Katyn massacre

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Exhumed Victims in Katyn (April 1943)

During the Katyn massacre (also known as mass murder or mass shootings in Katyn , often Katyn for short ), members of the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) shot around 4,400 captured Poles , mostly officers , in a forest near Katyn from April 3 to May 11, 1940 . a village 20 kilometers west of Smolensk . This act was part of a series of mass murders of 22,000 to 25,000 career or reserve officers, police officers and intellectuals who were counted among the prewar elites of the independent Second Polish Republic . The decision on these mass murders was made by the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ; they were then ordered by the Communist Party's Politburo and carried out in at least five different locations in the Union Republics of Russia , Ukraine and Belarus . The place name "Katyn" represents this series of murders in Poland and became the national symbol for Poland's suffering under Soviet rule in World War II .

In the summer of 1942, Polish forced laborers of the Germans found a mass grave of the murdered near Katyn. The Nazi regime announced the findings on April 11, 1943 in order to weaken the anti-Hitler coalition and divert attention from its own crimes. The Soviet Union denied its responsibility, declined an international investigation, and blamed the Nazi regime for the crime. She held on to this falsification of history until 1990.

In the 1950s, Polish publicists and a committee set up by the US Congress found the NKVD perpetrators. According to new documents found, the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev admitted on April 13, 1990 the responsibility of the Soviet Union for these mass murders and later apologized to the Polish people. The Prime Ministers of Russia and Poland, Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk , paid tribute to the victims of the crime together for the first time in Katyn in 2010.

However, perpetrators who were still alive were not prosecuted. Victims' relatives sued unsuccessfully in Russia for access to the investigation files, official information about the circumstances of death of the victims, their legal rehabilitation and compensation.


Sovietization of Eastern Poland

The Second Polish Republic has been in conflict with Soviet Russia since it was founded in 1918 . Poland triumphed in the Polish-Soviet War and in the Riga Peace Treaty (1921) received large parts of the Ukraine and Belarus, which had belonged to Poland-Lithuania until 1795 . The Soviet Union, on the other hand, saw these areas - in which ethnic Poles were the minority - as a legitimate part of their own country, especially since the victorious powers of the World War had proposed a border further west with the Curzon Line . The Polish head of state Józef Piłsudski sought British-French guarantees and alliances with smaller neighboring states in Eastern Europe in order to secure Poland's independence from Soviet and German hegemony. The Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed in 1932 and extended for ten years in 1934.

On August 23, 1939, the German Reich and the Soviet Union defined their areas of interest in Eastern Europe in the Hitler-Stalin Pact . In a secret additional protocol, they agreed, among other things, "in the event of a territorial-political transformation" to split up Poland . After the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Red Army occupied eastern Poland on September 17 , also without a declaration of war. The Polish government fled to Romania . Many Polish soldiers fled abroad or surrendered. The Red Army made around 250,000 prisoners of war in eastern Poland .

According to the German-Soviet border and friendship treaty of September 28, the victors divided Poland up and supported each other in suppressing Polish resistance movements in their occupied territory. Each in its own way destroyed the Polish state, its administrative structures, parties and institutions. Both sides persecuted church officials and the intellectual elite. The Germans also committed mass murders of Polish Jews . The Soviet Union justified its occupation of eastern Poland as the alleged liberation of Ukrainians and Belarusians living there from Polish tyranny. After manipulated referendums, it attached the occupied territories to neighboring Union republics. The Politburo ordered the Red Army military tribunals to execute " counter-revolutionaries " in the annexed areas. Certain professional groups were generally classified as anti-Soviet, notably Polish professional or reserve officers, policemen, civil servants, judges, lawyers, teachers, clergy and landowners. Many of them were arrested and deported on the basis of prepared lists or denunciations.

These and other measures were similar to the “national operations” of the NKVD during the Great Terror (1936–1938), with which the entire ruling class in all non-Russian Union republics was disempowered and killed. One of them was the “ Polish Operation ”, in which by October 1938 111,091 of the 143,000 arrested Soviet citizens of Polish origin with Polish-sounding names or contacts to Poland were shot. This political cleansing was accompanied by a campaign against alleged sabotage, espionage and military organizations in Poland on Soviet soil.

Storage system

Lavrenti Beria (1899–1953), since 1938 People's Commissar (Minister) of the NKVD

On September 18, 1939, the Politburo placed the reception camps for the East Polish prisoners of war under the NKVD. On September 19 ordered its director, People's Commissar Lavrenty Beria , a "management for prisoners of war and internees " ( Uprawlenije po delam wojennoplennych i internirowannych ; UPWI) and eight camps set up. He appointed Pyotr Soprunenko as their boss. The UPWI was first built out of the main administration for prison camps ( Gulag ) and was not prepared for hundreds of thousands of prisoners. Their reception and transition camps were overcrowded and had little accommodation. The prisoners were starving, had to sleep in the open air, and mail was forbidden. From October 1st they were registered and their social background, school and military training, occupation, party affiliation and their marital status were noted in questionnaires. Their daily routine was precisely regulated, but they were allowed to move freely around the camp. They were subjected to political indoctrination and were not allowed to practice their religion. Tens of thousands died in this first phase. Only about 82,000 of the Polish and Belarusian prisoners of war are said to have survived until 1941.

By order of the Politburo on October 3, 1939, the NKVD released around 42,400 ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians from the overcrowded camps by November 19. Around 43,000 western Polish prisoners were handed over to the German Wehrmacht , in return the Soviet Union received almost 14,000 prisoners who were at home in eastern Poland. This exchange was only about crew ranks and NCOs. The NKVD kept around 39,600 East Polish prisoners in custody. Of these, 24,600 soldiers and NCOs had to do forced labor. Around 15,000 people, including 8,500 officers (mostly reservists) and 6,500 police officers and gendarmes, were distributed to three special camps. According to NKVD files, on April 1, 1940, around 4,600 officers were in the Koselsk special camp ( Kaluga oblast ), around 3,900 officers in the Starobelsk special camp ( Lugansk oblast , Ukraine) and around 6,400 police officers, gendarmes, border guards, judicial staff and landowners in the Ostashkov special camp ( Seligersee ).

Special warehouse

In the special camps, the newcomers had to build their own barracks, toilets and washrooms. Here too there was a lack of food, water and hygiene. The prisoners with higher military ranks received privileges to which they were entitled under the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War . The Soviet Union had not signed this agreement and did not officially consider the Polish military arrested in eastern Poland as prisoners of war because they had not declared war. Nevertheless, with the establishment of the UPWI, the special camps and the preferential treatment of higher ranks, they granted them a special status. She informed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the three camps, but generally did not allow them to inspect the camps.

On October 8, 1939, on Beria's orders, the NKVD set up a spy system in the camps, the majority of which it classified as particularly hostile to the Soviet Union. Intelligence officers and interrogation specialists were to investigate possible agents, members of nationalist organizations and Zionists in interrogations independent of the camp administration . They divided the prisoners into categories such as “informers”, “saboteurs”, “terrorists” or “conspirators”, and observed and infiltrated some of these groups in order to filter out “counter-revolutionaries”. As " enemies of the people " were Polish Social Democrats , National Democrats , Piłsudski -Anhänger, higher ranking officers, Soviet refugees and founder of self-help groups and their participants. The informers identified people who organized religious life and education among the prisoners, and recorded patriotic, pro-Western and anti-Soviet statements. They also viewed apolitical lectures as disguised counterrevolutionary activity. According to their reports, the officers only allowed themselves to be forced into the camp's self-sufficiency, but not to cooperate with their guards. Right from the start, the prisoners refused and hindered registration, for example by providing incorrect personal data. During interrogations they only spoke Polish, boycotted camp work and propaganda demonstrations, criticized indoctrination lectures, exposed the interrogators' educational deficiencies and celebrated national memorial days despite bans. A few dozen, including a group around Zygmunt Berling in Starobelsk, agreed to work together. Overall, the attempt at recruitment and re-education failed.

In Starobelsk, on October 30, more than 100 doctors and pharmacists captured demanded their immediate release in accordance with the Geneva Convention. When the camp commandant requested their text from the NKVD, he was ordered to only obey the UPWI rules. When he then banned the prisoners from mailing their relatives, they protested again with reference to the Geneva Convention. The NKVD relented and allowed them limited correspondence and receipt of food packages, including to record the addresses of family members. On November 24, Soprunenko Beria pointed out that most Poles were now Soviet citizens and not prisoners of war. On November 29, the Supreme Soviet proclaimed the population of Soviet-occupied eastern Poland to be Soviet citizens. At Beria's suggestion, the Politburo had the professional officers arrested from December 3. With that they lost their special status as officers; Demanding this was now considered a counter-revolutionary crime. Beria wanted to force effective registrations and interrogations. The prisoners in Starobelsk then issued further letters of protest demanding the rights of prisoners of war because they had been captured on Polish soil, as well as clarification of the reason for arrest and numerous improvements to everyday life in the camp. A camp inspector told Beria about the chaos, corruption, petty crime and material shortages in Ostashkov and recommended that the camp staff be completely replaced.

From December 1939, Beria sent new, this time trained and experienced interrogators to complete the registrations and to sentence the arrested officers. After this special brigade threatened to fail because of the prisoners' resistance, Beria ordered special investigations by selected interrogators. They were supposed to expose all previous Polish foreign espionage in the Soviet Union, "enemies of the Soviet Union" and "networks" and collect evidence for a conviction under Article 58 of the RSFSR Criminal Code . In the months that followed, most prisoners had to fill out new questionnaires and indicate allegedly secret military services and trips abroad. The questions were aimed at criminalizing them as anti-Soviet. The interrogators compiled prisoner files and recommended several years' imprisonment in camps for 500 suspected spies by the end of December 1939. Other special investigative brigades sifted through the dossiers, established criminal offenses and passed them on to regional special committees, which were supposed to make the judgments, until February 1940. The whereabouts of these dossiers is unclear. It is believed that most prisoners were or should be sentenced to several years in a camp. In addition, the highest Soviet military court placed them under the jurisdiction of the NKVD on January 28, 1940.

By February 10, 1940, the “first special department” of the NKVD under Leonid Bashakov received all the interrogation results from the camps. On February 20, Soprunenko Beria proposed that 300 seriously ill, disabled and over 60-year-olds and 400 to 500 skilled workers who had not been identified as anti-Soviet should be released. Beria refused and decided to have the three special camps evacuated immediately. On February 22nd, his deputy, Vsevolod Merkulov , ordered all “prison guards, spies, provocateurs, lawyers, landowners and traders” from the three camps to be transferred to regional NKVD prisons in the strictest of secrecy. There they should immediately be categorized again according to class, nationality, rank and according to their hostility to the Soviet Union. On February 28, Soprunenko Beria submitted an overview of their nationality, and on March 2 an overview of those prisoners classified as enemies of the Soviet Union. On the same day, Beria ordered those already convicted to be transferred to labor camps, which the NKVD had been controlling since the beginning of February. However, the regional NKVD agencies were hardly ready to take over the prisoners assigned to them. The secret operation was canceled after a few days. The special camps remained.

On November 16, 1939, the German Reich had agreed with the Soviet Union to exchange Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians in the German-occupied part of Poland for "ethnic Germans" in the now Soviet part of Poland, and it was also prepared to take over other Poles. The Foreign Office and the Secret State Police (Gestapo) had been negotiating with Soviet authorities about an exchange of prisoners since February 1940. The Soviet side protested against the German plan to admit around 30,000 Ukrainians who had fled to the German occupied area into the Wehrmacht, and suggested that the Ukrainians be exchanged for the Poles of the special camps. In the same month, however, Governor General Hans Frank decided to use the “ AB Action ” to murder more “resistance politicians and otherwise suspicious individuals” of the Polish elite instead of continuing to bring them to German concentration camps . Since those Polish officers were also potential resistance fighters and also fell under the Geneva Agreement of 1929, the Germans broke off the exchange negotiations at the end of February. The resettlement agreement, which expired on March 1st, was not extended.

On February 28, Beria discussed the further procedure with the prisoners in the special camps with Stalin and presented some personal files. In doing so, he probably suggested that they should all be executed as enemies of the state. The reason is presumed that Stalin Beria signaled his wish to eliminate the leadership elite in Poland, but that the previous procedure appeared to be too time-consuming and labor-intensive and the intention to murder could be better kept secret with only a few people in the know. On March 3, Beria sent a draft resolution to Stalin.

The mass murders

Execution order

Beria's draft resolution called the prisoners "sworn enemies of Soviet power, filled with hatred of the Soviet system". The special camps are home to 14,736 former officers, civil servants, landowners, police officers, gendarmes, prison guards, (military) settlers and secret agents, over 97% of whom are Polish. There are a total of 18,632 people in prisons in western Ukraine and Belarus, including 10,685 Poles. Both total numbers were broken down according to military degrees, occupations or other functions, party affiliations and social status. Based on the fact that they were all "tough, unteachable enemies" of the Soviet power, the NKVD was to be instructed to review the cases of the 14,700 Poles mentioned in the special camps and the 11,000 Poles in the prisons and to apply the maximum penalty to them by shooting, " without summoning the detainees and presenting the accusations, without deciding on the outcome of the preliminary investigations and without bringing charges ”. The examination and execution of these decisions was to be entrusted to a troika . Beria set himself up, Merkulov and Bashtakov as their members.

On March 5, 1940, the four Politburo members Josef Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov , Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan signed the resolution. The approval of Lasar Kaganowitsch and Mikhail Kalinin was noted as "For". Beria's name was removed from the proposed Troika members, and Bogdan Kobulov's name was added (probably by Stalin) . All six signatories held the highest, in some cases several, state offices. The death sentence for around 25,000 people was given. The Troika should only confirm it, i.e. agree to the individual judgments already made by the special committees.

According to the memorandum that has been preserved, Merkulov gave his copy of “No. 41 ”on March 28, 1940 to the office of the Central Committee (ZK). Accordingly, at least 41 people were informed in writing about the decision. The original document was kept in a special archive of the Central Committee set up on Stalin's orders. It was in a sealed envelope in the same folder as the secret supplementary agreement to the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Since it was noted on the envelope that the future head of state Yuri Andropov opened it in 1981, historians assume that all CPSU general secretaries since Stalin have been inspected.


