Slava Novorossiya

Slava Novorossiya

Monday, April 13, 2015

STALIN’S KILLING FIELD: THE KATYN MASSACRE



On this date, April 13, 1943, the discovery of mass graves of Polish prisoners of war killed by Soviet forces in the Katyń Forest Massacre is announced, causing a diplomatic rift between the Polish government in exile in London from the Soviet Union, which denies responsibility.

I will post information about the Katyń Forest Massacre from Wikipedia and other links.


Scene from the 2007 Movie ‘Katyn’
The Katyn massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, mord katyński, "Katyń crime"; Russian: Катынский расстрел Katynskij ra'sstrel, "Katyn shooting") was a series of mass executions of Polish nationals carried out by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. Originally the term "Katyn massacre", also known as the Katyn Forest massacre, referred to the massacre at Katyn Forest, which was discovered first and was the largest execution of this type.

The massacre was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940, approved by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000. The victims were executed in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were arrested Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed to be "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests".

The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in 1943. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin immediately severed diplomatic relations with it. The USSR claimed the victims had been murdered by the Nazis in 1941, and continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government.

An investigation conducted by the Prosecutor General's Office of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004) confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, but refused to classify this action as a war crime or an act of genocide. The investigation was closed on the grounds that the perpetrators of the atrocity were already dead, and since the Russian government would not classify the dead as victims of Stalinist repression, formal posthumous rehabilitation was deemed inapplicable.

In November 2010 the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordered the massacre.


Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the German-Soviet non-aggression pact in Moscow, August 23, 1939; behind him are Richard Schulze-Kossens (Ribbentrop's adjutant), Boris Shaposhnikov (Generalstabschef der Roten Armee), Joachim von Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Pavlov (Soviet translator). Alexey Shkvarzev (Soviet ambassador in Berlin), stands next to Molotov.



Polish prisoners of war captured by the Red Army after the Soviet invasion of Poland.
Background

On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Consequently, Britain and France, obligated by the Polish-British Common Defence Pact Polish-British CDP and Franco-Polish Military Alliance to attack Germany in the case of such an invasion, demanded that Germany withdraw. On 3 September 1939, after it failed to do so, France, Britain, and most countries of the British Empire declared war on Germany but provided little military support to Poland. They took minimal military action during what became known as the Phoney War.
The Soviet Union began its own invasion on 17 September, in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Red Army advanced quickly and met little resistance, as Polish forces facing them were under orders not to engage the Soviets. About 250,000–454,700 Polish soldiers and policemen were captured and interned by the Soviet authorities. Some were freed or escaped quickly, but 125,000 were imprisoned in camps run by the NKVD. Of these, 42,400 soldiers, mostly of Ukrainian and Belarusian ethnicity serving in the Polish army who lived in the former Polish territories now annexed by the Soviet Union, were released in October. The 43,000 soldiers born in western Poland, then under German control, were transferred to the Germans; in turn the Soviets received 13,575 Polish prisoners from the Germans.

In addition to military and government personnel, other Polish citizens suffered from repressions. Since Poland's conscription system required every nonexempt university graduate to become a military reserve officer, the NKVD was able to round up a significant portion of the Polish educated class. According to estimates by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), roughly 320,000 Polish citizens were deported to the Soviet Union (this figure is questioned by some other historians, who hold to older estimates of about 700,000–1,000,000). IPN estimates the number of Polish citizens who died under Soviet rule during World War II at 150,000 (a revision of older estimates of up to 500,000). Of the group of 12,000 Poles sent to Dalstroy camp (near Kolyma) in 1940–1941, most POWs, only 583 men survived, released in 1942 to join the Polish Armed Forces in the East. According to Tadeusz Piotrowski, "during the war and after 1944, 570,387 Polish citizens had been subjected to some form of Soviet political repression".

As early as 19 September, head of the NKVD Lavrentiy Beria ordered the secret police to create the Administration for Affairs of Prisoners of War and Internees to manage Polish prisoners. The NKVD took custody of Polish prisoners from the Red Army, and proceeded to organise a network of reception centers and transit camps and arrange rail transport to prisoner-of-war camps in the western USSR. The largest camps were located at Kozelsk (Optina Monastery), Ostashkov (Stolbnyi Island on Seliger Lake near Ostashkov) and Starobelsk. Other camps were at Jukhnovo (rail station Babynino), Yuzhe (Talitsy), rail station Tyotkino 90 kilometres/56 miles from Putyvl), Kozelshchyna, Oranki, Vologda (rail station Zaonikeevo), and Gryazovets.

