US Congress Hearings on Katyn War Crime
IV. SEARCH FOR THE MISSING POLISH OFFICERS
Having established that approximately 15,400 Polish officers and leaders had been imprisoned in these three major camps and that after June 1940 only 400 were known to be alive, the next major trend of the committee's evidence deals with the efforts of the Polish Government in Exile in London to find traces of the missing Polish officers from August 1941, through the entire year of 1942. This official Polish search resulted from one of the quirks of history:
Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia had been allies from August 1939, and particularly during the fourth dismemberment of Poland. In mid-June 1941, this unholy totalitarian alliance fell apart when Hilter's legions swept across the Russian boundaries to overwhelm the Russian armies. Within 2 months the Nazis had driven into the Ukraine past the area of Smolensk.
Following the German's attack and their overwhelming military victories, which were driving the Russians into dangerous retreats, the Soviet leaders were temporarily desirous of securing military aid from anywhere and anybody. As part of the Kremlin's negotiating with the British Government, the Soviets recognized the Polish Government in Exile in London.
The Soviets and the Polish Government entered into an agreement in July 1941, whereby all the Polish prisoners in Russia, except acknowledged criminals, were to be granted an amnesty by the Soviets and be transferred to specially designated camps where they would be organized into Polish army divisions under Polish officers. It was expected that this reborn Polish Army would join Russian armies in their fight against the Nazis. As part of this official arrangement, General Wladislaw Anders, who was at that time a prisoner in the Lubianka prison in Moscow, was accepted by the Russians as commanding general of the proposed Polish armed forces.
ANDERS SEES STALIN
When he was released, General Anders immediately sought to collect as his staff officers those men whom he personally knew had been captured by the Soviets. Shortly after the arrangement between the Soviets and the Poles and the appointment of General Anders as Polish commander in chief, small groups of Polish soldiers from Griazovec and other prison camps joined the Anders command. Only 400 of the officers reporting had been numbered among the 15,400 men who had been at Kozielsk, and Ostashkov prior to May 1940. Very few of these men were the staff officers whom Anders knew personally and whom he needed. Where were the other 15,000 Polish leaders? From then until the summer of 1942 when General Anders commenced to move his Polish troops out of Russia into the Middle East he continued his search for these officers. Repeated requests, personal and official, were made to the Russian general staff, to the Russian foreign office, and even to the NKVD, for information about these missing officers.
General Anders in addition to making official representations to the Russian Government authorized one of his officers, Maj. Josef Czapski, to make a search for these officers throughout Soviet prisons. General Anders also secured an interview with Premier Stalin in December 1941.
At this meeting, General Anders accompanied the head of the Polish Government in Exile, General Sikorski, and the Polish Ambassador in Moscow, Mr. Kot. Stalin personally was asked about these missing Polish officers. The Soviet Premier insisted he was not detaining them nor did he have them.
General Anders testified in London before this committee:
"We inquired, `Well, where could they have gone?' To this Stalin replied, 'They escaped,' We asked, `Where could they have escaped?' And Stalin replied, 'To Manchuria.' I said that this was impossible."
Anders had a second meeting with Stalin at the Kremlin in Moscow of the 18th of March 1942. At this meeting with Stalin, Anders presented him with a list of missing Polish officers and told Stalin that none of the officers had as yet reported to the Polish Army.
Stalin replied: "Well, what good would they be to us? Why would we want to be keeping them or retaining them?" At this same meeting Stalin hinted that maybe the Polish officers had fled and become separated when the Germans invaded Russia.
It is noteworthy, however, when a committee member explicitly asked whether any Russian official at any time said that the Polish officers might have become German prisoners, General Anders replied: "Never." Anders testified: "This to us was one of the most disturbing factors because we knew that the Bolsheviks had made very long and lengthy and complete lists of all their prisoners."
General Anders' testimony about his discussions with the highest Soviet officials regarding the missing Polish officers was independently verified by the testimony of Ambassador Stanislaus Kot, the first Polish Ambassador to Moscow under the new arrangement of July 1941.
VISHINSKY AND MOLOTOV QUESTIONED
Testifying in London, Kot said from the 20th of September 1941, until his departure from Moscow in the fall of 1942, he (Kot) made repeated inquires to all levels of Soviet officialdom, to the NKVD, to Vishinsky, to Molotov, and even to Stalin himself, for information regarding these missing Polish officers. The incident of the conference between Kot and Deputy Foreign Minister Vishinsky on October 6, 1940, was characteristic of these meetings.
Kot complained to Vishinsky that only 2,000 Polish officers of an estimated 9,500 whose names were known to the Poles had reappeared among the Polish forces. Kot asked Vishinsky what had happened to the other officers saying:
"We have been making constant effort to find these people. We have searched for these men in the German prison camps in occupied Poland. Every place where they could conceivably have been found." Kot said that he did not see how thousands of men could disappear. Vishinsky never answered the question but parried it with a confused: "Well, what do you think happened to these men?"
Subsequently, Vishinsky stated: "They must be among the 300,000 Polish nationalists who have already been freed."
When Kot discussed the same questions with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, on October 22, 1941, Molotov put him off with the statement: "We will try to do everything possible."
Similarly, during the meeting with Stalin on November 14, 1941, when Kot emphasized the anxiety of the Poles regarding the missing officers, Stalin at first asked: "Are there still some Poles not released?" And stated: "Amnesty knows no exceptions. We released all, even those people who were sent to * * * destroy bridges and kill Soviet people, even those people were released by us."
It is worth noting that Stalin's categorical assertion was made several months after the Germans had overrun the Smolensk area; and still the Soviet leaders gave no indication that they even thought the Polish officers might have been captured by the Germans.