On March 2, 1940, the Politburo ordered the deportation of around 61,000 Poles from occupied territories, mostly members of the special camp inmates. On April 13, 25,000 of them were deported to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic , where they had to do forced labor. Women and children appealed in vain to Stalin to release their husbands and fathers. Their apartments were made available to Red Army soldiers and CP members. This was part of a series of deportations from February 1940 to June 1941 that affected at least 320,000, possibly up to 1,692,000 Poles.

At a two-day secret conference at the NKVD headquarters at the end of February / beginning of March, the responsible administrative managers coordinated the removal of the prisoners from the special camps. Beria finished the work of the special committees. Rumors were spread that preparations had to be made to accept Finnish prisoners of war. This was probably intended to camouflage the intention to murder, since the Soviet winter war against Finland was almost over (March 13, 1940), there were far fewer Finnish prisoners of war to be expected and a camp was already available for them. The NKVD headquarters forbade the camp commanders to announce the decisions of the Troika before the evacuation. As a camouflage, the Poles were announced that they would be transferred to labor camps.

On March 15 and 16, Soprunenko ordered the camp commanders and heads of the special departments to “organize the evacuation of the prisoners of war after the verdict”. The whole process was determined: Official orders for removal should be read to the prisoners before they were handed over. The handover locations to security personnel and transport escorts have been determined. The wagons should be manned by groups from the same or neighboring regions in order to simulate their release. Questions about the transport destination should be answered consistently with “to work in another warehouse”. Reliable NKVD members were made up of troops for onward transport from the target stations to the execution sites, photographers of the executions, shooters, undertakers and other "liquidators". From March 16, the prisoners were prohibited from correspondence. Special timetables for the transport trains were created. All security guards had received detailed briefing by the end of March. From April 1, the Troika had lists of the prisoners' files sent to them from the camps. The Troika members put death sentences in ready-made forms and then sent lists of names of the people to the camp commanders who were to be immediately transferred to the respective NKVD office in the target region (brought to the place of execution). Merkulow directed the entire operation.


Map with camps and execution locations
Railway wagon exhibited in Katyn Forest (2009)

The prisoners were transported to their places of execution in freight trains: from April 3, 1940, the trains from Koselsk went to Katyn, where the victims were murdered until May 11, those from Starobelsk to Kharkov (April 5 to May 10), those from Ostashkov to Kalinin (April 4th to May 22nd). The dead were buried at night in previously dredged pits.

A survivor, a victim in diary notes, and villagers described the events at the Gnjosdowo train station : NKVD soldiers surrounded the transfer point with bayonets attached . Around 30 people had to change to a black prison bus, divided into cells with windows painted white. Watches, money, jewelry, belts and penknives were taken from the victims on the bus. He drove to the nearby place of execution in the forest and returned empty. Then the next group boarded him. It is unclear whether the victims were shot on the edge of the pits or nearby. Most of them lay face down in the same uniform, stacked in layers. Only in a few graves were they disordered. About 20% had their hands tied behind their backs with a rope. Some had a coat or a sack pulled over their heads, tied around their necks and sawdust stuffed into their mouths so that the victims would have suffocated if they resisted. Many had broken bones and square bayonet punctures. Almost all of them received a shot in the neck with the muzzle attached at the same angle, only some received a second. The perpetrators used German Walther pistols and 7.65-millimeter cartridges . This ammunition, manufactured by Gustav Genschow (Geco) in Durlach , had been imported in large quantities by the Soviet Union since 1928.

According to those involved, some Poles from Koselsk were shot in the basement of the NKVD headquarters in Smolensk. Each of these victims was placed head over a drain and received a pistol shot in the back of the head or temple. At night the dead were placed in the mass graves . In Kharkov, NKVD people had to dig fifteen large pits. The prisoners from Starobelsk were first locked in prison cells and had to hand over their luggage and money. To deceive them, they were given a receipt for it. Five to six people were then led into a corridor above and surprisingly handcuffed. They had to enter a room one at a time, in which a prosecutor wrote down their family name and year of birth. While leaving the room, she was shot dead by an NKVD member; another picked up the body. In the NKVD headquarters in Kalinin, according to Dmitri Tokarev (head of the NKVD of Kalinin Oblast 1938–1945), every prisoner was immediately handcuffed after their personal details had been determined and led into a soundproof basement room, where two men held his arms third shot him in the skull. The victim was placed in a transport vehicle through a second door. Some were also shot at the edge of the pits. After that, the perpetrators drank vodka every day. The commandant of Starobelsk had to burn the private mail and the personal files of those murdered in his camp, only to remove the files of the Soviet-friendly prisoners and send them to the NKVD headquarters.


Wassili Blochin (1895–1955)

The most important perpetrators after the Politburo, Troika and NKVD headquarters were the heads of the regional NKVD authorities Yemeljan Kuprijanow (Smolensk), Pyotr Safonov (Kharkov) and Dmitri Tokarev (Kalinin). They selected suitable subordinates as drivers, digger operators, undertakers, photographers, guards and pistol shooters. Other perpetrators belonged to the battalion that accompanied the transports. They also knew the traditional shooting locations, some of which had been used since the 1920s.

The shootings in Smolensk and Katyn carried out over fifty NKVD men from the region. Its head was the prison commandant Ivan Stelmach . The murders in Kharkov were directed by Timofei Kupri, who was in command of the local NKVD prison. Major Vasily Blochin headed the three-man Moscow firing squad for Kalinin . He reported the murder rates that he had imposed on himself to Moscow every day, initially shot himself 300 prisoners per night and later decided to reduce the murder rate to 250 people per night.

Even before the start of the murders, on March 17, 1940, Beria had promoted six and two times three NKVD officials involved in the crime from the regional authorities and camps. On October 26, 1940, he rewarded 124 named criminals "for successfully completing special assignments" with an additional monthly salary (43 people) or 800 rubles (81 people). Many of those involved received high awards such as the Order of the Red Star . There are no known contradictions by perpetrators against the orders.

The victims

Numbers and places

A UPWI statistics compiled up to May 25, 1940 summed up the deported Polish prisoners of war from the special camps and their destinations:

  • From 6399 from Ostashkov, 6287 came to Kalinin.
  • Of 4609 from Koselsk, 4404 came to Smolensk.
  • Of 3974 from Starobelsk, 3896 came to Kharkov.

Accordingly, 14,587 prisoners were murdered at the destinations. 395 were gutted and transferred to the Pavlishchev Bor camp near Juchnow . This does not include Polish victims from NKVD prisons and labor camps, to which around 4,000 Poles from Pavlishchev Bor and some from the special camps were transferred. A UPWI document dated December 1943 puts the number of Polish special camp prisoners handed over to regional NKVD offices between 1939 and 1941 at 15,131.

Letter from Schelepin to Khrushchev with the number of victims (1959)

On March 3, 1959, KGB chairman Alexander Schelepin wrote to party leader Nikita Khrushchev that based on a resolution of the NKVD troika in 1940, 21,857 representatives of the Polish bourgeoisie had been shot, namely

  • 4421 in the forest near Katyn,
  • 3820 (the one from Starobelsk) near Kharkov
  • 6311 (the one from Ostashkov) near Kalinin,
  • 7,305 from other camps and prisons in western Ukraine and western Belarus.

He suggested to Khrushchev that all personal files of the murdered persons archived in the NKVD be destroyed and that only the minutes of the troika and the files relating to the execution of the executions be kept.

The "Ukrainian Katyn list" handed over to Poland in 1994 names 3435 Poles who were murdered in NKVD camps in Ukraine. An analogous Belarusian list shows 3870 Polish murder victims.

So far, the following graves have been found with victims who can be traced back to the execution order of March 5, 1940:

  • Forest near Katyn: 4410 to 4430 Polish officers.
  • Mednoye village : around 6,300 Polish army, police and gendarmerie officers and a few civilians. They were shot in an NKVD cellar in Kalinin.
  • Forest and park area near Pyatichatki : 3739 to 3896 officers, shot in an NKVD prison in Kharkov.
  • Kuropaty forest area : 3700 to 4500 people, probably shot in the NKVD headquarters in Minsk .
  • Forest Bykownja : probably 3435 Poland, as some of them, have been identified on the "Ukrainian Katyn List" were listed. Most of them were civilians from a camp in Ukraine. They were probably shot in the NKVD headquarters in Kiev . The grave was discovered in 2006.

One tries to identify as many victims of the series of murders as possible. Several circumstances make this difficult: Some execution and burial sites in western Ukraine and Belarus are unknown. Belarusian authorities keep relevant files secret. In Bykownja, Polish victims from 1940 can hardly be distinguished from victims of the “Poland Operation” from 1937/38 in the same graves.

Of the maximum 15,587 murdered from the three special camps, at least 14,542 have so far been found and mostly identified. At least 700 and possibly up to 900 of them were Jewish officers. A few dozen priests were also among the victims. Of the other 11,000 Poles scheduled to be killed, at least 7,315 were found. Another 1,000 to 2,000 victims found are also attributed to the execution order for up to 25,000 Poles. Accordingly, total numbers of 22,000 to 25,000 Poles murdered at the time are often given.

Among the Katyn dead were around 1,000 senior officers, including four generals and an admiral, and around 3,400 other officers. Over half of the total were reserve officers, including over 300 doctors, over 200 pilots, including a woman, several hundred judges and lawyers, several hundred teachers, 21 university teachers, eight clergy, some large landowners and government officials, and two former national soccer players.


On April 25 and 26, 1940 Merkulov had lists of 395 people sent to the three special camps who were to be brought to Pavlishchev Bor. From there they were transferred to Grjasowez on June 1, 1940 , where a similar camp had been set up. Some prisoners have been spared or released as a result of diplomatic efforts by other states. Others were initially left out for certain services and later killed. Stanisław Swianiewicz was only separated from the other officers of his transport at Gnjosdowo station. A total of 432 to 452 prisoners from the three camps survived. Until 1990, the Soviet falsification of history was refuted primarily with their testimonies.

Search for the missing

Zygmunt Berling (around 1944)

Relatives living in areas occupied by Germany had been hearing rumors of the camp evacuation since February 1940 and expected the prisoners to return soon. With German permission, the Polish Red Cross (PCK) prepared to receive them in vain. On March 14, the ICRC asked German authorities about the whereabouts of those expected because of Polish letters of petition. On April 6, the Foreign Office replied that the three camps still existed and direct mail traffic was possible there. From May the spared Polish prisoners were allowed to receive mail and learned that the relatives of their comrades had not heard from them for weeks. The German ambassador in Moscow, Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg , forwarded Polish search queries to Soviet agencies and submitted over 1,000 repatriation applications by March 1941. Then he gave up because the Soviet People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs wanted to know a Soviet residence for the wanted.

Because of growing tensions with the German Reich, Stalin allowed negotiations on Polish armed forces in the Soviet Union from October 1940 . The officers willing to cooperate, spared without their knowledge, demanded that nationally minded soldiers and officers also be accepted. According to Berling's memoir, Beria replied: “It won't come of anything. These people are not in the USSR. "Merkulov added:" We made a big mistake with them. "According to other information, Beria added:" We handed them over to the Germans. "

As a result of the German attack on June 22, 1941, the Soviet Union and the Polish government in exile agreed on August 14 to set up a Polish army in exile. Because Stanisław Haller , the Polish candidate for their supreme command, was among the murdered, General Władysław Anders was given the office. He asked for information about all the Polish military prisoners in the Soviet Union, but only found out about 1,000 officers. Even after an amnesty for all Polish prisoners of war, only a few officers came to be recruited, who in turn asked about the missing comrades. That is why Anders set up a central search office. Its head, Józef Czapski, heard many rumors about deportations, mass deaths or the murder of the missing. He considered the latter to be unthinkable because mass murders were rare in Soviet penal and labor camps and, moreover, accusations of murder were not opportune in the war alliance of the time. According to survivors, the search office compiled the last known data on the missing persons and determined that they could not have been released or transferred to the Wehrmacht before March 1940.

From September 1941 to November 1942, Anders, the Polish ambassador in Moscow Stanisław Kot and Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski kept asking Soviet government representatives about the missing persons and handed over search lists because the NKVD supposedly had no lists of their names. They received various excuses: all missing persons had been released, they were still in remote areas, lost on long walks, perished, fled to Romania or Manchuria . This is what Stalin alleged to Sikorski on December 3, 1941. He was presented with a UPWI report which found the "handover" (murder) of 15,131 people to regional NKVD agencies. There is no Soviet protocol. On March 18, 1942, Stalin declared for the first and only time that the camps of the missing might have fallen into the hands of the Germans. He greatly reduced the recruitment and catering for Polish troops. In April 1942 Anders therefore agreed with Stalin to move the army in exile to Iran .

Czapski's office continued the search from Iran under difficult circumstances. In June the Soviet Union closed all Polish military missions and consulates on its soil. Poland's government-in-exile assumed that Stalin wanted to prevent access to the missing officers. In order to obtain concessions for Poles still living in Soviet territory, she refrained from further investigations. In the late summer of 1942, she probably learned that Polish prisoners of war of the Germans had discovered graves of Poland near Katyn. On November 19, Polish Defense Minister Marian Kukiel told the Soviet Ambassador in London that the Polish government knew what had happened to the missing officers and would soon publish facts on them. In January 1943 a Polish exile newspaper wrote that high-ranking Soviet officials had confessed to a big mistake. “Perhaps as bloody as it is big?” The Soviet Union should not repeat the mistake, but rather “correct” it as much as possible by protecting the rest from annihilation.

Find of the mass graves at Katyn

Location of the graves between Katyn and Gnjosdowo

On July 27, 1941, the German Army Group captured central Smolensk. A Soviet prisoner of war testified to the Wehrmacht investigative body that all Polish officers in Soviet custody had been murdered. Residents of the area told Wehrmacht soldiers about shots and graves on the goat hill near Katyn. The headquarters of the 537 Intelligence Regiment , which had lived in an NKVD house on the Dnieper near the graves since October 1941 , also heard about this . The clues went unheeded.

