Category Archives: Europe

Grover Furr: The “Official” Version of the Katyn Massacre Disproven? Discoveries at a German Mass Murder Site in Ukraine

katyn-GermanPoster-Affiche-allemagne-Katyn-293x400

Nazi propaganda poster blaming the NKVD for the Katyn Massacre.

Author’s Note: The officially accepted version of the Katyn Massacre can be read on its Wikipedia page – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyn_massacre. This page is relentlessly anticommunist and anti-Stalinist. It makes no attempt to be objective or neutral, in that it has no serious discussion of the scholarly controversy about this question. It’s useful only as a short and accurate summary of the “official” version. I would like to acknowledge that I was guided to the new sources by an excellent article by Sergei Strygin on the Russian “Pravda o Katyni” (Truth About Katyn) Internet page. [1] I strongly recommend it to all those who read Russian.

In 2011 and 2012 a joint Polish-Ukrainian archeological team partially excavated a mass execution site at the town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, Ukraine. Shell cases found in the burial pit prove that the executions there took place no earlier than 1941. In the burial pit were found the badges of two Polish policemen previously thought to have been murdered hundreds of miles away by the Soviets in April-May 1940. These discoveries cast serious doubt on the canonical, or “official,” version of the events known to history as the Katyn Massacre.

In April 1943 Nazi German authorities claimed that they had discovered thousands of bodies of Polish officers shot by Soviet officials in 1940. These bodies were said to have been discovered near the Katyn forest near Smolensk (in Western Russia), which is why the whole affair — including executions and alleged executions of Polish POWs elsewhere in the USSR – came to be called “the Katyn Massacre.”

The Nazi propaganda machine, headed by Josef Goebbels, organized a huge campaign around this alleged discovery. After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943, it was obvious to everyone that, unless something happened to split the Allies, Germany would inevitably lose the war. The Nazis’ obvious aim was to drive a wedge between the western Allies and the USSR.

The Soviet government, headed by Joseph Stalin, vigorously denied the German charge. When the Polish government-in-exile, always ferociously anticommunist and anti-Russian, collaborated with the Nazi propaganda effort, the Soviet government broke diplomatic relations with it, eventually setting up a pro-Soviet Polish authority and Polish army. In September 1943 the Red Army drove the Germans from the area. In 1944 the Soviet Burdenko Commission carried out a study and issued a report that blamed the Germans for the mass shootings.

During the Cold War the Western capitalist countries supported the Nazi version which had become the version promoted by the anticommunist Polish government-in-exile. The Soviet Union and its allies continued to blame the Germans for the murders. In 1990 and 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and, after 1988, President of the USSR, stated that the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin had indeed shot the Poles. According to this “official” version the Polish prisoners had been confined in three camps: at Kozel’sk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov and from there transferred to Smolensk, Kharkiv, and Kalinin (now Tver’), where they were shot and buried at Katyn, Piatykhatky, and Mednoe respectively. [2]

In 1990, 1991, and 1992 three aged former NKVD men were identified and interviewed. They discussed what they knew of executions of Poles in April and May of 1940. None of these executions had taken place at the Katyn Forest, site of the German exhumations. In 1992 the Russian government under Boris Yeltsin handed over to the Polish government documents supposedly signed by Stalin and other Politburo members which, if genuine, would put Soviet guilt beyond reasonable doubt. These documents are said to have been found in “Closed Packet No. 1,” where “closed” meant the highest level of classification — secrecy. I call these the “smoking gun documents,” since they are conventionally assumed to be “proof positive” of Soviet guilt. However, no evidence is ever univocal and definitive; all evidence, whether documentary or material, can be interpreted in multiple ways.

By 1992 the Soviet, and then the Russian, governments had officially declared the Stalin-era Soviet leadership guilty of shooting somewhere between 14,800 and 22,000 Polish prisoners to death in April and May 1940. This was agreeable to anticommunists and a bone in the throat for some pro-Soviet people. For a few years it did appear that the matter was basically settled. The evidence seemed clear: the Soviets had shot the Poles.

I too thought the matter was settled. I admit that I continued to harbor some lingering doubts, mainly because accepting Soviet guilt also meant asserting that the Nazi propaganda campaign and official report of 1943 was 100% honest. Goebbels and Hitler were famous for their concept of “the Big Lie” which states, in part, that one should never tell the truth. [3] But this was, at most, in the back of my mind in 1997 when I went to the Slavic Room of the New York Public Library, a place I had visited a great many times over the years, to make photocopies of the “smoking gun documents” as published in the leading Russian historical journal Voprosy Istorii in January 1993 [4] so I could put them on my new web page. I did not post them, because I soon discovered that somebody else had already done it and I could just link to those images, which were of higher quality than my own.

In 1995 Iurii Mukhin, at the time an unknown metallurgical engineer, published a short book titled “The Katyn Murder Mystery” (Katynskii Detektiv). In it he claimed to prove that the “smoking gun documents” were forgeries and the story of the Katyn Massacre a fabrication intended to facilitate the destruction of the Soviet Union. During the following years this position has attracted much support among what we might call Left Russian nationalists, people supportive of the USSR during the Stalin period for its achievements at industrialization and defeating the Nazis. Since that time Mukhin and others have published more books of research in which they continue their campaign to disprove the “official” version that asserts Soviet guilt.

Since the mid-1990s, therefore, the Katyn Massacre has once again been the subject of fierce partisan dispute. In anticommunist circles it is unacceptable to express any doubt as to the guilt of the Soviet Union and of Stalin and his chief assistants in particular. This is the case in Western academia as well, where debate on the subject or any questioning at all of Soviet guilt is simply “beyond the Pale,” not tolerated.

Meanwhile Russian defenders of the USSR and of Stalin continue their assault on the “official” account by marshaling evidence to show that the Nazis, not the Soviets, shot the Polish officers. Some of these researchers have concluded that the Soviets did shoot some Polish prisoners (officers and others), and then the Nazis invaded the USSR, captured the remaining Polish prisoners, and shot them. I myself think that some such scenario is the most likely one and I will briefly explain why at the end of this essay.

During the past several years there have been some dramatic developments in the investigation of the Katyn question. I have attempted to summarize them and the academic dispute generally on a special web page that I call “The Katyn Forest Whodunnit.” [5] I believe it is the only source in English where one can find this dispute outlined in what I intend to be an objective manner. [6]

In October 2010 a credible case was made that the “smoking gun” documents are forgeries. This had been the position of many Russian communists and Left Russian nationalists since the publication of Mukhin’s 1995 book. The materials adduced by Duma member Victor Iliukhin in October 2010 constitute the strongest evidence so far that these documents may well be forgeries. (For more information about these documents see my “Katyn Forest Whodunnit” page.)

Therefore, let’s set aside the “smoking gun documents” from “Closed Packet No. 1.” What other evidence is there that the Soviets shot the 14,800-22,000 Poles as alleged in the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre?

Basically, there are two types of further evidence:

1. Confession-interviews of three aged and long-retired NKVD men: Petr K. Soprunenko, Dmitri S. Tokarev, and Mitrofan V. Syromiatnikov. These confessions are very contradictory in ways that do not always reinforce the “official” version. None of these men was at the Katyn Forest, the place where 4000+ bodies of Polish POWs were unearthed by the Germans in 1943, and none of them has anything to say about this, the most famous of the execution/burial sites subsumed under the rubric “the Katyn Massacre.” Perhaps this is the reason that these confession-interviews are so hard to find. What’s more, though they were all conducted in Russian they are available only in Polish translation. The Russian originals have never been made public. So, we do not have the former NKVD men’s exact words.

All three men were threatened with criminal prosecution if they failed to “tell the truth” and were told that Soviet guilt had already been established. It is therefore possible that out of fear of prosecution they gave answers they felt their interrogators wanted. Many of the interrogators’ questions were “leading” questions. Of course this is common in criminal investigations. But it does appear that the confessions of these three old men were not entirely voluntary.

I have obtained the texts of these confession-interrogations in the published Polish-language versions, scanned them, and made them available on the Internet. [7] It is interesting that no one else has ever bothered to do this. I will not examine these very interesting and problematic confession-interrogations here, however.

The Transit Documents

2. The remaining category of evidence are the many “transit” or “shipment” documents concerning the emptying out of the three POW camps at Kozel’sk, Starobelsk, and Ostashkov in April 1940 and the transfer of the prisoners to the NKVD in other areas. These transit records are the subject of this article.

KatynMap

Figure 1. 1939 map showing places mentioned in the “official” Katyn narrative. Arrows from the POW camps (Ostashkov, Starobelsk, Kozelsk) to cities (Kalinin/Tver’, Kharkiv, Smolensk) show destinations on NKVD transit documents. Burial sites in the nearby countryside (Mednoe, Piatykhatky, Katyn) are also shown, as is VolodymyrVolyns’kiy (Włodzimierz), which is about 800 miles from Kalinin/Tver’ – Mednoe. [map drawn by Victor Wallis based on information supplied by the author]

These shipments of prisoners are routinely stated to be “death transports.” The bookKatyn: A Crime Without Punishment by Anna M. Cienciala, Natalia S. Lebedeva, and Wojciech Materski (Yale University Press 2007) is the definitive academic account in the English language of the “official” version. It refers to the shipments of prisoners this way (I have added the emphasis):

The final death transport left Kozielsk….

The last death transport left Ostashkov for Kalinin (Tver) on 19 May…

…lists of those to be sent out of the camps to be shot (doc. 62)…

…and reporting on the number sent to their death (doc. 65).

Cienciala, who did the writing in this volume, added all the language about execution. Likewise in her discussion of the documents, none of which mentions executions, shootings, killing, death, etc., at all, Cienciala continuously adds language to remind the readers that, in her interpretation, these prisoners were being transported to places where they would be executed. Here are a few examples (again, I have added the emphasis):

They were transferred to NKVD prisons… to be shot there. (154)

… the same as the order in the death transports. (156)

The first lists of victims to be dispatched to their death… (157)

The delivery of lists for dispatching prisoners to their deaths… (159)

Beria’s directive of 4 April 1940 indicates the goal of exterminating not only the officers and police… (160)

This is the first of many reports by the UNKVD head of Kalinin Oblast, Dmitry Tokarev, on the “implementation,” that is, the murder… (162)

Soprunenko’s instruction to Korolev of 6 April 1940 was, in fact, a death list,… (163)

The dispatch of the prisoners of war to their deaths…(175)

This 11 April 1940 report from Kozelsk shows that 1,643 officers were murdered in nine days. (175)

… the moods of the prisoners as they were being dispatched unwittingly to their deaths. (176-177)

Most prisoners sent to Yukhnov camp… were exempted from the death lists for various reasons… (183)

By 3 May, the UPV together with the 1st Special Department NKVD and with the personal help of Merkulov, had processed the cases of 14,908 prisoners and sent out dispatch lists – death sentences – for 13,682. (187)

…it is likely that they simply signed or stamped the “Kobulov Forms” (doc. 51) with the death warrant already filled in. (187)

This report gives the number of lists of names received in the camp and the number of prisoners sent out from Kozelsk camp to their deaths for each date between 3 April and 11 May…(190)

A report to Soprunenko shows the number of people destined for execution according to the lists received… (193)

One of the last executions of POWs from the Ostashkov camp took place on 22 May 1940. (200)

Ostashkov prisoners were still being executed that day… (200)

It is important to note that not a single one of the documents themselves refers in any way to executions. In fact Document 53 cited by Cienciala explicitly states that the prisoners were being sent to labor camps.

6) USSR Deputy People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Divisional Commander Com. Chernyshov, shall within ten days’ time remove from their NKVD places of imprisonment in the Ukrainian SSR and send to USSR NKVD correctional labor camps 8,000 convicted prisoners, including 3,000 from the Kiev, Kharkov, and Kherson prisons. (Doc. 53, page 155; emphasis added)

All of the documents referred to or reproduced in Part II of the Cienciala volume concern the transportation of prisoners from one camp to somewhere else. Not a single one of them refers to “executions,” “shooting,” “killing,” etc. All this language is added by Cienciala. In this she has followed the practice of the Polish and Russian scholars who promote the “official” version.

It is true, of course, that the absence of a reference to the killings does not in itself prove anything about the fates of the people who were transported. What is important in terms of the Katyn controversy, however, is the dates of the transports and their destinations.

Cienciala assumes that, except for a few shipments that she specifically mentions, all the prisoners who were moved in April and May 1940 out of the three camps in which the Polish prisoners were being kept were in fact being shipped to their executions. Those executions are assumed to have taken place in April and May 1940. The “official” version of the Katyn Massacre simply assumes that all these documents about clearing the Polish prisoners out of the camps in April 1940 in reality meant sending them away for execution. It is this assumption that has been challenged by a recent discovery.

