respectively, and their involvement with the massacre proved a strong motivator to hide their crimes (Cienciala 227).

The closest thing to evidence of German guilt in the Katyn Massacre was that the bullets used were manufactured in Germany in 1930 and 1931 (Furr 30). This fact is commonly used by historical revisionists like Professor Grover Furr to imply German guilt for the massacre, but this view ignores the fact that this kind of ammunition was exported in large quantities from Germany to the USSR in the 1930s (Furr 38, 39). As Germans did not commit this crime, there was not any genuine evidence of German guilt, so the NKVD placed forged documents dated after May 1940 to make it appear that the victims had been alive after the International Commission claimed they were killed (Cienciala 227).

To supplement this “evidence” the NKVD threatened the prison laborers working at the Katyn graves with the “death penalty for the crime of ‘cooperating with the enemy’” to create testimony alleging German misconduct (Cienciala 227). The locals who had worked with the International and Polish commissions were also threatened to recant their statements and those who resisted were isolated or “‘liquidated’” (Wasilewski). Some witnesses, like the International Commission’s Parfion Kisielow, were recorded and used in Soviet Propaganda (Wasilewski). The most important result from this investigation were seventeen carefully “‘verified’” statements that were gathered from witnesses to be used in Dr. Burdenko’s upcoming investigation (Cienciala 227). This poor excuse for an investigation concluded on January 10th, 1944 (Wasilewski).

Two days after the coverup’s conclusion, Dr. Burdenko was finally allowed to begin his investigation with the “Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Perpetrated by the German-Fascist Invaders and their Accomplices” (translations vary) that is more commonly called the Burdenko Commission (Furr 20). As could be inferred from the name, the commission’s conclusions were prepared for the team before their investigation began (Wasilewski). The Burdenko Commission’s basis was formed in the supposition that the medical evidence cited in the International Commission’s report was fabricated by the Germans before they revealed the graves (Cienciala 228). As such and with the previously mentioned forged documents, the commission dismissed the 1940 date for execution and proposed that the German Lieutenant Friedrich Ahrens’s 537th Signals (incorrectly listed as sappers) Regiment killed Polish prisoners who had been working near Katyn “between September and December 1941” during the German invasion (Żelazko). There are two key problems with this claim: first is that no remains of Russian civilians killed around the same time as the Poles were found in Katyn, and second is the fact that Polish prisoners were often executed en masse before Soviet retreats (Cienciala 228, Kochanski 129).

To bolster their claims, the Soviets invited a group of American, British, Polish, and French journalists to visit the Katyn graves. They received only a “weak, shoddy and unconvincing” presentation (Sanford 139). This group wholly lacked the technical knowledge of forensics or criminology to make meaningful statements, but the daughter of the American ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kathleen Harriman, was convinced and subsequently “used by Roosevelt and the State Department” to support the indefensible stance the United States and the United Kingdom took to protect their Russian ally (Sanford 139). This investigation is worthless for determining the truth of Katyn but is important due to the long-held support it received.

Questioning the Katyn Massacre was not permitted in communist Poland after hostilities ceased and one most peculiar case of persecution must be looked at. A Polish lawyer named Dr. Roman Martini, an “independent character” with a history of prosecuting Gestapo crimes was tasked by Poland’s communist government in 1945 with interviewing Poles related to the Katyn Massacre and its investigations (Cienciala 232, Sanford 207). The people subjected to this investigation hid and fled the country to avoid arrest, but it came to an end with Dr. Martini’s mysterious death the same year (Komaniecka). A young couple was charged with murdering Martini in his apartment and claimed to have killed him for seducing the young fiancée, but this story is highly suspect (Sanford 207). It is believed that Dr. Martini found the truth about Katyn during his investigation and was then killed by the far-reaching arm of the NKVD and their Polish allies to silence him (Cienciala 233). A report, allegedly written by Dr. Martini, that blamed the Soviets for the Katyn Massacre surfaced after his death, but this document is an undoubted forgery as it includes several impossible claims (Sanford 207).

Following this abruptly ended investigation, the International Military Tribunal’s Nuremberg trials the following year were the next notable discussion of Katyn. The Nuremberg trials were established in such a way that the Big Three could select certain topics to be blacklisted from the discussion; however, the Soviet Union did not blacklist Katyn, instead opting to charge Germany with the crime (Cienciala 230). Soviet prosecutor General Roman Rudenko claimed that Article 21 of the International Military Tribunal charter (“The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge”) confirmed the Burdenko report as fact upon its admission into evidence (United Nations 5, Cienciala 235).

Due to strong opposition from the Western Allies, an agreement to allow three defense and prosecution witnesses to testify was reached (Żelazko). Perhaps to maintain the united appearance of the Big Three, “[t]he Tribunal did not refer to material evidence possessed by the Polish [government-in-exile]” even though it contained information from “crucial witnesses such as Professor Świaniewicz,” one of the few intended victims of the Katyn Massacre who was not killed (Żelazko, Sanford 140). The Soviet witnesses were the International Commission’s Bulgarian forensics expert Dr. Anton Markov, a Burdenko Commission forensics expert, and the deputy mayor of Smolensk (Cienciala 232). None of the testimony itself is that valuable, but the circumstances surrounding Dr. Markov’s is of special interest. Bulgaria fell into Soviet hands and Markov was branded “a ‘foe of the people” for his work (Żelazko). He was imprisoned for several months until he denounced the International Commission in a Bulgarian trial for his freedom and at the Nuremberg trials where he gave the same testimony, strongly suggesting he was under duress (Sanford 131). The German defense consisted of Friedrich Ahrens and two other officers who worked with and above him (Sanford 140). The German witnesses left no doubt that the 537th Signals Regiment could not be responsible for the massacre by proving that they were in Smolensk “from December 1941” onwards, later than the Soviet story allowed for (Komaniecka). The strong testimonies given by the German witnesses and the weakness of the Soviet story saw the Katyn Massacre left off the final list of crimes committed by the Third Reich (Cienciala 232). The fact that Ahrens was not charged with committing the Katyn Massacre dealt a huge blow to the credibility of the Soviet fabrication, but nevertheless, it persisted.

The beginning of the end of official recognition of the Soviet lie came in the early 1950s with the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre’s investigation. This bipartisan congressional committee – commonly called the Madden Committee after its chairman Ray Madden – was formed of congressmen with “constituencies containing high percentages of Polish Americans,” and was tasked with investigating the massacre and the American handling of information related to it (Sanford 142).

After examining virtually every available report on the Katyn Massacre, they concluded that “there does not exist a scintilla of proof, or even any remote circumstantial evidence, that this mass murder took place[] later than the spring of 1940 [when t]he Poles were… prisoners of the Soviets and the Katyn Forest area was under Soviet occupation” (United States 2). As to which organization carried out the murders, the “committee unanimously [found], beyond any question of reasonable doubt, that the Soviet NKVD[] committed the mass murders of the Polish officers and intellectual leaders in the Katyn Forest” (the United States 37). This firm confirmation of the truth was a pleasant change from the previous American backing of the Soviet lie and allowed the committee to focus on their investigation of American policy.

Upon interviewing several “high ranking American Army officers” from Army Intelligence, the Madden Committee learned that “there was a pool of ‘pro-Soviet civilian employees and some military in Army Intelligence who found explanations for almost everything that the Soviet Union did’” and made “tremendous efforts to suppress anti-Soviet reports” (United States 8)