Kozelsk and Starobelsk were used mainly for military officers, while Ostashkov was used mainly for Polish boy scouts, gendarmes, police and prison officers. Some prisoners were members of other groups of Polish intelligentsia, such as priests, landowners, and law personnel. The approximate distribution of men throughout the camps was as follows: Kozelsk, 5,000; Ostashkov, 6,570; and Starobelsk, 4,000. They totaled 15,570 men.

According to a report from 19 November 1939, the NKVD had about 40,000 Polish POWs: about 8,000–8,500 officers and warrant officers, 6,000–6,500 police officers, and 25,000 soldiers and non-commissioned officers who were still being held as POWs. In December, a wave of arrests resulted in the imprisonment of additional Polish officers. Ivan Serov reported to Lavrentiy Beria on 3 December that "in all, 1,057 former officers of the Polish Army had been arrested". The 25,000 soldiers and non-commissioned officers were assigned to forced labor (road construction, heavy metallurgy).

Once at the camps, from October 1939 to February 1940, the Poles were subjected to lengthy interrogations and constant political agitation by NKVD officers such as Vasily Zarubin. The prisoners assumed that they would be released soon, but the interviews were in effect a selection process to determine who would live and who would die. According to NKVD reports, if the prisoners could not be induced to adopt a pro-Soviet attitude, they were declared "hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority".

On 5 March 1940, pursuant to a note to Joseph Stalin from Beria, six members of the Soviet Politburo—Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Anastas Mikoyan, and Mikhail Kalinin—signed an order to execute 25,700 Polish "nationalists and counterrevolutionaries" kept at camps and prisons in occupied western Ukraine and Belarus. The reason for the massacre, according to historian Gerhard Weinberg, was that Stalin wanted to deprive a potential future Polish military of a large portion of its talent:


It has been suggested that the motive for this terrible step [the Katyn massacre] was to reassure the Germans as to the reality of Soviet anti-Polish policy. This explanation is completely unconvincing in view of the care with which the Soviet regime kept the massacre secret from the very German government it was supposed to impress. ... A more likely explanation is that ... [the massacre] should be seen as looking forward to a future in which there might again be a Poland on the Soviet Union's western border. Since he intended to keep the eastern portion of the country in any case, Stalin could be certain that any revived Poland would be unfriendly. Under those circumstances, depriving it of a large proportion of its military and technical elite would make it weaker.


In addition, the Soviets realized that the prisoners constituted a large body of trained and motivated Poles who would not accept a Fourth Partition of Poland.


The first page of Beria's notice (oversigned by Stalin and other high-ranking Politburo members), to kill approximately 25,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in the Katyn Forest and other places in the Soviet Union.

English: The accepted proposal of Lavrentiy Beria to execute former Polish army and police officers in NKVD prisoner of war camps and prisons. March 1940.
TOP SECRET
From the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to comrade STALIN
In the NKVD POW camps and in the prisons of the western oblasts of Ukraine and Belorussia there is currently a large number of former officers of the Polish army, former Polish police officers and employees of intelligence agencies, members of Polish nationalist c-r (counterrevolutionary) parties, participants in underground c-r rebel organizations, defectors and so on. All of them are implacable enemies of Soviet power and full of hatred for the Soviet system.
POW officers and policemen located in the camps are attempting to continue c-r work and are leading anti-Soviet agitation. Each of them is simply waiting to be freed so they can have the opportunity to actively join the fight against Soviet power.
NKVD agents in the western oblasts of Ukraine and Belorussia have uncovered a number of c-r rebel organizations. In each of these c-r organizations the former officers of the former Polish army and former Polish police officers played an active leadership role.
Among the detained defectors and violators of the state-
(Signatures: In favor - Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Mikoyan)
(In margin: Comrade Kalinin - In favor. Comrade Kaganovich - In favor.)
Executions

The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, with a lower limit of confirmed dead of 21,768. According to Soviet documents declassified in 1990, 21,857 Polish internees and prisoners were executed after 3 April 1940: 14,552 prisoners of war (most or all of them from the three camps) and 7,305 prisoners in western parts of the Byelorussian and Ukrainian SSRs. Of them 4,421 were from Kozelsk, 3,820 from Starobelsk, 6,311 from Ostashkov, and 7,305 from Byelorussian and Ukrainian prisons. Head of the NKVD POW department, Maj. General P. K. Soprunenko, organized "selections" of Polish officers to be massacred at Katyn and elsewhere.