In August 1942, the head of the Army Group Center, Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff, and the regimental commander Friedrich Ahrens spoke about the rumors for the first time. Soon after, the Secret Field Police began investigating them. A Russian-language appeal promised the population around Smolensk a reward for reports of the shooting of Polish officers. In February 1943 at the latest, the farmer Kisseljow testified to the occupiers under oath that in the spring of 1940 three to four trucks had driven into the forest every day for four to five weeks. He heard shots and screams from men's voices. In the summer of 1942 he led the Poles to the burial mounds and lent them tools for digging. Ahrens, on the other hand, initially stated that he himself discovered the graves by chance in February 1943. This version was supposed to cover up the previous research by the field police.


The field police heard further witnesses from February 1943 on, but broke off test digs in the forest due to ground frost. Her interim report was received by forensic doctor Gerhard Buhtz , who had headed a “special commission to expose Bolshevik atrocities and acts contrary to international law” since 1941. The Wehrmacht High Command (OKW) allowed him to be exhumed near Katyn. From March 29th, 35 Soviet civilians and prisoners of war had to uncover the first mass grave and its bodies. Buhtz and his team autopsied them on site and in a field laboratory. By April 11, they identified 160 dead. The field police guarded the area and issued ID cards, letters, diaries and pay books, photographs and coins from the graves, which could be used to identify the victims.

From 3 April two-informed war correspondent of the SS , the Reich Security Main Office and the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (RMVP) on the finds and the Wehrmacht actions to do so. Even before Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels found out about it, his representative Alfred-Ingemar Berndt drafted the main features of the Katyn campaign that followed. On April 9, Goebbels arranged for the finds to be shown to selected Poles in order to discredit the alliance between the Polish government-in-exile and Stalin. With the permission of the Polish government in exile, more than ten Poles invited on behalf of the RMVP flew from Warsaw to Katyn on April 10, including Edmund Seyfried, Director of Polish Social Welfare, and the writer Ferdynand Goetel . They checked the identities, causes and times of death of the first bodies exhumed by Buhtz and informed the government in exile. In response to a German request, Goetel confirmed that he thought the dead were former inmates of the Koselsk camp. This encouraged the RMVP to be able to use the finds against Stalin.

Now the Polish Red Cross (PCK) was ready to send high-ranking representatives. From April 14th to 17th, PCK General Secretary Kazimierz Skarżyński and eleven companions visited Katyn, including a Catholic priest commissioned by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha . Skarżyński was impressed by Buhtz's forensic medical examination. In the Executive Council, she refuted the suspicion that the bodies might have been transported to Katyn from German concentration camps. The PCK now formed a twelve-person "Technical Committee". Under the direction of Marian Wodziński, he and Buhtz's team autopsied hundreds of other bodies by June 3, collected their belongings and then buried them.

With reference to an order from Adolf Hitler to "evaluate the matter in the whole world with all available means", the RMVP instructed the Foreign Office on April 13 to invite the ICRC to exhumate. Since the necessary Soviet consent was not to be expected, Berndt proposed on April 17th that the time of death of the victims be confirmed by a European medical commission. From April 20, German embassies contacted suitable candidates, but only received commitments from allied, occupied or dependent states. On April 28, 12 of 13 invited pathologists traveled to Katyn. François Naville from neutral Switzerland reserved the right to travel as a private person. From April 29-30, this international medical commission autopsied some of the bodies exhumed under its supervision. Ferenc Orsós (Hungary) was in charge of the autopsies and the drafting of the report, which all doctors in Smolensk agreed to. Only shots in the neck were found to be the cause of death. On the basis of the degree of decomposition of the corpses, testimony of the villagers, diary entries, letters and newspaper data, winter clothes, missing mosquito bites, four-pointed stab wounds from bayonets and annual rings of the trees on the graves, it can be concluded that the dead were shot in March and April 1940. The report did not name the culprit. However, the participants did not doubt the Soviet perpetrators. On May 4, Orsós handed the report to Reich Health Leader Leonardo Conti . The Foreign Office published the doctors' report in 1943 together with the reports by Buhtz and the PCK as “Official Material on the Katyn Mass Murder”.

Handover of the final report of the pathologists, Berlin (May 1943)

The Polish coroners reported their findings to the medical commission and confirmed that everything speaks for an NKVD perpetrator. After their return to Poland, however, neither the German occupiers nor the Polish government-in-exile publicly referred to their report. Only a few Polish visitors to Katyn reported their impressions in the media of the German occupiers and were therefore persecuted by Polish communists.

According to German sources, 4,143 bodies had been exhumed by June 7, and 2,815 of them were identified. According to the final report of the PCK on June 3, 4,243 Polish victims were exhumed. According to the documents and cartridge cases found, presumably of German origin, they were shot with small arms of 7.65 mm caliber between the end of March and the beginning of May 1940. The Germans tried to prevent members of the PCK Commission from taking ammunition parts so that the Soviet side could not use them. The NKVD could have used weapons of any origin. Because the Red Army was approaching, the Germans stopped the exhumations on June 24th, had the graves filled up and sent all finds to the State Institute of Forensic Medicine in Cracow .

Follows up to 1945

National Socialist Propaganda

Since the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939, the Nazi regime had expected serious crimes by the Red Army in Eastern Europe. But the extent of the mass murder at Katyn surprised the Nazi regime. Finding and punishing the perpetrators was not in his interest. The Nazi propaganda described the German war of extermination since 1941 as “the liberation of the peoples of the Soviet Union from the yoke of Bolshevism ” or from the “Jewish yoke”. The Katyn campaign followed this requirement. By staging the finds in the graves as German merit and as enlighteners of Bolshevik atrocities, the National Socialists marginalized the efforts of the Poles, who did not want to be seen as collaborators .

The Einsatzgruppen , the OKW, the Army Groups and the Foreign Office each had their own propaganda posts. From April to June 1943, they had thousands of Wehrmacht soldiers as well as Soviet civilians, collaborators and prisoners of war inspect the graves and corpses. A troop led by Major Albert Kost received and monitored the visitors on site. Their reports were used to "strengthen military strength" of their own and to "decompose military strength" of opposing troops. Boris Menschagin , the mayor of Smolensk appointed by the German occupiers, organized witness interrogations, visits to Katyn and a rally against the NKVD.

The RMVP was able to fall back on the already established cooperation with these propaganda agencies. For the first time, Goebbels granted larger groups of Poles and Western foreigners access to the site in order to make them key witnesses of the consequences a victory of the Soviet Union would have on the world. He obtained Hitler's approval for his propaganda measures in order to assert his claim to leadership against other propaganda leaders. From the beginning, Hitler urged Goebbels to use the finds in Katyn for harder attacks against “ World Jewry ”.

Western governments considered German reports of Soviet atrocities to be untrustworthy because of the many false reports and the ongoing Holocaust , which they had known since autumn 1942 . That is why Goebbels had the graves shown to some Western journalists and prisoners of war. An attempt was made to keep her happy with a reception at the officers' mess and a kind of "get-together" program with American jazz , cigarettes and drinks, and she was asked to conduct interviews with local residents. At first he did not want to announce the body finds in Germany, in order not to heighten fears about German soldiers who had become prisoners of war in and after the lost battle of Stalingrad . On April 7, however, Soviet Pravda accurately reported German war crimes in the Smolensk region. On April 11th, Goebbels decided to discredit this report with a dramatic sensational report on Katyn. On the same day, the German news agency Transocean reported the discovery of a mass grave with around 3,000 Polish officers, who had been killed by the Soviet GPU (secret police absorbed by the NKVD) in February and March 1940. The news was supposed to trigger international press reports in order to make the following German announcement with quotations from it appear more credible; However, it initially remained without a corresponding reaction. On April 13, the reported German news agency on the radio: gives "A horrible Fund" in the forest of Katyn, "an equally harrowing as proper information about the mass murder of more than 10,000 officers of all ranks, including many generals, the former Polish army by sub-humans of GPU in the months of March to May 1940. "

The campaign involved all media in the entire German sphere of influence for seven weeks. Goebbels had text templates produced with cruel, invented details and excessive numbers of victims, posters, leaflets, films and radio broadcasts with testimony from witnesses. Newspaper articles contained photographs of exhumed corpses. The film, intended for the “Foreign Sound Week” , was not approved until December 8, 1943 and was only allowed to be shown to foreign workers and in occupied territories. Goebbels ordered the material to be used intensively so that “as in the time of the war the word 'Jew' is pronounced with the devastating tone it deserves.” Regarding Katyn, “the Jewish-Bolshevik murderous burning” should be pointed out again and again. The “work of Jewish butchers” ( Völkischer Beobachter , April 15) confirms that the Jews provoked the Second World War to annihilate the Germans. However, the war would end with their annihilation. In May, Johann von Leers rejected complaints about “we are exterminating the Jews from Europe” in an article entitled Guilt is the Jew . It's about “who survives whom. If the Jews win, our whole people will be massacred like the Polish officers in the forest of Katyn. ”More than in 1941, the Nazi propaganda stylized the war as a fateful defense of civilized Europe from“ Asian barbarian hordes ”from the East, around the To win Germans for the " total war " and to justify the extermination of the Jews.

In doing so, Goebbels pursued several goals: to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and the Polish government-in-exile, to paint Germans and Poles the consequences of an invasion of the Red Army, to discredit Soviet reports on mass graves of Nazi victims and to blame the Stalinists for their own crimes. Since July 1941, the Nazi propaganda had barely reported on NKVD massacres and had forbidden mourning rallies because they feared negative consequences with regard to their own crimes. In fact, many Germans considered the excitement about Katyn to be "hypocrisy" because they knew about the Holocaust . The NSDAP party chancellery reported, for example, as the opinion of Christian circles that the excitement about the "beastly slaughter" of Katyn was unjustified because "similar slaughtering methods were used in the fight against the Jews in the East [...]". Others believed that mass murders of opponents classified as dangerous were inevitable in war.

In the occupied territories of Eastern Europe, the Katyn campaign was intended to strengthen cooperation with the National Socialists against the Soviet Union. It persuaded many Romanian Germans to join the Waffen SS . In the Generalgouvernement it was supposed to weaken the considerable Polish resistance against the German occupiers and to justify their terrorist measures against the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto . Millions of Katyn brochures have been printed and distributed. Memorials should be erected and a national day of remembrance should be introduced. However, the campaign was unsuccessful. Some resistance slogans called Katyn and Auschwitz “both of the enemy's work”. Underground posters sneered that analog excursions to Auschwitz would soon prove how “humanitarian” the German methods of murder were compared to the Soviet ones. There, German science had "done tremendous things for European culture."

After the discovery of the mass grave in Katyn was announced on April 13, but almost at the same time the Soviet authorities opened graves of Nazi victims in areas recaptured by the Red Army - a Soviet commission exhumed Nazi victims in Ejsk and on April 15 near today's Luhansk - in April / May the Nazi regime formed special detachments for the Ukraine to remove traces based on the model of " Sonderaktion 1005 ". Reich Commissioner Hinrich Lohse warned the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, in June 1943 that one should only imagine how the other side would cannibalize Nazi crimes that it had known about, which Katyn would by far exceed and which, probably only because of their extent, would not be believed.

Isolation of the Polish government in exile

Władysław Sikorski, head of the Polish government in exile (around 1942)

Poland's government-in-exile was forced to comment on the German announcement of the massacre. On April 17, 1943, she requested a neutral investigation from the ICRC. Because General Anders was convinced of an NKVD mass murder, Defense Minister Marian Kukiel also demanded an official Soviet declaration on the whereabouts of the Polish officers. He denied the Nazi regime the right to abuse the Katyn dead for its own ends. When Goebbels found out about the Polish application, he prompted the DRK to telegraph again to request ICRC help in identifying the dead. Both applications were received by the ICRC almost simultaneously. That is why a Pravda article attacked the government-in-exile on April 19 as "Hitler's Polish collaborators". On April 21st, Stalin criticized the ICRC for being used by Hitler's terror regime for a farce. The ICRC then offered a neutral Katyn commission on April 22, if the Soviet Union agrees. The Nazi regime rejected this condition on April 23.

On April 24th, Stalin accused Poland's government-in-exile of anti-Soviet action coordinated with the Germans. She must withdraw her application and blame the Germans for the massacre. In order not to endanger the anti-Hitler coalition, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill Sikorski urged that the application to the ICRC be withdrawn. He agreed to do so, but refused to blame the Germans because he had evidence of Soviet perpetrators. Despite Churchill's attempt at mediation, Stalin broke off relations with the government in exile on April 25. In doing so, he isolated them in the anti-Hitler coalition and set the course for a communist post-war Poland. Goebbels saw this break as a success of his campaign, but for his part ruled out any direct contact with Poland's government-in-exile.

The Polish resistance groups and the representatives of four democratic parties in exile agreed to strive for a non-communist, independent Poland with the eastern border agreed in 1921. In August 1943 they ruled out any cooperation with the Soviet Union, the Polish right-wing nationalists and communists. According to historian Claudia Weber , Stalin relied on the Association of Polish Patriots, founded in March 1943, as a "compliant instrument" for communist post-war Poland between the Oder and Curzon lines .

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Stalin that Poland's application to the ICRC was a mistake, but that Sikorski was not a collaborator with the Nazi regime. He asked Stalin to renew contacts with the Poles in exile and excluded Katyn for this. He assumed that the victory over Hitler Germany and a stable post-war order would only be possible with Stalin. Because solving the massacre jeopardized these goals, US foreign policy downplayed it. Sikorski died on July 4, 1943 in a plane crash near Gibraltar . Since then it has been suspected that he was murdered because of his persistent attempts to clarify Katyn. A forensic medical examination of his body in 2008 did not reveal any evidence of murder, but did not completely rule out sabotage on the aircraft.

