<br><b>Wersja Polska</b>
Wersja Polska

US Congress Hearings on Katyn War Crime


III. TESTIMONY OF SURVIVORS OF THE THREE CAMPS

Thousands of Poles were taken prisoners by the Soviet after its invasion of Poland in September 1939. These prisoners were grouped in some hundred-odd camps in Poland's eastern territories and the western provinces of the Soviet territory. However, three of these camps were especially designated for the confinement of Polish officers, lawyers, doctors, clergy, professionals, government officials, and intellectual leaders-most of whom were reserve officers in the Polish Army.

These camps and the number of Polish prisoners interned in each are as follows: Kobielsk, located east of Smolensk, imprisoned 5,000; Starobielsk, near Kharkov, held 4,000 Polish officers; and Ostashkov, near Kalinin, where 6,400 Poles were interned.

The committee heard testimony from 26 Polish officers who had originally been interned in one of these three camps. Their testimony revealed that:

    (1) A deliberate effort has been made by the Soviets to segregate the officers into groups. The majority of higher ranking Polish military officers were interned along with hundreds of Polish doctors-all army reservists-in Kozielsk. Noncommissioned officers and Poland's peacetime political and educational leaders-also reservists-were interned in Starobielsk. And, finally, Poland's frontier guards, home police, and public officials of eastern Poland were interned in Ostashkov. Religious leaders were interned in all three camps.

    (2) There is general agreement that these special prisoners in the three camps totaled about 15,400. They comprised the elite of the Polish military and civilian leaders.

    (3) This NKVD action was a planned, well-conceived, and highly organized separation of the Polish intelligentsia to pick out potential leaders of Poland after the war.

    (4) These were not ordinary prisoner-of-war camps, but installations heavily guarded by the select NKVD, as contrasted to ordinary Soviet prisoner-of-war camps which were guarded by ordinary Russian soldiers.

    (5) These prisoners remained at the three camps from September-October 1939, until April-May 1940.

    INTERROGATION OF PRISONERS

    (6) This 6 months' internment was meant as a period of political investigation and observation. Each prisoner was examined exhaustively and in each instance several times-mostly during the night, with some interviews lasting several hours.
    (a) The NKVD placed great emphasis on the social origin, political views, party adherences, professional qualifications and in particular-if the prisoner had participated in Poland's successful defeat of the Bolsheviks in 1920.
    (b) During the long and exhausting interrogations, discussions were held on the subject of war, its reasons and probable outcome, the attitude of the prisoner toward Russia and particularly his knowledge of the Soviet Union.

    (7) It is obvious to the committee from this line of questioning and from the conclusions of the witnesses that the Soviets were trying to determine if any of these prisoners eventually could be converted to communism. Evidence clearly established that from this entire group of Poles interned at the three camps, only six subsequently joined Soviet forces.

    (8) About March 1940, the interrogations were completed and it was announced almost simultaneously in Kozielsk, Ostashkov, and Starobielsk the camps would shortly be liquidated. Rumors began to circulate in the camp that the prisoners would be sent home. According to testimony presented to this committee by witnesses both in America and Europe, the camp authorities, when speaking to the prisoners, encouraged these rumors.
    During evacuation of the 3 camps, groups of 200 to 300 Poles left each day, sometimes every second day and sometimes every third day.