Jósef Kuligowski

In May 2011 Polish news media reported that a numbered metal badge had been unearthed which had been identified by the Ukrainian archaeological team as that of a Polish policeman, Jósef Kuligowski, heretofore assumed to have been executed by the Soviet NKVD at Kalinin (now Tver’), Russia, and buried with other such victims at Mednoe, outside of the town. [8]

Czy osoby z Listy Katyńskiej mordowano również na Grodzisku we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?! Odnaleziona przez ukraińskich archeologów odznaka Policji Państwowej o numerze 1441 / II na to wskazuje. Jak nas poinformował pan Piotr Zawilski, dyrektor Archiwum Państwowego w Łodzi odznaka o tym numerze należała do posterunkowego Józefa Kuligowskiego z IV komisariatu w Łodzi. Informacja o przydziale i numerze służbowym pochodzi z maja 1939 roku. Nazwisko posterunkowego figuruje na jednej z list dyspozycyjnych dla obozu w Ostaszkowie. Dotychczas uważano, że został zamordowany w Kalininie i spoczywa w Miednoje. Jak wytłumaczyć fakt, że odznaka Józefa Kuligowskiego znaleziona we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim? Czy zginął w Kalininie, czy we Włodzimierzu? [9]

My translation: [10]

Were persons from the Katyn List also murdered at Grodzisk in Włodzimierz Wołyński?! This is indicated by the National Police badge number 1441 / II found by Ukrainian archaeologists. As Mr Piotr Zawilski, director of the National Archive in Łodz has informed us, the badge with this number belonged to constable Jósef Kuligowski of the IV commissariat in Łodz. Information concerning the issuance and service number is from May 1939. The surname of the constable figures on one of the dispositional lists for the camp at Ostashkov. Up to now it was believed that he had been murdered in Kalinin and lies in Mednoe. How to explain the fact that Jósef Kuligowski’s badge has been found at Włodzimierz Wołyński? Was he killed at Kalinin or at Włodzimierz?

This account continues by identifying Kuligowski as one of the men previously believed killed as a part of the Katyn Massacres. The discovery occasioned considerable discussion in the Polish press about the relationship between the Katyn Massacre and this site near the Ukrainian town of Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy (Polish Włodzimierz Wołyński; Russian: Vladimir-Volynskii). [11] At this time no one doubted that this was a site of Soviet NKVD killings. [12] The Ukrainian media also reported the excavations under the assumption that the Soviet NKVD was responsible for the killings, as in the following account in the Ukraine-wide online newspaper Tyzhden‘.ua of October 4 2011. [13]

Іхочаофіційноїверсіїщодотого, хтоцілюдийчомубулирозстріляні, щенемає, науковцісхиляютьсядодумки, щозамордовані – жертвиНКВС 1941 року. Польськіпіддані, військовійцивільні, заможнийклас. Процесвідчатьзнайденінамісцістратиартефакти.

Ось два жетони офіцерів польської поліції, і оскільки на них є номери, то ми вже знаємо, кому вони належали: Йозефу Куліговському та Людвігу Маловєйському. Обидва з Лодзя. За документами НКВС, одного з них розстріляно в Калініні (Твер), другого – в Осташкові біля Харкова.

And although there is as yet no official version of who these people were and why they were shot, scientists are inclined to think that the murdered people were victims of the NKVD in 1941. Polish citizens, military and civilians, the wealthy class. This is what the artifacts found at the execution site suggest.

Here are two badges of officers of the Polish police, and since there are numbers on them we already know to whom they belonged: to Josef Kuligovs’kiy and Liudvig Maloveis’kiy. Both were from Lodz. According to NKVD documents one of them was shot at Kalinin (Tver’), the other at Ostashkov near Kharkiv.

The official being interviewed, Oleksei Zlatohorskyy, director of the government enterprise ―Volhynian antiquities, goes on to theorize that the Soviets shot all these people, whole families included, when they could not evacuate them in time as the German armies advanced in 1941. He said that many of the artifacts found in the pit are Polish:

Більшість речей мають чітке польське або інше західноєвропейське ідентифікування: фотографія маршала Едварда Ридз-Смігли, жіночі гребінці, пляшечка з-під ліків із написом «Warszawa» на денці, консервна бляшанка з польським текстом, флакон від парфумів, срібні виделки, ложки… А ще відзначаємо дуже якісну стоматологію, яку могли собі дозволити тільки багаті люди. Гадаю, що то була еліта польської держави».

Most of the objects have purely Polish or other Western European identifying marks: a photograph of Marshall Edvard Rydz-Smigly, women‘s combs, a medicine bottle with the inscription ―Warszawa‖ on the bottom, a tin can with a Polish inscription, a perfume bottle, silver forks and spoons … And we note very expensive dental work, that only a few rich people could afford. I think this was the elite of the Polish state.

The Tyzhden.ua story quotes Andrzhei (Jędrzej) Kola, professor of archaeology at Nicolai Copernicus University in Torun (Poland). He expresses uncertainty as to who the killers were.

Для мене тут більше питань, ніж відповідей. Хто вбивці? Якщо це зробили гітлерівці, то чому так невпорядковано? Чому все це видається хаотичним, недбалим? Чому воно не збігається з культурою смерті, яку сповідували / 106 / німці? Чому не було знято золоті коронки й мости, не відібрані коштовності? По-німецьки це мало б зовсім інший вигляд: Ordnung, порядок. Розстрільний взвод, розстріл обличчя в обличчя… Тож усе свідчить про те, що вбивства чинили, найімовірніше, співробітники НКВС. Але остаточну крапку поставимо тільки тоді, коли буде досліджено весь периметр городища.

For me there are more questions here than answers. Who were the killers? If the Hitlerites did this, then why is the site so disorderly? Why does all this look chaotic, careless? Why does it not conform to the culture of death that the Germans professed? Why were the gold crowns and bridges not extracted, the valuables not taken? According to the German manner this would have a completely different appearance: Ordnung, order. A firing squad, shooting face to face… So everything suggests that the murders were most likely done by NKVD officials. But we will be able to draw a final conclusion only when the whole perimeter of the settlement has been investigated. [14]

In November 2012 the Polish members of a joint Polish-Ukrainian archaeological group issued a written report on the excavation of this mass murder site. In mass grave No. 1, 367 sets of human remains were exhumed and examined during 2011, and 232 bodies in 2012. The locations of many more mass graves were also determined. Concerning the finding of Kuligowski‘s badge this report reads as follows:

Była to odznaka Polskiej Policji Państwowej z numerem 1441, która należała do: Post. PP Józef KULIGOWSKI s. Szczepana i Józefy z Sadurskich, ur. 12 III l898 w m. Strych. WWP od 20 VI l919. 10 pap. Uczestnik wojny 1920, sczególnie odznaczył się w bitwie pod Mariampolem 24 V 1920. W policji od l921. Początkowo służbę pelnił w woj. tarnopolskim. Następnie od 1924 przez wiele lat w Łodzi – w 1939 w V Komis. W sierpniu 1939 zmobilizowany do l0 pal. Odzn. VM V kl. nr679.L. 026/l ( 15), 35[.]6.; za: red. Z. Gajowniczek, B. Gronek ,,Księga cmentarna Miednoje,‖ t. l, Warszawa 2005, s. 465. Odznaka została przekazana do miejscowego muzeum. [15]

It was a Polish National Police badge number 1441, which belonged to: Constable of the National Police Jósef Kuligowski son of Stephen and of Josepha née Sadurska, b. 12 March l898 in the village of Strych. In the Polish army on 20 June l919. 10 pap. Participant in the 1920 war, particularly distinguished himself at the Battle of Mariampol 24 May 1920. In the police from l921. Initially served in the Tarnopol region. Then from 1924 for many years in Lodz – in 1939 in the V Komis. In August 1939 mobilized to l0 pal. as Nr679.L class V VM. [NKVD transfer list] 026 / l ([position]15), 35 [.] 6, according to: ed Z. Gajowniczek, B. Gronek,, ―Mednoye Cemetery Book,‖ Vol. l, Warsaw 2005, p. 465. Badge has been transferred to the local museum.

Badges

Here is the entry for Kuligowski from Volume One of the ―Mednoe Cemetery Book‖: [16]

Page

Kuligowski was taken prisoner by the Red Army sometime after September 17, 1939, when Soviet troops entered Eastern Poland to prevent the German Army from establishing itself hundreds of miles further east at the USSR‘s pre-1939 border. He was held in the Ostashkov prisoner-of-war camp in Kalinin oblast‘ (province), now renamed Tver‘ oblast‘. In April 1940 along with other prisoners he was transferred from Ostashkov to the town of Kalinin (now Tver‘). After that there is no further information about him.

Kuligowski is counted as one of the victims of the ―Katyn Massacre. What purports to be a record of his transfer, with the word ―Mord‖ (Murder) added, is on one of the official Polish websites about Katyn. [17]

GraphKatyn

As stated in the Polish media account of May 25 2011, Kuligowski‘s name is on the transfer lists of Ostashkov prisoners reproduced in the official account by Jędrzej Tucholski published in 1991. [18] Kuligowski is also listed in other recent Polish lists of Katyn victims. [19] Naturally the original Russian record of prisoner transfer reprinted in Tucholski‘s Mord w Katyniu does not contain the word ―Mord‖ (=murder).

The Polish archaeologist in charge of the excavations and author of the report, Dr. Dominika Siemińska, has determined that the victims buried in the mass grave in which this badge was found were killed no earlier than 1941: [20]

Z pewno cią stwierdzono, że zbrodnia została dokonana nie wcze niej niż w 1941 roku. (p. 4)

It can be confirmed with certainty that the crime did not take place earlier than 1941.

They were able to determine the time period by dating the shell casings found in the graves. All but a very few were of German manufacture. Almost all of them are datable to 1941.

Some of the bodies were arranged in the ―sardine-packing (Sardinenpackung) formation [21] favored by Obergruppenführer [22] Friedrich Jeckeln, commander of one of the Einsatzgruppen, extermination teams whose task it was to carry out mass executions. A photograph of the bodies in grave no. 1 shows this arrangement of bodies. [23]

crimes

sardine

Also, a large percentage of the bodies in the mass graves are of children. The Soviets did not execute children. So the evidence is strong that this is a site of German, not Soviet, mass executions. This conclusion is confirmed by the recent research of other Ukrainian scholars concerning this very burial site. Relying on evidence from German war crimes trials, eyewitness testimony of Jewish survivors, and research by Polish historians on the large-scale massacres of Poles by Ukrainian Nationalists, Professor Ivan Katchanovski and Volodymyr Musychenko have established that the victims buried at this site were mainly Jews but also Poles and ―Soviet activists.‖ Katchanovski concludes that Ukrainian authorities have tried to push the blame onto the Soviet NKVD in order to conceal the guilt of the Ukrainian Nationalist forces who are celebrated as ―heroes‖ in today‘s Ukraine, including in Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy itself. [24]

However, regardless of which party is guilty of the mass executions, the fact remains that Kuligowski was indeed transported from Ostashkov POW camp to Kalinin in April 1940 but was not shot until 1941 at the earliest. And this means that the transportation lists, which are assumed to be lists of victims being shipped off to be shot, were not that at all. Kuligowski was transported in April 1940 by the Soviets not in order to be shot but for some other reason. He remained alive, probably to be captured and executed by the Germans, most likely in the second half of 1941 but possibly somewhat later. Moreover, Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy is 800 miles from Kalinin (Tver‘).

This is the major deduction from this discovery that is relevant to our understanding of the Katyn Massacre case: The fact that a Polish POW’s name is on one of the Soviet transportation lists can no longer be assumed to be evidence that he was on his way to execution, and therefore that he was executed by the Soviets.

Ludwik Małowiejski

There is evidence that more Polish POWs are buried in these same mass graves, and therefore were executed at the same time, by the Germans in 1941 or 1942. The epaulette of a Polish policeman‘s uniform and Polish military buttons were found in grave No. 2. [25]

In September 2011 Polish media reported that police badge number 1099/II belonging to Senior Police Constable (starszy posterunkowy) Ludwik Małowiejski had been found in the Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy mass graves. [26] It had been assumed that, like Kuligowski, Małowiejski was a ―Katyn Massacre‖ victim whose body was buried in a mass grave at Mednoe near Kalinin, where – it has been assumed – other ―Katyn victims shot by the NKVD in 1940 are buried. Małowiejski‘s name is also on the recent Polish lists of Katyn victims. [27] Like Kuligowski he is memorialized in the ―Mednoe Cemetery Book‖ – in this case, Volume 2, page 541:

profileHis transfer record with the word ―Mord‖ (Murder) added, like Kuligowski‘s, is also on the same official Polish Katyn website: [28]

profile2

Like Kuligowski‘s, Małowiejski‘s name is also on the Russian lists of prisoners shipped out of the Ostashkov camp. [29]

In 2011 it was still assumed that the mass graves at Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy were those of victims of the Soviet NKVD. Therefore this apparent discrepancy about the place of burial of one victim received little attention. Since then the Polish archaeological team has definitively dated the site as 1941 at the earliest and argues that it is an SS Einsatzgruppe mass murder site, meaning late 1941 or 1942. This in turn means that Kuligowski, Małowiejski, and perhaps others – perhaps many others – were killed by the Germans in 1941, not by the Soviets in 1940.

The article by Sergei Strygin cited in note 1 above contains photographs of the memorial tablets of both Kuligowski and Małowiejski at the special memorial cemetery at Mednoe. These, and the thousands of other memorial tablets at this site, reflect the assumption that the ―transit lists‖ were really ―execution lists‖ – an assumption that the discovery at Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy proves to be false. It is clear today that neither man‘s body is buried at Mednoe. The question now is: Are any of the Polish POWs whose memorial tablets are there alongside those of Kuligowski and Małowiejski really buried there? At present there is no reason to think so.

Plaques

So where does this leave us? By “us” I mean those researchers who are fascinated by the uncertainty and the political contentiousness, the challenge of all the contradictory evidence and the mysteriousness, of what I have come to call “the Katyn Forest Whodunnit.” What does this mean for people who want to know the truth no matter what it may be, “no matter whose ox is gored”?