At the Allied Tehran Conference (November 28 to December 1, 1943), the territory of eastern Poland that it had conquered was added to the Soviet Union, and it was agreed that Poland would move to the west . In order not to hinder this agreement, the Western powers did not pursue the investigation of the Katyn mass murder. At the end of July 1944, the new Polish Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk visited Stalin in order to restore Soviet-Polish relations. The British ambassador in Moscow had advised him to accept the Soviet version of Katyn as well. During the Warsaw Uprising , Mikołajczyk asked Stalin in vain for help from the Red Army for the insurgents. According to the historian Victor Zaslavsky, Stalin humiliated the Polish side with the unacceptable condition that they would only help if the government in exile publicly declares the Nazis to be the perpetrators of the Katyn massacre. Only after the Germans had put down the uprising did Stalin call in the Soviet troops; later he had surviving Polish resistance fighters arrested. These steps were supposed to make it easier for Poland to build a communist state after the war.

Soviet history falsification

After a brief radio report on April 12, 1943, the Soviet Soviet Information Bureau declared on April 15 that Goebbels' "butchers" were trying to cover up their own crimes with trumped-up charges. The Polish prisoners of war were used in construction work near Smolensk and fell into the hands of the “German fascist executioners” after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops in the summer of 1941, together with Soviet citizens. In their slander about the many graves allegedly found by them, they would have mentioned the village of Gnjosdowo, but withheld the fact that archaeological excavations were taking place nearby .

Since April 19, 1943, the Soviet Ukas 43 threatened severe penalties for cooperation with enemy powers. In the following months it was mainly used against Soviet citizens in areas formerly occupied by the Wehrmacht. The neurosurgeon Nikolai Burdenko had been a coroner since 1942 for the Extraordinary State Commission (TschGK) to record the "crimes of the German-fascist conquerors and their accomplices". On their behalf, from August 5, 1943, he investigated hundreds of exhumed Gestapo murder victims in Oryol . Some were shot and reburied by the NKVD in 1941. Its regional manager knew the places where the bodies had been found and sent Burdenko a German newspaper report about Katyn. As a result, he reported that the perpetrators had systematically used the same shooting method as in Katyn. Thus, the German culprit in Katyn is forensic medically proven.

On September 25th, the Red Army retook Smolensk. From October the NKVD carried out exhumations in Katyn. It equipped the victims' clothing with forged evidence dating from May 1940. By January 10, 1944, it arrested 95 helpers from the German area, interrogated them and forced them to make false statements. This prepared seventeen alleged witnesses for Burdenko's subsequent investigation. The final report was signed by Merkulov and Sergei Kruglow, who was also involved in the 1940 murders. On January 13, the Politburo set up the Burdenko Commission and appointed its members, including representatives from culture, education, the Soviet Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and coroners. Stalin crossed Wanda Wasilewska from Poland from the list of proposals despite being loyal to the line. At the first meeting Burdenko explained the German method of shooting that he had allegedly proven. The Commission signed the Merkulov-Kruglow report. This was published on January 14 and referred to the Sowinform report of April 15, 1943. It was also alleged that the "headquarters of the 537th Construction Battalion" had the Poles shot in autumn 1941. In order to cover up this and to blame the Soviet Union, the Germans had forced Soviet citizens to give false testimony through torture , threats and bribery, increased the number of victims with corpses taken from elsewhere and used 500 Soviet prisoners of war to equip the graves with evidence. The Burdenko report adopted this information and only added at the end that the Poles had been shot in the neck using the method used in Oryol and elsewhere. The forensic analysis undoubtedly proves the fall of 1941 as the execution period.

The coroners are said to have examined the bodies from January 16 to 23, 1944; the report appeared on January 24th. They were therefore only able to examine a few corpses that had already been exhumed. It is not known whether they knew about the NKVD forgery campaign. Burdenko is said to have confessed to a friend shortly before his death in November 1946 that he knew the real age of the graves; the NKVD made a huge mistake.

In order to spread the falsification of history around the world, some Western journalists and members of the Moscow US Embassy were allowed to visit Katyn from January 22 to 23, 1944, including Kathleen Harriman , the daughter of US Ambassador W. Averell Harriman . Their reports confirmed the Soviet version insofar as they were particularly impressed by the presentation of the alleged “German shooting method” and the arrangement of the letters. Although they were allowed to question witnesses instructed by the NKVD, they recognized their behavior as "very rehearsed".

At the Leningrad war crimes trial (December 29, 1945 to January 5, 1946) against German military personnel, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) alleged that one of the defendants had observed a mass murder by the Germans of 15,000 to 20,000 Poles, Russians and Jews in Katyn. Some newspapers in the Soviet occupation zone reported on the alleged “outrageous bloody act of the fascists in the forest of Katyn” in order to prepare propaganda for the Nuremberg trial of the main war criminals . There the Soviet Union wanted to enforce its version of the massacre internationally.

The Soviet attorney general Konstantin Gorschenin and Poland's new justice minister Henryk Świątkowski had a show trial in Katyn prepared from May 1945, which was supposed to deliver extorted confessions from alleged Polish collaborators of the Germans. To this end, the Krakow public prosecutor Roman Martini had all Polish visitors to Katyn from 1943 arrested. Most of those wanted had fled to the West. Martini was murdered on March 12, 1946. A previously alleged connection between the murder and his Katyn investigation is unproven but not disproved. The show trial did not take place.

Follow up to 1989

Katyn in the Nuremberg Trial

Article 21 of the London Statute of August 1945 required the International Military Tribunal (IMT) to take unchecked evidence of German war crimes that a victorious power had already officially investigated. This gave reports from the Soviet ChGK the same rank as those from the United Nations War Crimes Commission . Thereupon the Soviet main prosecutor Roman Rudenko brought the Burdenko report as non-negotiable evidence against Hermann Göring in the Nuremberg trial. The Western prosecutors advised that Katyn should be waived due to a lack of evidence, but ultimately admitted it because Rudenko insisted on it, as directed by the Politburo. They only demanded that the Soviet prosecutors had to prove the German perpetrators alone.

A secret commission directed by Vyshinsky according to Stalin's directives prepared the Soviet indictment. It also included NKVD members such as Kobulow and Kruglow who were involved in the massacre, its camouflage and deportations. The Soviet prosecutors postponed the presentation of the Allied indictment several times in order to gain time for corrections ordered by Stalin. Rudenko had initially given 925 Katyn dead (that is how many bodies Burdenko supposedly had exhumed), which he increased to 11,000 dead with the terse note that this "number" was "known all over the world", based on Polish sources referred, although it too came from the Burdenko report. Nevertheless, the Western representatives agreed to the postponement in order not to let the process break down.

The Soviet indictment classified the massacre in a "German-fascist" "policy of the physical extermination of the Slavic peoples ", thus presented it as a model and precedent of the German genocide policy and, analogous to the Nazi propaganda, concealed the common violence policy of the years 1939 to 1941 with the main ideological enemy. From February 14, 1946, the Soviet prosecutor Yuri Pokrowski described the massacre as an important example of Nazi crimes against East European prisoners of war. As evidence he cited the Burdenko report: A "staff of the 537 Construction Battalion" under Lieutenant Colonel "Arnes" organized the murders, provided the corpses with falsified evidence, had them exhumed for anti-Soviet propaganda by 500 Soviet prisoners of war and then executed them too.

Lieutenant Reinhart von Eichborn found out about the indictment, found Friedrich Ahrens and wrote to resistance fighter Fabian von Schlabrendorff . Presumably he named Ahrens' whereabouts and suggested that he and others be called as witnesses. From Schlabrendorff briefed the former OSS -directors William J. Donovan , the advisor to the Chief Prosecutor of the United States Robert H. Jackson was in Nuremberg. Donovan had already warned Jackson that the Katyn charge could discredit the entire process. He saw the chance to inflict defeat on the Soviet side. The possible witnesses were asked not to speak to anyone, as Soviet agents were teeming with them.

On March 3, 1946, Goering's defense attorney Otto Stahmer applied for five witnesses to be summoned to Katyn. Western judges approved of the motion against Soviet protest, as Article 21 of the London Statute does not prohibit the defense from presenting exonerating witnesses and counter-evidence. Thereupon Wyschinski attacked the IMT with a petition dictated by Rudenko. It violated Article 21 by allowing convicted perpetrators to stand as witnesses and question evidence. Only the four allied governments are allowed to change the London Statute. During the consultation on April 6th, Judge Francis Biddle (USA) refuted the petition with a legal opinion and threatened to publish it and to arrest Rudenko for violating international law. The Soviet side then relented. Rudenko's assistant Nikolai Zorya, who helped prepare the Katyn indictment, was found dead on May 24th. The cause of death is unclear. A murder is suspected, possibly also because of Sorja's knowledge of the manipulations in the Soviet trial documents for Katyn.

Because the Nuremberg Trial was not supposed to deal with Soviet war crimes, Poland's government-in-exile rejected the Katyn charge and demanded that the massacre be investigated independently. Anders did not want to appear as a witness for Goering, but gave Jackson, Biddle and the German defense attorney the Polish evidence on Katyn. It comprised the reports of Polish visitors to Katyn, the Czaspki search office, survivors and Western journalists as well as Soviet information and, with precisely presented facts, suggested the NKVD perpetrators. This work appeared in London in 1948, has been reprinted many times and as the “Polish White Book” became the main source of historical research. In June 1946, however, Stahmer submitted Czapski's already published memoirs of Starobelsk as additional evidence. When the Soviet side demanded on June 19 that the witness statements only be submitted in writing, he insisted that they be read out. The IMT then allowed defense lawyers and prosecutors to publicly question three witnesses each. Thereafter, Stahmer's colleague Otto Kranzbühler tried unsuccessfully to submit the Polish white paper as evidence.

On July 1, 1946, Ahrens proved that he had not been stationed in Smolensk until October 1941 and was therefore not a party to the crime. That discredited the Burdenko report. The Soviet indictment presented the Katyn massacre as part of the mass murders of Einsatzgruppe B of Soviet prisoners of war in the Smolensk area and cited Reinhard Heydrich's "Einsatzbefehl 14" of October 29, 1941. Stahmers second witness Eichborn, as the intelligence officer in charge, must have known this order that his unit must have been involved in the murders. Eichborn thereupon claimed that when he had tapped telephone calls, Wehrmacht generals had rejected the German commissioner's order of June 6, 1941 as not being enforceable in Army Group Center. With this, the Soviet prosecutors managed to divert attention from the Burdenko report and to point out crimes of the Wehrmacht . In response to a Soviet inquiry, Stahmer's third witness, Eugen Oberhäuser, confirmed that the 537 Intelligence Regiment had around 150 pistols of 7.65 mm caliber.

On July 2, Boris Basilewski, the deputy mayor of Smolensk, confirmed that the Soviet secret police were stationed in the forest near Katyn before 1941. The Bulgarian Marko Markow, who had belonged to the medical commission in Katyn in 1943, stated that he had been compelled to sign their report and had determined that autumn 1941 was the time of death during his individual autopsy. But he confirmed the victims' winter clothing. Markov had already revoked his earlier information on the time of death of the Katyn victims during a show trial in Bulgaria, but was sentenced to death, brought to Moscow by the Soviet secret service SMERSch shortly before the execution and prepared for his appearance in Nuremberg. The third witness for the prosecution, Viktor Prosorovsky , wrote the exhumation section of the Burdenko report. He confirmed that all Katyn victims had been murdered using the same shot in the neck using German Geco ammunition. In addition, the prosecution presented a document from 1943, from which it emerged that the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross had also found German ammunition during its investigations, and that the Nazi propaganda had previously concealed. Stahmer avoided referring to German ammunition exports to the Soviet Union and only criticized the lack of foreign experts in the Burdenko Commission.

Thus neither side could prove the guilt of the other side. As a result, Presiding Judge Geoffrey Lawrence refused to admit any further witnesses and decided to drop the Katyn charge. The German attempt to portray the Wehrmacht as innocent and the Soviet attempt to establish its own historical falsification internationally had failed. It was not the task of the court to determine the actual perpetrators. Therefore, the October 1, 1946 judgment did not mention Katyn.

Great Britain

Since April 13, 1943, Owen O'Malley , the British ambassador to Poland's government-in-exile, collected information on Katyn. On May 24, 1943, he sent his report to Secretary of State Anthony Eden . The Soviet perpetrators are almost unquestionable, and to keep silent about them could undermine the West's appeal to moral values. England used the country's reputation to cover up the massacre, just as the murderers did with the coniferous graves. The British government tried to suppress all background reports on Katyn and withheld the O'Malley report, as its warfare relied on the coalition with Stalin. Churchill wrote to Stalin that he would try to prevent anti-Soviet polemics from the Polish press in Great Britain. It is pointless to "gather sickly around three-year-old graves in Katyn". Only in an alliance with Stalin can there be security for Poland. In February 1944, Churchill asked O'Malley to comment on the Burdenko report. The latter saw even stronger evidence of Soviet perpetrators, but, like Churchill, was now in favor of keeping the crime quiet despite moral concerns. He also advised Poland's government-in-exile.

In 1956, the British Foreign Office warned of a Katyn debate and had a film showing prohibited in order not to endanger Khrushchev's upcoming state visit. Polish emigrants kept the memories of Katyn alive. The standard works of the Katyn visitor from 1943 Józef Mackiewicz ( Katyn: Unatuned crime , 1949) and the political scientist Janusz Zawodny ( Death in the forest , 1962) named the Soviet guilt. Zawodny's work is scientifically accepted as a clarification of the perpetrator question. He criticized the attitude of the Western Allies in the Nuremberg Trial as a surrender of morality to realpolitik .

From 1971 the British press discussed Zawodny's newly published work. Conservative MPs Airey Neave and Lord St. Oswald reached a debate on Katyn in the House of Lords on July 17, 1971 , but no legal inquiry. In 1972 the State Department released Katyn wartime documents, including the O'Malley Report. The historian Rohan D'Olier Butler stated in a 1973 memorandum that he saw no advantage in breaking the 30-year British silence on Katyn. In 1976 the British government refused to attend the inauguration of a Katyn monument. “Secretly” the Soviet perpetrators cannot be doubted, but despite all the documents there is no compelling evidence of this. Taking sides would “maximally damage” relations with the Soviet Union. Later British governments also refused to make an official statement about Katyn, always invoking “legitimate residual doubts” because no killing warrant was known.

