Katyń Revisited – Part III

Dear Readers:

Today concluding my translation/summary of this piece by Dmitry Bavyrin.  Where we left off:  The Soviet government suddenly found itself the proud owner of half a million Polacks, and didn’t know what to do with them.  As we saw, the vast majority of these unfortunate Poles (up to 96%) survived.  But what about the 20,000 or so that the Soviet government considered to be dangerous and unredeemable?  According to Bavyrin (and, well just about every other historian on the planet, other than Grover Furr), they decided to shoot them.

Execution of this bloody deed was assigned to Stalin’s henchperson, Lavrenty Beria; along with Beria’s #1, Vsevolod Merkulov, whose biography we examined yesterday.  Knowing that international public opinion would not approve (as these POW’s were all Polish citizens, not Soviet citizens), the perps needed to be crafty in the commission of their crime.  Hence, they decided to frame the Nazis!  The actual shooters used German bullets, as they carried out the shootings, not just the ones in the Katyń forest, but also in the NKVD camps.

Beria: “Let’s organize a Division of pshekis!”

A year went by, the fragile “peace” with Germany was coming to an end, and war was on the horizon.  The very same Beria was now proposing to organize Polish auxiliary units within the Red Army; this would consist of Polish soldiers, and they would be goaded into liberating Poland from the Nazis, in the event of a German invasion of the Soviet Union.  Beria and Merkulov visited a bunch of Polish officers who were still being kept in a camp near Moscow.  It wasn’t hard to convince them to sign on to the plan.  But then the thorny issue started to poke its head out:  Where were all the other Polish officers?  What happened to them?  People started asking about all these specialists, it would be really good to recruit them… Ulp!  In a private conversation, confirmed by multiple witnesses, Merkulov confessed:  “Ooops, I think we made a mistake back there…”  No shit…

When asked to explain, with his back against the wall, Merkulov tried to wiggle his way out of it, claiming that the Polish officers that he had in mind, had been turned over the Nazis.  [And, in fact, this was the case with a couple of thousand Poles, at least.]  The Germans denied having them.  And the relatives of these Poles were actively trying to locate them.  And suddenly started noticing, that nobody had heard from them (they used to get letters) since the spring of 1940.  This despite the fact, that the Soviet government was always pretty good about letting prisoners send letters.

The Invasion

And then, the catastrophe:  The Nazi invasion of the USSR.  One of the side effects was that the Soviet Union recognized the Polish Government in Exile, in London.  This recognition only served to increase the flurry of questions regarding the missing Poles.  The government in exile demanded the return of all their citizens, and an accounting for all the missing and dead.

In response, the Soviet government started to get very crafty and deny the obvious, and even make up stories.  Because Stalin had to deal, not only with an ineffectual Polish-exile government, but, more importantly, with its main protector, London!  At a meeting of one of the delegations in the Kremlin, when asked by the Brits where the Polish officers were, Stalin looked these guys straight in the eye, and told them they had run off to Manchuria!

Goebbels Has A Field Day

Nazi propaganda makes hay out of Beria’s big “mistake”.

In 1942, ordinary residents of the Smolensk area, now occupied by the Germans, discovered the corpses of around 5,000 Polish officers buried in the Katyń forest. The residents reported this to the local authorities, i.e., the Nazis.  This was like a precious gift to Nazi propaganda mastermind Goebbels.  Who saw a way to split up the always-shaky alliance between the Soviet government and the Polish government-in-exile.

The Nazis didn’t care a fig about dead Poles — they were busy killing so many themselves — until around the time of the Stalingrad battle.  Hitler was so worried at this point that he decided to resort to High Politics and Misdemeanors.  He charged his people to incite a quarrel between the USSR and its allies.

To this end, the Nazi administration of the Smolensk area went all out collecting specialists and forensic scientists and so on, to conduct an elaborate investigation of the Katyń corpses.  The Nazis were so confident that they became unusually (for Nazis) transparent, inviting anybody with a camera to come and photograph the crime scene.

The criminal case was conducted under the leadership of Goebbels himself.  Goebbels directed his propaganda towards two goals:  (1) to cause a quarrel between the Allies; and (2) to show the world what would happen to people if the Bolsheviks won the war.