One report from Colonel John H. Van Vliet, an American POW who visited Katyn, was “either removed or purposely destroyed in Army intelligence,” and two more reports critical of the Soviet Union by “Colonel Henry Szymanski, U.S. liaison officer with the Polish Army 2nd Corps and George Earle, Roosevelt’s special emissary in the Balkans and Turkey” were also “suppressed” in Army Intelligence (Cienciala 238, United States 7, Cienciala 239). However, most shocking was the behavior of the Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission which went “beyond the scope of their official Government responsibilities on this matter of Katyn” to “usurp” the Office of Censorship’s duties by launching a “program of silencing Polish radio commentators” to defend the Soviet reputation (United States 9, 11). The British Foreign Office claimed the American investigation had “an obvious political bias and ha[d] not been drawn up in an exclusively judicial fashion,” so they held their official stance on the evidence as inconclusive (Sanford 143). While the investigation could reasonably be tied to anti-communist sentiments in the United States, the bottom line is that the supposed anti-Soviet bias arose from the fact that the evidence could only point towards Soviet guilt. It was also recommended the US delegates of the United Nations “present the Katyn case,” but this plan was stopped due to Soviet power within the UN and to help end the Korean War (United States 12, Cienciala 239).

In the decades between 1952’s Madden Committee report and the 1990s partial revelation of facts regarding Katyn, multiple Soviet leaders are rumored to have privately made remarks admitting Soviet guilt for the Katyn Massacre to powerful Soviets and Poles, but such claims are unverifiable. What is known with certainty is that the Soviet Union continued to publicly blame the Germans and worked to obscure the truth in multiple ways, including building and publicizing a large memorial to the victims of a much smaller but legitimately German massacre in a Belorussian village somewhat near Katyn called Khatyn (Cienciala 241).

In the 1970s, members of the Polish diaspora in the United Kingdom worked to build a monument to the victims of the Katyn Massacre despite the sustained refusal of the UK government to acknowledge the truth of the matter. This large memorial obelisk was unveiled in September of 1976 after fighting official and unofficial resistance from both the British and Soviet governments for several years (Sanford 186). Katyn largely fell from the public conscience outside of Poland following this struggle; however, dedicated groups of Poles who had lost loved ones in the massacre prevented it from being forgotten.

The importance of the Katyn Massacre to the Polish people, the repeated failures of the Soviet government to provide adequate answers, the growing strength of the Solidarity Movement, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost policies created the perfect storm to reveal the truth. In 1985, the Prime Minister of Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski, asked Mikhail Gorbachev to jointly reach a “resolution of the Katyn problem” while Gorbachev visited Poland shortly after taking office (Cienciala 245). This was put on hold while Gorbachev learned the ropes of his new position, but on April 21st, 1987, the creation of a joint committee of Polish and Soviet party historians “to explain the problems of the shared history of both countries” was announced (Żelazko). In 1988, the first time in nearly 45 years, “discussion of Stalinist crimes… enjoyed official toleration” instead of persecution in Poland (Cienciala 245). Unsurprisingly, the revelations of Stalin-era crimes hurt Soviet-Polish relations but forced Soviet leadership to tolerate more Polish freedom “in a last-ditch effort… to rescue Polish-Soviet relations” (Sanford 197). Unfortunately, the Soviet historians were not allowed to stop towing the party line and stalled the investigation into 1989 claiming they had “no sources to determine guilt” (Żelazko).

Meanwhile, the Poles continued working on this subject and prepared “a devastating critique that deprived [the Burdenko Commission’s report] of any credibility” (Cienciala 247). This critique combined with the newly published report by Dr. Wodziński on the PRC investigation and the new policy of tolerating questioning on Katyn allowed the Polish government to “‘[place] blame for Katyn directly on the Russians’” through spokesman Jerzy Urban for the first time in February and March of 1989 (Cienciala 248). While this was happening, the Soviet government developed a new party line in the USSR, while the Solidarity movement’s election victory ushered in the end of communism in Poland (Cienciala 248). Following the 1989 elections, Jaruzelski, now the president, made his upcoming April visit to Moscow dependent on Soviet acknowledgment of responsibility for the Katyn Massacre (Cienciala 251).