United States

Since May 1942, the liaison officer sent Henry Szymanski the news service of the US Army regular reports on the search of the Anders Army for missing persons. On May 24, 1943, he handed over the results of the search to Czapski and the minutes of meetings with Soviet leaders. In the US Congress between April 1943 and July 1944 Katyn was only marginally admitted to the Congressional Records. The American public remained rather indifferent. The United States Office of War Information (OWI) warned on May 6, 1943 against "very dubious" statements by the Germans about Katyn, which included the medical report. Press comments criticized the Polish ICRC proposal as stupidity and an inopportune move. Only a few reports discussed the perpetrator question and then mostly assumed that the perpetrator was German; this assumption is the duty of all loyal US citizens.

In contrast, the journalist William Lindsay White pointed out in his bestseller Report on the Russians (March 1945) that the winter clothes of the victims contradicted the alleged time of death in the summer of 1941. It is also inexplicable that the Soviet Union could not find the whereabouts of the prisoners before the German invasion (June 22, 1941), and afterwards did not report that the Germans had captured them in 1941. The media coverage was negative, as most US citizens would soon bring their own soldiers home and did not want a new conflict with the Soviet Union. White was also attacked by government officials and the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship .

In 1944, Polish US citizens and emigrants founded the national, Catholic and anti-communist Polish American Congress (PAC). From 1945 this made Katyn the subject to attack Roosevelt's pro-Soviet foreign policy. He saw the massacre as Russian and Asian, not just Stalinist, barbarism. Like the Poles in exile in London, he demanded clarification from an independent international court. On April 13, 1949, PAC President Charles Rozmarek asked US Ambassador Warren Austin in vain to request this from the UN . Journalist Julius Epstein wrote in two high-profile articles in July that communist agents in the US government had disappeared evidence from Katyn visitor John Van Vliet . Epstein and former US Ambassador to Poland Arthur Bliss Lane formed a Katyn Committee in November 1949 that spent two years collecting evidence. They viewed Katyn in the McCarthy era at that time as an example of communism's striving for world domination and warned against analogous crimes on lecture tours. The US House of Representatives initially rejected a Katyn investigation in 1949. It was not until 1951, after reports of US soldiers who were also shot in the neck in the Korean War , that MP Ray J. Madden won a majority for a committee of inquiry into Katyn.

The Madden Committee interviewed 81 witnesses for a year from October 1951, received over 100 written statements, and examined 183 pieces of evidence. As early as the interim report of July 1952 stated that after weighing up all the evidence, the Soviet guilt for the Katyn massacre was "beyond doubt". Gersdorff, who had looked after foreign visitors in 1943, testified that all pathologists were convinced of the Soviet guilt after the autopsies. This was confirmed by five members of the 1943 Medical Commission. Since February 1952, the committee also heard Poles in exile, survivors, PCK representatives and those involved in the Nuremberg trial in London and Frankfurt am Main. Stahmer rejected the assumption that the Americans had deliberately suppressed the clarification of the perpetrator question in Nuremberg. Robert Jackson defended his behavior in Nuremberg in the course of a hearing before Congress in November 1952. In the Nuremberg trial, the evidence was unclear. The invited Soviet Union declined to participate, only sent the Burdenko report and accused the committee of spreading Nazi lies with a press campaign in the Eastern Bloc .

The committee revealed that reports from Henry Szymanski and George Howard Earle had been suppressed. Earle, as Roosevelt's special envoy for the Balkans, had collected information on Katyn and presented it to Roosevelt in May 1944, advised him to conduct an independent investigation, and a year later announced a publication on Katyn. Then Roosevelt had forbidden him to pursue the subject and had him transferred. The main witness was John Van Vliet. The former prisoner of war US officer visited the graves near Katyn on May 13, 1943 and reported about it on May 22, 1945 to Major General Clayton L. Bissell, who is responsible for army intelligence . He considered the Soviet perpetrators proven. Bissell had recorded his testimony and classified it as top secret. The report was then nowhere to be found in the Pentagon . According to Bissell, the publication would have endangered the negotiated entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan and its accession to the UN. He did not destroy the document, but forwarded it.

The committee could not prove a network of communist agents in the US authorities and no censorship order from Roosevelt. The final report of December 22, 1952 clearly identified the evidence for the Soviet perpetrators and attributed the withholding of evidence to lack of coordination, military constraints and a pro-Soviet attitude of individual officials. Roosevelt believed in Stalin's sincerity, neglected Poland for the war aims and was thus jointly responsible for post-war developments in Eastern Europe. The committee called for all evidence on Katyn to be handed over to the UN, to bring the case to the UN General Assembly, to carry out international criminal proceedings against the Soviet Union and to set up a UN commission for similar future crimes. The US government did not implement any of these demands, as it was negotiating with the Soviet Union to end the Korean War and saw no prospect of a UN majority for a Katyn trial and the preservation of evidence in Katyn itself. It did not want to risk a vote defeat, which would have strengthened Soviet propaganda, and did not want to set a precedent for charges against other crimes committed before the UN was founded. In addition, there was still no functioning international criminal court .

Since 1952 only a few American authors (Gabriel Kolko, Peter M. Irons) doubted the Soviet perpetrators.


The GDR presented the work of the Madden Committee in 1952 as continued Goebbels propaganda and part of an alleged war preparation of Western imperialism . The West German KPD adopted this representation and published the Burdenko report. A KPD brochure compared the Katyn massacre with the Gestapo mass murder of Eastern European forced laborers and prisoners of war in Dortmund's Rombergpark, which was then negotiated in court, and referred to connections between Western anti-communists and “neo-fascists”. Wehrmacht veterans used the hearings of the Madden Committee as an opportunity to castigate the Nuremberg Trial in Germany as the judiciary of the victors. Previous Katyn visitors made photographs and notes available to rehabilitate comrades convicted as Nazi criminals.

In 1956 the magazine Der Spiegel erroneously reported that leading Polish Communist Party members had admitted the Soviet perpetrators and urged Moscow to admit guilt. Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt's kneeling in Warsaw in 1970 and his Ostpolitik made it possible to deal with Stalin's crimes in Poland and made it more difficult for state propaganda to prevent this debate. In Germany, on the other hand, the Holocaust debate dominated.

German right-wing extremists traditionally count the Katyn massacre against Nazi crimes in order to put them into perspective or to present the " Auschwitz lie " as plausible. Hendrik van Bergh claimed in 1986 that Katyn was “perhaps the worst” crime of World War II. If the Germans were falsely accused for this, they could also have been “blamed” for other crimes. In 1985 Kurt Ziesel demanded in the right-wing conservative Deutschland-Magazin that the federal government had to officially protest against a Katyn monument in Warsaw that was then unveiled. Its inscription "Victim of Hitler fascism" is a "particularly serious slander of the Wehrmacht and the German people". Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher replied that the label was “an obvious falsification of history to the detriment of the Germans”, but refused to ask Poland to revise it.

People's Republic of Poland

Until 1989, the Soviet perpetrators of the Katyn massacre was the greatest taboo in the People's Republic of Poland and a symbol of the mendacity of communist propaganda. The press censorship regulated the language of the media on Katyn down to the last detail: The statement “shot by the Nazis” was allowed, dating before August 1941 was forbidden, and Polish prisoners of the Soviet Union were not allowed to be called “prisoners”. Party leader Bolesław Bierut suppressed any opposition. The Katyn topic was officially ignored in the 1950s. However, the victims' families kept the memory alive. Western radio stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe , which could be received in Poland, reported on the Madden Committee. In contrast, the propaganda pamphlet The Truth About Katyn by Bolesław Wójcicki appeared in 1951 , which contained a speech by Wanda Wasilewska. The Burdenko report was first published in Poland in 1952 and made Katyn a media issue.

In his speech “ On the personality cult and its consequences ” of February 1956, party leader Khrushchev exposed some of Stalin's crimes, but did not mention Katyn. In October 1956, Władysław Gomułka became the new party leader in Poland. Khrushchev is said to have suggested that he publicly admit the Soviet guilt for Katyn in order to resolve the conflict in and with Poland. Gomułka rejected this because of incalculable consequences in Poland. His successor Edward Gierek was urged by opponents in Poland to work with Soviet state and party leaders to clear up the massacre. He is said to have dared to make a one-off attempt at Brezhnev , but in vain.

The Committee for the Defense of Workers (KOR), which was founded in 1976 and explicitly saw itself as a legal opposition, formed a “Flying University” in Krakow in 1978, which among other things printed and distributed illegal leaflets on taboo subjects such as Katyn. An illegal Katyn committee, which was founded in April 1979 by members of the “legal opposition”, demanded clarification and recognition of the Soviet perpetrators. The independent trade union Solidarność , founded in 1980, accepted this demand. In 1981 the new party leader Wojciech Jaruzelski banned Solidarność and the Katyn Committee. In 1982 four activists who helped organize Katyn memorials were sentenced to several years in prison.

In view of the growing protests in Poland and Western criticism, party leader Wojciech Jaruzelski and Gorbachev agreed in April 1987 on a Polish-Soviet historian's commission to clear up the "white spots" in the relationship between the two states. At its first meeting in May 1987, the Commission decided not to enter into public debates. With reference to this, the Soviet historians refused to deal with the subject of Katyn. Gorbachev's administrator of the presidential archives , Valery Boldin , refused to hand over documents. Nevertheless, the Polish historians pointed out the inconsistency of the Burdenko report. Since then there has been a gradual liberalization of the Polish state media, which now occasionally mentioned Katyn. In April 1988, an appeal by Polish dissidents to Soviet intellectuals to speak publicly about the Katyn murders appeared in Western media . Soviet agencies had previously refused to print.

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Poland in 1989 , the first partially free elections since 1945, the opposition forces received new members. The lack of results from the historians' commission reinforced the demand for an explanation of Katyn. Thereupon the ruling Polish United Workers Party broke with its previous position. Government spokesman Jerzy Urban declared on March 7, 1989 that the Stalinist NKVD had carried out the Katyn murders. In May, the Polish historians in the commission made their refutation of the Burdenko report public and for the first time made the NKVD responsible for the murder of the prisoners from Starobelsk and Ostashkov, whose mass graves had not yet been found. This opinion was published by the Polish weekly Polityka on August 19, 1989, after the Commission of Historians disbanded. It was widely discussed in public.

In 1981, the CIA evaluator Robert G. Poirier analyzed original aerial photographs of seventeen flights by the German Air Force over the Katyn area from 1941 to 1944. They did not show any changes to the landscape during the German occupation, but before and after the Soviet reconquest in autumn 1943. Bulldozers that were leveling graves and people who were carrying bodies were also recognizable on them. His article went unnoticed. The art historian Wacław Godziemba-Maliszewski read it in 1990 and found the original photographs of German reconnaissance flights over Katyn, Kharkov and Mednoje in the US National Archives. He collected testimony from the area and sent his research report to Polish authorities. On October 9, 1989, Poland's attorney general had requested Soviet investigations into the murders; the new evidence and political developments in the Soviet Union hastened this investigation.

Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev (November 1985)

According to Stalin's accusation of collaboration from 1943, Soviet and state communist agencies in the Eastern Bloc continued to pursue all Polish visitors to Katyn after 1945. Edmund Seyfried was sentenced to several years' imprisonment, later Stefan Mossor was also sentenced for a different reason. František Hájek, a member of the 1943 Medical Commission, like Marko Markow, revoked his findings at the time. After the Katyn indictment in Nuremberg and attempts at show trials in Poland failed, the Soviet regime made the subject taboo and stopped propagating the Burdenko report for a number of years. From 1957 the Great Soviet Encyclopedia no longer mentioned the massacre.

In 1969 authorities had a memorial for victims of German war crimes built in the destroyed Belarusian village of Chatyn . They had previously chosen another village for it. Some Western historians suspect that Khatyn was chosen because of the similarity of the name to Katyn in order to erase the memory of their own massacre. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union tried to prevent Western media reports on Katyn through diplomatic protest and presented it as a continuation of Nazi propaganda.

In 1980, when Solidarność was formed in Poland, some Soviet dissidents declared in an article published in France that the Russian people would soon have to judge the Katyn murderers.

With the support of the reform-ready Soviet party leader Gorbachev, the bilateral commission of historians was set up in May 1987. In the summer of 1987, several Western European letters appealed to Gorbachev to have the massacre cleared up. His foreign policy advisor, Anatoly Chernyayev, advised him to have the Soviet archives searched for Katyn files and to “make everything clear, at least for ourselves”. Gorbachev did not respond. On March 22, 1989, the Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze , Gorbachev's advisor Valentin Falin and the KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov proposed to the Central Committee that the real perpetrators of the massacre be identified “in order to end the debate”. Because the danger is growing that Poland's population will also ask about the other murdered people, about whom they have so far been refused any information. The guilt of the Stalinist NKVD should be admitted in good time and the common suffering of Soviet citizens and Poles under Stalinism should be emphasized, so that the crime is not blamed on the Soviet state. An internal report prepared for this named 12,000 Polish officers murdered, of whom only some were killed in Katyn.

The reform newspaper Moskauer Nachrichten announced in 1989 that thousands of Soviet murder victims had been buried in the Katyn forest since 1935.

On November 1, 1989, victim relatives were allowed to visit Katyn. The inscription on the monument there was covered with handwritten characters "NKVD" and "1940", which the authorities left behind. The US political advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński also visited Katyn. He then said in a television interview that the Soviet government should admit the crime and thus facilitate reconciliation with Poland. On November 23 , during his visit to Moscow , Tadeusz Mazowiecki , the first non-communist head of government in Poland since 1945, asked Gorbachev to acknowledge the Soviet perpetrators of the crimes; in November 1989 Mazowiecki also visited the Katyn Memorial.