Bavyrin:  “Goebbelsian propaganda” is usually a synonym for “lying”, but in this case it was actually the truth.  Propaganda is simply a method that seeks a certain result.  It can use lies, when needed; but it works better when it uses the truth.  In this sense, the Katyń shootings were a perfect use of propaganda on behalf of the Third Reich.

The Cover-Up

And, in conclusion, it wasn’t just the Soviet Union which tried to cover up this huge “mistake”, Stalin also had some help from Churchill, and even the United States.

Jan Karski: Was called a Polish swine by the Brits.

During the last year of the war, it was no secret to anybody, what had actually happened in Katyń, nor who dunnit.  However, there wasn’t much will to really pursue the matter.  The Polish government-in-exile was bankrupt, and the Anglo-Saxons relied heavily on the Soviet Union, which was doing most of the heavy lifting in the war against Hitler.  As a result, Cynicism was the rule of the day.  Polish diplomat Jan Karski complained bitterly about British dismissal of his pretensions; and at times the Brits even started sounding like Soviet apologists, as in:  “Mr Karski, the Red Army are busy saving humanity, and you’re whining and criticizing Stalin!  How dare you, you Polish swine!”  [yalensis:  I have to assume that Karski is exagerrating, no?]  Karski was horrified and disappointed that the Brits were pretending to adopt the Stalin line that the Nazis did Katyń. Most of all, they didn’t want him rocking the boat at that delicate time.

When the war ended, the Soviet Union continued the cynical cover-up, and even brought the Katyń matter up in the Nuremberg Trials, as one of the charges against the Nazis.  But the Nuremberg Tribunal saw through this B.S. and even acquitted the Nazis of this particular crime, when the Nazi attorneys mounted a vigorous defense.  Not long before this, Nuremberg Deputy Soviet Prosecutor Nikolai Zorya decided that he didn’t want to go through with this farce.  He was too honorable for that.  He requested an audience back in Moscow to plead his case that the Katyń matter did not have the required “evidentiary” basis to prosecute in Nuremberg.  Before he was able to get to Moscow, Zorya was found dead in his hotel room.  Suspicious death!  Somebody probably decided to shut him up.

Zorya: Died suspicious death.

On the other hand, what else could Stalin do at this point?  The Soviet Union was trapped in its own lie, and there was no way out.  To admit the truth would be to place in jeopardy the entire post-war Security system.  Not to mention threaten the vital post-war alliance between the Soviet Union and Poland, the very foundation of the Warsaw Pact and security system.  The very rock upon which stood the post-war security and safety of the USSR and all its millions of citizens.

[yalensis:  Well, if it was me, and I was the Soviet leader, and I knew it was a lie, I’d go ahead and tell the truth, with explanations, of course…  I don’t see why this would have to shake the international security system, what’s a few thousand dead soldiers, in the scheme of things, and given all the other untold millions of dead?  And, realistically, what could Poland do about it anyhow, at that time?]

And it has to be noted that, in the immediate postwar years, even the United States and Great Britain decided to keep their mouths shut about this case, not wishing to rock the post-war boat too much.  Bavyrin posits that the world leaders made a deal personally with Stalin, probably at one of their summits, to just let him have this one lie.  For the sake of world peace.  And, let’s face it, those other world leaders were sociopaths too.

Bavyrin concludes his piece with this paragraph:
In conclusion:  Even if one is able to close one’s eyes on the issue of morality, the Katyń shooting turned out to be a mistake.  A mistake that one cannot justify even on the grounds of RealPolitik.  Barely months passed before the NKVD troops were fighting shoulder to shoulder alongside that very same “reactionary Polish element” from which they felt they needed to excise themselves, not all that long ago, in the NKVD camps.  Not only that, but the Soviet government was forced to spend enormous amounts of energy trying to cover up this crime; and yet the Truth still came out eventually, striking a huge blow at the USSR’s reputation; and to this very day continues to poison our relations with Poland.