Briefly, here’s the status of this question at present, as I understand it:

* There is no evidence that the 14,000+ Polish POWs who were transferred out of Soviet POW camps in April and May 1940 were in reality being sent to be shot. This assumption has been one of the main supports of the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. It must now be rejected. Since Kuligowski and Małowiejski were on those transportation lists and survived to be killed in 1941 by the Nazis, then others could have as well. There is no basis to think that only a few of the Polish prisoners were not shot by the Soviets in April-May 1940 and that, just by chance, two of this group have been identified. Rather it is likely that most of the Polish POWs were not killed by the Soviets but remained in Soviet captivity to be captured and shot by the Nazis sometime after the middle of 1941.

* The “smoking gun” documents from “Closed Packet No. 1” are linked to the assumption that all the POWs shipped out of the camps were being shipped to execution. The fact that they were not shipped to execution in April-May 1940 is an additional reason to suspect that these documents may indeed be forgeries, as some have long argued.

* The confession-interviews of the three NKVD witnesses, Soprunenko, Tokarev, and Syromiatnikov, strongly suggest that the NKVD did execute some Poles. Their testimony is inconsistent – as is to be expected from 50 year-old remembrances of men in their 80s. What’s more, they testified under threat of criminal prosecution and so may have elaborated their confessions in order to please their interrogators. But even researchers who contend that the Germans shot the Poles whose bodies were disinterred by the Germans at Katyn in April-June 1943 do not claim that the Soviets shot no Poles at all.

* In 2004 the Russian Prosecutor’s office announced that it had closed the criminal investigation on the grounds that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed. This announcement is contained in the following statement on the Prosecutor’s web page dated April 7, 2011:

21 сентября 2004 г. уголовное дело по обвинению должностных лиц НКВД СССР в совершении преступления, предусмотренного п. «б» ст. 193-17 УК РСФСР (1926 г.), т.е. превышения власти, выразившегося в принятии незаконных решений о применении в отношении 14 542 польских граждан расстрела, прекращено на основании п. 4 ч. 1 ст. 24 УПК РФ – за отсутствием события преступления.

http://genproc.gov.ru/ms/ms_news/news-71620

On September 21, 2004 the criminal case against officials of the NKVD in the commission of an offense under subsection “b” of Art. 193-17 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (1926), ie abuse of power, manifesting itself as the taking of an illegal decision on the application of shooting to 14,542 Polish citizens, was closed on the basis of paragraph 1 of paragraph 4, part 1, Article 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation — for lack of a crime.

This appears to say that the investigation found that no crime had been committed. This is different from Cienciala’s interpretation, which is “that no one would be charged with the crime.” (259) The Prosecutor’s text plainly states that there was no crime in the first place. Nevertheless Russian officials, including President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev, have continued to state that the Soviets are guilty of killing all the Poles.

The Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy discovery proves that the “transit lists” are not “execution lists.” Instead, they are merely what they seem to be — lists of Polish POWs being transferred somewhere else for some purpose. Some of the Polish POWs transferred may have been tried and shot by the Soviets. But others such as Jósef Kuligowski and Ludwik Małowiejski were not transferred to execution. They were transferred for some other purpose – most likely to a correctional labor camp as stated in Document 53, p. 155 in Cienciala et al. (quoted above).

The Burdenko Commission

The fact is: A Polish POW’s name on a “transit list” does not mean that he was executed by the Soviets in April-May 1940 or indeed at any time. This forces us to take a closer look at the Soviet Burdenko Commission Report of January 1944. The Burdenko Commission report contains the following information about materials it allegedly found on a body unearthed from grave No. 8 at Katyn:

4. На трупе № 46: Квитанция (№ неразборчив), выданная 16 дек. 1939 г. Старобельским лагерем о приеме от Арашкевича Владимира Рудольфовича золотых часов. На обороте квитанции имеется отметка от 25 марта 1941 г. о том, что часы проданы Ювелирторгу.

6. На трупе № 46: Квитанция от 6 апреля 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Арашкевича денег в сумме 225 рублей.

7. На том же трупе № 46: Квитанция от 5 мая 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Арашкевича денег в сумме 102 рубля.

4. On body No. 46: A receipt (number illegible) issued 16 Dec. 1939, by the Starobelsk camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Vladimir Rudolfovich Araszkewicz. On the back of the receipt is a note dated 25 March 1941, stating that the watch was sold to the Jewelry trading trust.

6. On body No. 46: A receipt dated 6 April 1941, issued by camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 225 rubles from Araszkewicz.

7. On the same body. No. 46: A receipt dated 5 May 1941, issued by Camp No. l-ON, showing receipt of 102 rubles from Araszkewicz. [30]

Włodzimierz Araszkiewicz is on the Polish lists of victims of Katyn, and also on the earlier list of Adam Mosziński, Lista Katyńska (GRYF, London 1989). [31] His father’s name, Rudolf, is on his transfer record: [32]

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As often with these Polish lists there are contradictions. Mosziński, Lista Katyńska, has Araszkiewicz in the Starobelsk camp, while the „Indeks” record (above) puts him at the Ostashkov camp, while Tucholski has him at both Kozel’sk and Ostashkov! [33] Here is Araszkiewicz’s memorial from Volume 1 of the “Mednoe Cemetery Book,” page 11:

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According to the Burdenko Commission report Camp No. 1-ON, origin of the receipt found on body No. 46 and bearing Araszkiewicz’s name, was one of three labor camps named No. 1-ON, 2-ON, and 3-ON, where “ON” stands for “osobogo naznacheniia” (special purpose or assignment). These camps were near Smolensk. The “special purpose” was road construction.

The Special Commission established that, before the capture of Smolensk by the Germans, Polish war prisoners, officers and men, worked in the western district of the region, building and repairing roads. These war prisoners were quartered in three special camps named: Camp No. 1 O.N., Camp No. 2 O.N., and Camp No. 3 O.N. These camps were located 25 to 45 kilometers west of Smolensk.

The testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence establish that after the outbreak of hostilities, in view of the situation that arose, the camps could not be evacuated in time and all the Polish war prisoners, as well as some members of the guard and staffs of the camps, fell prisoner to the Germans. (Burdenko Comm. 229)

According to the “official” version this story must be false, part of a putative Soviet coverup. The Nazis had begun their Katyn propaganda campaign on April 15, 1943. [34] By January 1944 the Katyn issue had been public for nine months, plenty of time for the Soviets to manufacture a false version.

However, in their very first response of April 16, 1943 the Soviets had already claimed that Polish officers were involved in construction in the Smolensk area.

Немецко-фашистские сообщения по этому поводу не оставляют никакого сомнения в трагической судьбе бывших польских военнопленных, находившихся в 1941 году в районах западнее Смоленска на строительных работах и попавших вместе со многими советскими людьми, жителями Смоленской области, в руки немецко-фашистских палачей летом 1941 года после отхода советских войск из района Смоленска. [35]

The German-fascist communiqué on this matter leaves no doubt about the tragic fate of the former Polish POWs who in 1941 were engaged in construction works in the area to the west of Smolensk and who, together with many Soviet citizens, residents of Smolensk oblast’, fell into the hands of the German-fascist killers during the summer of 1941 after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the Smolensk region.

This is essentially the same claim the Burdenko Commission made nine months later. But on April 16, 1943 no one knew exactly what the Germans would do or exactly what they would say. No one knew that Katyn would become a huge German propaganda campaign. The consistency between the Sovinformburo statement of April 16, 1943 and the Burdenko Commission report nine months later is therefore worthy of note, just as an inconsistency would have been. It might well be true.

The Burdenko Commission report also mentions finding similar documents on another body unearthed at Katyn: that of Edward Levandowski.

3. На трупе № 101: Квитанция № 10293 от 19 дек. — 1939 г., выданная Козельским лагерем о приеме от Левандовского Эдуарда Адамовича золотых часов. На обороте квитанции имеется запись от 14 марта 1941 г. о продаже этих часов Ювелирторгу.…

8. На трупе № 101: Квитанция от 18 мая 1941 г., выданная лагерем № 1-ОН о приеме от Левандовского Э. денег в сумме 175 рублей.

3. On body No. 101: A receipt No. 10293 dated 19 Dec. 1939, issued by the Kozelsk camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Eduard Adamovich Lewandowski. On the back of the receipt is a note dated 14 March 1941, on the sale of this watch to the Jewelry trading trust.…

8. On body No. 101: A receipt dated 18 May 1941, issued by Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 175 rubles from Lewandowski.

Edward Lewandowski, son of Adam, is also on Mosziński, Lista Katyńska [36] and in Tucholski (p. 317 col. 2; p. 891 No. 35). This time there are no contradictions – all these sources have him at Ostashkov, nowhere near the Smolensk area and Katyn. He is also stated to have been “murdered” at Kalinin, the destination of most of the transports from Ostashkov. Here is his memorial in the “Mednoe Cemetery Book” Volume One, p. 498:

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Meanwhile the Burdenko Commission claimed to have found his body at Katyn, along with documents dated December 1939 from Kozel’sk and May 1941 from the same Camp 1-ON, near Smolensk, as Araszkiewicz’s. [37]

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The Burdenko Commission report also mentions the following find:

9. На трупе № 53: Неотправленная почтовая открытка на польском языке в адрес: Варшава, Багателя 15 кв. 47 Ирене Кучинской. Датирована 20 июня 1941 г. Отправитель Станислав Кучинский.

9. On body No. 53: An unmailed postcard in the Polish language addressed Warsaw, Bagatelia 15, apartment 47, to Irene Kuczinska, and dated 20 June 1941. The sender is Stanislaw Kuczinski. (Burdenko Comm. pp. 246-247).

A Stanisław Kucziński is named in the Katyn victims list. The name is a common one. The record below is that of the only person by that name who is said in those lists to have been killed in the Katyn Massacres:

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This Stanisław Kucziński, son of Antoni, is also memorialized in the “Mednoe Cemetery Book” I, p. 459 [38]:

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Once again this victim is stated to have been transferred from the camp at Ostashkov to Kalinin and “murdered” there, though the Burdenko Commission stated that they found his body at Katyn. [39]

How can the Polish Katyn lists assert that Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński were killed (“Mord”) at Kalinin and buried nearby at Mednoe when their bodies were unearthed by the Burdenko Commission at Katyn? Only by assuming that the Burdenko Commission was lying when it claimed to have found these corpses at Katyn with papers from March, May, and June 1941 on them. But then the Soviets would have had to go to Kalinin, unearth these bodies and bring them to Katyn. Or they could have chosen the names of three victims they knew were buried at Kalinin and claim they had discovered their bodies at Katyn.

But why go to all that trouble when they could have just planted false documents on the bodies of persons they knew to have been shot at Katyn? After all, if the Soviets had shot all these men they knew not only who was buried at Kalinin but also who was buried at Katyn. So why not use the bodies, or at least the identities, of three men who really were buried at Katyn? Why use the names of three men buried hundreds of miles away?

No objective historian would make such an assumption. One only has to assume that the Burdenko Commission was lying if one has already made the prior assumption that the transportation lists are really “death lists.” That is, the second assumption entails the first: it is “an assumption based upon an assumption.” If it were definitely the case that the “transfer lists” really were lists of Poles being shipped to execution, then we could confidently state that these assertions by the Burdenko Commission were fabrications – lies intended to blame on the Germans murders that the Soviets had in fact carried out. But the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyn’skiy have proven that the “transfer lists” were notlists of persons being shipped to execution. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Soviets did any of this.

It is simpler to assume that the Burdenko Commission really did unearth the bodies of Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński at Katyn. [40] That means that Araszkiewicz, Lewandowski, and Kucziński could have been shipped to a labor camp, a “camp of special purpose” as, according to the Burdenko Commission, they were called; captured by the Germans during the summer of 1941; shot either at the Katyn Forest site or, if shot at their camps – 25 to 45 Km from Smolensk – their corpses brought to Katyn as part of the Nazi propaganda campaign to split the Allies. A number of witnesses testified to the Burdenko Commission that they saw German trucks loaded with corpses being driven in the direction of Katyn. [41]

This is the only scenario that accounts for the facts as we now know them. Moreover, it is strengthened by a discovery the Germans themselves made. The 1943 German report on Katyn states that the following item was found in one of the mass graves:

eine ovale Blechmarke unter den Asservaten vor, die folgende Angaben enthält

T. K. UNKWD K. O.
9 4 2 4
Stadt Ostaschkow [42]

The text of the original badge would have been, in Russian, like this:

Т. К. УНКВД К. О.

9 4 2 4

г. Осташков

A probable English translation would be:

Prison Kitchen, NKVD Directorate, Kalinin Oblast’

[prisoner, or cell, or badge number] 9 4 2 4

town of Ostashkov [43]

None of the “transport lists” from the camp at Ostashkov were for transport to Katyn or anywhere near Smolensk. All these lists state that the Polish prisoners were sent to Kalinin. Therefore the person buried at Katyn who had this badge in his possession had been shipped to Kalinin. But, obviously, he was not shot there. The badge was unearthed at Katyn. Therefore, the owner of this badge was also shot at Katyn, or nearby.

There seems to be just one way these men, and doubtless many more, could have ended up shot and buried at Katyn. They must have been transferred from Kalinin to a labor camp near Katyn, where the Germans captured and shot them. This hypothesis fits the scenario as outlined by the Sovinformburo statement of April 16, 1943, and by the Burdenko Commission. It also offers independent confirmation of the main conclusion of this article: that the prisoners transferred out of the POW camps in April-May 1940 were not being shipped to execution.

What really did happen?