Those who died at Katyn included an admiral, two generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captains, 3,420 non-commissioned officers, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 43 officials, 85 privates, 131 refugees, 20 university professors, 300 physicians; several hundred lawyers, engineers, and teachers; and more than 100 writers and journalists as well as about 200 pilots. In all, the NKVD executed almost half the Polish officer corps. Altogether, during the massacre the NKVD executed 14 Polish generals: Leon Billewicz (ret.), Bronisław Bohatyrewicz (ret.), Xawery Czernicki (admiral), Stanisław Haller (ret.), Aleksander Kowalewski (ret.), Henryk Minkiewicz (ret.), Kazimierz Orlik-Łukoski, Konstanty Plisowski (ret.), Rudolf Prich (murdered in Lviv), Franciszek Sikorski (ret.), Leonard Skierski (ret.), Piotr Skuratowicz, Mieczysław Smorawiński and Alojzy Wir-Konas (promoted posthumously). Not all of the executed were ethnic Poles, because the Second Polish Republic was a multiethnic state, and its officer corps included Belorussians, Ukrainians, and Jews. It is estimated that about 8% of Katyn massacre victims were Polish Jews. 395 prisoners were spared from the slaughter, among them Stanisław Swianiewicz and Józef Czapski. They were taken to the Yukhnov camp and then to Gryazovets.

Up to 99% of the remaining prisoners were subsequently murdered. People from the Kozelsk camp were executed in the Katyn forest; people from the Starobelsk camp were murdered in the inner NKVD prison of Kharkiv and the bodies were buried near the village of Piatykhatky; and police officers from the Ostashkov camp were murdered in the internal NKVD prison of Kalinin (Tver) and buried in Mednoye.

Detailed information on the executions in the Kalinin NKVD prison was provided during a hearing by Dmitry Tokarev, former head of the Board of the District NKVD in Kalinin. According to Tokarev, the shooting started in the evening and ended at dawn. The first transport, on 4 April 1940, carried 390 people, and the executioners had difficulty killing so many people in one night. The following transports held no more than 250 people. The executions were usually performed with German-made 9×19mm Walther Modell 2 pistols supplied by Moscow, but Soviet-made 7.62×38mmR Nagant M1895 revolvers were also used. The executioners used German weapons rather than the standard Soviet revolvers, as the latter were said to offer too much recoil, which made shooting painful after the first dozen executions. Vasily Mikhailovich Blokhin, chief executioner for the NKVD—and quite possibly the most prolific executioner in history—is reported to have personally shot and killed 7,000 of the condemned, some as young as 18, from the Ostashkov camp at Kalinin prison over a period of 28 days in April 1940.

The killings were methodical. After the personal information of the condemned was checked and approved, he was handcuffed and led to a cell insulated with stacks of sandbags along the walls and a heavy, felt-lined door. The victim was told to kneel in the middle of the cell, was then approached from behind by the executioner and immediately shot in the back of the head or neck. The body was carried out through the opposite door and laid in one of the five or six waiting trucks, whereupon the next condemned was taken inside and subject to the same fate. In addition to muffling by the rough insulation in the execution cell, the pistol gunshots were also masked by the operation of loud machines (perhaps fans) throughout the night. Some post-1991 revelations suggest that prisoners were also executed in the same manner at the NKVD headquarters in Smolensk, though judging by the way the corpses were stacked, some captives may have been shot while standing on the edge of the mass graves. This procedure went on every night, except for the public May Day holiday.

Some 3,000 to 4,000 Polish inmates of Ukrainian prisons and those from Belarus prisons were probably buried in Bykivnia and in Kurapaty respectively. Lieutenant Janina Lewandowska, daughter of Gen. Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki, was the only woman executed during the massacre at Katyn.

Discovery

Soviet actions

Western response

At the Nuremberg trials

Cold War views

Revelations

Official investigations

Further court hearings

Polish-Russian relations

Memorials

In art and literature


The Katyn massacre is a major element in many works of film, literature, and the fine arts. The first book in English, titled "The Katyn Wood Murders", was published by Polish émigré Józef Mackiewicz in 1951 in New York. It is central to the plot in the W.E.B. Griffin novel The Lieutenants, which is part of the Brotherhood of War series. The cover-up of the massacre by the Allies is a central plot point in Robert Harris's novel Enigma and the 2001 film of the same name. Philip Kerr's 2013 novel A Man Without Breath, the ninth in his successful Bernie Gunther series, has Gunther investigating the massacre with Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau in and around occupied Smolensk in 1943. James R. Benn's Rag and Bone (Billy Boyle series) uses the Katyn Massacre as a central plot element. Polish poet Jacek Kaczmarski has dedicated one of his sung poems to this event. In a bold political statement during the height of the Cold War, Serbian film director and screenwriter Dušan Makavejev used original Nazi footage in his 1974 film Sweet Movie. The Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik wrote an orchestral score in 1967 called "Katyn Epitaph" in memory of the massacre.