As a result of the glasnost policy , the Soviet historians Natalija Lebedewa , Walentina Parsadanowa and Juri Zorya were given archive access to the NKVD administrative files in 1989. They found NKVD transport lists from 1940 with the names and departure dates of the prisoners in all three special camps, which matched the names of the victims and murder dates known up to that point, as well as the UPWI's order documents. Soria was allowed to photocopy his finds in the special archive of the Central Committee.

Follow since 1990

Recognition as a Soviet state crime

In early 1990, Jaruzelski ultimately demanded that the Soviet government publicly admit the truth about Katyn. Otherwise, he will not continue to prepare for the state visit planned for April. On February 23, Falin informed Gorbachev about the document finds of the three historians and their intention to publish them in the summer of 1990. He classified the finds as evidence and suggested that they be officially announced on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the massacre and that the archive search revealed that the murder of the Polish officers was the work of the NKVD, Beria and Merkulow. This would cause the least possible damage. Gorbachev informed Jaruzelski. But the Politburo forbade the three historians to publish their findings at the end of February.

After some bodies from Starobelsk were found in the Kharkov Forest, on March 22, 1990, the district attorney ordered an investigation into the mass graves there. So the Soviet leadership could not delay its own investigation any further.

Natalia Lebedewa wanted to publish her article The Katyn Tragedy in the weekly newspaper Moskowskije Novosti . Politburo member Alexander Jakowlew allowed the editorial team to interview her instead. In it, on March 25, she announced the perpetrators of the NKVD. The Central Committee therefore considered banning her from any further publication and access to state archives, but decided against it.

On April 13, 1990, Gorbachev gave his state guest Jaruzelski two folders with the NKVD transport lists from the special camps and had the press agency TASS explain: The recently found archive material suggested that Beria, Merkulov and their subordinates were responsible for the “atrocities in the Katyn forest “Be responsible. "The Soviet side expresses its deepest condolences over the Katyn tragedy and declares that it is one of the most serious crimes of Stalinism ." In October Gorbachev apologized to the Polish people and handed over further Katyn documents. In November he commissioned the Soviet judiciary, the KGB and the Ministry of the Interior to collect archival materials on all Polish prisoners of war on Soviet soil since 1939 and to report the results to him.

From July to September 1991, the Soviet Military Prosecutor's Office and Poland's General Prosecutor's Office jointly carried out exhumations in Mednoye and Kharkov. With the help of local witnesses, further mass graves were found in Mednoye and one in the Pyatichatki forest near Kharkov. An attempt by the regional KGB chief to use the August coup in Moscow as an opportunity to break off the search was thwarted.

Shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on December 23, 1991, Gorbachev handed over to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, among other things, the folder from the secret archives of the Central Committee that contained the execution order of March 5, 1940. The historian Dmitry Volkogonov commissioned by Yeltsin found out that Valery Boldin, who was responsible for the archive, had the envelope with the execution order opened and resealed on April 18, 1989, probably for Gorbachev's inspection. He stated in his memoir that he saw the documents for the first time in the summer of 1989. Falin, on the other hand, testified that Gorbachev had already seen it in 1987. Yakovlev testified that Gorbachev had ordered Boldin to maintain strict secrecy. Accordingly, the document sought was deliberately withheld from the Polish-Soviet Historians' Commission from 1987. The fact that the TASS declaration of April 1990 did not mention Stalin is considered a last-ditch attempt to cover up his guilt.

Sections of the Soviet military and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPdRF) protested against the announcement and its consequences . Many of their MPs tried to hold back the release of further NKVD documents from the secret archives of their predecessor party , which was discussed in the People's Deputies Congress, with a constitutional complaint . Yeltsin therefore had the most important documents supporting the state order of mass murder published in 1940. Its chief archive handed it over to Poland's President Lech Wałęsa on October 14, 1992 .

Some articles in military magazines that denied Soviet perpetrators or Polish victims in Katyn up to the end of 1991 showed tendencies towards Russian historical revisionism . Yuri Muchin, an author of conspiracy theory bestsellers, defended the Burdenko report in two of his works in 1996 and 2003. Since 1991 some Russian historians have claimed that tens of thousands of Russian prisoners of war were systematically put to death in Polish camps during the Polish-Soviet War from 1919 to 1921. Other historians refuted this “anti-Katyn” thesis by showing that in addition to around 18,000 Russians, many Poles also died from the same epidemics. However, Putin portrayed the Katyn massacre in 2010 as Stalin's revenge for the losses of Soviet soldiers in Polish camps. In two textbooks from 2002 and 2003 for regular history lessons in Russia (9th grade) the consequences of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland and the keyword “Katyn “In the author's text. However, one of the books lists an NKVD document on Katyn in the source section. Another book recommended by Putin in 2007 justifies the Stalinist purges of the 1930s and occupations in the wake of the Hitler-Stalin Pact with Soviet argumentation models as militarily necessary, without reference to the suffering of the occupied peoples. In 2008, Dmitri Tokarev was stylized as the nation's hero in an anniversary pamphlet by the Russian domestic intelligence service FSB ; his participation in the 1940 murders was not mentioned.

Putin's policy of history has stopped the process of coming to terms with it and specifically prevents the release of further documents on Stalinist crimes. On this basis, some gestures of reconciliation were made. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin Pact on August 31, 2009, Putin said in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza : “The Russian people, whose history has been so distorted by the totalitarian system, understand how sensitive the question of the massacre of Katyn is for the Poles. "

Documents from the Russian Attorney General relating to the massacre, which were handed over to Poland in 2011.

In response to the plane crash near Smolensk in 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had well-known key documents such as the execution decision of the Politburo posted on a state website. On May 9, 2010, he handed over 67 volumes of files from the fourteen-year trial of the mass murders to Poland. The Duma declaration of November 26, 2010 "On the Katyn tragedy and its victims" juxtaposed the Stalinist mass murders of Soviet citizens and Poles and also recalled the soldiers of the Red Army who died for the "liberation of Poland from Hitler's fascism". Since important files are still kept under lock and key, these steps are considered symbolic politics and an attempt to construct a Russian-Polish community of victims without taking legal and financial responsibility for the Soviet crimes against the Poles.

Historical research

Intensive research by the Polish government-in-exile, its helpers in Katyn and Polish historians had clarified the question of the perpetrators. But because the Nuremberg Trial left this question open, research remained focused on it until 1990 and was shaped by the propaganda clichés of the war and post-war era. It was only after the Soviet admission of guilt in 1990 that the series of murders was reconstructed more precisely. Polish and Russian scientists work closely together and publish the most important works together. Because most of the NKVD files are kept secret, it is difficult to research aspects such as the connection between the series of murders and German and Soviet crimes in occupied Poland and the biographies of the perpetrators.

The series of murders is considered part of the Soviet policy of conquest and deportation in Poland, made possible by the Hitler-Stalin Pact. The main topic of discussion is what triggered the Politburo murder decision of March 5, 1940. Without knowing him, Janusz Zawodny declared in 1962 that the prisoners had been murdered "because, according to the ideas of the Soviet officials at the time, they were enemies of the Soviet Union." Their self-confident and stubborn behavior prompted the perpetrators to decide on the murder. The NKVD files that have been publicly known since 1990 (including reports from the camp inspectors, correspondence between Beria and Soprunenko, petitions and letters of protest from prisoners) support this thesis.

The British literary scholar Donald Rayfield attributes the murder order to a "hatred of Poland" and a motive for revenge by Stalin because he was defeated as leader of the Red Army in the 1919 to 1921 war against Poland, whose army many of those who were later murdered belonged to. Rayfield also cites centuries of hatred between Roman Catholic Poles and Orthodox Russians, which has shown itself between the resistant prisoners and their guards. The latter would not have endured standing there as barbarians , from whom only Polish chivalry protected Western Europe. The British political scientist George Sanford explains the series of murders as a combination of Stalin's hostility to Poland after the lost war from 1919 to 1921 and the behavior of the camp inmates. The NKVD leadership had taken the documented constant refusal of the Poles to cooperate with the Soviet Union and their immunity to attempts at indoctrination as a death-worthy affront. They assigned the officers to the Polish landowners and classified them as a hostile, dangerous and therefore finally to be destroyed social class . Sanford rules out Stalin and the NKVD from disempowering the Polish government in exile as early as 1940 or from wanting to do Hitler a favor and planning the Katyn murders together with the Gestapo.

Many historians interpret the series of murders in the context of earlier and later Stalinist mass crimes against Poles as genocide according to the Genocide Convention of 1951. Some consider it to be the result of a Soviet mechanism of persecution that has been practiced since the forced collectivization . This culminated in the “ great purge ” of 1937/38, during which further waves of persecution were prepared in the border areas. For the Russian historian Inessa Jaschborowskaja, the Poles had no chance of survival since their capture because of the long-practiced ideological paranoia of the enemy . It is controversial whether the extent of these murders in the context of the Soviet policy of violence against other nations and ethnic groups is a peculiarity or a typical normality.

Norman Davies , Victor Zaslavsky and others view the murder warrant as part of a comprehensive "class cleansing." Zaslavsky understands it to mean the "planned and systematic annihilation of an entire social class" by a regime determined by Marxism-Leninism . From this point of view, the series of murders resulted from the annihilation logic of the Stalinist ideology , the system of which had been consistently transferred to the occupied territories of Poland and other areas of Eastern Europe since the beginning of the war in 1939. Zaslavsky refers to the social criteria according to which the Polish prisoners in the special camps were categorized and which also justified Beria's murder proposal. He emphasizes the context of the deportations of “class enemies” and “nationalist counterrevolutionaries” from eastern Poland from 1939 to 1941. The murders were not genocide because they did not only affect ethnic Poles and were co-organized by Polish communists. He explains these crimes with Hannah Arendt from the nature of totalitarian rule , which tried to "accelerate" the "movement of the natural or historical process" by means of such terrorist measures against "dying classes".

The Polish-American historian Anna M. Cienciala explained the murder decision as a political uselessness of the prisoners for Stalin after the Soviet-Finnish winter war. She referred to a (albeit weakly documented) offer by Sikorski to Stalin in autumn 1939 to give up the Soviet-occupied areas of eastern Poland if Stalin would allow the establishment of Polish military units in the Red Army with the captured officers. When Finland offered an armistice in February 1940, Stalin no longer needed the Poles, either as units in the Red Army or as pledge to prevent Polish auxiliaries from being sent to Finland.

The German historian Claudia Weber sees a stronger role for the NKVD. The series of murders was Beria's “first act of violence as the unrestricted ruler of the NKVD and proof of loyalty and allegiance to Stalin”. She rejects psychologizing interpretations limited to Stalin. Stalin has not forgotten earlier humiliations, but as a pragmatic power politician put them aside for political interests. She points out that, despite his alleged Polish phobia, Stalin accepted Polish officers from the camps into the Red Army and in March 1943 even appointed Zygmunt Berling as general and commander of a division . Zaslavsky's classification of the crime as a "class cleansing" is more plausible because most of the Polish prisoners almost ideally met the Stalinist criteria of the class enemy . However, these criteria only legitimized the murder decision, not motivated it. In Beria's draft resolution, accusations of counter-revolutionary sabotage, anti-Soviet agitation and the formation of insurgent organizations dominated, not class affiliation. His design shows parallels to Nikolai Yezhov's NKVD order No. 00485, which triggered the “Polish Operation” of 1937/38: Both were directed against members of Polish military organizations and placed them under suspicion of espionage. Like his predecessor, Beria viewed the Poles from the outset as “counterrevolutionary enemies of Soviet power”, but, unlike in earlier “national operations”, had to take into account that as prisoners of war in an occupied state they could not be easily liquidated. The decision to murder her was by no means certain from the start. The time of the decision was influenced much more than previously assumed by the interaction of the German and Soviet occupation policy in Poland, the war constellation at that time and the dynamics of the camps. After most of the prisoners had resisted recruitment attempts for the Red Army, Germany refused to take them over, and the German-Soviet resettlement agreement had expired, they would have lost their bargaining value.

The Polish historian Włodzimierz Borodziej judges that precisely because of the decades of historical falsification, Katyn influenced post-war history in Poland like no other event and became a symbol of Stalinist tyranny during the Cold War .

Legal proceedings

Criminal proceedings against perpetrators from 1940 never took place. There was also no compensation for the victims. The main perpetrators Beria and Merkulow were executed in 1953 for other reasons; Blochin died in 1955.

The then Soviet military prosecutor began investigations in autumn 1990. She interviewed some of the surviving perpetrators, including Pyotr Soprunenko and Dmitri Tokarev. This provided essential details about the organization and process of the mass murders. On September 21, 2004, however, she dropped the case without a verdict or a final report and declared two thirds of the evidence to be classified as it contained state secrets. The deeds are statute-barred. In May 2008, a Moscow district court rejected an application by the Memorial Foundation and the Polish Katyn families to rehabilitate the victims and compensate their families. Only those who have had their rights injured (i.e. the murder victims) could apply for rehabilitation; the application is a condition for compensation. The Moscow City Court allowed the rehabilitation process to be resumed, but stopped it four weeks later because it would not be feasible without releasing the state-secret files. Chief Public Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov declared on March 11, 2005, because only the deaths of 1803 inmates in the three special camps had been proven and only 22 of them had been identified, that it was not genocide.

Poland's then President Lech Kaczyński supported a bill by his party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość in 2008 to classify the crime as genocide in order to exclude a statute of limitations and thus enable the victims to be rehabilitated. However, the move did not find a majority in the Polish Sejm in 2009 . This classified Katyn as a war crime.

In 2009, Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Yakovlevich Dschugashvili sued the Novaya Gazeta newspaper because it had also reminded of Stalin's order to kill Katyn with a supplement to Memorial. The lawsuit was dismissed.

In April 2010, at Memorial's request, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the Katyn files were unlawful. At the end of May 2010, the Russian Supreme Military Court finally dismissed Memorial's lawsuit, which had been suspended in 2004, because of the statute of limitations. In a second file release procedure, the Katyn families waived their right to compensation. The Supreme Military Court ruled as the last instance that the Russian judiciary was not obliged to provide information about the results of the investigation to victims' families. An association like Memorial has no right to question secret clauses. For the protection of state secrets, it is not the court but only a state commission that is responsible.