The discoveries in the mass graves at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy constitute a lethal blow to the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. This is something that should interest all of us. Katyn has been the most famous crime alleged against Stalin and the Soviet government. It has been the crime most firmly grounded in documentary evidence. For example, it is unlike the alleged “Holodomor,” the supposedly deliberate starvation by Stalin of millions of Ukrainians in the famine of 1932-1933, for which no evidence has ever been found. [44]

All the post-Soviet states today employ “Soviet atrocities” narratives to justify the pro-fascist, anti-semitic, and pro-Nazi actions of the forces that sided with the Germans against the Soviet Union before, during, and after World War 2. Katyn is the keystone of contemporary right-wing Polish nationalism. Katyn is also a key component of anti-Stalin, anti-Soviet, and anticommunist propaganda generally. Until now, it has been the best known such alleged atrocity and by far the best documented one. Katyn has been the best proven “crime of Stalinism.” That is no longer the case.

So what really did happen? In my view – and here I am following a number of the very competent Russian researchers who have likewise concluded that the “official” version is wrong – the Soviets did execute some Poles.

We know that after occupying Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, formerly Eastern Poland, in September 1939 the Soviet NKVD searched for Poles who had been involved in the 1920-21 war in which Poland had taken these territories from the Russian Socialist Republic, which had been exhausted by four years of civil war and Allied intervention, typhus epidemic, and famine. [45] Imperialist Poland had deprived the majority populations – Belorussians, Ukrainians, and Jews – of many of their national and civil rights. [46] The Polish government had sent “settlers” (osadnicy), mainly former military officers, to “polonize” (“make more Polish”) the lands, giving them estates and making them government officials and teachers. Poland had violently repressed the communist movement and the Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Jewish minorities in these lands, as well as in Poland proper. Moreover: during the Russo-Polish war of 1920-21 somewhere between 18,000 and 60,000 Red Army POWs had died in Polish captivity. There is good documentation that they were treated brutally, starved, frozen, and many of them murdered outright. [47]

Therefore it is probable that the Soviets would have arrested and prosecuted any Polish POWs and civilians they could find who had been involved in these crimes. Many of these people were deported to places of exile deep within the USSR (where many of them survived World War 2, far away from their former homes where the fighting and Nazi and Ukrainian [48] mass murders were the most ferocious). Others must have been tried, convicted, and either executed or sent to labor camps.

It is likely that a substantial number of the Polish POWs – military officers, policemen, and guards of various kinds — had been involved either in repression of or atrocities against Soviet troops, communists, trade unionists, or workers, peasants, or Belorussian, Ukrainian, and Jewish schools or institutions. The Soviet Union would have prosecuted them. It is also likely that some Polish POWs were sentenced to labor in areas that were captured by the Germans when they invaded the USSR in 1941, and subsequently executed, as Kuligowski and Małowiejski were.

Former NKVD men Soprunenko, Tokarev, and Syromiatnikov testified that they knew of some executions of Polish prisoners. So there’s no reason to doubt that the Soviets did shoot some Poles. But the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy prove that the “transit” or “shipment” documents do not record the shipping of the prisoners to execution. This is the basis of the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre: it has now been proven false. The Polish POWs were not being shipped to execution when the camps they were in were closed in April-May 1940.

I predict that in “mainstream” – i.e., anticommunist – academia the discourse about the Katyn Massacre will change very little. Mainstream anticommunism is motivated far more by “political correctness” – by political motives – than by any desire to discover the truth. When mainstream anticommunist scholarship does mention the Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy discoveries it will be only to try to dismiss them. One way of attempting to do so is demonstrated in the Ukrainian archaeological report cited below – to claim that the NKVD carried out these executions. Other similar subterfuges can be invented. The central importance of these discoveries for an objective understanding of this infamous historical event will be denied at all costs.

Perhaps the Polish archaeologist’s report anticipated this by relegating the finding of Kuligowski’s badge to a footnote. It could be considered a principled and even courageous act by this archaeologist, Dr. Dominika Siemińska, to reveal the discovery of the badge and to give the important details about it in the report, no matter how minimized and downplayed. No one compelled her to insert this information, which directs the attentive reader to the contradiction between the discovery at Volodymyr-Volyns’skiy and the “official” version of Katyn. Questioning of the “official” version is not tolerated in the public sphere in Poland. One hopes that Dr. Siemińska’s career will not suffer because of her adherence to scientific objectivity.

The report of the Ukrainian part of the same team does not mention the discovery of either badge. Moreover, the Ukrainian report goes out of its way to suggest that the Soviets might still somehow be responsible for the mass executions. It protests the finding of the Polish report that the graves used the “Jeckeln system” “since it only began to be used by the Nazis at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942.” No evidence is included in support of this claim.

Додатковохочетьсявідмітити, щоданийметодрозстрілівнеможнаназивати «системоюЄкельна», на який посилаються наші польські колеги. Цей нацистській метод не передбачав страти у поховальній ямі. До того ж його почали застосовувати лише наприкінці 1941 – на початку 1942 р. у Ризі, що хронологічно не відповідає володимирській страті.

In addition we wish to note that this method of execution should not be called the “Jeckeln system,” to which our Polish colleagues refer. This Nazi method was not used for executions in a funeral pit. In addition, it began to be used only in late 1941 – early 1942 in Riga, which does not correspond chronologically to the Volodymyr executions.

The Ukrainian report mentions the fact that the German shell casings found were from 1941, but then states “It is known that Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in mass executions of Polish citizens.” [49]

У поховальних ямах виявлено ідентичні гільзи , головним чином калібру 9 мм. Більшість з них мають позначки dnh (виробництво заводу Верк Дурлах в Карлсрує, Німеччина) та kam (виробництво фабрики Hasag у Скаржиці Кам’яній, Польща) 1941 р. Проте виявлені і декілька гільз радянського зразка. Все це потребує додаткових досліджень, оскільки стверджувати про те, що розстріли проводилися гітлерівцями при наявності в поховальних ямах гільз радянського зразка– не є об’єктивним. Відомі факти (зокрема дані розстрілів польських військових у Катині), що радянські органи НКВС використовували при розстрілах німецьку зброю.

In the burial pits were found identical shells, mainly of 9 mm caliber. Most of them have the mark “dnh” (production of the factory Werk Drulach [50] in Karlsruhe, Germany) and “kam” (production of the Hasag factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna, [51] Poland) of 1941. However a few shells of Soviet type were also found. All this requires further research, inasmuch as it is not objective to affirm that the shootings were carried out by the Hitlerites when shells of Soviet type were found in the pits. Facts are known (including the facts of the shooting of Polish military men at Katyn) that the Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in shootings.

Details of the shells, 150 in all, found in grave No. 1 are given in footnote 3, page 8 of the Polish report but are absent from the Ukrainian report:

1. “kam, 67, 19, 41”- 137 szt; 2. “dnh, *, l , 41” – 7 szt; 3. Geco, 9 mm – l szt; 4. łuski bez oznaczeń, 7,62 x 25, wz. 30, produkcja ZSRR – 5 szt.

1. “kam, 67, 19, 41” – 137 units; 2. “dnh, *, 1, 41” – 7 units; 3. Geco, 9 mm. – 1 unit; 4. Shells without markings, 7.62 x 25 caliber, USSR production of 1930s type – 5 units.

These identifying marks on shell casings are known as ―”headstamps.” According to the analysis by Sergei Strygin “kam, 67, 19, 41” signifies the Hasag factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna, “67” the percentage of copper in the bullet, “19” the lot number, and “41” the year of production. “dnh *, 1, 41” signifies the Dürlach factory, “*” means the shell was jacketed in brass; “1” is the lot number, and “41” the year of production. One hundred forty-four, or 96% of the 150 shells found, were of German make and can be dated to 1941. [52]

Katynbullets

The Polish, but not the Ukrainian, report also specifies the shells found in grave No. 2:

l. “kam, 67. 19, 41″- 205 szt; 2. „dnh, .*, l, 41″ – 17 szt; 3. łuski bez oznaczeń. 7.62 x 25. wz. 30, produkcja ZSRR — 2 szt; 4. łuska „B , 1906”

1. “Kam, 67, 19, 41” – 205 units; 2. “dny, *, 1, 41” – 17 units; 3. Shells without markings, 7.62×25 caliber – USSR production of 1930s – 2 units; (one) shell “B , 1906.”

Of 225 shells found in this grave, 205 are the German 1941 “Hasag” type, 17 are the German 1941 “Dürlach” type, 2 are of the unmarked 1930s Soviet type; and one is marked “B 1906.” [53] Hence 98.67% of the shells are of 1941 German manufacture.

By contrast neither of the Ukrainian reports cites the numbers of each type of shell or the fact that German shells made in 1941 constitute the overwhelming majority of those found. The following paragraph appears word-for-word in each:

Упоховальнихямахвиявленоідентичнігільзи , головнимчиномкалібру 9 мм. Більшістьзнихмаютьпозначки dnh (виробництвозаводуВеркДурлахвКарлсрує, Німеччина) таkam (виробництвофабрики Hasag уСкаржиціКам’яній, Польща) 1941 р. Протевиявленіідекількагільзрадянськогозразка. Все це потребує додаткових досліджень, оскільки стверджувати про те, що розстріли проводилися гітлерівцями при наявності в поховальних ямах гільз радянського зразка– не є об’єктивним. Відомі факти (зокрема дані розстрілів польських військових у Катині), що радянські органи НКВС використовували при розстрілах німецьку зброю. [54]

In the burial pits were found identical shells, mainly of caliber 9 mm. Most of them have the mark “dnh” (Werk Dürlach production plant in Karlsruhe, Germany), and “kam” (production factory in Hasag Skarżysko Kamienna, Poland) in 1941. However, several shell casings of Soviet model were also found. All this requires more research inasmuch that it is not objective to assert that the shootings were carried out by the Hitlerites even though shells of Soviet model were found in the burial pits. Examples are known (including data of shootings of Polish soldiers in Katyn) that the Soviet organs of the NKVD used German weapons in executions.

There are some problems with the conclusion in the Ukrainian report. First, it is an example of circular reasoning. It assumes that the mass killings at Katyn, which even the Germans admitted were carried out with German ammunition, was a Soviet crime. But that is the very assumption that the discoveries at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy call into question.

Second, it assumes that even the overwhelming preponderance of German ordnance is not enough to establish that the killings were done by the Germans, since the Soviets could also use German ammunition. No doubt this is the reason the Ukrainian report does not give the numbers of shells or the percentage of them that are German and of 1941 manufacture. (The Ukrainian reports should have added that Germans could also use Soviet ammunition. The Germans captured immense amounts of Soviet arms and ammunition in 1941.)

Відмічено також, що вбиті часто прикривали обличчя руками, або обіймали іншу жертву (жінки тулили до себе і прикривали дітей). (Doslizhdennia; Zvit 15)

It is also noted that those killed often covered their faces with their hands, or embraced another victim (women hugged to themselves and covered children).

There are no examples anywhere of the Soviet NKVD shooting children.

Ukrainian archaeologist Oleksei Zlatohorskyy (Russian: Aleksei Zlatogorskii) has pointed out the political problems raised by the Polish archaeologist’s identification of the Germans as the murderers:

Неосторожные высказывания польских археологов о принадлежности останков, найденных на территории замка Казимира Великого во Владимире-Волынском, могут поставить под сомнение уже известные преступления НКВД по отношению к польским офицерам, сообщил директор ГП “Волынские древности” Алексей Златогорский в комментарии Gazeta.ua.

Incautious statements by Polish archaeologists about the belongings of the remains found on the land of the castle of Kazimir Velikii in Vladimir-Volynskii could cast doubt upon the already known crimes of the NKVD in relation to Polish officers, said the direction of the state enterprise “Volyn antiquities” Aleksei Zlatogorskii in a commentary to Gazeta.ua. [55]

The only “already known crimes of the NKVD in relation to Polish officers” is the Katyn Massacre – to be more precise, the “official” version of the Katyn Massacre. Prof. Zlatohorskyy does not explain how the Polish report “casts doubt” upon the “official” version of Katyn.

The Ukrainian report cited above appears to be a shorter, perhaps Internet version of a longer report written by Zlatohorskyy and two other Ukrainian archaeologists, S.D. Panishko and M.P. Vasheta. This report (Zvit)omits any mention of Kuligowski, Małowiejski, or their badges. Its appendix does include photographs also found in the Polish report. Among them are a photo of the Polish policeman’s epaulette and of the “sardine-packing” arrangement of bodies in Grave No. 2. (Zvit 91,92,97). The very “orderly” arrangement of bodies contradicts the description by Prof. Kola.

The opening of an exhibition concerning this site at the Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy Historical Museum on March 5 2013 has been announced. The accompanying article states only that in 1997 researchers assumed that the victims buried there were Poles shot by the NKVD in 1939-1940, and suggests that this is still their conclusion.

Виставка розповідає про результати ексгумаційних робіт протягом 2010-2012 рр., розкриває перед відвідувачами основні віхи історії ще одного великого замку на Волині та страхітливого злочину, прихованих від людського ока.

The exhibit tells of the results of the works of exhumation during the years 2010-2012, reveals to visitors the basic milestones of yet another great castle of Volhynia and of a horrifying crime hidden from human eyes. [56]

Even if we set aside all the evidence that the Germans killed the victims at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, there remains the fact that most of the ammunition used was manufactured in 1941. The “transit” or “shipment” documents are of April-May 1940. Kuligowski and Małowiejski could not have been killed earlier than 1941. No one has suggested that they were killed in Kalinin and Kharkiv in April-May 1940 and then their badges brought to a mass grave in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, hundreds of miles away, and there thrown into the burial pit.