[THE END]

This entry was posted in Russian History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Katyń Revisited – Part III

  1. FatMax says:

    “Polacks”, “highly shootable”. Love those terms.
    “and to this very day continues to poison our relations with Poland.”
    Don’t bother. They were poisoned since the Great Schism. Poland is also stuck with its head deep in its ass, since it cannot possibly let go of its failed empire.
    Whatever Russia does will be judged negatively by the Polish nationalists, since their ultimate goal is destruction of Russia and subjugation of Eastern Europe.
    We had similar problems with Italy, until we got rid of Italian minority, which supported Risorgimento and Italian fascists.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      The neutral (normal) Russian word for “Pole” is actually “Polak”, so I was just having a bit of fun with that. Since, in American English “Polack” is humorously derogatory.
      I shouldn’t be derogatory, though, one of my best friends is from Poland! (really)

      Although I agree with you, the Polish Nationalists are really a curse to the human race.
      Interesting, though (have you been reading?) that Lech Wałęsa, of all people, has recently become more pro-Russian? Or at the least he is warning his fellow countrymen not to be so stupidly anti-Russian that they give away the whole ranch to NATO. He should have thought of that sooner….

      Like

  2. moon says:

    yalensis: Well, if it was me, …

    Not sure, if the Soviet’s weren’t caught in a fix already then. Remember, Crimes against humanity may not have existed at that point in time. But surely international law and the laws of war must have. No?

    Otherwise great finale. Yes, true stories like that of Nikolai Zorya always draw my attention too. What would his story and end look like in let’s say a British, American, Russian Polish fictive rending. … As always assuming profound historical research, at least to the extend possible.

    Random link;
    https://bz.maatya.org/41587-nikolay-zorya-when-will-the-gloss-be-removed-from-th.html

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      If this were a crime-fiction book, then I would have to ask the question, because this has been tormenting me: Why on Earth would the NKVD use German bullets to shoot Polish officers in the Smolensk area one year before the German invasion? It just doesn’t make any sense logically! To frame the Germans? How could they possibly see into the future and know that Germany would be occupying that area one year from now?

      [In that regard, stay tuned for a new piece I plan to post maybe next week, about how the Soviet army truly truly was unprepared and not expecting a German invasion at that time.]

      No, I still think I am a Katyń denier, albeit not a total Furrie. Here is what I think: that Beria/Merkulov did execute a couple of thousand Polish officers, but not in Katyń. Those guys were way out East, in a camp near Manchura. (Hence, Stalin’s cynical joke about “Seek them in Manchuria.”) This also explains why these guys suddenly stopped writing letters home in the spring of 1940. But Katyń itself? That had to have been the Nazis, read again Furr’s description of the Polish Constable’s badge found at a certain site. Where the badge was, there too the skeleton must be lying in the earth. And it was in an area occupied by the Nazis. That’s my theory. (I’m not a professional historian, though, nor a forensics scientist, so don’t listen to me.)

      Like

      • moon says:

        Why on Earth would the NKVD use German bullets to shoot Polish officers in the Smolensk area one year before the German invasion?

        The answer may be or may not be research. …- I watched the documentary the way the average viewer watches it. But concerning bullets, to the extent I recall, the argument was the Russian/Soviet security services used German bullets and weapons before. …

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          That makes sense, if that was their practice to use German weapons and bullets on a routine basis.
          Another argument, though: If the NKVD had slated some of these officers for execution (which nobody disputes), why not just execute them out in the camps and bury their bodies in Siberia?
          If I am not mistaken, one of the Denier hypotheses is that this particular cohort of Polish officers was alwasy being held in the Smolensk area as POWs. When the Germans swarmed in, in 1941, the NKVD prison guards had to flee very quickly, leaving their charges behind. To the tender mercy of the Nazis, who saw an opportunity for a twofer.

          Problem is: every theory makes sense, only trained professional historians can sort it out, using facts and pure logic; unfortunately, the Westie ones can’t be trusted, due to their ideological allegiances.

          Like

  3. moon says:

    You may be interested in this documentary by Cedric Tourbe. French and German version plus subtitled version of the orignal in other languages. See top right. Link with English subtitles, although it feels you understand French:
    https://www.arte.tv/en/videos/087406-000-A/stalin-and-the-katyn-massacre/
    Tourbe doesn’t mention Nikolai Zorya. I lived in London when the monument was erected there.

    I can understand people wondered about Zorya’s dead. Reminds me of Fritz Bauer:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Bauer

    Like

  4. FatMax says:

    Wow. And this guy had to work within West German “justice” system, which was crawling with unrepentant Nazis.
    Impressive.

    Like

    • moon says:

      I couldn’t have put it better.
      Although concerning your earlier comparison of facial features triggered a series of a not so nice memory trail. in a nutshell: you feel that Merkel’s father’s “racial” origins can tell us all we need to know? Merkel’s grandpa was born in Berlin, that’s not enough for you?