On November 19, 2007 and May 24, 2009, fifteen victims' relatives had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): Russia, contrary to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), had not carried out sufficient criminal investigations into the death of their relatives and they had violated Article 3 ECHR inhumane and degrading. The State of Poland joined the trial in May 2010 as a third plaintiff. On July 5, 2011, the Court opened the case for trial. On April 16, 2012, the court ruled for the first time that the Russian treatment of the offenses of 1940 could not be judged because of the prohibition of retroactive effects , and that they had occurred too long ago. But the way the Soviet and then the Russian authorities dealt with ten of the fifteen plaintiffs, who are direct relatives of victims, was contrary to human rights. They have not been allowed access to research material since the Russian signing of the Human Rights Convention in 1998. They were not involved in the investigation and Russia kept the reasons for their termination in 2004 a secret from them. The Russian military tribunal had deliberately concealed the circumstances of the massacre and demonstrated a lack of humanity towards the victims' relatives by assuming that those killed could have fled the Soviet camps or were rightly sentenced to death. Russia also violated Article 38 of the ECHR by withholding files from the Court to close the 2004 investigation. A small chamber of the Court of Justice therefore initially condemned Russia for “inhumane treatment of relatives” and inadequate cooperation by the Russian judiciary, which had refused to allow him to inspect the investigation files.

On October 21, 2013, however, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR largely overturned this judgment and justified its decision as follows: In 1998, when Russia joined the ECHR, the murder of the prisoners of war was already a "proven historical fact", so that the relatives The fate of the victims was not uncertain. Therefore, the termination of criminal investigations into the mass murders by the Russian judiciary should not be judged as "inhuman treatment" of the victims' relatives and does not justify any right to compensation. The lack of cooperation between the Russian judiciary and the ECHR since 2004 continued to condemn it.


Since public commemoration of Katyn attacked the Soviet image of history , it was suppressed in the People's Republic of Poland until 1988 and was not possible in Katyn. In almost all states with Polish emigrants, the dissemination of information about Katyn was also not desired. Nevertheless, around 400 memorial sites were built in the western world, including epitaphs at churches and in cemeteries, as well as many communal monuments, for example in Adelaide , Baltimore , Cannock Chase , Doylestown (Pennsylvania, Bucks County) , Jersey City , Johannesburg , Stockholm and Toronto .

The British Katyn Memorial Fund has been campaigning for a Katyn memorial in London since 1972 to point out Soviet guilt. He thus triggered a "Katyn affair" that lasted for years. The Soviet Union tried to prevent the memorial from being held with protest notes and diplomatic pressure. The British Foreign Office rejected the memorial because any evidence of Soviet perpetrators endangered relations with the Soviet Union. Locations in the city center and in the Chelsea district could not be implemented. In 1976, an obelisk with the engraving "Katyn 1940" and a Polish eagle trapped in barbed wire was erected in Gunnersbury Cemetery in the London Borough of Hounslow . He bears the symbols of the cross for Christian, the Star of David for Jewish and the crescent moon for Muslim victims from Katyn. Only representatives of the US government came to the inauguration. British officers were only allowed to participate in civilian clothes. In 1979, however , Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent an orchestra to attend the memorial ceremony.

Since 1980, Poles have laid wreaths and flowers on a symbolic Katyn grave in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw. Hundreds to thousands of people gathered there every day in the summer of 1981 to light candles for the victims. On July 31, 1981 supporters of Solidarność secretly put a cross with the inscription "Katyn - 1940" up there. Officials of the State Security Service removed it the next night. A suspect was sentenced to several years in prison. Nevertheless, wreaths for Katyn's victims continued to be laid at this point. The city of Warsaw had a monument made with the neutral inscription “Dedicated to Polish soldiers resting in the earth of Katyn”. Shortly before completion, the sculptors should add “the victims of fascism ”. When they refused, the secret police secretly deposited the memorial, which was paid for with private donations, in a magazine. A new memorial, unveiled in 1985, bore the regime-loyal inscription “The Polish soldiers, victims of Hitler's fascism, who rest in the earth of Katyn”. Opponents of the regime sanded off the inscription in 1988. The "Association of Katyn Families" was formed here in the summer of 1988 as a publicly admitted contact point for the victims' relatives. On the night of July 6, 1989, secret police put the stolen memorial back on the same place. The second memorial has been there again since 1995, now with a factual inscription. A board explains the background to the duplication.

Only the political change in Poland and the Soviet Union since 1985 made it possible to have a dignified burial of those murdered at Katyn and a public, even joint Polish-Russian commemoration of them. With that, Katyn gradually lost its importance as an anti-Soviet beacon and became a place of personal mourning. The Katyn Museum in Warsaw, which opened in 1993, contains, among other things, the names of the victims, personal items found on them, biographical sketches and photographs of excavations.

In 1993 Boris Jelzin laid a wreath in front of the Katyn Cross in the Powązki cemetery and asked the Poles: “Forgive us if you can.” On February 22, 1994, Russia and Poland concluded an agreement on the graves and memorials of the victims of War and repression. The Russian authorities made it easier for Polish victims' associations to access Katyn. Between 1999 and 2000, both sides redesigned the Katyn Memorial . It also includes Soviet victims of Stalinism and is intended to contribute to the reconciliation of Poles and Russians. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the massacre , Poland's Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek declared on Polish television that Katyn should become a symbol of mutual remembrance and an obligation to overcome a difficult part of one's own history, to bless one's own future, to strengthen friendly feelings between Poles and Russians and the establishment of friendly relations between the two states.

The Polish composers Andrzej Panufnik ( Epitafium katyńskie , 1964) and Krzysztof Penderecki ( The Polish Requiem , 1980–1984) as well as the director and son of a Katyn sacrifice Andrzej Wajda ( The Katyn Massacre , 2007) made significant contributions to the commemoration. Wajda's film was first shown in Poland on September 17, 2007, the anniversary of the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland.

On November 14, 2007, the Sejm decided on April 13 as the annual Katyn Memorial Day, because German radio publicized the massacre on April 13, 1943, and Gorbachev admitted the Soviet perpetrators on April 13, 1990.

According to surveys, only 19% of Russians had heard of the NKVD perpetrators at Katyn by March 2010; 18% had approved an official apology from their state. On April 7, 2010, the Prime Ministers of Poland and Russia visited the Katyn cemetery together for the first time. On April 10, 2010, President Lech Kaczyński and 95 other Poles, including representatives of the victims' families, died on the way to the Katyn memorial because their plane crashed shortly before landing in Smolensk. The catastrophe initially provoked strong sympathy from the Russian population and the Russian government made gestures of reconciliation. On April 11, a state broadcaster showed Wajdas film for the second time after it was broadcast on April 2, this time to a wider audience. However, Russia's January 2011 report on the causes of the crash caused renewed tension between the two states. National conservative Poles often interpret the crash with anti-Russian conspiracy theories .

In Polish commemoration today, “Katyn” is an example of the emphasis on Soviet crimes (including against Germans) in World War II, with which the Polish nation was “betrayed”. In Russian memory, the critical reappraisal of Stalinism was marginalized. Arseni Roginski , President of Memorial, named the following problems in 2010: While Poles overemphasized the role of victim and the resistance, Russian commemoration was confused and selective. The investigations stopped in 2004 should be resumed, a court ruling on the rehabilitation of the victims was necessary: ​​“Katyn is a crime against humanity or a war crime. All names have to be mentioned openly, starting with Stalin. "

In Poland, Katyn became the center of a national myth of sacrifice in politics of memory. There was also a tendency to offset the massacre against other crimes. For example, the historian Jerzy Robert Nowak demanded that if one clarified the role of Polish perpetrators in the Jedwabne massacre , one should also talk about “Bolshevik Jews” who were responsible for the Katyn massacre.

Additional information



  • Izabela Kowalska, Elżbieta Pawińska (eds.): Zbrodnia katyńska: bibliografia 1940–2010. Niezależny Kom.Historyczny Badania Zbrodni Katyńskiej, Warsaw 2010, ISBN 978-83-89875-29-7 .
  • Maria Harz: Bibliografia zbrodni katyńskiej: materiały z lat 1943–1993. Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, Warsaw 1993.

Sources and documents

  • Anna M. Cienciala, Natalia Lebedewa, Wojciech Materski: Katyn: A crime without punishment: Documents translated by Marian Schwartz, Anna M. Cienciala and Maia A. Kipp. Yale University Press, New Haven 2007, ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4 (English-translated documents of volumes 1–3 of the Katyń joint edition. Documentation Zbrodni with an introduction).
  • Natalia Lebedewa (Ed.): Katyn '. Mart 1940 - sentjabr '2000 g. Rasstrel. Sud'by živych. Ėcho Katyni. Documenty. Ves me, Moscow 2001.
  • KARTA-Zentrum / Polski Memorial (ed.):
    Volume 1: Rozstrzelani w Katyniu. ... ("Shot in Katyn. Alphabetical list of the 4410 Polish prisoners from Koselsk who were shot in April / May 1940. According to Soviet, Polish and German sources.")
    Volume 2: Rozstrzelani w Charkowie. ... . ("Shot in Charkow. Alphabetical list of the 3739 Polish prisoners from Starobelsk who were shot in April / May 1940. According to Soviet and Polish sources.")
    Volume 3: Rozstrzelani w Twerze. ... ("Shot in Tver. Alphabetical list of the 6,314 Polish prisoners from Ostashkov who were shot in April / May 1940 and buried in Mednoye. According to Soviet and Polish sources."); all Warsaw 1997.
  • Natalia S. Lebedewa, Wojciech Materski / Russia's Academy of Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences (ed.):
    Katyn. Documenty Zbrodni, Tom 1: Jeńcy nie wypowiedzianej wojny: sierpień 1939 - marzec 1940. ("Katyn. Documents of a Crime, Volume 1: Prisoners of an Undeclared War, August 1939 to March 1940.") Warsaw 1995, ISBN 83-85660- 24-0 .
    Katyn. Documenty Zbrodni, Tom 2: Zagłada: marzec - czerwiec 1940. ("Katyn. Documents of a Crime, Volume 2: The Annihilation. March to June 1940.") Warsaw 1998, ISBN 83-86643-80-3 .
    Katyn. Documenty Zbrodni, Tom 3: Losy ocalałych: lipiec 1940 - marzec 1943. ("Katyn. Documents of a Crime, Volume 3: The Fate of Survivors, July 1940 to March 1943") Warsaw 2001, ISBN 83-88542-24-9 , ISBN 83-86643-89-7 .
    Katyn. Documenty Zbrodni, Tom 4: Echa Katynia: kwiecień 1943 - marzec 2005. (“Echoes of Katyn, April 1943 to March 2005”) Warsaw 2006, ISBN 83-89115-57-3 .
  • Wojciech Materski (Ed.): Katyn: Documents of genocide. Documents and materials from the Soviet archives turned over to Poland on October 14, 1992. Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN, Warsaw 1993, ISBN 83-8547950-3 .
  • Oleg Jasnow: Katynskaja drama: Kozel'sk, Starobel'sk, Ostaškov: sud'ba internirovannych pol'skich voennoslužaščich. Izdatelstvo političeskoj literatury, Moscow 1991, ISBN 5-250-01410-0 .
  • Jędrzej Tucholski: Murder w Katyniu. Kozielsk - Ostaszków - Starobielsk. Lista ofiar. Pax, Warsaw 1991, ISBN 83-211-1408-3 .
  • Zdzisław Stahl (Ed.): The crime of Katyn. Facts and documents. 2nd edition, Polish Cultural Foundation, London 1965.
  • Adam Moszyński: Lista Katyńska. Jeńcy obozów Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk. Zaginieni w Rosji Sowieckiej. (1949) 4th edition, Gryf, London 1982.
  • Władysław Anders (Ed.): Zbrodnia Katyńska: w świetle dokumentów. 10th edition, Gryf, London 1982 (= Polish White Book 1948).

Contemporary witness reports

  • Teresa Kaczorowska: Children of the Katyn massacre: Accounts of life after the 1940 Soviet murder of Polish POWs: Accounts from Polish families torn by the 1940 mass murder in Soviet camps. McFarland, Jefferson (North Carolina) 2006, ISBN 0-7864-2756-6 .
  • Stanisław Swianiewicz: In the shadow of Katyn: Stalin's terror. Borealis, Pender Island 2002, ISBN 1-894255-16-X .
  • Salomon W. Slowes: The Way to Katyn. European Publishing House, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-434-50497-4 .
  • Józef Czapski: Inhuman Earth. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1967 ( review ).

Overall representations

  • Thomas Urban : Katyn 1940. History of a crime. Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-67366-5 .
  • Claudia Weber : War of the perpetrators. The Katyn mass shootings. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86854-286-8 .
  • Marią Szonert-Biniendą (Ed.): Katyn: State-sponsored extermination: Collection of essays. Libra Institute, Cleveland 2012, ISBN 978-1-4771-5579-0 .
  • Tadeusz A. Kisielewski: Katyń: zbrodnia i kłamstwo. Rebis, Poznań 2008, ISBN 978-83-7510-219-2 .
  • Victor Zaslawsky: Class Purge. The Katyn massacre. Wagenbach, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8031-2579-8 .
  • George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940: Truth, justice and memory. Routledge, London 2005, ISBN 0-415-33873-5 .
  • Małgorzata Ruchniewicz , Krzysztof Ruchniewicz : Katyn 1940. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Places of horror. Crimes in World War II. Primus, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-89678-232-0 , pp. 71-82.
  • Gerd Kaiser: Katyn. The state crime - the state secret. Structure, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7466-8078-6 .
  • Rudolf G. Pikhoia, Natalia S. Lebedewa, Aleksander Gieysztor, Wojciech Materski and others (eds.): Katyn. Plenniki nieob'iavlennoi voiny. Mezhdunarodnyi fond “Demokratiia”, Moscow 1997, ISBN 5-89511-002-9 .
  • Natalia S. Lebedewa: Katyn. Prestuplenie protiv chelovechstva. Progress Kultura, Moscow 1994.
  • Czesław Madajczyk: The Katyn Drama. Dietz, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-320-01668-7 ( review ).
  • Janusz Kazimierz Zawodny: Death in the forest. The story of the Katyn forest massacre. University of Notre Dame Press 1962, new edition Chicago 2011, ISBN 978-0-268-00849-9 ( excerpt online ). German edition: For example Katyn. Clarification of a war crime. Translated from the English by Siglinde Summerer and Gerda Kurz, Information und Wissen, Munich 1971.