Kuligowski and Małowiejski were indeed shipped out of their POW camps in April 1940, as recorded in the Soviet transit lists published by Tucholski in 1991. But neither of them was being sent to execution. They were killed in 1941 in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, Ukrainian SSR. According to the evidence now available they were killed by the Germans. But this is not important for our present purposes. What is important is this: it is invalid to conclude that any of the prisoners shipped out of the Polish POW camps in April-May 1940 were being sent to their deaths. This in itself disproves the “official” version of the Katyn massacre.

Conclusion

The opinions of persons who are motivated by a desire to learn the truth about Katyn as about historical questions generally can be altered by the evidence discovered at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy. This can happen only if the news of the discovery, and of its implications for the understanding of the Katyn issue, becomes widely known and understood.

This is no easy matter. Aside from a small number of researchers, what most people learn about the Katyn issue reflects the “official” version. Discussion of Katyn is actively discouraged in mainstream academic and political circles under the pretext that the matter has been so firmly established by evidence that only cranks and communists could question it.

However, the very act of discouraging free discussion and doubts about the “official” viewpoint has the potential to stimulate curiosity and questioning.

 

[1]“‘Волынская Катынь’ оказалась делом рук гитлеровцев.” [“The ‘Volhynian Katyn’ turns out to be a deed of the Hitlerites.”] At http://katyn.ru/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=253

[2] According to the “official” account, small numbers of Polish prisoners were confined at or shipped to other camps and were not executed.

[3] Hitler outlined this “Big Lie” in Mein Kampf: Chapter 6, “War Propaganda,” and Chapter 10, “Why the Second Reich Collapsed.”

[4]«Секретныедокументы из особых папок» Вопросы Истории 1993 № 1, сс. 3-22.

[5] At http://www.tinyurl.com/katyn-the-truth

[6] I picked the title “The Katyn Forest Whodunnit” for my page because it expresses my own uncertainty, and thereby my own dedication to objectivity. I don’t know “who did it,” the Nazis or the Soviets, the Soviets or the Nazis, and I would like to know. Moreover, I don’t care “who did it.” If the Germans did it, it is just what they did all over Eastern Europe and on a much larger scale. If the Soviets did it, we should try to discover why they did. It would not be “endemic to communism,” as the anticommunists claim. In fact, though, it appears more and more likely that the Soviets did not “do it.”

[7] I have taken the texts of all but one of the confessions from the official Polish volumeKatyń. Dokumenty zbrodni- Tom 2 Zagłada marzec-czerwiec 1940. (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo „Trio,” 1998). They were originally published separately. I have checked those original versions against this one. In addition, Syromiatnikov gave an interview to Polish journalist Jerzy Morawski in 1992. All these interviews with ex-NKVD officers Soprunenko, Syromiatnikov, and Tokarev are available at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/katyn_nkvd.html

[8] A photograph of Kuligowski‘s badge may be viewed at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-zheton-1441.jpg and a somewhat lighter, more legible copy at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/kuligowski_badge_1441.jpg

[9] “Osoby z Listy Katyńskiej mordowano we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?!” (Persons from the Katyn List murdered at Włodzimierz Wołyński?!), ITVL May 25, 2011. At http://www.itvl.pl/news/osoby-z-listy-katynskiej-mordowano-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim–

[10] All translations in this article are mine.

[11] The surrounding region of Volhynia was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of World War I; then part of Poland; then part of the Soviet Ukraine; then occupied by the Germans; then again part of Soviet Ukraine, and is now part of Ukraine. Until 1939 the language of the urban elite was mainly Polish, that of the peasantry mainly Ukrainian and Yiddish.

[12] See “Tropem zbrodni NKWD pod Włodzimierzem Wołyńskim” (Trail of NKVD crime near Włodzimierz Wołyński) at http://wolyn.btx.pl/index.php/component/content/article/1-historia/168-tropem-zbrodni-nkwd-pod-wodzimierzem-woyskim.html ; Włodzimierz Wołyński – groby polskich ofiar NKWD” (graves of Polish victims of the NKVD) at http://www.nawolyniu.pl/artykuly/ofiarynkwd.htm ; “Czyje mogiły odnaleziono we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim?” (Whose graves found at Włodzimierz Wołyński?) http://wpolityce.pl/depesze/10407-czyje-mogily-odnaleziono-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim This last article speaks of „ofiar pomordowanych przez NKWD w latach 1940-1941 w sowieckiej katowni na zamku we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim” (victims murdered by the NKVD in 1940-1941 in the Soviet execution chamber in the castle at Włodzimierz Wołyński). Many more similar articles could be cited.

[13] “ВолинськаКатинь. УВолодимирі-ВолинськомузнайденомасовепохованняжертвНКВС 1939–1941 років.” Tyzhden’.ua October 4, 2011. At http://tyzhden.ua/Society/31329

[14] In reality there was plenty of “order” in the burials. We shall see below that both the Polish and Ukrainian reports attest to this fact. There is also a great deal of evidence, including photographs, that German troops executed people from behind rather than in “firing-squad” formation.

[15] Sprawozdanie z Nadzoru Nad Badaniami Archeologiczno-Ekshumacyjnymi na Terenie Rezerwatu Historyczno-Kulturowego Miasta Włodzimierza Wołyńskiego (Ukraina). Opracowanie zespołowe pod kierunkiem dr Dominiki Siemińskiej. Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa. (Report of the Supervision on the Archaeological-Exhumation Investigation in the Area of the Reservation of the Historical-Cultural Town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy (Ukraine). A Team Description under the Direction of Dr. Dominika Siemińska. Council for the Commemoration of Struggle and Martzrdom). Toruń, 2012, Note, pp. 1-2. At http://www.kresykedzierzynkozle.home.pl/attachments/File/Rap.pdf

[16] Miednoje. Księga Cmentarna Polskiego Cmentarza Wojennego. Warsaw: Rada Ochrony Pamiêci Walk i Mêczeñstwa 2005. Tom 1, 465.

[17] http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11036 According to the Home Page „Indeks Represjonowanych” (http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/index.html ) this online record is a digital version of the contents of the official volume: Maria Skrzyńska-Pławińska, ed. Rozstrzelani w Twerze : alfabetyczny spis 6314 jeńców polskich z Ostaszkowa rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940 i pogrzebanych w Miednoje, według źródeł sowieckich i polskich. Warszawa : Ośrodek KARTA, 1997.

[18] Jędrzej Tucholski. Mord w Katyniu: Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk. Lista ofiar. Warszawa: Instztut Wydawniczy Pax, 1991, p. 810. No. 15: NKVD list No. 026/1 of 13 April 1940, position 15. In spite of the presence of Kuligowski’s name on this NKVD list, for some reason the alphabetical section of Tucholski (p. 314 col. 2) lists Kuligowski on its “victims list” (lista ofiar) as “probably Ostashkov” (Prawdop. Ostaszków).

[19] See “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.” http://www.ornatowski.com/index/katyn.htm

[20] See above, note 14.

[21] A description of this method of execution may be found on the English-language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Jeckeln#World_War_II_mass_murderer

[22] Equivalent to full or four-star General, the highest SS rank aside from that of Heinrich Himmler, whose rank was Reichsführer-SS.

[23] Photograph at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-gruppa4.jpg (as of May 6 2013). It is taken from page 8 of the Polish archeological report cited above.A description of this method of execution may be found on the English language Wikipedia page on Jeckeln at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Jeckeln#World_War_II_mass_murderer

[24] Volodymyr Musychenko. ―Ialatpcaojnj Hfrtcanj Bumj ]crf¿?‖ Slovo Pravdy (Volodymyr-Volyns‘kiy) March 29, 2011. At http://spr.net.ua/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=919:2011-09-29-07-41- 57&catid=1:newsukraine ; Ivan Katchanovski, ―Katyn in Reverse in Ukraine: Nazi-led Massacres turned into Soviet Massacres.‖ OpEd News, December 13, 2012, at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Katyn-in-Reverse-in-Ukrainby-Ivan-Katchanovski-121212-435.html ; I. Katchanovski, ―Suyasoa qpm{tjla qan‘>t{ oa Cpmjo{ 7pep PUO(b) ta oaxjsts:ljw naspcjw cbjcstc,‖ Ukraina Moderna No. 19 (April 30 2013). At http://www.uamoderna.com/md/199

[25] Photos available at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/polskie_guziki_pagon_VV2012.jpg , from the Polish archaeological report.

[26] “Kolejny policjant z Listy Katyńskiej odnaleziony we Włodzimierzu Wołyńskim..” [Another policeman on the Katyn List is found in Volodymyr-Volynsky]. At http://www.itvl.pl/news/kolejny-policjant-z-listy-katynskiej-odnaleziony-we-wlodzimierzu-wolynskim

[27] “INDEKS NAZWISK – Katyń – zamordowani przez NKWD w 1940 r.” At http://www.ornatowski.com/index/katyn.htm

[28] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11445

[29] Tucholski p. 887 No. 76. Małowiejski was in a transport of 100 Polish prisoners sent to the Kalinin NKVD on April 27, 1940. Of course his name is also on Tucholski’s alphabetical list (p. 322, col. 2) as is Kuligowski’s, and on other official lists of Katyn victims.

[30] “Report of Special Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest.” (Burdenko Report). In The Katyn Forest Massacre. Hearings Before the Select Committee To Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session. …Part 3 (Chicago). March 13 and 14, 1952. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952 (http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/burdenko_comm.pdf), p. 246.

[31] “Część Pierwsza. Obóz w Kozielsku. Groby w Lesie Katyńskim,” p. 3 (pages unnumbered).

[32] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=8437

[33] Araszkiewica at Kozel’sk: Tucholski p. 68 col. 2 (the alphabetical list). In the Russian-language “transit lists” that take up almost 400 pages of Tucholski’s book, Araszkiewicz’s transfer from Ostashkov to Kalinin is recorded on list No.062/2 of May 19, 1940, the last shipment of prisoners out of Ostashkov: p. 907, No. 7.

[34] The New York Times published a very brief notice of the German claim on April 16, 1943; see “Nazis Accuse Russians,” p. 4.

[35] “Совинформбюро. Гнусныеизмышлениянемецко-фашистскихпалачей” (Sovinformburo: Vile Fabrications of the German-Fascist Executioners), April 16, 1943. At http://tinyurl.com/sovinformburo041643

[36]“Część Druga. Obóz w Ostaszkowie,” p. 13 (pages unnumbered).

[37] The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11191

[38]  The following text is from http://www.indeks.karta.org.pl/pl/szczegoly.jsp?id=11001

[39] Mosziński, Lista Katyńska, lists the only Stanisław Kucziński in the Katyn victims lists as at the Starobelsk camp; see “Część Trzecia. Obóz w Starobielsku,” page 34 (unnumbered pages). Tucholski (p.314 col. 1; lists p. 851 No. 87) puts a Stanisław Kucziński at Ostashkov, thus agreeing with the “Indeks” list. The “Indeks” list and Tucholski agree that this Kucziński’s father’s name was Adam; Mosziński does not give any father’s name. Mosziński’s Stanisław Kucziński was a “rtm,” a Rotmistrz, or Captain of Cavalry, while Tucholski’s was a constable of police (“Funkcj. PP, posterunek Pruszków”). It appears that Mosziński and the other two sources are indicating different men.

[40] The names of these three men are not on the list of 4143 bodies, some of them nameless, in the German report Amtliches Material.

[41] Testimony of P.F. Sukhachev, October 8, 1942, and of Vladimir Afanasievich Yegorov, undated, to Burdenko Commission, Burdenko Comm (note 26), 241-2.

[42] Amtliches Material zum Massenmord von KATYN. Berlin: Zentralverlag der NSDAP. Franz Eher Nachf. GmbH., 1943, p. 46. The German sentence reads: “… an oval tin badge among the exhibits, which contains the following information.

[43] The abbreviation “T.K.” may mean “prison kitchen” (тюремнаякухня) or “pantry,” or it may mean something else. What matters is that the badge or marker comes from Ostashkov.

[44] For a brief overview of this question see Mark Tauger, “Famine in Russian History,”Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, Volume 10: Supplement. (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 2011), 79-92. Tauger’s own works on the famine are cited at page 92. I consider Tauger to be the world’s authority on this famine, to the study of which he has devoted decades. See also R.W. Davies and Stephen G. Wheatcroft,The Years of Hunger. Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2009 [2004]), 440-1. Concerning the “Yezhovshchina” (also called “the Great Terror”) see the Yezhov confession of August 4, 1939 printed in Никита Петров, “Сталинский питомец” — Николай Ежов (Nikita Petrov, “Stalin’s Pet” – Nikolai Yezhov), Moscow 2008, 367–79 (English translation at http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/ezhov080439eng.html ). Stalin told aircraft designer Alexander Yakovlev that Yezhov had been executed because he had killed many innocent people; see А. Яковлев, Цельжизни. Запискиавиаконструктора (М.: 1973), 267 (глава: “Москвавобороне”). For the present author’s views see Grover Furr, “The Moscow Trials and the ‘Great Terror’ of 1937-1938: What the Evidence Shows” (written July 2010). http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/trials_ezhovshchina_update0710.html

[45] See, for example, Piotr Kołakowski, NKWD i GRU na ziemiach polskich 1939-1945(Warsaw: Bellona, 2002), 74, which discusses NKVD searches and arrests: “nazwiska osób walczących o granice II Rzeczypospolitej w latach 1918-1921” (names of persons who fought for the boundaries of the Second Republic in 1918-1921), “nazwiska wszystkich ochotników, którzy wojowali z bolszewikami w 1920 r.” (names of all volunteers who had fought the Bolsheviks in 1920), i.e. in the war which forced Soviet Russia to cede all of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia to Poland in the Treaty of Riga (March 1921).