      Like

      • FatMax says:

        Well, Pavlo Svolochenko made that comparison, not me. 😀

        Like

        • moon says:

          had to work within West German “justice” system,

          strictly not quite within the West German justice system. But yes … Defense was deeply rooted in it.

          Well, Pavlo Svolochenko made that comparison, not me.
          I’ll check.

          Like

        • moon says:

          Sorry Max. You are right and I was wrong. As far as you are concerned, I promise it won’t happen again.

          Like

          • yalensis says:

            With Pavlo, it’s never always clear when he is joking or not!
            🙂

            Like

          • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

            Racial types? I only wondered if they might be distant cousins because they looked a bit similar and were both from eastern Germany. My Nazi bastard cousins are from Hamburg so I don’t attach any special significance to eastern German origins.

            Unless somebody’s ancestors were from Konigsberg of course.

            Like

            • yalensis says:

              Cunnings-berg? The town with all the bridges? I heard that it is easy to get lost there, in a topological maze…
              🙂

              Like

            • moon says:

              Pavlo, I wasn’t aware that via your Nazi bastard cousins you have a solid grasp of our German facial features. I’ll keep you in mind as expert on the topic.

              The larger chain of association from Polish Szlachta pseudo Sarmatian suppressors, to WWII Nazi suppressors and their servants, to present day German suppressors of Slavs and Europeans beyond was helpful anyway. In a cartoon nutshell: Merkel with a Hitler mustache (sorry Charly). No? 😉

              Like

            • Digby says:

              “Nazi bastard cousins”

              Okay, what?

              Like

              • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

                Ordinary Germans will say things to blood relatives they’d never normally say around foreigners. Once you have experienced this you realise that most Germans remain National Socialists at heart.

                This really shouldn’t be surprising since de-Nazification did not occur in any meaningful sense. Most Nazi criminals were not punished in any way, and those who had been imprisoned by the western allies were quickly released by the German courts. German bureaucracy, business, and culture thereafter were dominated by former Nazis.

                But this is well known by now. What is less often touched upon is that Nazi crimes are not merely the responsibility of a few repainted junkers and golden pheasants. They were the work of the millions of stahlhelmed orcs who carried them out. Private conversations recorded between German military personnel in the captivity show how Germans would amuse each other with tales of the murders and rapes they committed. Most Germans are blood descendants of these men. You can’t expect the children and grandchildren of envious, self-pitying sadists to be anything other than reflections of their parents and grandparents.

                Like

              • Digby says:

                de-Nazification did not occur in any meaningful sense. Most Nazi criminals were not punished in any way, and those who had been imprisoned by the western allies were quickly released by the German courts. German bureaucracy, business, and culture thereafter were dominated by former Nazis.

                West Germany, okay, but what about East Germany under the thumb of the USSR? Didn’t they get de-Nazified unlike West Germany? If so, then certainly the Germans of the former DDR would have thought differently.

                Most Germans are blood descendants of these men. You can’t expect the children and grandchildren of envious, self-pitying sadists to be anything other than reflections of their parents and grandparents.

                I am told that the sins of an individual person should not be foisted upon his/her descendants. Therefore I don’t see how today’s Germans should be punished for the crimes of their grandparents just because of blood relations (it’s as bad as accusing today’s Jews of killing Jesus). Especially when some are aiming to seek rapprochement with Russia (if a poll from last year is of any indication…)
                My two cents.

                Like

              • moon says:

                (it’s as bad as accusing today’s Jews of killing Jesus)
                Not sure, Digby, if that is a good argument. At least if we nutshell it to bloodlines vs … ok, what’s the opposite of bloodlines …???

                Like

              • yalensis says:

                At a certain point we might just declare a moratorium, or maybe a type of statute of limitations. We could say, “Okay, as of this point everybody [below the age of whatever] is considered okay, until they go out there and do something horrendous…”

                Like

              • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

                West Germany, okay, but what about East Germany under the thumb of the USSR? Didn’t they get de-Nazified unlike West Germany? If so, then certainly the Germans of the former DDR would have thought differently.

                To a greater degree than western Germany yes, but even in east Germany not nearly enough was done. War criminals like Friedrich Paulus were allowed to live there undisturbed in return for their worthless cooperation during the war – Was any battle won because of his miserable speeches? Was the war shortened even by single day because of him and the Free Germany Committee parasites? War criminals like Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach and Ferdinand Schoerner were, despite Soviet court sentences, allowed to relocate to West Germany. Schoerner actually did get in some legal trouble in the Bundesrepulik, but that was for the objectively good act of executing German soldiers so we can hardly put that in Bonn’s favour can we?

