Monday, March 07, 2005

Katyn - II

A reader writes:

Dear David,

re: Dragons and Democracy VIII

I would like add to those 6 points you cited, one more: - the attack on Finland at the end of Nov. 1939 and the so called Russo-Finnish Winter War that ensued after this attack by the Soviets.

Allow me to clarify the issue of the number of killed POWs in the Katyn massacre - it's true that in the Katyn Forest that number is around 4,400, because we are dealing here with POWs who were moved to the execution site in the Forest from this one particular camp in Kozyelsk. There were other camps and according to the materials and documents we may conclude that the number of murdered in "other Katyns" is 21,857 or even higher (25,700) if one reads the 144 of the Politburo signed on the 5th of March - exactly 65 years ago.

Let me also add, that the Red Army took at least 200,000 Polish POWs in Sep. 1939. Some 40,000 of them were handed to the German side, 25,000 were forced to work in the coal mines in the Donbas region, the rest were let go, but then in 1940, when en-masse deportations from the territory of Eastern Poland and the Baltics begun, it could be assumed that a majority of them were send to GULAG camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. It's been estimated that between 0,5 to 1 million Poles were deported in that year.

In the 1990s the documentation on the Katyn crime could be collected and the three main crime sites were established. Some 4,400 inmates of the Kozyelsk POW camp were murdered and buried in Katyn; the 4,000 prisoners of the Starobyelsk camp were murdered at the NKVD headquarters in Kharkov and then buried in the nearby forest of Piatikhatki.

An estimated 7,000 prisoners of the Ostashkov camp were murdered at the NKVD premises in Tver and buried in collective graves in Mednoye. The fate of another several thousand victims of this crime is still unknown.

Those murdered at Katyn and other places included an admiral, 11 generals, 300 colonels and lieutenant colonels, 500 majors, 2500 infantry and cavalry captains, 17 naval captains, 5,000 lieutenants and second-lieutenants, 6,000 NCOs, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 43 officials. Also among the dead were 20 university professors; 300 physicians; several hundred lawyers, engineers, and teachers; and more than 100 writers and journalists as well as about 200 pilots. It was their social status that landed them in front of NKVD execution squads. Most of the victims were reservists who had been mobilized when Germany invaded. In all, the NKVD eliminated almost half the Polish officer corps--part of Stalin's long-range effort to prevent the resurgence of an independent Poland.

The first time from the Russian side, that the NKVD on Stalin's order committed the crime, we heard it in the TASS communique on 13th of April of 1990. At a Kremlin ceremony on 13 October 1990, Gorbachev handed to general Jaruzelski a folder of documents that left no doubt about Soviet guilt. He did not, however, make a full and complete disclosure. Missing from the folder was the March 1940 NKVD execution order. Gorbachev laid all blame on Stalin's secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, and his deputy. (This was a safe move, because Beria and his deputy had been branded criminals and summarily shot by Stalin's successors.) Gorbachev also failed to mention that the actual number of victims was 21,857--more than the usually cited figure of 15,000. By shaving the truth, Gorbachev had shielded the Soviet Government and the Communist Party, making Katyn look like a rogue secret police action rather than an official act of mass murder.

The new evidence put additional pressure on the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation to reveal the full truth. In 1992, Moscow suddenly "discovered" the original 1940 execution order signed by Stalin and five other Politburo members (Kaganovich, Kalinin, Mikoyan, Molotov, Voroshilov) -- in Gorbachev's private archive. Gorbachev almost certainly had read it in 1989, if not earlier. In October 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin presented a copy of the order along with 41 other documents to the new Polish president, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa. In doing so, he made a point of chiding his arch enemy Gorbachev, with whom he was locked in a bitter domestic political battle.

Also Rudolf Pikhoya, the director of the Russian State Archives - delivered to president Walesa the materials regarding the Katyn crime,specifically the decision about the killing the Polish POW's, signed by the members of the Politburo of Central Committee of the Soviet Union and information about the destruction of 21,857 files of Polish POW's in 1959.

During Yeltsin's 1993 visit to Warsaw, in a joint statement with Walesa, Russia's president pledged to punish those still alive who had taken part in the massacre and make reparations--a promise that has not been kept.

At the Polish Military Cemetary in Katyn now, there is the Memorial Wall with 4,412 (I presume, these are only those who were exhumed and identified by the Germans and the Red Cross) iron plates with engraved names of those murdered.

All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). CENTRAL COMMITTEE

No. P13/144
Com. Beria
March 5, 1940

Excerpt from the minutes No. 13 of the Politburo of the Central Committee meeting

Resolution 144 - March 5, 1940 regarding the matter submitted by the NKVD USSR

I. To instruct the NKVD USSR that:

1) the cases of 14 700 people remaining in the prisoner-of-war camps - former Polish Army officers, government officials, landowners, policemen, intelligence agents, military policemen, settlers and prison guards
2) and also the cases of arrested and remaining in prisons in the western districts of Ukraine and Byelorussia people in the number of 11 000 - members of various counter-revolutionary spy and sabotage organizations, former landowners, factory owners, former Polish Army officers, government officials and fugitives - be considered in a special manner with the obligatory sentence of capital punishment - execution by firing squad.

II. The consideration of the cases to be carried out without the convicts being summoned and without revealing the charges; with no statements concerning the conclusion of the investigation and the bills of indictment given to them. To be carried out in the following manner:

a) people remaining in the prisoner-of-war camps - on the basis of information provided by the Directorate of Prisoner-of-War Affairs NKVD USSR,
b) people arrested - on the basis of case information provided by the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR and NKVD of the Byelorussian SSR.

III. The responsibility for consideration of the cases and passing of the resolution to be laid on three comrades: Merkulov, Kobulov and Bashtakov (Head, 1st Special Division of the NKVD USSR).

The Secretary of the Central Committee

No comments: