US Congress Hearings on Katyn War Crime
VII. OTHER WITNESSES
This committee heard several witnesses whose testimony will be grouped under a special heading.
Among these was a Pole who testified as an eyewitness to the massacre. His identity had to be concealed with a mask to prevent reprisals against his relatives still living in Poland. However, all the committee members are familiar with his identity.
Testifying as "John Doe" at the committee's second hearing in Washington, this witness maintained that he and two of his compatriots personally viewed the execution of 200 Poles by Russian soldiers in what he believed to be the Katyn Forest. These observations were made by the witness and his friends at the beginning of November after the trio escaped from a Russian prisoner-of-war camp at Pavilschchev Bor. (See p. 143 of pt. II.)
After relating how the trio observed the Poles being led into the forest, the witness continued:
"Two of them [Russian soldiers] seized their hands and held them in back and one of the Russian soldiers lifted his chin up [the victim's] took him by the head, opened his mouth and shoved a handful of sawdust into his mouth."
"John Doe" said most of the victims were executed with a shot through the back of their heads. Some, however, according to his testimony, were thrown into the graves alive and left to suffocate.
"John Doe" further stated he saw the Poles' hands being bound in the back with wire prior to the execution.
This witness introduced new factors hitherto unknown to the committee: he said the executions he witnessed were in the early part of November; he said the victims' hands were bound with wire; he said their mouths were stuffed with sawdust; and he said some of the victims were left to suffocate rather than shot in the head.
These observations, up to the time that John Doe testified, had never been published in any of the material prepared by the Polish Government during its lengthy research on the Katyn massacre. Subsequently, however, they were substantiated by witnesses appearing before this committee.
Colonel Grobicki, testifying in Washington, said groups of Polish officers were evacuated from Kozielsk as early as November. In London, Mr. Rowinski, an observer at the graves taken there as a German prisoner of war in 1943, testified he observed several victims with their mouths stuffed with sawdust. In Frankfurt, Dr. Tramsen, a member of the German International Medical Commission, testified several victims had their hands bound with wire. During the same hearing, Dr. Naville, of Switzerland, and also on the same Commission, said he believed some of the victims died of suffocation instead of gunshot wounds. Several German witnesses likewise observed the victims' mouths stuffed with sawdust and hands tied with wire.
This committee heard testimony of many witnesses whose revelations were of a circumstantial nature.
But in order to get the atmosphere surrounding all the facts of the Katyn massacre, their testimony was accepted and placed in the record.
Among these was Jerzy Lewszecki who testified in London. He said he was a German prisoner of war interned at the prison camp near Lubeck. In 1943 he had occasion to discuss the Katyn massacre with Stalin's oldest son by a prior marriage who likewise was a German prisoner of war interned in the same camp.
Lewszecki said he discussed the disappearance of the Polish officers with Stalin's son, who frankly admitted that the Poles were executed by the Soviets. "Why those were the intelligentsia, the most dangerous elements to us, and they had to be eliminated," Lewszecki quoted Stalin's son as saying. (See p. 777, pt. IV.)
During our latest hearing here in Washington, this committee heard testimony from Boris Olshansky of New York, a former Soviet army officer who escaped to this country in 1946. Olshansky related conversations he had in Moscow with N. N. Burdenko, director of the Special Soviet Commission which made an investigation for the Russians in January 1944. Burdenko supervised the exhumation of 925 bodies for the Soviet investigation and in the official report stated all of the Poles were executed in the autumn of 1941.
Olshansky testified Burdenko told him the Soviet report was false. He quoted Burdenko as saying:
"I was appointed by Stalin personally to go to the Katyn place. All the corpses were 4 years old. For me, as a medical man, this problem was quite clear. Our NKVD friends made a mistake."
Olshansky further stated he was told by Burdenko that there are more Katyns in Russia.
"Katyns existed and are existing and will be existing," Olshansky quoted Burdenko as stating in Moscow in April of 1946. "Anyone who will go and dig up things in our country, Russia, would find a lot of things that we had to straighten out the protocol given by the Germans on the Katyn massacre," the aging Burdenko further told Olshansky.
VIII. TESTIMONY OF INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL COMMISSION
The Germans formed an International Medical Commission, composed of the leading scientists, pathologists, and professors of criminology from 12 different countries of Europe. The committee heard testimony from 5 of these doctors who participated in the exhumation of the bodies. They were provided with the necessary instruments to perform their own individual autopsies. The five doctors are:
Dr. Edward Lucas Miloslavich (Croatia). (Part III of the published hearings.)
Dr. Helge Tramsen (Denmark). (Part V of the published hearings.)