                Millions of German soldiers and government officials fully shared in the NS regime’s goals. Perhaps if all of them had been put to death (which every one of them fully deserved) and their descendants up to the third generation had been disenfranchised the few genuine and principled German opponents of the National Socialism might have been able to reconstruct German civilisation into something capable of coexistence with the rest of the human race. But this didn’t happen and it is never likely to, not when the matter is decided by dopey, soppy fools like my Russian friends, who just cannot seem to get it through their heads that it is entirely possible for an entire population to be their implacable enemy.

                I am told that the sins of an individual person should not be foisted upon his/her descendants. Therefore I don’t see how today’s Germans should be punished for the crimes of their grandparents just because of blood relations (it’s as bad as accusing today’s Jews of killing Jesus).
                My two cents.

                It’s not a matter of punishing them for their ancestors’ actions, it’s a matter of recognising that the best indicator of what may be expected from a future free Germany is the example of what previous free German states have done. If earlier generations of Germans made it their life’s work to torment Russians, why should we think future generations would act differently if given the chance? Why give them the chance at all? It’s not cruel or unjust to relegate Germans to the part of powerless, beer-brewing yokels, since that promotes what is best about them and allows their neighbours to live without fear that their homes may be destroyed yet again by some barking ogre who thinks Beethoven’s Ode to Joy grants him possession of earth and heaven.

                Especially when some are aiming to seek rapprochement with Russia (if a poll from last year is of any indication…)
                My two cents.

                Seeking accommodation with Russia to escape from foreign domination is something Germans have done before. Preussen did so in order to overthrow Napoleon’s rule, and ultimately repaid the Russians for their help by sending the devil Adolf Hitler and his horde of sadistic morons to annihilate their one-time benefactors.

                This is not a path that should be followed a second time.

                Like

              • yalensis says:

                I found this interesting post about Nazi attitude towards Beethoven’s 9th symphony.
                Only goes to show that High Art can be twisted to any political purpose.
                But what is worse, I ask you: Twisting High Art, or being ignorant of High Art?

                I say this as somebody who lives in a world surrounded by philistines…

                Like

              • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

                It’s much better to be ignorant of it. Simple ignorance is easily cured, utterly wrong ideas about art are as enduring as the beliefs that underpin them.

                Like

              • Digby says:

                Seeking accommodation with Russia to escape from foreign domination is something Germans have done before. Preussen did so in order to overthrow Napoleon’s rule, and ultimately repaid the Russians for their help by sending the devil Adolf Hitler and his horde of sadistic morons to annihilate their one-time benefactors.

                If I’m not mistaken, it was over a whole century after the defeat of Napoleon in Russia when Hitler began attacking the Soviet Union. In 1918 Germany lost its monarchy to WWI and became the Weimar Republic, and about a year earlier, Russia lost its royal family (some of whose members being part-German) to Bolshevik communism. Make of these what you will.

                If earlier generations of Germans made it their life’s work to torment Russians, why should we think future generations would act differently if given the chance?

                For more or less the same reason there are, for instance, some Russians today who dislike communism and have less rosy views of it than do their parents and/or grandparents.
                In general, I don’t believe that societies are static, so I can’t see how the prevailing attitudes towards an entity or ideology are going to stay the same for 50 years, let alone 70.

                Well then, as far as I’m aware, president Putin is seeking relations with Germany (e.g. Nord Stream II). Even if that makes him a “dopey, soppy fool” in your eyes, it’s not going to stop me from respecting/supporting him.

                Like

              • yalensis says:

                Overall good points, Digby, but one tiny correction: Factually Russia did not lose its monarchy to the “Bolshevik Communists”, the Tsar had abdicated several months before the Bolsheviks took over the government. One can never know, of course, but it is highly dubious the Romanovs would have ever come back into power even without the Bolshevik Revolution; if, say, the bourgeois Provisional Government had morphed into the new permanent government, or whatever. Seems like the Romanovs were gone for good, with or without the Bolsheviks.
                It is true that the Bolsheviks physically KILLED them, if that’s what you had in mind. Just to make sure, I reckon…

                Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s