The Katyń Massacre

Updated: Apr 15

Image Source: Muzeum Katyńskie

April 13th, is The World's Day of Remembrance for Victims of the Katyn Massacre.

“The Katyn massacre was to prevent the revival of an independent state.”

For several dozen years in the Polish People's Republic, Katyn was a symbol of Soviet hypocrisy and falsification of history. For those who lost their loved ones in the East, it was a symbol of remembrance of the horrors of Soviet policy towards the Polish nation.

This event, together with the occupation and agression of the Soviet Union, determined the image of the Polish state and the fate of Poland, for many decades.

The topic of Katyn, was a forbidden and falsified topic by the Soviet Union.

The topic was also a subject of slander and persecution towards the families of the victims.

Under the Soviet occupation of Poland, the truth was hidden and many important pieces are unfortunately still missing.

The Katyn massacre was a Soviet element of destruction of the Polish elite, to prevent the revival of a free and independent Poland.

The first information about thousands of corpses buried around Katyn appeared already in autumn 1941, when the German army entered the area.

The graves were to be discovered by Polish forced-laborers employed in the Todt organization, - a German organization building military facilities.

77 years ago, Germany via Radio Berlin, announced the discovery of the corpses of Polish officers on the territory of Soviet Russia. The Nazis accused the Russians for the mass murder, while the Soviets denied it, even as stating that the Germans were behind the executions.

Exactly 30 years ago; however, the Soviet Union confessed to the Katyn massacre in a government statement from the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (Телеграфное агентство Советского Союза). This happened scarcely in the late 1990s, when Mikhail Gorbachev declared that the Katyn massacre was a crime of Stalinism. The breakthrough was what Boris Yeltsin did in 1992 - giving copies of the most important documents regarding the Katyn case. Among the documents submitted, was a copy of the letter with an order to execute Poles, signed by the most important politicians in the USSR, including Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.

It was then officially confirmed that the captured Polish intelligentsia was shot by the Soviet NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs/Наро́дный комиссариа́т вну́тренних дел) in the spring of 1940.


Some viewers may find the following images below as disturbing


In the spring of 1940, the NKVD killed nearly 22,000 Polish citizens (former officials, government civil employees, landowners, police, gendarmes, prison guards, colonizers of border regions and intelligence officials) - including 14,700 Polish prisoners of war in Soviet captivity, and more than 10,000 Polish officers from the mass isolation camps in Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostaszków, as well as the 7,300 of prisoners arrested in the eastern part of Poland occupied by the USSR.

It was undertaken on March 5th in 1940, by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, based on a letter which the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, Lavrentiy Beria, addressed to Stalin.

The head of the NKVD assessed that Poles are “all bitter enemies of the Soviet power, full of hatred for the Soviet system, and are at the moment in the NKVD OF THE USSR-camps for prisoners-of-war”, while requesting their cases to be carried out in a ‘special mode’, “by applying the highest penalty to them - execution".

On April 3rd, the first transports of Polish prisoners of war detained in the NKVD camps, set off to Katyn, on the territory of the Soviet Union.

The execution of Polish prisoners of war was carried out in a so-called ‘special mode’, as earlier mentioned, - “without summoning those arrested, and without presenting charges or convictions, that could terminate the investigation and indictment”, - it was all solely based on death lists.

NKVD officers shot the Polish intelligentsia in the back of the head with one single shot.

The crimes were committed in Katyn, Kharkiv and Miednoje.

Nearly 22,000 Polish citizens who were the elite of the nation, - its defense with intellectual and creative potential, - were murdered.

In 1993, during an official visit in Warsaw in Poland, Russian President Boris Yeltsin apologized for the Katyn massacre.






3. Cienciala, Anna M.; Materski, Wojciech (2007). Katyn: a crime without punishment. Yale University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4.

4. Wade Beorn, Waitman (2018). The Holocaust in Eastern Europe: At the Epicenter of the Final Solution. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 978-1474232227.

5. Sanford, George (2005). Katyn and the Soviet Massacre of 1940: Truth, Justice and Memory. ROUTLEDGE CHAPMAN & HALL. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-415-33873-8. Retrieved 7 May 2011.

6. Szarota, Tomasz; Materski, Wojciech (2009). Polska 1939–1945. Straty osobowe i ofiary represji pod dwiema okupacjami. ISBN 978-83-7629-067-6.

7. Piotrowski, Tadeusz (September 2007). The Polish Deportees of World War II: Recollections of Removal to the Soviet Union and Dispersal Throughout the World. McFarland. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-7864-3258-5.


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