The Katyn Massacre: When The Soviets Murdered 22,000 Polish Men — Then Blamed The Nazis

The Katyn massacre[a] was a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”, the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940. Though the killings also occurred in the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere, the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest, where some of the mass graves were first discovered by Nazi forces.

The massacre was initiated in NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to Joseph Stalin to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps, which was approved by the Soviet Politburo led by Stalin. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the remaining 8,000 were Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed to be “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests”. The Polish Army officer class was representative of the multi-ethnic Polish state; the murdered included ethnic Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Jews including the chief Rabbi of the Polish Army, Baruch Steinberg.

The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in April 1943. Stalin severed diplomatic relations with the London-based Polish government-in-exile when it asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The USSR claimed the Nazis had killed the victims, and it continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet government.

An investigation conducted by the office of the prosecutors general of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004) confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, but refused to classify this action as a war crime or as an act of mass murder. The investigation was closed on the grounds that the perpetrators were dead, and since the Russian government would not classify the dead as victims of the Great Purge, formal posthumous rehabilitation was deemed inapplicable. In November 2010, the Russian State Duma approved a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for ordering the massacre.

The falsified Soviet version of the events has become known as the “Katyn lie”, a term coined in reference to the “Auschwitz lie”. (Wikipedia)

Officials examine the exhumed remains of the Katyn massacre. 1943.
The paper ordering the Katyn Massacre.
Exhuming the victims of the massacre.
A skull exhumed during investigation into the Katyn massacre.
The mummified skull of an officer killed during the Katyn massacre.
An examination of exhumed soldiers in 1943.
The bodies of the Polish officers in mass graves. All were shot in the back of the head execution-style.
Photo from the 1943 exhumation of a mass grave of polish officers.
The true story of the Katyn Massacre was hidden for decades.
Victims of the Katyn massacre.

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