Propaganda and Political Consequences

  • Thomas Urban : Katyń Zbrodnia i walka propagandowa wielkich mocarstw . Warsaw: Bellona, ​​2020 ISBN 978-83-111-5361-5
  • Dariusz Tołczyk: Katyń: An inconvenient truth. East European Politics & Societies, November 2015, No. 29/4, pp. 723–729.
  • Eugenia Maresch: Katyn 1940: The documentary evidence of the West's betrayal. History Publishing Group, Stroud 2010, ISBN 0-7524-5535-4 .
  • Claudia Weber: Against my better judgment. The Silence of the Western Allies on Katyn. In: Eastern Europe. Volume 7-8, 2009, pp. 220-232.
  • Martin Schaubs: The dispute Katyn: The perception of the massacre in the Soviet Russian, Polish and West German public, 1980-2000. Tectum, Marburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8288-9805-9 .
  • George Sanford: The Katyn massacre and Polish-Soviet relations, 1941–1943. In: Journal of Contemporary History. Volume 41, 2006, pp. 95-111.
  • Crister S. and Stephen A. Garrett: Death and politics: The Katyn forest massacre and American foreign policy. In: Walter Hixson (Ed.): The American Experience in World War II. Routledge, New York 2003, ISBN 0-415-94036-2 , pp. 183-200.
  • Thymian Bussemer: The International Red Cross and Nazi War Propaganda. The Katyn case. In: Operations. Volume 39, 2000, pp. 81–89.


  • Frank Fox: God's Eye: Aerial photography and the Katyn forest massacre. West Chester University Press, West Chester 1999, ISBN 1-887732-13-6 ( full text online ).
  • Simon Schochet: Polish Jewish officers who were killed in Katyn: An ongoing investigation in light of documents recently released by the USSR. In: Lucjan Dobroszycki, Jeffery S. Gurock (ed.): The Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Studies and sources on the destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied territories of the USSR, 1941-1945. ME Sharpe, Armonk 1993, ISBN 1-56324-173-0 .
  • Vladimir Abarinov: The murderers of Katyn. Hippocrene, New York 1993, ISBN 0-7818-0032-3 (Russian first edition: Katynskii labirint. Novosti, Moscow 1991).
  • Valentina Parsadanowa, Yuri Zorya: Katyn. Documents, clues, versions. In: New Time. Moscow Political Issues. Moscow 1990, No. 16, pp. 34-36.


  • Cordula Kalmbach: Remembering the massacre: Katyń as lieu de mémoire of the Polish culture of remembrance. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-631-65871-0 .
  • Anna Kaminsky (ed.): Places of remembrance for the victims of Katyn. Leipziger Universitäts-Verlag, Leipzig 2013, ISBN 978-3-86583-773-8 .
  • Alexander Etkind et al .: Remembering Katyn. Polity Press, Cambridge 2012, ISBN 978-0-7456-5576-5 .


Web links

Commons : Katyn Massacre  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files



Contemporary history


Individual evidence

  1. Beate Kosmala: Katyn. In: Wolfgang Benz, Hermann Graml, Hermann Weiss: Encyclopedia of National Socialism . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-608-91805-1 , p. 542.
  2. Kai von Jena: Polish Ostpolitik after the First World War. The problem of relations with Soviet Russia after the Riga Peace of 1921 (=  series of the quarterly books for contemporary history. No. 40). DVA, Stuttgart 1980, especially Chapter 1; Jörg Gägel in collaboration with Reiner Steinweg : Discourses of the past in the Baltic Sea region. Volume 2: The view of war, dictatorship, genocide, occupation and displacement in Russia, Poland and the Baltic states (=  Kieler Schriften zur Friedenswissenschaft. Volume 15). Lit, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-8258-0203-5 , p. 95 .
  3. Krzysztof Ruchniewicz: “Poland is not lost yet”. Lit, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-8258-0893-8 , p. 43 f.
  4. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 25 .
  5. ^ Katrin Boeckh, Hermann Beyer-Thoma: Stalinism in the Ukraine: The Reconstruction of the Soviet System after the Second World War. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-447-05538-3 , p. 66 .
  6. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 21-23 and 64.
  7. ^ Nikita Petrov, Arseni Roginski : The "Polish Operation" of the NKVD, 1937-8. In: Barry McLoughlin , Kevin McDermott (Eds.): Stalin's terror: High politics and mass repression in the Soviet Union. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2003, ISBN 1-4039-0119-8 , pp. 153-172; Numbers p. 164.
  8. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 48-52 .
  9. Krzysztof Ruchniewicz: “Poland is not lost yet”. 2007, p. 46 f.
  10. ^ Stefan Karner: In the GUPVI archipelago: Captivity and internment in the Soviet Union 1941–1956. Oldenbourg, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-486-56119-7 , p. 56.
  11. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 81 .
  12. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 29-31 .
  13. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 36–38.
  14. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 64-67.
  15. Krzysztof Ruchniewicz: “Poland is not lost yet”. 2007, pp. 46-50 .
  16. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 41–46.
  17. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 39–41.
  18. ^ Włodzimierz Borodziej: European history in the 20th century: History of Poland in the 20th century. Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60648-9 , p. 240.
  19. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. Y57-60.
  20. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 61–68.
  21. Michael Parrish: The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939-1953. Praeger, Westport 1996, ISBN 0-275-95113-8 , p. 56 .
  22. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 70.
  23. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 68–75.
  24. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 50.
  25. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 80–85.
  26. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 113 and 137.
  27. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, pp. 79 f.
  28. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 113 .
  29. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 118-120 ; Partial quotations translated by Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 86 and 96.
  30. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 120 .
  31. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 67, 87 and 96.
  32. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 88, fn. 65 .
  33. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 255 .
  34. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 55.
  35. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 121 .
  36. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski: The Polish deportees of World War II: Recollections of removal to the Soviet Union and dispersal throughout the world. McFarland, Jefferson (North Carolina) 2007, p. 4 f. .
  37. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 69.
  38. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 80 .
  39. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 122 .
  40. ^ A b Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 100.
  41. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 126.
  42. ^ Stanisław Swianiewicz: In the shadow of Katyn: Stalin's terror. 2002, p. 75.
  43. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 130 f.
  44. Jozef Mackiewicz: Katyn: Unlawful Crime. 1949, p. 123.
  45. Eugenia Maresch: Katyn 1940. P. 70 f.
  46. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 125 .
  47. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, pp. 41–45.
  48. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 124 f.
  49. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 262 f. and p. 511 , fn. 151 f.
  50. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 112 .
  51. Michael Parrish: The Lesser Terror. 1996, p. 57 .
  52. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 134 .
  53. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 97 f.
  54. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, p. 46 f.
  55. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, pp. 112-114 .
  56. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 196 and p. 205-207
  57. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 285 f.
  58. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 240 f.
  59. Alexander Etkind et al .: Remembering Katyn. 2013, p. 65.
  60. ^ Tadeusz Kisielewski: Katyń. Zbrodnia i kłamstwo. 2008, pp. 74-90.
  61. ^ Tadeusz Kisielewski: Katyń. Zbrodnia i kłamstwo. 2008, pp. 105-113.
  62. Andrzej Przewoźnik, Jolanta Adamska: Katyń: zbrodnia, prawda, pamięć. Świat Książki, Ożarów Mazowiecki 2010, p. 16.
  63. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 259 .
  64. See the volumes of the Warsaw Research Center Karta / Polski Memorial under Sources and Documents in the Bibliography.
  65. ^ Simon Schochet: Polish Jewish officers who were killed in Katyn. 1993, p. 242
  66. Charków - Katyń - Tver - Bykownia. W 70. rocznicę zbrodni katyńskiej. Zbiór studiów. Toruń 2011, p. 105 f.
  67. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 101.
  68. Matt Killingsworth (Ed.): Violence and the state. Manchester University Press, Manchester 2015, ISBN 978-0-7190-9702-7 , p. 55 .
  69. ^ Norman Davies: Heart of Europe: The past in Poland's present. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-280126-0 , p. 422 .
  70. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 29 f. and p. 167 .
  71. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, p. 49.
  72. ^ Czesław Madajczyk: The drama of Katyn. 1991, p. 162.
  73. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 115. For example, Thomas Urban names: Katyn 1940. 2015, p. 50, the painter Józef Czapski , who survived after the intervention of the Foreign Office in Berlin.
  74. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 130 .
  75. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 114 f.
  76. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 103-108.
  77. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 148 .
  78. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 111.
  79. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 112–121.
  80. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 116–118.
  81. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 494, fn. 9 .
  82. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 301 .
  83. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 123–129. According to the minutes of Kukiel's testimony to the Madden Commission , the conversation did not take place on November 19, but on October 19 ( digitized version ).
  84. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 159–173.
  85. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 174–175.
  86. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 190 f.
  87. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 182-187.
  88. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 230-234.
  89. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 236-239.
  90. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 193 f. and 209-212.
  91. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 214–216.
  92. ^ Friedrich Herber: Forensic medicine under the swastika. Leipzig 2002, p. 508; for use on pp. 305–313.
  93. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 240 f.
  94. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, p. 95 f.
  95. ^ Thyme Bussemer: Propaganda: Concepts and Theories. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Münster 2008, pp. 188 and 186, fn. 380.
  96. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, pp. 314-317 and p. 524, footnote 284 .
  97. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 247.
  98. Dieter Pohl: The Rule of the Wehrmacht: German Military Occupation and Local Population in the Soviet Union 1941-1944. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-596-18858-1 , p. 136 f.
  99. Michael Schneider: The "Operation Barbarossa": the displaced hereditary burden of 1941 and the consequences for the German-Soviet relationship. Luchterhand, 1989, ISBN 3-630-61857-X , p. 101.
  100. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 178.
  101. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 434.
  102. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 177-180.
  103. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 149–157.
  104. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 134–137 and 222 f.
  105. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 132–149.
  106. Cienciala et al .: Katyn. 2007, p. 216 .
  107. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 131 f.
  108. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, pp. 78 and 82.
  109. Rainer Rother, Judith Prokasky: The camera as a weapon: Propaganda images of the Second World War. Edition Text & Critique, Munich 2010, ISBN 3-86916-067-5 , p. 222; Ute Daniel: Eyewitnesses. War reporting from the 18th to the 21st century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-36737-6 , p. 181
  110. ^ Peter Longerich: Goebbels: Biography. Siedler, Munich 2010, ISBN 3-88680-887-4 , p. 570.
  111. ^ Josef Wulf: Press and radio in the Third Reich: A documentation (= culture in the Third Reich. Volume 1). Ullstein, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-550-07055-1 , p. 266.
  112. ^ Nicholas Stargardt: The German War 1939–1945. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 3-10-075140-X , S. V .
  113. Peter Longerich: “We didn't know anything about that!” The Germans and the persecution of the Jews 1933–1945. Siedler, Munich 2009, ISBN 3-88680-843-2 , p. 312 f.
  114. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 144.
  115. Wolfgang Benz, Peter Reif-Spirek (Ed.): Geschichtsmythen. Legends about National Socialism. Metropol, 2nd edition, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-936411-28-X , p. 69 f.
  116. Frank Bajohr, Dieter Pohl: The Holocaust as an open secret: the Germans, the Nazi leadership and the Allies. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54978-0 , pp. 69 and 102-106 ; Heinz Boberach (Ed.): Messages from the Reich . The secret situation reports of the security service of the SS 1939–1945. Pawlak, Herrsching 1984, ISBN 3-88199-158-1 , Volume 13, p. 5145.
  117. ^ Paul Milata : Between Hitler, Stalin and Antonescu: Romanian Germans in the Waffen-SS. 2nd edition, Böhlau, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-412-13806-6 , p. 183 .
  118. Thomas Urban: Katyn 1940. 2015, pp. 78 and 99–101.
  119. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 245.
  120. ^ Dieter Pohl: Scene Ukraine. The mass murder of Jews in the military administration area and in the Reich Commissariat 1941–1943. In: Christian Hartmann and others (ed.): The German War in the East 1941–1944: Facets of crossing borders. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59138-5 , pp. 155–196, here p. 187 and fn. 202.
  121. Dirk Rupnow: Destroy and remember. Traces of National Socialist memory politics. Wallstein, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-89244-871-X , pp. 57–59 and fn. 13.
  122. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, pp. 195–202.
  123. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. P. 203.
  124. ^ Jochen Laufer: Pax Sovietica. Stalin, the Western Powers and the German Question 1941–1945. Böhlau, Cologne 2009, pp. 306–309 .
  125. Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. 2015, p. 206.
  126. ^ Klaus Zernack: Poland and Russia. Two paths in European history. Propylaen, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-549-05471-8 , pp. 455-457; Claudia Weber: War of the perpetrators. P. 270 (here the quote); Joachim von Puttkamer : East Central Europe in the 19th and 20th Century (=  Oldenbourg Outline of History. Volume 38). Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, p. 105 .
  127. Crister S. and Stephen A. Garrett: Death and politics: The Katyn forest massacre and American foreign policy. In: Walter Hixson (Ed.): The American experience in World War II. Routledge, New York 2003, ISBN 0-415-94036-2 , pp. 183-200, here p. 189 .
  128. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 193 .
  129. ^ Adam Easton: No evidence Polish hero murdered. In: BBC News , January 29, 2009.
  130. George Sanford: Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940. 2005, p. 173 .
  131. Timothy Snyder: Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. Vintage, London 2011, ISBN 0-09-955179-9 , p. 306 .
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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 18, 2011 in this version .

Coordinates: 54 ° 46 ′ 24 ″  N , 31 ° 47 ′ 20 ″  E