The diplomatic memoranda of the conversations between General Anders and Ambassador Kot with Molotov, Vishinsky, and Stalin are part of the committee's record. They reveal any number of fictitious Soviet reasons why the Polish officers had not been located. Never once did these high Soviet officials, nor did any other Communist official of a high or low echelon, indicate to any of the Poles that those Polish prisoners of war might have been captured by the Germans.
It has been established by the record that the Polish Government in London employed its underground in Poland to check German prisoner-of-war camps to discover if any of these Russian-captured Poles might have been recaptured by the Germans. These efforts, like the negotiations in Russia, ended in negative results.
It was not until the Germans announced the discovery of the Katyn graves on April 13, 1943, that the Soviets first claimed these Polish prisoners had been moved into the Smolensk area in the spring of 1940. This evidence proves that the Soviet Government either was lying to the Poles during 1941 and 1942, when the Kremlin leaders said that they did not know where the prisoners of war might be, or else the Soviets were lying in their 1943 and 1944 reports, when they claimed the Poles had been moved to the Smolensk area in the spring of 1940 and subsequently captured by the Germans in 1941.
ALL LETTERS RETURNED
The committee has testimony from a Special Family Bureau which had been established by the Polish Government in Gangi Gul, Russia, to try to trace the missing Polish officers.
Major General Kaczkowski and Capt. Eugene Lubomirski, Directors of this Family Bureau, testified in London that they personally had examined hundreds, virtually thousands of letters from relatives in Poland, inquiring about these missing officers. In every instance, they testified, each of the letters and postal cards had stated that the last time the families heard from the Polish officers was in April and May of 1940.
These witnesses further testified that they had personally examined hundreds of letters addressed by the families to the prisoners interned in these three camps subsequent to May 1940, all of those letters were returned by the Russian authorities with the inscription that the whereabouts of these Polish officers were unknown.
It is inconceivable that the highly developed bureaucracy of the Soviets would have permitted the NKVD to lose complete trace of so potent a force as these 15,000 Polish officers after they had left the three camps in the Spring of 1940. (See testimony starting on p. 628, pt. IV.)
All of the foregoing testimony which the committee has heard from Anders, Kot, and Czapski was reported to the American colonel, Henry I. Szymanski, when he was assistant United States military attaché at Cairo, Egypt. Szymanski testified that he was assigned in March of 1942 to be United States liaison officer with the Poles in Russia, but that he was never granted a visa to enter Russia.
Szymanski's specific assignment was to ascertain what had happened to the Polish officers in Russia, because the United States considered these Polish officers essential to the Allied war effort. Consequently, Szymanski met with all the high-ranking Polish officer survivors as they came out of Russia during the latter part of 1942 and 1943, and he reported all of the foregoing testimony to the Assistant Chief of Staff for G-2.
During the 22-month effort by the Poles to locate their missing officers, General Anders with his staff had carefully commenced preparing a list of names of those who were interned in the three camps. This list was prepared on the basis of information supplied General Anders by the 400 survivors who were grouped at Griazovec.
During his conference with Stalin in December, General Sikorski personally handed the Russian premier a list bearing more than 3,000 names and again Sikorski was assured that it was Stalin's understanding all of these men had been released.
Testimony heard by this committee proves conclusively that not once during all of these top-level conversations had the Russians either stated or hinted that these missing men might have fallen into German hands.
The committee believes if the Soviets were innocent, there was no reason why they should not have admitted to the Poles that their officers had fallen into German hands. But if they were guilty, they had a cogent reason for not telling such a story. So long as the Soviets insisted they didn't know the whereabouts of the Polish officers, nobody could prove they were dead.
V. DISCOVERY OF GRAVES AT KATYN
The Polish Government's search for the missing officers came to an abrupt end on April 13, 1943, when the following Berlin broadcast by the Germans shocked the world:
"From Smolensk comes news that the native population has revealed to German authorities the spot where in secret mass executions the Bolsheviks murdered 10,000 Polish officers. German authorities made a horrible discovery. They found a pit 28 meters long and 16 meters wide in which, 12 deep, lay, the bodies of 3,000 Polish officers. In full uniform, in some cases shackled, all had wounds from pistol bullets in the back of the neck. Search and discovery of other pits continue."
This German announcement was followed by an intense campaign of Nazi propaganda aimed at the political exploitation of the discovery.
German Foreign Office documents which were captured by the Allies and turned over to the United States and Britain for joint custody were traced by the committee in England. These documents which are included in part V of the public hearings clearly show that Goebbels and other top Nazi officials had given instructions to exploit the propaganda value of this discovery to its fullest.
These documents also show the desperate efforts made by the Nazis to persuade the International Committee of the Red Cross to make an impartial investigation of the shocking discovery.
Hitler himself is quoted as having instructed his Foreign Office to use every means to get an investigation by the International Red Cross. One of the documents states:
"In following up the invitation issued by the German Red Cross to Geneva, that the International Red Cross should take part in the identification of the Russian atrocities against Polish officers, the F?hrer tonight ordered an actual invitation to be dispatched to Geneva by the German Red Cross. This extra invitation is to be signed by the Duke of Coburg so that the weight of his international name should be used."
The German claim was: The presence of these graves was called to the attention of the Nazis by Russian natives of the area; there was no question that these were Polish officers and that they were executed in the spring of 1940 by the Soviets. The Germans drew this immediate conclusion from an investigation of letters, diaries, and newspapers found on the bodies of the victims and from statements made by Russian natives in the area.
NEXT: Part 4 of the US Congress hearings on Katyn Wood Massacre of POWs.
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