[46] See the hair-raising anti-Ukrainian terror of November 1938 described by Jeffrey Burds, “Comment on Timothy Snyder’s article…” At http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/comment13.htm

[47] For an introduction to this heated question see the section “Polish Massacres of Russian POWs 1919-1920” on my “Katyn Forest Whodunnit” page (note 5).

[48] Ukrainian nationalist forces allied with the Germans massacred roughly 100,000 Polish civilians in German-occupied Western Ukraine in 1943 and 1944. This is known in Poland as “Rzeź wołyńska,” the “Volhynian massacres,” in Ukraine as “Волинська трагедія,” the “Volhynian tragedy.”

[49] “Дослідження виявлених решток людей , розстріляних в 1941 році на городищі “ вали” у володимирі- волинському .ексгумаційні дослідження 2012 року”. (Investigation of discovered remains of persons shot in 1941 at the ‘Shafts’ site at Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy. Investigation of exhumations of 2012.) (Doslizhdennia) At http://volodymyrmuseum.com/publications/32-publications/naukovi-statti/170-doslidzhennya-vyyavlenykh-reshtok-lyudey-rozstrilyanykh-v-1941-rotsi-na-horodyshchi-valy-u-volodymyri-volynskomu-ekshumatsiyni-doslidzhennya-2012-roku

[50] The correct name for this German munitions factory was Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff AG Dürlach Werk. A specialized Internet database on German ordnance states that the Dürlach factory was actually in Baden: see German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: c-e, at http://www.radix.net/~bbrown/codes_full_alpha_c-e.html

[51] A town south of Warsaw about halfway between Radom and Kielce. The German munitions factory was HASAG Eisen und Metallwerke G.m.b.H. According to the database cited in the previous note this was the Hugo Schneider AG, Werk Skarżysko Kamienna, Poland.

[52] “B 1906” appears to be Austrian rifle ordnance made for the Tsarist Army during the Russo-Japanese War. See the drawing at http://7.62x54r.net/MosinID/MosinAmmoID02.htm#Austria and the photograph obtained by Sergei Strygin at http://katyn.ru/images/news/2012-12-29-gilza_B_1906.jpg

[53] Doslizhdennia (online); Звіт про результати археологічно-ексгумаційних рятівних досліджень на городищі “вали” у м. володимирі-волинському 2012 р. (Report on the results of the archaeological exhumation recovery investigations at the “Vali” [“shafts”] site in the town of Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy in 2012.). Luts’k, 2012. ( Zvit) Available at http://www.formuseum.info/uploads/files/Звіт 2012_Володимир-Волинський.pdf These are two versions of the same report. The much fuller PDF version contains many pages of photographs, graphs, tables, and drawings, but no clear accounting of the cartridge shells as the Polish report has.

[54] Скороход, Ольга. “Польские археологи нагнетают ситуацию вокруг жертв, расстрелянных в 1941-м.” (Ol’ga Skorokhkod. Polish archeologists stir up the situation around the victims shot in 1941). Gazeta.ru February 20, 2013, http://gazeta.ua/ru/articles/history/_polskie-arheologi-nagnetayut-situaciyu-vokrug-zhertv-rasstrelyannyh-v-1941-m/483525 Gazeta.ru is a Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper. Roughly half the population of today’s Ukraine use Russian as their first language.

[55] Виставка: “Прихована історія: археологічні дослідження на городищі Володимира-Волинського 2010-2012 років” (Exhibition: “Hidden history: archaeological investigations at a site in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy in the years 2010-2012”), http://www.formuseum.info/2013/02/27/vistavka.html

Source

‘I’m a Russian Occupant’: Viral video justifies imperial aggression

A recently released YouTube video entitled ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’ is a deeply telling panegyric to 19th century-style white man’s burden imperialism, which goes a long way towards explaining what is wrong with the mentality of many Russians today.

It’s a rare occurrence to see proponents of a worldview unironically putting out such a bold (and frankly racist) statement of agency, a statement which approaches Idiocracy levels of parody. One could almost laugh, if this clarion call to unapologetic national pride was not so blatantly supremacist and aggressive.

To put it all in a rather crude nutshell, everything in this part of the world would be crap if it weren’t for the Russians, and it’s crap again because Moscow’s petulant children forgot the benefit of kowtowing to their suzerain. That might sound like an exaggeration. It is not. In a typical display of Russian militaristic bravado, the highly-stylized clip begins with a so-called Little Green Man (slang for the crack Russian troops who took Crimea sans insignia) loading a clip into his AK-100 while the narrator proclaims that being an occupier is his manifest destiny.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Turning his eye to Yermak’s 16th century conquest of Siberia, the video goes full on Heart of Darkness by arguing that now they (whoever they might be) produce oil, gas and “other useful stuff, have “schools and hospitals” and can’t sell women for “a bundle of sable skins” – all thanks to Russian colonial expansion.

I guess one is left to assume that the benefits of 400-plus years of progress would have escaped the indigenous population if it weren’t for the Russians occupation. It’s also strange how putting a stop to selling women for sable skins is brought up as a justification, seeing that rape, enslavement and self-admitted genocidal policies were carried out against the natives, often, and rather ironically, due to the lucrative fur trade.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Serfdom was also being deeply entrenched in Russian society during the same time period, which is to say, Russia was actually moving backwards socially during this period of imperial expansion (legal amendments in 1649 and 1658 made the bulk of Russians slaves in all but name.) So they saved the people from selling their women into slavery so Russians  themselves could sell them into slavery? Right.

The narrator moves on to the Baltics, arguing they were renowned for their high quality radio equipment, cars, famous perfumes and balms during Soviet times.

“I [Russia] was asked to leave them. Now they sell sprats, and part of their people clean toilets in Europe.” 

That the financially robust Baltic states, one of which is projected to reach the economic level of the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway by 2025 (and potentially become one of the top five most productive nations in the world) have been relegated to forage fish sellers and European toilet cleaners is frankly odd.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Central Asia is next, and perhaps an easier target given the authoritarianism and wealth inequality that plagues these states for a number of reasons. Seemingly reducing the five republics of the former Soviet bloc to one homogeneous mass, the narrator sidesteps any substantive issues by saying they are now being saddled with US loans and “growing Cannabis” (with the image of a pot leaf quickly being replaced with a white powder I’m assuming is heroine.)

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Apart from the unforeseen possibility that Colorado has outsourced its pot business to Uzbekistan on the back of high interest loans, I’m not really sure what the narrator is getting at. Another contention, that many migrants now work in Russia in often desperate conditions, is true, though to blame them for the macroeconomic conditions that make some states net importers of guest laborers seems ludicrous.

The reductionist approach also belies the fact that Kazakhstan’s GDP per capita is nominally close to Russia’s, providing economic conditions which attract more Central Asian migrants than any other country in the world (apart from its neighbor to the north.) And what, pray tell, do Russia and Kazakhstan have in common? I’ll give you a hint:

In Ukraine, well you guessed it. Once upon a time they built things, and now all they can do is construct “revolution and dictatorship.” 

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

So looking at all of the chaos that’s been unleashed by one of the worst geopolitical disaster’s of the 20th century, the narrator, whoever he is speaking for, is coming out of the closest (no, not that closet!)

“Yes, I’m an occupant, and I’m tired of apologizing for it. I’m an occupant by birthright, an aggressor and a bloodthirsty monster. Be afraid.” 

The video, unsurprisingly, goes on to deride western hypocrisy, parroting the widely held belief that democracy does not exist, before reducing western values to gays, gays, more gays, and Conchita Wurst (as opposed to transparency, the rule of law, the protection of minorities, civil rights and the regular and predictable transition of power through free and fair elections.)

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

“I politely warn you for the last time, don’t mess with me. I build peace, I love peace, but I know how to fight better than anyone else,” the message, which is quickly dispatched to Barack Obama, concludes.

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Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нет.

Kevin Rothrock from Global Voices contacted the alleged creator of the video, a man going by the name of Evgeny Zhurov. Zhurov is emphatic that the professionally produced video was independently made, saying claims of Kremlin involvement are an absolute “lie.”

“These people want to destroy the ‘myth’ about a guy who works ‘for an idea,’” Zhurov said.“They want to make all my work look like it was part of some government contract.”

I for one believe whoever is behind the video is an ancillary point. That the Kremlin would make (or at the very least finance) such a video in a world of internet troll farms and organized-state hysteria is par for the course. What’s more important is the fact that the maker of this video has his finger on the pulse of contemporary Russia. In line with their educational curriculum, many Russians believe in a reductionist view of history which hinges on external invasions of Russia, but ignores numerous instances of Russian aggression against its own neighbors.

It is within this narrative that the myth of the peaceful but ferocious Russian was born. The revelatory part of the video, of course, is that it couples Russians belief in their peaceful nature with its highly militaristic culture, which revels in the idea of being feared. For those who visit Russia, the obsession with power is stark. Some have likened it to a sublimated prison culture, and even in Soviet times, prisoners themselves called the labor camps the ‘small zones’ and the country itself the ‘big zone.’ And this obsession with power manifests itself in virtually every interaction.

When the face of Russia’s domestic propaganda effort Dmitry Kiselyov warned “Russia can turn the US into radioactive dust” last March, he was speaking directly to the Russian id that can resentfully only find parity with their former Cold War rival in its ability to destroy it (and be destroyed in turn.) Russia is a shadow of its former Soviet incarnation, but due to its nuclear arsenal, it most be feared and respected, or so the logic goes.

I already mentioned its reduction of Western values to one gigantic gay pride parade, though there is something interesting in its interpretation of Soviet History. Russians both view the Soviet Union as a Russian imperialistic project and as a commonwealth of brotherly nations coming together for a utopian vision of the future. Many Russians deftly navigate very convoluted waters in which all of the evils of the Soviet Union are blamed on outside anti-Russian forces (often Jews), while at the same time believing that all of the accomplishments of the Soviet Union were in fact Russian accomplishments.

The videos portrayal of the former Soviet republics and Siberia itself as backwaters that would have been nothing if not for Russia’s beneficent occupation is a widely held belief. Jim Kovpak, an amateur historian and author of the popular blog Russia Without BS, summarized this mentality in an article entitled ‘See, this is why nobody likes you.’

“It goes something like this. Russian wants to rant against some former Soviet nationality. It doesn’t matter if its their ‘Slavic brothers’ like the Ukrainians or non-Slavic nationalities like Uzbeks, Tajiks, or Georgians. With the most condescending and patronizing tone, they remind the target of their rant how great they had it under the USSR, or in the case of this article, the Russian Empire. Typically no distinction is made between the two.  

The story is that Muscovite Russians selflessly endeavored and bled to give these people various “gifts” for which they were ungrateful in 1991. Basically it’s the equivalent of a right-wing American telling black Americans that they should be grateful for slavery, or better said a British person lecturing India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan about how great they had it when they were the jewel of the British Empire. The difference being, however, that in the US or UK views like this are often met with sharp criticism, often all across the political spectrum. In Russia they are mainstream and encouraged,” he wrote.

That these views are mainstream and encouraged is obvious in the stellar popularity of ‘I am a Russian Occupant’, which has gathered over 5 million views and 111k likes in some two weeks. One of the most telling aspects of many Russians is that they are supremacists who are enraged that they might be viewed as inferior, anti-PC bigots who will jump at the slightest mischaracterization of their own people, self-proclaimed lovers of peace who are militarists obsessed with power and respect, patronizing colonialists who are deeply resentful that neighboring nations do not respect the paternalistic yoke.

These contradictions are the source of a great deal of internal strife that manifests itself externally, as the pressure of cognitive dissonance rarely dissipates of its own accord. And often, the psychic fault lines between reality and delusion create tremors in the real world.

It would be easy to dismiss this clip if it weren’t so telling. After all, it is the worldview it depicts (a false belief that it is Russia’s “birthright” to keep their backwards and rebellious children in the fold) that drove the Kremlin to rip Ukraine apart rather than let it choose its own path. Taken in that light, there is nothing funny about ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’ at all.

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нетю

Screenshot from ‘I’m a Russian Occupant’, courtesy of YouTube user ОКеям Нетю

Source

Stalin Society: The Katyn Massacre

Nazi propaganda poster depicting executions of Polish military officers by the Soviets, with caption in Slovak: "Forest of the dead at Katyn"

Nazi propaganda poster depicting executions of Polish military officers by the Soviets, with caption in Slovak: “Forest of the dead at Katyn”

by Ella Rule
July 2002

At the end of the First World War, the boundary between Russia and Poland was settled as being along a line which became known as the Curzon line – Lord Curzon being the British statesman who had proposed it.

This demarcation line was not to the liking of the Poles, who soon went to war against the Soviet Union in order to push their borders further eastward. The Soviet Union counter-attacked and were prepared not only to defend themselves but, against Stalin’s advice, to liberate the whole of Poland. Stalin considered such an aim to be doomed to failure because, he said, Polish nationalism had not yet run its course. The Poles were determined NOT to be liberated so there was no point in trying. Hence the Poles put up fierce resistance to Soviet advances. Ultimately the Soviet Union was forced to retreat and even cede territory to the east of the Curzon line to Poland. The areas in question were Western Byelorussia and the western Ukraine – areas populated overwhelmingly by Byelorussians and Ukrainians respectively rather than by Poles. The whole incident could not but exacerbate the mutual dislike of the Poles and the Russians.

On 1 September 1939, Nazi German invaded Poland. On 17 September, the Soviet Union moved to reoccupy those parts of Poland that lay east of the Curzon line. Having taken over those areas, the Soviet Union set about distributing land to the peasants and bringing about the kind of democratic reforms so popular with the people and so unpopular with the exploiters. During the battle to retake the areas east of the Curzon line, the Soviet Union captured some 10,000 Polish officers, who became prisoners of war. These prisoners were then held in camps in the disputed area and put to work road building, etc.

