It is 5th March, the anniversary of the day in 1940 when the Soviet Politburo, including Stalin himself, signed the execution order of 22,000 Polish prisoners. Beria, the chief of the NKVD, believed that these army officers, policemen and intelligentsia would always fight for a free Poland and so proposed to eliminate them once and for all – the cream of the Polish nation.

Vast numbers hide individual tragedy so first I will outline the process, because that is what it was, a highly organized operation with detailed records on the scale of the Nazi death camps; and then I will tell the personal story of my grandfather, one of the 22,000.

The Katyn Forest Massacre is the group name for mass murder that took place on at least six sites, and is linked to the deaths of thousands of women and children in Kazakhstan over the next two years. Most of the victims, the army officers and policemen, were transported in April from the three main POW camps at Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostashkov to be killed at Katyn, Kharkov and Kalinin respectively. Prisoners were also taken from across Soviet occupied eastern Poland, the area known as Kresy. Those from Wilno and the northern towns were taken to Minsk; and from Lwow and the southern towns to Bykownia, Charkow and Cherson, where they were murdered. They were shot in the back of the head with a single bullet, some in padded cells in a prison, others on the edge of a mass grave.

On the 13th April 1940 the NKVD arrested the families of those on the Katyn list, 60,000 in one night, mostly women, children and old men. Forced into cattle wagons on 49 trains they endured a 2-3 weeks deportation to Kazakhstan where they were dumped at isolated collective farms. It is estimated that 10-20% died from cold, hunger and disease over the next two years.

General Anders became concerned when soldiers but very few officers were released from Siberia and rumors of the mass murders trickled out through the local population. The first official announcement was made by the Germans on 13th April 1943 in what they saw as a propaganda coup. The Soviets denied responsibility and blamed the Germans. The British and Americans quickly realized that Stalin was responsible, but in order to appease their ally kept the truth a secret. The British continued this stance throughout the Cold War and it was almost fifty years before they announced Soviet responsibility.

http://staffordshiredailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk. There are many many memorials around the world, this one is at Cannock Chase in England.

http://staffordshiredailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk. There are many many memorials around the world, this one is at Cannock Chase in England.



  1. Pingback: Vasily Blokhin, the man who executed 7,000 Polish prisoners in a month. | The Long Bridge – Out of the Gulags

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.