Picture of the mass grave with the bodies that were recovered lined up. Source: Krasil’Nikov, Iu.: Katyn. 1999.
The Katyn Forest Massacre was announced to the public via German radio in April of 1943. I discovered this piece of history on the seventeen moments blog when looking through the World War 2 time period. A mass grave was discovered near the Katyn forest, near where the Soviet security forces allegedly carried out executions of thousands of Polish officers.
Although the Russian’s denied that they had anything to do with the mass grave exposed by the German’s, there was a letter between the Commissariat for International Affairs and Stalin in March of 1940 that say that many former Polish officers, policeman, intelligence personnel, and others were being held as prisoners of war in Ukraine and Belarus. The Commissariat said that many, if not all, were part counter-revolutionary movements and anti-nationalist movements. The letter then goes on to tell the officers holding the Polish as Prisoners of war to try them, then, if found guilty, shoot them.
This correspondence is stated on the Seventeen moments blog as the order for the Katyn Forest Massacre, but still the Russians denied they were responsible for the ordeal. In fact, neither Germany nor the USSR were reprimanded for the massacre at the Nuremberg trials. There was never enough conclusive evidence, supposedly, found to convict either of the countries.
I found this really awesome piece on the CIA website that talks about the political struggle in the US over the issue of the Katyn Massacre, who to blame, and how this affected the politics during the time period. FDR even organized someone to research the massacre, but refused to accept the researchers conclusion because he wanted to believe, and was completely convinced, that Nazi Germany was to blame.
While it doesn’t say who exactly was responsible, it points to new evidence that proves that the Soviet’s did in fact massacre the Polish people. This is also seen in the NKVD letter to Stalin. The issue of who to blame for this massacre continued into the Cold War period.
It is just interesting that although the USSR is supposed to be on the allied side, it is obvious they had their own wartime agenda that the US and other allies completely overlooked. They needed the help to win the war against the Nazis, but they sacrificed calling the Soviet’s out on their wartime atrocities for the sake of beating the Nazis. I had never heard of the Katyn Massacre until discovering it on the Seventeen Moments archive, and did not realize that it caused such a political upturn in the US.
This post was featured on comrades corner