Published in the Delaware County Daily Times September 13, 2019
By Joseph Batory
It will live in infamy as an atrocity of the Soviet State in WW II.
The Katyn massacre was the mass murder of more than 25,000 Polish military officers and other Polish citizens carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940.
The historic destination of the murders (Katyn) actually refers to killings at several locations, not just the one where thousands of bodies of the Polish officers were buried. This is because for almost half the century, the Soviet State denied the crime and tried to hide the locations of the mass murders it had committed.
On September l, 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west and WW II began. Britain and France, even though obligated by alliance to assist Poland, took little to no military action to help the Poles. It then got worse.
Shortly thereafter, The Soviets via agreement with the Nazis invaded from the east on September 17, 1939.
Roughly 320,000 Polish citizens were taken from their homes and deported to Russia.
By November of 1939, the Soviet Secret police had about 40,000 Polish Prisoners of War. At the Soviet prison camps, from October 1939 to February 1940, the Poles were subjected to lengthy interrogations and constant political agitation by their Soviet captors. These military prisoners and others assumed they would be treated fairly, but the interviews were really the prelude to a death sentence. If a Polish prisoner did not adopt a pro-Soviet attitude, he was declared a “hardened and uncompromising enemy of Soviet authority.”
On March 5, 1940, dictator Joseph Stalin signed a barbaric order to execute 25,700 Polish “nationalists and counterrevolutionaries” kept at Soviet camps. The reason for this massacre was that Stalin wanted to prevent any potential trouble from the Polish military and intelligentsia in the future by killing off as many as possible. Therefore, the prisoners inside these camps were to be shot as enemies of Soviet authority.
Among the thousands of Katyn victims were masses of Polish military officers and air force pilots, as well as many hundreds of priests, university professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, writers and journalists.
The Soviet killings were barbaric. After the condemned Polish prisoner’s personal information was recorded, 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 made to kneel in the middle of the cell and 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 subjected to the same fate.
Ironically, the Katyn massacre was used by Nazi Germany to discredit the Soviet Union which entered into conflict (war) with the Germans in 1941. In 1943, Nazi propagandist Goebbels gleefully wrote in his diary: We are now using the discovery of many thousands of Polish officers, murdered by the Soviets, to enflame anti-Soviet propaganda on a grand style.
So the Germans, mass murderers themselves, declared a major propaganda victory in the middle of WW II, emphasizing that the Soviets were evil murderers while obfuscating the fact that they were obscene killers themselves.
Of course, the Soviet government immediately denied the German charges and blamed the Nazis for these killings. The Soviets claimed the Polish prisoners of war had been engaged in hard labor west of Smolensk, and consequently were captured and executed by invading German military units in August 1941. The Soviet denial falsely stated that the Polish prisoners-of-war who in 1941 were engaged in construction work west when they fell into the hands of the German-Fascist hangmen.
The Soviets destroyed one burial ground and removed other Katyn Massacre evidence. Witnesses were “interviewed” by Soviet secret police and threatened with arrest if their testimonies disagreed with the Soviet line that there was no Russian involvement. The Soviet secret police also planted false evidence to place the apparent time of the massacre in the summer of 1941, when the German military had controlled the area.
Finally, on April 13, 1990, the 47th anniversary of the discovery of Katyn’s mass graves, the USSR finally admitted its guilt and expressed “profound regret” and admitted Soviet secret police responsibility.
In 1990, future Russian President Boris Yeltsin released top-secret documents and transferred them to the new Polish president Lech Walesa. Among the documents was the directive, dated March 5, 1940, to execute 25,700 Poles from three prison camps, and from certain prisons of Western Ukraine and Belarus, signed by Stalin (among others). Another evidentiary document transferred to the Poles in 1990 was a March 1959 message to Nikita Khrushchev, which documented that the execution of the Polish military officers had indeed happened, and contained a secret plan to destroy all records to reduce the possibility of documents related to the Soviet complicity in this massacre ever being discovered.
The Nazi and Soviet desecration of Poland was the ultimate manifestation of evil. Six million Poles died in WW II. Amidst the mass destruction of life in so many ways, the premeditated Katyn murders are a clear indictment of the depth of the barbaric Soviet State and its lunatic leader, Josef Stalin.
Joseph Batory is the author of three books and has been widely published on politics, education and history.