In February of 1990, it was discovered that Soviet historians who accessed some Soviet archives through universities had discovered documents proving NKVD responsibility for the Katyn Massacre (Cienciala 250). This information was given to President Jaruzelski to assure his visit (Cienciala 252). It was decided to save the Soviet Union from embarrassment by announcing the truth before the historians could, but historian Natalia Lebedeva released a statement that “seemed to confirm that the NKVD had to be blamed for the Katyn Massacre” about one month before the official government admission (Żelazko).

On April 13th, 1990, President Gorbachev personally gave President Jaruzelski “NKVD dispatch lists for the prisoners who were executed in spring 1940” and the Soviet news agency TASS announced that the NKVD leaders Lavrenty Beria and Vsevolod Merkulov were personally responsible for the deaths “of the approximately 15,000 prisoners from Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk camps” (Cienciala 252).

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Russian Federation, hopes were high that the democratic state would see more transparency, and at first, it appeared that way. In October of 1992, chief Russian Archivist Rudolf Pikhoya gave the democratically elected Polish President Lech Wałęsa a packet of key documents that disclosed the full scale of the Katyn Massacre, after his request earlier in the year for related documents (Komaniecka). The documents included the Katyn execution order from March 5, 1940, signed by Joseph Stalin. From examining the contents of the files, it became “clear that all Soviet Party leaders after Stalin [had] reviewed the contents” which had been “sealed [in] packets in Section 6 of the Central Committee’s General Department” (Cienciala 255). These documents expounded upon the verifiable facts on the Katyn Massacre at the time, but more work was still needed. The Russian and Polish team of historians scoured Russian archives following the revelation, but they were never able to find documents detailing “the Troika protocols (death sentences) and their implementation, nor documents showing where the prisoners jailed in Belarus and Ukraine had been shot and buried” (Cienciala 257).

The original 1990 investigation continued for more than a decade, but there were no more breakthroughs near the scale of those in 1992, and it came to an official end in 2005 with an outrageous claim from its Russian head Aleksandr Savenkov that “there was no evidence that genocide had been committed.” (Cienciala 259). Over time, the Polish groups who had successfully pressured governments to investigate Katyn lost their momentum, so there has been little motivation for the Russian government to search their archives further (Sanford 203). Quite on the contrary, it has become Russian policy in more recent years to wage a quiet and organized “‘information war’ against the West” by publishing claims wholly at odds with historical fact (Gera). The Soviet Union’s role in the Second World War has become “a linchpin of Russia’s national identity” and many “bristle” when the heinous acts committed under Stalin’s barbarous rule are questioned or brought to light. As such, it is unlikely the Russian Federation will attempt to reveal any more information on the massacre without drastic leadership changes.

It has now been 80 years since this most awful crime was committed, and its impact is still coming to light. First and foremost, the unknown burial locations of many victims of the Katyn Massacre have left Polish soldiers with undignified burials that are at odds with their religions’ standards. Perhaps even more importantly, this disgraceful act has left the families of these patriots lacking a place to mourn and honor their loved ones. Out of respect for these men and women and their families, it is only right that these burial sites be located, and the remains respectfully marked and buried. As all the perpetrators of the massacre are now dead, they cannot be prosecuted for their crimes, but the Russian government should give an apology for Russian obstructions to the investigation of Katyn, if not for the massacre itself. Financial compensation to the families of victims would not be an unreasonable request to the Russian government, but the different Russian and Polish views on the massacre would greatly complicate this possibility. A large donation to a memorial fund would be a much more achievable goal and could even help to slightly relax Russian-Polish tensions.