    (9) The evacuation continued in the three camps until the middle of May 1940. From among this entire group of 15,400 Poles interned in the 3 camps only 400 survived. These were taken to another NKVD camp at Pavlishev-Bor where the Soviets continued questioning them in hopes of converting them to communism.
    (a) Apart from the small group of 400 Poles who survived (listed in exhibit 2, part IV of the published hearings), the world has never heard from a single other Pole who was interned in these camps between the period September-October 1939, and April-May 1940.
    (b) The Polish Government-in-exile and relatives who subsequently fled from Communist Poland have tirelessly searched for these missing men for 12 years. In not a single instance have any of these prisoners been heard from or seen since May 1940, except the 4,143 identified in the mass graves of Katyn.
    (c) In October of 1940, when the Soviets began to fear an assault by the Nazis, certain members of this group of 400 survivors were asked to form a staff for a proposed Polish Army in Russia. It was apparent this group did not have enough qualified men for such a staff. One witness testified in London that he asked the Soviet Minister of State Security Mirkulow why the Russians didn't select this staff from among those Poles evacuated from Kozielsk, Starobielsk, and Ostashkov. Mirkulow replied: "We have committed an error. These men are not available. We will give you others." This statement was made by Mirkulow 6 months after the Russians evacuated the three camps. (See p. 553, vol. IV of the published hearings.)
    (d) This same witness related similar statements made by Soviet Minister Beria of the NKVD to Lieutenant Colonel Berling, one of the six Poles who turned traitor and joined the Soviet forces in 1941. Berling likewise asked Beria in October of 1940, why the Soviets didn't enlist the officers from these camps in the proposed Polish Army. Beria replied: "We have committed a great blunder. We have made a great mistake." (See p. 554, vol. IV of the published hearings.)

    (10) All correspondence from those interned in the three camps ended May 1940.
    (a) While interned at Pavlishev-Bor, the 400 survivors continued to correspond with their families in Poland and those testifying before this committee said they received countless inquiries regarding the fate of their compatriots who were previously interned in the three camps.
    (b) A Special Family Bureau established by the Poles in Russia following the rapprochement of 1941 received thousands of inquiries regarding the missing officers. In not a single instant was it reported that any news of these officers was received in Poland subsequent to May 1940.

    (11) Only those Poles interned at Kozielsk were massacred in the Katyn Forest.
    (a) Numerous survivors of the Kozielsk camp testified they saw inscriptions written by those who departed earlier: "We are being unloaded in Gniezdovo." This rail station is 12 miles west of Smolensk and 2 miles from Katyn Forest.
    (b) One of the survivors from Kozielsk who was actually taken to Gniezdovo and then spared in the last moment said he saw NKVD guards with fixed bayonets guarding the Poles while they were being removed from the train into lorries which had backed up to the train.
    "The prisoners were asked to go into the autobus, and not stopping on the ground, but just to go from the railroad wagon immediately into the back door of the autobus. The autobus was of quite an ordinary type. The windows were painted, or rather smeared with some white color-I imagine it was just smeared with lime-and the autobus took about 30 people. Then it went away, and returned after more or less half an hour-I cannot tell exactly, because I had no watch with me, but about half an hour-take the next party and this proceeded for some hours. * * * (See p. 606, vol. IV of the published hearings)"
    It is significant to note that this witness mentions that the NKVD had guarded the Polish officers being removed from the train and that the NKVD were armed with fixed bayonets. Testimony presented to this committee by doctors who had performed autopsies on the bodies of the massacred Poles found in Katyn, was conclusive that besides the bullet hole shown in the head which was the cause of death of most of these men, there were some who showed signs of bayoneting. Dr. Miloslavich testified in Chicago that the bayonet wounds were of the four-bladed type which are used exclusively by the Soviets.
    (c) The last entry in the diary found on the massacred body of Maj. Adam Solski in the Katyn Forest, dated April 8, 1940, stated:
    "From 12 noon we are standing at Smolensk on a railway siding.
    "April 9, 1940, a few minutes before 5 in the morning reveille in the prison cars and preparation for departure. * * * We are to go somewhere by car, and what then?
    "April 9, 1940, 5 a.m.
    "April 9, 1940. From the very dawn, the day started somewhat peculiarly. Departure by prison van in little cells (terrible); they brought us somewhere into the woods-some kind of summer resort. Here a detailed search. They took the watch, on which time was 6:30 a.m. (8:30), asked me for my wedding ring, which they took, roubles, my main belt and pocket knife."
    The diary ends there. It is included in the transcript of the committee's hearing in London as exhibit 28 (pp. 726 to 731, pt. IV). This diary was brought to the committee's attention by General Bor-Komorowski, who testified in London, and by other witnesses previously heard in Washington and Chicago.

