Dear Readers: I am delighted to be able to chat with “Rik Fox, the Poland-designated “First Saber of the U.S. on Thursday’s CANTO TALK program (7 pm Pacific Time/9 pm Central Time). Rik will be sharing his experiences creating a Polish Winged Hussar group (Suligowski’s Regiment). We will be discussing Poland, Polish history, and that country’s influence on the U.S. — past and present.
I am friends with Rik, via Facebook’s Military History Page.One of the items he recently drew to my attention was this story: US ‘helped Russia cover up Second World War Katyn Forest massacre’
The US deliberately helped Russia cover up one of its most infamous Second World War atrocities to gain favour with Stalin, new documents suggest.
More than 22,000 captured Polish officers and other prisoners were systematically murdered in the Katyn forest on the western edge of Russia in 1940.
Three years later American prisoners of war sent secret coded messages to Washington with news of the massacre after seeing rows of corpses in an advanced state of decay in the forest, proof that the killers could not have been the Nazis who had only recently occupied the area.
Their testimony might have lessened the tragic fate that befell Poland under the Soviets, some scholars believe. Instead, it mysteriously vanished into the heart of American power. The long-held suspicion is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not want to anger Russian leader Josef Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan during the war.
Documents now released lend weight to the belief that suppression within the highest levels of the US government helped cover up Soviet guilt.
The evidence is among about 1,000 pages of newly declassified documents that the United States National Archives is releasing and putting online. Historians who saw the material days before the official release described it as important and shared some highlights.
The most dramatic revelation so far is the evidence of the secret codes sent by the two American POWs – something historians were unaware of and which adds to evidence that the Roosevelt administration knew of the Soviet atrocity relatively early on.
As an American of Romanian-Gypsy heritage, because our family knows something of World War II slaughters: 250,000 Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust, and they suffered losses proportionally greater than any other group of victims except Jews.So, I wanted to share a little background about this tragedy.
A little background about the events leading to the decimation of the Polish military leadership:
[The Katyn Forest Massacre] was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, with 21,768 being a lower bound. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, with the rest being Polish intelligentsia arrested for allegedly being “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.”
The following video offers details, including the fact that American President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew what went down, but gave Stalin a big pass because he was simply less evil than Adolph Hitler:
Churchill had a particularly one-minded perspective on the subject: I hate nobody but Hitler — and that’s professional.
Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin, chief executioner for the NKVD—and quite possibly the most prolific executioner in history—is reported to have personally shot and killed 7,000 of the condemned, some as young as 18, from the Ostashkov camp at Kalinin prison over a period of 28 days in April 1940. The killings were methodical. After the personal information of the condemned was checked, he was handcuffed and led to a cell insulated with stacks of sandbags along the walls and a felt-lined, heavy door. The victim was told to kneel in the middle of the cell, was then approached from behind by the executioner and immediately shot in the back of the head. The body was carried out through the opposite door and laid in one of the five or six waiting trucks, whereupon the next condemned was taken inside. In addition to muffling by the rough insulation in the execution cell, the pistol gunshots were also masked by the operation of loud machines (perhaps fans) throughout the night. This procedure went on every night, except for the May Day holiday.
To say the national psyche of Poland was scarred by this event would be a massive understatement. Recall that in the spring of 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and more than 80 other top-level Polish government officials were killed in a plane crash. The Polish delegation was flying on its way to the 70th memorial anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The Russians blamed “pilot error”; the Poles blamed the Russians, in part.
The Polish report does not shy away from putting much of the blame on Polish officials and procedures, saying the pilots had had insufficient training to fly the plane, a Tupolev 154. It also blames a lack of co-operation among the crew and a slow reaction to an automatic terrain warning system that warned pilots they were flying too low.
The main pilot was inexperienced and, as the only crew member who spoke much Russian, he was overwhelmed by the difficult conditions, the report said.
But it insisted Russian air traffic controllers were also to blame. Polish investigators found that the Polish plane was flying about 60 metres (200 feet) lower than the pilots believed in the moments before it clipped a tree and crashed. The Polish commission said the Russian air traffic controllers led the pilots to believe they were on course. It said the Russian airstrip had insufficient lighting, contributing to a lack of visibility that morning.