Two years later, on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union by surprise. The Red Army was forced hurriedly to retreat and the Ukraine was taken over by the Germans. During this hurried retreat it was not possible to evacuate to the Soviet interior the Polish prisoners of war. The chief of camp no. 1, Major Vetoshnikov gave evidence that he had applied to the chief of traffic of the Smolensk section of the Western Railway to be provided with railway cars for the evacuation of the Polish prisoners but was told it was unlikely to be possible. Engineer Ivanov, who had been the Chief of Traffic in the region at the time, confirmed there had been no railway cars to spare. “Besides, ” he said, “we could not send cars to the Gussino line, where the majority of the Polish prisoners were, since that line was already under fire”. The result was that, following the Soviet retreat from the area, the Polish prisoners became prisoners of the Germans.

In April 1943, the Hitlerites announced that the Germans had found several mass graves in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers allegedly murdered by the Russians.

This announcement was designed to further undermine the co-operation efforts of Poles and Soviets to defeat the Germans. The Russo-Polish alliance was always difficult because the Polish government in exile, based in London, was obviously a government of the exploiting classes. They had to oppose the Germans because of the latter’s cynical takeover of their country for lebensraum. The Soviet Union’s position was that so long as the Soviet Union could retain the land east of the Curzon line, they had no problem with the re-establishment of a bourgeois government in Poland. But the alliance was already in difficulties because the Polish government in exile, headed by General Sikorski, based in London, would not agree to the return of that land. This is in spite of the fact that in 1941 after Hitler invaded Poland, the Soviet Union and the Polish government in exile had not only established diplomatic relations but had also agreed that the Soviet Union would finance “under the orders of a chief appointed by the Polish government-in-exile but approved by the Soviet government ” the formation of a Polish army – this chief being, in the event, the thoroughly anti-Soviet General Anders (a prisoner of the Soviets from 1939). By 25 October 1941 this Army had 41,000 men including 2,630 officers. General Anders, however, eventually refused to fight on the Soviet-German front because of the border dispute between the Soviet Union and Poland, and the Polish army had to be sent elsewhere to fight – i.e., Iran.

Nevertheless, despite the hostility of the Polish government in exile, there was a significant section of Poles resident in the Soviet Union who were not anti-Soviet and did accept the Soviet claim to the territories east of the Curzon line. Many of them were Jewish. These people formed the Union of Polish Patriots which put together the backbone of an alternative Polish government in exile.

The Nazi propaganda relating to the Katyn massacres was designed to make it impossible for the Soviets to have any dealings with the Poles at all. General Sikorski took up the Nazi propaganda with a vengeance, claiming to Churchill that he had a “wealth of evidence”. How he had obtained this “evidence” simultaneously with the German announcement of this supposed Soviet atrocity is not clear, although it speaks loudly of secret collaboration between Sikorski and the Nazis. The Germans had made public their allegations on 13 April. On 16 April the Soviet government issued an official communiqué denying “the slanderous fabrications about the alleged mass shootings by Soviet organs in the Smolensk area in the spring of 1940”. It added:

“The German statement leaves no doubt about the tragic fate of the former Polish prisoners of war who, in 1941, were engaged in building jobs in areas west of Smolensk and who, together with many Soviet people, fell into the hands of the German hangmen after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.”

The Germans had in fabricating their story decided to embellish it with an anti-Semitic twist by claiming to be able to name Soviet officials in charge of the massacre, all of whom had Jewish names. On 19 April Pravda responded:

“Feeling the indignation of the whole of progressive humanity over their massacre of peaceful citizens and particularly of Jews, the Germans are now trying to arouse the anger of gullible people against the Jews. For this reason they have invented a whole collection of ‘Jewish commissars’ who, they say, took part in the murder of the 10,000 Polish officers. For such experienced fakers it was not difficult to invent a few names of people who never existed – Lev Rybak, Avraam Brodninsky, Chaim Fineberg. No such persons ever existed either in the ‘Smolensk section of the OGPU’ or in any other department of the NLVD…”

The insistence of Sikorski in endorsing the German propaganda led to the complete breakdown in relations between the London Polish government in exile and the Soviet government – as to which Goebbels commented in his diary:

“This break represents a one-hundred-per-cent victory for German propaganda and especially for me personally … we have been able to convert the Katyn incident into a highly political question.”

At the time the British press condemned Sikorski for his intransigence:

The Times of 28 April 1943 wrote:

“Surprise as well as regret will be felt by those who have had so much cause to understand the perfidy and ingenuity of the Goebbels propaganda machine should themselves have fallen into the trap laid by it. Poles will hardly have forgotten a volume widely circulated in the first winter of the war which described with every detail of circumstantial evidence, including that of photography, alleged Polish atrocities against the peaceful German inhabitants of Poland.”

What lay at the basis of Sikorski’s insistence that the massacre had been carried out by the Soviets rather than the Germans was the dispute over the territory east of the Curzon line. Sikorski was trying to use the German propaganda to mobilise western imperialism behind Poland’s claim to that territory, to try to force them out of the position, as he saw it, of taking the Soviet Union’s side on the issue of this border dispute.

If one reads bourgeois sources today, they all assert that the Soviet Union was responsible for the Katyn massacre, and they do so with such assurance and consistency that in trying to argue the contrary one feels like a Nazi revisionist trying to deny Hitler’s slaughter of Jews. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachov was even enrolled on this disinformation campaign and produced material allegedly from the Soviet archives which ‘proved’ that the Soviets committed the atrocity and, of course, that they did so on Stalin’s orders. Well, we know the interest that the Gorbachovs of this world have in demonising Stalin. Their target is not so much Stalin as socialism. Their purpose in denigrating socialism is to restore capitalism and bring lives of luxurious parasitism to themselves and their hangers-on at the cost of mass suffering among the Soviet peoples. Their cynicism matches that of the German Nazis and it is hardly surprising to find them singing from the same hymn sheet.

Bourgeois sources blithely claim that Soviet evidence in support of blaming the Germans for the atrocity was either totally absent or based purely on hearsay evidence of terrorised inhabitants of the region. They don’t mention one piece of evidence which even Goebbels had to admit was a bit of a bummer from his point of view. He wrote in his diary on 8 May 1943,

“Unfortunately, German ammunition has been found in the graves at Katyn … It is essential that this incident remains a top secret. If it were to come to the knowledge of the enemy the whole Katyn affair would have to be dropped. “

In 1971 there was correspondence in The Times suggesting the Katyn massacres could not have been done by the Germans since they went in for machine gunning and gas chambers rather than despatching prisoners in the way the Katyn victims had been killed, i.e., by a shot in the back of the head. A former German solider then living in Godalming, Surrey, intervened in this correspondence:

“As a German soldier, at that time convinced of the righteousness of our cause, I have taken part in many battles and actions during the Russian campaign. I have not been to Katyn nor to the forest nearby. But I well remember the hullabaloo when the news broke in 1943 about the discovery of the ghastly mass grave near Katyn, which area was then threatened by the Red Army.

“Josef Goebbels, as the historic records show, has fooled many people. After all, that was his job and few would dispute his almost complete mastery of it. What is surprising indeed, however, is that it still shows evidence in the pages of The Times thirty odd years later. Writing from experience I do not think that at that late time of the war Goebbels managed to fool many German soldiers in Russia on the Katyn issue … German soldiers knew about the shot in the back of the head all right … we German soldiers knew that the Polish officers were despatched by none other than our own. “

Moreover, very many witnesses came forward to attest to the presence of Polish prisoners in the region after the Germans had taken it over.

Maria Alexandrovna Sashneva, a local primary school teacher, gave evidence to a Special commission set up by the Soviet Union in September 1943, immediately after the area was liberated from the Germans, to the effect that in August 1941, two months after Soviet withdrawal, she had hidden a Polish war prisoner in her house. His name had been Juzeph Lock, and he had spoken to her of ill-treatment suffered by Polish prisoners under the Germans:

“When the Germans arrived they seized the Polish camp and instituted a strict regime in it. The Germans did not regard the Poles as human beings. They oppressed and outraged them in every way. On some occasions Poles were shot without any reason at all. He decided to escape…”

Several other witnesses gave evidence that they had seen the Poles during August and September 1941 working on the roads.

Moreover, witnesses also testified to round-ups by the Germans of escaped Polish prisoners in the autumn of 1941. Danilenko, a local peasant, was among several witnesses who testified to this.

“Special round ups were held in our place to catch Polish war prisoners who had escaped. Some searches took place in my house 2 or 3 times. After one such search I asked the headman .. whom they were looking for in our village. [He] said that an order had been received from the German Kommandatur according to which searches were to be made in all houses without exception, since Polish war prisoners who had escaped from the camp were hiding in our village. “

Obviously the Germans did not shoot the Poles in full sight of local witnesses, but there is nonetheless significant evidence from local people as to what was happening. One witness was Alexeyeva who had been detailed by the headman of her village to serve the German personnel at a country house in the section of the Katyn Forest known as Kozy Gory, which had been the rest home of the Smolensk administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. This house was situated some 700 metres from where the mass graves were found. Alexeyeva said:

“At the close of August and during most of September 1941 several trucks used to come practically every day to the Kozy Gory country house. At first I paid no attention to that, but later I noticed that each time these trucks arrived at the grounds of the country house they stopped for half an hour, and sometimes for a whole hour, somewhere on the country road connecting the country house with the highway. I drew this conclusion because some time after these trucks reached the grounds of the country house the noise they made would cease.

“Simultaneously with the noise stopping single shots would be heard. The shots followed each other at short but approximately even intervals. Then the shooting would die down and the trucks would drive right up to the country house. German soldiers and NCOs came out of the trucks. Talking noisily they went to wash in the bathhouse, after which they engaged in drunken orgies.

“On days when the trucks arrived more soldiers from some German military units used to arrive at the country house. Special beds were put up for them… Shortly before the trucks reached the country house armed soldiers went to the forest evidently to the spot where the trucks stopped because in half an hour they returned in these trucks, together with the soldiers who lived permanently in the country house.

“…On several occasions I noticed stains of fresh blood on the clothes of two Lance Corporals. From all this I inferred that the Germans brought people in the truck to the country house and shot them.”

Alexeyeva also discovered that the people being shot were Polish prisoners.

“Once I stayed at the country house somewhat later than usual… Before I finished the work which had kept me there, a soldier suddenly entered and told me I could go … He … accompanied me to the highway.

“Standing on the highway 150 or 200 metres from where the road branches off to the country house I saw a group of about 30 Polish war prisoners marching along the highway under heavy German escort… I halted near the roadside to see where they were being led, and I saw that they turned towards our country house at Kozy Gory.

“Since by that time I had begun to watch closely everything going on at the country house, I became interested. I went back some distance along the highway, hid in bushes near the roadside, and waited. In some 20 or 30 minutes I heard the familiar single shots. “

The other two requisitioned maids at the country house, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, gave supporting evidence. Other residents of the area gave similar evidence.

Basilevsky, director of the Smolensk observatory, was appointed deputy burgomeister to Menshagin, a Nazi collaborator. Basilevsky was trying to secure the release from German custody of a teacher, Zhiglinsky, and persuaded Menshagin to speak to the German commander of the region, Von Schwetz, about this matter. Menshagin did so but reported back it was impossible to secure this release because “instructions had been received from Berlin prescribing the strictest regime be maintained. “

Basilevsky then recounted his conversation with Menshagin:

“I involuntarily retorted ‘Can anything else be stricter than the regime existing at the camp?’ Menshagin looked at me in a strange way and bending to my ear, answered in a low voice: yes, there can be! The Russians can at least be left to die off, but as to the Polish war prisoners, the orders say they are to be simply exterminated. “

After liberation Menshagin’s notebook was found written in his own handwriting, as confirmed by expert graphologists. Page 10, dated 15 August 1941, notes:

“All fugitive war prisoners are to be detained and delivered to the commandant’s office. “

This in itself proves the Polish prisoners were still alive at that time. On page 15, which is undated, the entry appears: “Are there any rumours among the population concerning the shooting of Polish war prisoners in Kozy Gory (for Umnov) ” (Umnov was the Chief of the Russian police).

A number of witnesses gave evidence that they had been pressured in 1942-43 by the Germans to give false testimony as to the shooting of the Poles by the Russians.

Parfem Gavrilovich Kisselev, a resident of the village closest to Kozy Gory, testified that he had been summonsed in autumn of 1942 to the Gestapo where he was interviewed by a German officer:

“The officer stated that, according to information at the disposal of the Gestapo, in 1940, in the area of Kozy Gory in the Katyn Forest, staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shot Polish officers, and he asked me what testimony I could give on this score. I answered that I had never heard of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shooting people at Kozy Gory, and that anyhow it was impossible, I explained to the officer, since Kozy Gory is an absolutely open and much frequented place, and if shootings had gone on there the entire population of the neighbouring villages would have known …

“…The interpreter, however, would not listen to me, but took a handwritten document from the desk and read it to me. It said that I, Kisselev, resident of a hamlet in the Kozy Gory area, personally witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“Having read the document, the interpreter told me to sign it. I refused to do so… Finally he shouted ‘Either you sign it at once or we shall destroy you. Make your choice.’

“Frightened by these threats, I signed the document and thought that would be the end of the matter. “

But it wasn’t the end of the matter, because the Germans expected Kisselev to give parol evidence of what he had ‘witnessed’ to groups of ‘delegates’ invited by the Germans to come to the area to witness the evidence of supposed Soviet atrocities.