    (12) Prisoners evacuated from Starobielsk testified they also saw inscriptions in train prison cars but in this case they stated: "We are being removed or unloaded in Kharkov." (See p. 525, pt. IV.)

    (13) The trail of prisoners evacuated from Ostashkov ends at Wiasma.
    (a) Zygmunt Luszczynski, of London, testified that after he was evacuated from Ostashkov on April 24, 1940, his train composed of seven cars, stopped at Wiasma. He stated:
    "We were taken from Ostashkov to Wiasma, where we remained at the siding for 3 days; then six of the seven cars were disconnected and they went in some other direction, and the car in which I was present was taken to Babynino (enroute to Pavlishev Bor). (See p. 614, part N.)"
    (b) Other testimony strongly supports the theory that the Ostashkov prisoners were drowned in the White Sea.
    (c) Adam Moszynski, himself a former prisoner at Starobielsk, author of the most authentic list of names of prisoners interned in the three camps (see exhibit 5A in the appendix of part III) testified:
    "I am sure there are three Katyns in the world. One Katyn is in the Katyn Forest, near Gniezdovo (Smolensk); the second Katyn, of Starobielsk, could be near Kharkov, and the prisoners of Ostashkov, near the White Sea.' *
    "To the best of my knowledge, based on considerable research on the subject, the prisoner's in Ostashkov were placed on two very old barges, and when the barges were towed out to sea they were destroyed by Russian artillery fire."

    (14) Col. George Grobicki, who had been interned in Kozielsk, testified that:
    "Everybody was dressed when leaving the camp just as he was when taken prisoner. Most of the people were in overcoats when they left the camps."
    This testimony corroborates to a great extent the testimony of numerous witnesses who had actually been taken to the scene of the graves and who had observed that most of the bodies of the massacred Polish officers were buried either wearing overcoats or winter underwear.
    Grobicki's testimony becomes very pertinent when we recall that in the Soviet countercharge accusing the Nazis for this crime, Russian witnesses claim these prisoners were executed by the Germans as early as August of 1941. This committee considers it doubtful the victims would be wearing winter garb in August.

    (15) Even more startling was Grobicki's testimony that when he read the list of Poles being removed from the graves in Katyn published by the Germans shortly after the discovery of the graves in 1943, he noted that these bodies were being exhumed in the same group formations as they were when evacuated from Kozielsk. It is difficult to accept the theory that these men who allegedly left Kozielsk in April of 1940, to be assigned to special work units west of Smolensk by the Russians, should remain in the identical groupings until 1941 when they were allegedly murdered by the Germans.

    (16) This committee has tried to establish how the 400 who survived from the three camps were selected. General Wolkowicki, testifying in London, said he believed he was spared because prior to Poland's rebirth, following World War I, he was a Russian Naval officer who won distinction in the Russo-Japanese War.
    "I was the only officer who opposed the surrender of (this Russian) ship, and that is why their attitude toward me was one of considerable interest. (See p. 645, pt. IV.)"
    (A) General Wolkowicki showed this committee an immunization card given to him by the Russians while be was interned at Kozielsk. He testified hundreds of similar cards subsequently were found on the bodies of Poles exhumed in Katyn. (See exhibit 17, pt. IV.)

This committee considers itself fortunate in getting the testimony of the above-mentioned witnesses who constitute only a small group of the 400 survivors taken to Griazovec by the Soviets in June 1940, and who remained there until they were released on July 30, 1941, to join the Polish Army. Their testimony has been instrumental toward helping this committee arrive at a conclusion.

NEXT: Part 3 of the US Congress hearings on Katyn Wood Massacre of POWs.


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