Russian-Polish relations have been strained for hundreds of years, so it would be inaccurate to attribute all Russian-Polish conflict solely to Katyn, but the Katyn Massacre continues to play an important role in their relations (Sanford 5). Most obviously, the execution of nearly 22,000 soldiers and half a century spent lying about it will not be forgotten by the victims’ nation, and such antagonism will accordingly be on the mind of any Pole dealing with the Russian state. Much less obvious is the impact that killing a generation of leadership has had. The officers killed in the Katyn Massacre were not just military leaders; these were well-educated lawyers, doctors, professors, engineers, and more that would have been Poland’s political and educational leaders as post-war Poland recovered from occupation (Cienciala 213). Instead, communist leaders were installed that maintained the Soviet stranglehold on Poland that benefited Soviet-Polish relations in the short-term, but the Polish people did not forget the decades of Soviet repression when the hold weakened. This caused the Polish state to become the fiercely anti-communist country that it is today, much to Russian dismay.

Lastly, on a global scale, allowing this genocidal massacre to go unpunished is an affront to international law and human decency. Soviet and Russian obstruction consistently prevented international organizations from investigating the massacre to draw objectively impartial conclusions on it, thus allowing the Soviet lie to live longer on than its original propagator.

This obstruction and promotion of falsehoods have allowed historical revisionists to dismiss truths about Katyn as Nazi propaganda and set the terrible precedent that genocidal acts can be tolerable and hidden.

For the sake of every single lost Pole and for the victims of other genocides, the memory and truth of the Katyn Massacre must be kept alive for as long as humanity endures. 


Works Cited

“79th Anniversary of Soviet Invasion of Poland.” #Poland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 Sept. 2018, poland.pl/history/history-poland/79th-anniversary-soviet-invasion-poland/. Cienciala, Anna M., et al.

Katyn: a Crime without Punishment. Yale University Press, 2007. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Katyn Massacre.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Apr. 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Katyn-Massacre.

Fischer, Benjamin B. “The Katyn Controversy: Stalin’s Killing Field.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 14 Apr. 2007, 11:27 AM, www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art6.html.

Furr, Grover. The Mystery of the Katyn Massacre: The Evidence, The Solution. Erythros Press and Media, LLC, 2018.

Gera, Vanessa. “Putin Article Blaming Poland for WW2 Carnage Stirs Outrage in Warsaw.” Newsmax, Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax Media, Inc., 21 June 2020, www.newsmax.com/newsfront/putin-poland-betrayed-people/2020/06/21/id/973305/.

“International Katyn Commission Findings. Der Massenmord in Walde Von Katyn Ein Tatsachenbericht.” Katyn Documents: International Commission, International Katyn Commission, www.warsawuprising.com/doc/katyn_documents1.htm.

Kochanski, Halik. The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War. Harvard University Press, 2014.

Komaniecka, Monika, et al. “Katyn Massacre – Basic Facts.” Translated by Iwona Ewa Waldzińska, #Poland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 20 Apr. 2018, poland.pl/history/history-poland/katyn-massacre-basic-facts/.

Parrish, Michael. Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939-1953. Praeger, 1996.

Sanford, George. Katyn and the Soviet Massacre of 1940 Truth, Justice and Memory. Routledge, 2005.

United Nations. “Nuremberg Charter.” England, London, 8 Aug. 1945.

United States, Congress, Madden, Ray J. The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Government Printing Office, 1952, pp. I-37.

Wasilewski, Witold. “The Birth and Persistence of the Katyn Lie.” Case Western Reserve International Law, 22 Mar. 2013, www.thefreelibrary.com/The+birth+and+persistence+of+the+Katyn+lie.-a0352231740.

Wolsza, Tadeusz. “The Katyn Massacre: Its Chronology, Scale, Victims and Unpunished Perpetrators.” Polish History, Muzeum Historii Polski, 13 Apr. 2020, polishhistory.pl/the-katyn-massacre-its-chronology-scale-victims-and-unpunished-perpetrators/.

Żelazko, Joanna. “The Katyn Massacre – the Way to the Truth.” Warsaw Institute, Warsaw Institute, 5 July 2019, warsawinstitute.org/katyn-massacre-way-truth/.


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