Dr. Ferenc Orsos (Hungary). (Part V of the published hearings.)
Dr. Francois Naville (Switzerland). (Part V of the published hearings.)
Dr. Vincenzo Mario Palmieri (Italy). (Part V of the published hearings.)
All of the above-named doctors categorically and unequivocally stated to the committee that they had complete freedom of action in performing whatever scientific investigation they desired. Also, that they had complete freedom to interrogate any individual they considered appropriate.
Their unanimous conclusion was that the Poles were murdered at least 3 years ago-thus placing the time of death as the spring of 1940 when the Katyn area was under Soviet control.
Dr. Tramsen presented as an exhibit for the committee the original protocol signed by the 12 doctors in their own handwriting. He also presented a photograph of the 12 doctors signing the protocol to prove that there was no duress.
Dr. Orsos, Dr. Naville, and Dr. Tramsen definitely identified this protocol and stated that they had signed it and that they were of the same opinion today as they were when they signed this protocol on April 30, 1943.
Dr. Miloslavich gave the following testimony to the committee relative to the condition of the bodies as they were found in the mass graves:
"One body was placed on top of the other one, with their faces down. They were close together, nothing between them. All the bodies were dressed in Polish officers' uniforms, the clothing being winter clothing, underwear, and the uniforms; and coats on some. The heads were downward. One body like this, the next one like this, and the next one like this [indicating]. This was the width of the grave. Then 12 layers down, and then multiply by the length. I don't remember how many we found in the length. Anyway, at that time when I was examining and making my own estimations I didn't follow anybody, and no one tried to give me any advice because I knew what to do. I estimated approximately 2,870, something like that, a little less than 3,000 officers.
They were packed completely together by decaying fluids of the human body, the decomposing fluids, with started to penetrate, to imbibe, to infiltrate every dead body in there. That was a solid mass in which you just saw skulls you could recognize and that they were human beings.
"Then I went into the graves and studied which ones of them would give me the best information, what the dead body could tell us. With the help of two Russian peasants I picked a body, and slowly and gradually-it took them close to an hour-they removed the body and brought it out. I examined it very carefully to find out two main points. First, what was the cause of death? Second, how long a time was this individual buried? Third, who he was?
"In examining the body I found a gunshot wound at the boundary between the back of the neck and the head. The Germans gave the expression `nacken schuss.' That is the precise description of the shot which was fired. The majority of them had just one shot, because it entered in here [pointing with finger] and came out here at the root of the nose, which means the head was bent downward. It was administered with such precision that the medulla was completely destroyed. (See pt. III of the published hearings.)"
Both Tramsen and Naville presented to the committee numerous papers, military buttons, officers' insignia, and, in the case of Dr. Naville, a cigarette holder, which they had taken from the Polish bodies in Katyn at the time of their own individual autopsies. Both of these doctors had preserved this material since the day they left Katyn and voluntarily offered these items to the committee. (All of this material has been made part of the permanent record and may be found as exhibits in part V of the published hearings.)
Dr. Palmieri testified as follows:
"In the bodies, at least in many of the bodies, Professor Orsos observed the presence of growths (corns)-in the inside of the cranium, pseudo growths in the internal part of the skull, which are due to manifestations of reduction of the mineralization of the brain-of the cerebral tissues and of the other substances contained in the skull."
Dr. Palmieri stated when interrogated by the committee as follows:
"Question. What conclusion did you arrive at?
"Dr. PALMIERI. I came to the conclusion especially similar to Orsos' theory on the formation of cerebral growth.
"Question. Was Dr. Orsos' conclusion that the deaths occurred not later than April or May 1940?
"Dr. PALMIERI. Yes.
"Question. Do you agree?
"Dr. PALMIERI. Yes, based on the researches that Dr. Orsos had made (see part V of the published hearings)."
The five doctors heard by this committee stated emphatically that many of their observations were made independently and outside the presence or possible influence of German authorities who were supervising the exhumations.
Before the committee held its hearings in Europe, word was received that Drs. Markov and Hajek, who are today in countries behind the iron curtain, were giving radio talks implying that they were not in full agreement with the German International Medical Commission's protocol which they had signed on April 30, 1943.
In the published hearings of this committee-particularly parts III and V-there is contained the testimony of five international doctors. Categorical statements are made by all five doctors who testified before this committee that all members of the International Medical Commission signed the protocol of their own free will and without duress. The five doctors specifically stated that both Drs. Markov and Hajek had made no objections and were in full agreement with the protocol when they signed it.
NEXT: Part 6 of the US Congress hearings on Katyn Wood Massacre of POWs.
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