In 2000 U.S. filmmaker Steven Fischer produced a public service announcement titled Silence of Falling Leaves honoring the fallen soldiers, consisting of images of falling autumn leaves with a sound track cutting to a narration in Polish by the Warsaw-born artist Bożena Jędrzejczak. It was honored with an Emmy nomination.

The 1999 Academy Honorary Award recipient, Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, whose father, Captain Jakub Wajda, was murdered in the NKVD prison of Kharkiv, made a film depicting the event, Katyn. It focuses on the fate of some of the mothers, wives and daughters of the Polish officers killed by the Soviets. Some of the Katyn Forest executions were re-enacted. The screenplay is based on Andrzej Mularczyk's book Post mortem—the Katyn story. The film was produced by Akson Studio, and released in Poland on 21 September 2007. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for the Best Foreign Language Film.

In 2008 British historian Laurence Rees produced a six-hour BBC/PBS television documentary series entitled World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West. The Katyn massacre was a central theme of the series.

21,768 murdered in Katyn massacre by the Soviet NKVD - April 1940 - Joseph Stalin Lavrentiy Beria

Uploaded on Mar 12, 2010
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass murder of thousands of Polish prisoners of war (primarily military officers), intellectuals, policemen, and other public servants by the Soviet NKVD, based on a proposal from Lavrentiy Beria to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps. Dated March 5, 1940, this official document was then approved (signed) by the entire Soviet Politburo including Joseph Stalin and Beria. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, the most commonly cited number being 21,768. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin (Tver) and Kharkov prisons and elsewhere. About 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, the rest being Poles arrested for allegedly being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, saboteurs, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, priests, and officials." Since Poland's conscription system required every unexempted university graduate to become a reserve officer, the Soviets were able to round up much of the Polish intelligentsia, and the Jewish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian intelligentsia of Polish citizenship.
Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in 1943. The revelation led to the end of diplomatic relations between Moscow and the London-based Polish government-in-exile. The Soviet Union continued to deny the massacres until 1990, when it finally acknowledged the perpetration of the massacre by the NKVD. as well as the subsequent cover-up. An investigation by the Prosecutor's General Office of the Russian Federation has confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, yet does not classify this action as a war crime or an act of genocide. This acknowledgement would have made necessary the prosecution of surviving perpetrators, which is what the Polish government had requested. The Russian government also does not classify the dead as victims of Stalinist repression, which bars formal posthumous rehabilitation.
Executions:
After 3 April, 1940, at least 22,436 POWs and prisoners were executed: 15,131 POWs (most or all of them from the three camps) and at least 7,305 prisoners in western parts of Belarus and Ukraine. A 1956 memo from KGB chief Alexander Shelepin to First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev contains incomplete information about the personal files of 21,857 murdered POWs and prisoners. Of them 4,421 were from Kozielsk, 3,820 from Starobielsk, 6,311 from Ostashkov, and 7,305 from Belarusian and Ukrainian prisons. Shelepin's data for prisons should be considered a minimum, because his data for POWs is incomplete (he mentions 14,552 personal files for POWs, while at least 15,131 POWs "sent to NKVD" are mentioned in contemporary documents).
Discovery:
The Germans assembled and brought in a European commission consisting of twelve forensic experts and their staffs from Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and Hungary. After the war, all the experts, save for a Bulgarian and a Czech, reaffirmed their 1943 finding of Soviet guilt. The Katyn Massacre was beneficial to Nazi Germany, which used it to discredit the Soviet Union. Goebbels wrote in his diary on 14 April 1943: "We are now using the discovery of 12,000 Polish officers, murdered by the GPU, for anti-Bolshevik propaganda on a grand style. We sent neutral journalists and Polish intellectuals to the spot where they were found. Their reports now reaching us from ahead are gruesome. The Fuehrer has also given permission for us to hand out a drastic news item to the German press. I gave instructions to make the widest possible use of the propaganda material. We shall be able to live on it for a couple weeks." The Germans had succeeded in portraying the dark side of the Soviet government to the world and briefly raised the spectre of a communist monster rampaging across the territories of Western civilization; moreover, General Sikorski's unease threatened to unravel the alliance between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.

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