Friday, April 19, 2024

Katyn Massacre Revisited: Declassified archival evidence disputes the “Soviets did it” narrative

A fabrication of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Dr Joseph Goebbels, the “Soviets did it” version of the Katyn Massacre remains for decades a major weapon in the arsenal of anti-communist, anti-soviet propaganda throughout the world. 

Almost two months after the resounding defeat of the Nazis in Stalingrad, on 13 April 1943, a mass grave of Polish POWs was found in the Katyn Forrest, a few miles away from Smolensk. Under the guidance of Goebbels, the blame was cast against the Soviet leadership and this falsehood was eagerly adopted by the imperialists and bourgeois historiography in Europe and the United States. 

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the counterrevolutionary leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin fabricated evidence in order to support this lie, despite that the case was dismissed during a trial at the Constitutional Court of Russia in 1992. In April 2010, President Vladimir Putin publicly accepted “Soviet responsibility for Katyn” and, alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk he attended a joint ceremony to “honor the victims”.

Since then, extended research by scholars in Russia, Europe and the United States (e.g. Prof. Grover Furr), have provided documented evidence which expose the fabrication, showing that the Katyn Massacre was in fact carried out by the Nazis and not the Soviets.

After three decades of adoption and acceptance of the anti-Soviet propaganda on Katyn, Russia's bourgeois authorities decided to re-examine the Katyn Massacre case.  An obvious question that arises is "why now?" and "why so late"?

Recently, the state-owned TASS news agency reported that the Smolensk Region's office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) declassified several archival documents exposing crimes committed by the Nazis in the Smolensk Region during the Second World War, including evidence concerning the execution of Poles and Nazi Germany's falsification of the Katyn case. 

Read some of the reports by TASS:

FSB declassifies archival evidence on Nazi executions of Poles, Katyn case

MOSCOW, April 11. /TASS/. The Smolensk Region’s office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has declassified archival documents exposing crimes committed by the Nazis in the Smolensk Region during the Great Patriotic War, including evidence concerning the execution of Poles and Nazi Germany’s falsification of the Katyn case.

A TASS correspondent has seen copies of the documents, handed over to the State Archive of Contemporary History of the Smolensk Region under the project No Statute of Limitations.

The archive includes memos, intelligence data and special reports by the military counter-intelligence service Smersh (Death to Spies) dated 1944-1945. There are many accounts of interrogations of Poles who served with the Germans in the Smolensk Region, forensic expert of the Budapest City Royal Court, Imre Szecsody, a member of the commission for investigating the murder of Polish officers in the Katyn forest Boleslav Smektal and other key figures involved. 

Polish-born Eduard Potkanski, who served in a Polish labor battalion formed by the Nazis in a camp at the Krasny Bor station in the Smolensk Region, testified that in the summer of 1943 the Germans decided to take the battalion’s members to the graves of Polish officers in the Katyn forest.

"According to the Germans, those graves contained up to 12,000 shot Polish officers. Up to 3,000 others were buried elsewhere, and these graves had not yet been exhumed yet," Potkanski recalled.

Near the graves, he said, there lay personal belongings, Polish money, personal letters and identification papers of the shot officers. "All these things and especially personal documents and money were in a condition they would not have retained, had they remained in the soil since 1939 (when, according to Nazi claims, NKVD officers shot Polish officers - TASS). The banknotes, for example, were in mint condition, as if they had not been in use," the Polish witness testified.

Prisoner of war Roman Kowalski, who also served in a labor battalion and saw the mass grave in the Katyn forest, added in his testimony that "one look at most of the bodies was enough to see that they were very recent victims."

"In the published lists of Polish officers shot at Katyn, many people in our labor battalion saw the names of their acquaintances who had been arrested even earlier by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps in Germany," he said. Both Poles stated that they knew at least seven cases of people shot by the Nazis in Smolensk for saying that the Soviet Union was not involved in the murder of Polish soldiers and officers.

Under SS supervision

Smektal told Smersh that before the war he had worked as a clerk for the field court of the 14th Polish Division and then became an administrator of Russian workers at Germany’s Focke-Wulf factory. In April 1943, he was appointed a delegate to a commission to investigate the mass murder of Polish soldiers and officers.

"One of the heads of the Poznan SD (security service of the SS - TASS), Sturmbannfuehrer Hoepner, held a special instructional briefing to warn each member that their trip to Katyn pursued propaganda purposes and that upon their return they should declare that they had personally seen 12,000 corpses of Polish officers. After their return the SD obliged the commission’s members to make propaganda reports on the trip to Katyn at meetings with Polish workers. The SD pre-edited the contents of what was to be said at such meetings," the archival documents say.

Smektal recalled that in Katyn the Germans showed the commission two Russian citizens, describing them as "witnesses" of the murder of Polish officers. "It was clear to me as a former court officer from the behavior of these 'witnesses' that they had been coached by the SD in advance," Smektal said. He also noted that the corpses shown to the commission did not look the way they would have looked after staying in the ground for several years: "The clothes showed no signs of decay. The corpse of Polish military commander, Brigadier General Bronislaw Bohatyrewicz retained the lower part of the face with a mustache and beard."

Nazi Germany’s Gestapo officers accompanied Katyn commission

MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. Officers of the Nazi Germany's state secret police (Gestapo) accompanied the members of an international commission to investigate the mass killing of Polish soldiers and officers in the Katyn forest, as follows from testimonies by a laboratory technician, the German Army’s Senior Ensign Ludwig Schneider, contained in the declassified FSB archive materials, seen by TASS.

The documents declassified by the Federal Security Service (FSB) office in the Smolensk Region were handed over to the State Archive of Contemporary History of the Smolensk Region under the project No Statute of Limitations. The archive contains reference notes, memos, intelligence and special reports of the military counter-intelligence service Smersh (Death to Spies) dated 1944-1945.

"SS Obersturmfuehrer Hilbers and a lieutenant from the city commandant's office, whose last name I did not know, showed up at the laboratory. Both of them talked for a long time with [the subsequently appointed chief of the group of experts, Prof. Gerhard] Butz at his office behind closed doors. <...> Hilbers was a member of the Gestapo's central Ost department. In fact, he became the head of our laboratory's work on the ‘Katyn case’ and it was easy to notice that Professor Butz obeyed him unconditionally in everything," Schneider, who worked in that commission, testified.

He stated that it was Hilbers who first told Butz and his men that in the Katyn forest a large number of bodies had been found. Allegedly, the Bolsheviks had shot Polish officers there, and "the upcoming investigation is very important for Germany, and for that reason, as Hilbers said, the laboratory staff must be very attentive, instantly and clearly follow all orders without asking questions and do not make any experiments on their own, as the slightest inaccuracy or error can cause irreparable harm."

After the arrival of the international group of selected experts, they, according to Schneider's recollections, met at a banquet, where Hilbers, wearing civilian clothes was present himself. Gestapo officers accompanied the commission on all their trips to the Katyn forest. " During the autopsy of the corpses a large number of German officers and officials were present, and they were giving ‘explanations’ to the commission’s members, repeating all the time that they had in their hands irrefutable evidence that the Poles had been shot by the Russians. In all, a little over 200 corpses were examined by the commission," as follows from the declassified testimony.