Soon after the German authorities had announced the existence of the mass graves to the world in April 1943,

“the Gestapo interpreter came to my house and took me to the forest in the Kozy Gory area.

“When we had left the house and were alone together, the interpreter warned me that I must tell the people present in the forest everything exactly as I had written it down in the document I had signed at the Gestapo.

“When I came to the forest I saw the open graves and a group of strangers. The interpreter told me that these were Polish delegates who had arrived to inspect the graves. When we approached the graves the delegates started asking me various questions in Russian in connection with the shooting of the Poles, but as more than a month had passed since I had been summoned to the Gestapo I forgot everything that was in the document I had signed, got mixed up, and finally said I didn’t know anything about the shooting of Polish officers.

“The German officer got very angry. The interpreter roughly dragged me away from the ‘delegation’ and chased me off. Next morning a car with a Gestapo officer drove up to my house. He found me in the yard, told me that I was under arrest, put me into the car and took me to Smolensk Prison …

“After my arrest I was interrogated many times, but they beat me more than they questioned me. The first time they summoned me they beat me up heavily and abused me, complaining that I had let them down, and then sent me back to the cell. During the next summons they told me I must state publicly that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by the Bolsheviks, and that until the Gestapo was satisfied I would do this in good faith, I would not be released from prison. I told the officer that I would rather sit in prison than tell people lies to their faces. After that I was badly beaten up.

“There were several such interrogations accompanied by beatings, and as a result I lost all my strength, my hearing became poor and I could not move my right arm. About one month after my arrest a German officer summoned me and said: ‘You see the consequences of your obstinacy, Kisselev. We have decided to execute you. In the morning we shall take you to Katyn Forest and hang you.’ I asked the officer not to do this, and started pleading with them that I was not fit for the part of ‘eye-witness’ of the shooting as I did not know how to tell lies and therefore I would mix everything up again.

“The officer continued to insist. Several minutes later soldiers came into the room and started beating me with rubber clubs. Being unable to stand the beatings and torture, I agreed to appear publicly with a fallacious tale about shooting of Poles by Bolsheviks. After that I was released from prison, on conditions that on the first demand of the Germans I would speak before ‘delegations’ in Katyn Forest…

“On every occasion, before leading me to the graves in the forest, the interpreter used to come to my house, call me out into the yard, take me aside to make sure that no one would hear, and for half an hour make me memorise by heart everything I would have to say about the alleged shooting of Polish officers by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“I recall that the interpreter told me something like this: ‘I live in a cottage in ‘Kozy Gory’ area not far from the country house of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In spring 1940 I saw Poles taken on various nights to the forest and shot there’. And then it was imperative that I must state literally that ‘this was the doing of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.’ After I had memorised what the interpreter told me he would take me to the open graves in the forest and compel me to repeat all this in the presence of ‘delegations’ which came there.

“My statements were strictly supervised and directed by the Gestapo interpreter. Once when I spoke before some ‘delegation’, I was asked the question: ‘Did you see these Poles personally before they were shot by the Bolsheviks?’ I was not prepared for such a question and answered the way it was in fact, i.e., that I saw Polish war prisoners before the war, as they walked on the roads. Then the interpreter roughly dragged me aside and drove me home.

“Please believe me when I say that all the time I felt pangs of conscience, as I knew that in reality the Polish officers had been shot by the Germans in 1941. I had no other choice, as I was constantly threatened with the repetition of my arrest and torture. “

Numerous people corroborated Kisselev’s testimony, and a medical examination corroborated his story of having been tortured by the Germans.

Pressure was also brought on Ivanov, employed at the local railway station (Gnezdovo) to bear false witness:

“The officer inquired whether I knew that in spring 1940 large parties of captured Polish officers had arrived at Gnezdovo station in several trains. I said that I knew about this. The officer then asked me whether I knew that in the same spring 1940, soon after the arrival of the Polish officers, the Bolsheviks had shot them all in the Katyn Forest. I answered that I did not know anything about that, and that it could not be so, as in the course of 1940-41 up to the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, I had met captured Polish officers who had arrived in spring 1940 at Gnezdovo station, and who were engaged in road construction work.

“The officer told me that if a German officer said the Poles had been shot by the Bolsheviks it meant that this was a fact. ‘Therefore’, the officer continued, ‘you need not fear anything, and you can sign with a clear conscience a protocol saying that the captured Polish officers were shot by the Bolsheviks and that you witnessed it’.

“I replied that I was already an old man, that I was 61 years old, and did not want to commit a sin in my old age. I could only testify that the captured Poles really arrived at Gnezdovo station in spring 1940. The German officer began to persuade me to give the required testimony promising that if I agreed he would promote me from the position of watchman on a railway crossing to that of stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, which I had held under the Soviet Government, and also to provide for my material needs.

“The interpreter emphasised that my testimony as a former railway official at Gnezdovo station, the nearest station to Katyn Forest, was extremely important for the German Command, and that I would not regret it if I gave such testimony. I understood that I had landed in an extremely difficult situation, and that a sad fate awaited me. However, I again refused to give false testimony to the German officer. He started shouting at me, threatened me with a beating and shooting, and said I did not understand what was good for me. However, I stood my ground. The interpreter then drew up a short protocol in German on one page, and gave me a free translation of its contents. This protocol recorded, as the interpreter told me, only the fact of the arrival of the Polish war prisoners at Gnezdovo station. When I asked that my testimony be recorded not only in German but also in Russian, the officer finally went beside himself with fury, beat me up with a rubber club and drove me off the premises…”.

Savvateyev was another person pressurised by the Germans to give false testimony. He told the Soviet Commission of Inquiry:

“In the Gestapo I testified that in spring 1940 Polish war prisoners arrived at the station of Gnezdovo in several trains and proceeded further in trucks, and I did not know where they went. I also added that I repeatedly met those Poles later on the Moscow-Minsk highway, where they were working on repairs in small groups. The officer told me I was mixing things up, that I could not have met the Poles on the highway, as they had been shot by the Bolsheviks, and demanded that I testify to this.

“I refused. After threatening and cajoling me for a long time, the officer consulted with the interpreter about something in German, and then the interpreter wrote a short protocol and gave it to me to sign. He explained that it was a record of my testimony. I asked the interpreter to let me read the protocol myself, but he interrupted me with abuse, ordering me to sign it immediately and get out. I hesitated a minute. The interpreter seized a rubber club hanging on the wall and made to strike me. After that I signed the protocol shoved at me. The interpreter told me to get out and go home, and not to talk to anyone or I would be shot…”

Others gave similar testimony.

Evidence was also given as to how the Germans ‘doctored’ the graves of the victims to try to eliminate evidence that the massacre took place not in the autumn of 1941 but in the spring of 1940 shortly after the Poles first arrived in the area. Alexandra Mikhailovna had worked during the German occupation in the kitchen of a German military unit. In March 1943 she found a Russian war prisoner hiding in her shed:

“From conversation with him I learned that his name was Nikolai Yegorov, a native of Leningrad. Since the end of 1941 he had been in the German camp No. 126 for war prisoners in the town of Smolensk. At the beginning of March 1943, he was sent with a column of several hundred war prisoners from the camp to Katyn Forest. There they, including Yegorov, were compelled to dig up graves containing bodies in the uniforms of Polish officers, drag these bodies out of the graves and take out of their pockets documents, letters, photographs and all other articles.

“The Germans gave the strictest orders that nothing be left in the pockets on the bodies. Two war prisoners were shot because after they had searched some of the bodies, a German officer discovered some papers on these bodies. Articles, documents and letters extracted from the clothing on the bodies were examined by the German officers, who then compelled the prisoners to put part of the papers back into the pockets on the bodies, while the rest was flung on a heap of articles and documents they had extracted, and later burned.

“Besides this, the Germans made the prisoners put in the pockets of the Polish officers some papers which they took from the cases or suitcases (I don’t remember exactly) which they had brought along. All the war prisoners lived in Katyn Forest in dreadful conditions under the open sky, and were extremely strongly guarded… At the beginning of April 1943, all the work planned by the Germans was apparently completed, as for three days not one of the war prisoners had to do any work…

“Suddenly at night all of them without exception were awakened and led somewhere. The guard was strengthened. Yegorov sensed something was wrong and began to watch very closely everything that was happening. They marched for three or four hours in an unknown direction. They stopped in the forest at a pit in a clearing. He saw how a group of war prisoners were separated from the rest and driven towards the pit and then shot. The war prisoners grew agitated, restless and noisy. Not far from Yegorov several war prisoners attacked the guards. Other guards ran towards the place. Yegorov took advantage of the confusion and ran away into the dark forest, hearing shouts and firing.

“After hearing this terrible story, which is engraved on my memory for the rest of my life, I became very sorry for Yegorov, and told him to come to my room, get warm and hide at my place until he had regained his strength. But Yegorov refused… He said no matter what happened he was going away that very night, and intended to try to get through the front line to the Red Army. In the morning, when I went to make sure whether Yegorov had gone, he was still in the shed. It appeared that in the night he had attempted to set out, but had only taken about 50 steps when he felt so weak that he was forced to return. This exhaustion was caused by the long imprisonment at the camp and the starvation of the last days. We decided he should remain at my place several days longer to regain his strength. After feeding Yegorov I went to work. When I returned home in the evening my neighbours Branova, Mariya Ivanovna, Kabanovskaya, Yekaterina Viktorovna told me that in the afternoon, during a search by the German police, the Red Army war prisoner had been found, and taken away. “

Further corroboration was given by an engineer mechanic called Sukhachev who had worked under the Germans as a mechanic in the Smolensk city mill:

“I was working at the mill in the second half of March, 1943. There I spoke to a German chauffeur who spoke a little Russian, and since he was carrying flour to Savenki village for the troops, and was returning on the next day to Smolensk, I asked him to take me along so that I could buy some fats in the village. My idea was that making the trip in a German truck would get over the risk of being held up at the control stations. The German agreed to take me, at a price.

“On the same day at 10 p.m. we drove on to the Somolensk-Vitebsk highway, just myself and the German driver in the machine. The night was light, and only a low mist over the road reduced the visibility. Approximately 22 or 23 kilometres from Smolensk at a demolished bridge on the highway there is a rather deep descent at the by-pass. We began to go down from the highway, when suddenly a truck appeared out of the fog coming towards us. Either because our brakes were out of order, or because the driver was inexperienced, we were unable to bring our truck to a halt, and since the passage was quite narrow we collided with the truck coming towards us. The impact was not very violent, as the driver of the other truck swerved to the side, as a result of which the trucks bumped and slid alongside each other.

“The right wheel of the other truck, however, landed in the ditch, and the truck fell over on the slope. Our truck remained upright. The driver and I immediately jumped out of the cabin and ran up to the truck which had fallen down. We were met by a heavy stench of putrefying flesh coming evidently from the truck.

“On coming nearer, I saw that the truck was carrying a load covered with a tarpaulin and tied up with ropes. The ropes had snapped with the impact, and part of the load had fallen out on the slope. This was a horrible load – human bodies dressed in military uniforms. As far as I can remember there were some six or seven men near the truck: one German driver, two Germans armed with tommy-guns – the rest were Russian war prisoners, as they spoke Russian and were dressed accordingly.

“The Germans began to abuse my driver and then made some attempts to right the truck. In about two minutes time two more trucks drove up to the place of the accident and pulled up. A group of Germans and Russian war prisoners, about ten men in all, came up to us from these trucks. … By joint efforts we began to raise the truck. Taking advantage of an opportune moment I asked one of the Russian war prisoners in a low voice: ‘What is it?’ He answered very quietly: ‘For many nights already we have been carrying bodies to Katyn Forest’.

“Before the overturned truck had been raised a German NCO came up to me and my driver and ordered us to proceed immediately. As no serious damage had been done to our truck the driver steered it a little to one side and got on to the highway, and we went on. When we were passing the two covered trucks which had come up later I again smelled the horrible stench of dead bodies”.

Various other people also gave testimony of having seen the trucks loaded with dead bodies.

One Zhukhov, a pathologist who actually visited graves in April 1943 at the invitation of the Germans, also gave evidence:

“The clothing of the bodies, particularly the greatcoats, boots and belts, were in a good state of preservation. The metal parts of the clothing – belt buckles, button hooks and spikes on shoe soles, etc. – were not heavily rusted, and in some cases the metal still retained its polish. Sections of the skin of the bodies which could be seen – faces, necks, arms – were chiefly a dirty green colour, and in some cases dirty brown, but there was no complete disintegration of the tissues, no putrefaction. In some cases bared tendons of whitish colour and parts of muscles could be seen.

“While I was at the excavations people were at work sorting and extracting bodies at the bottom of a big pit. For this purpose they used spades and other tools, and also took hold of bodies with their hands and dragged them from place to place by the arms, the legs or the clothing. I did not see a single case of bodies falling apart or any member being torn off.

“Considering all the above, I arrived at the conclusion that the bodies had remained in the earth not three years, as the Germans affirmed, but much less. Knowing that in mass graves, and especially without coffins, putrefaction of bodies progresses more quickly than in single graves, I concluded that the mass shooting of the Poles had taken place about a year and a half ago, and could have occurred in autumn 1941 or in spring 1942. As a result of my visit to the excavation site I became firmly convinced that a monstrous crime had been committed by the Germans. “

Several other people who visited the graves at the time gave like testimony.

Moreover, pathologists who examined the bodies in 1943 concluded that they could not have been dead longer than two years. Furthermore, documents were found on some of the bodies which had obviously been missed by the Germans when they doctored the evidence. These included a letter dated September 1940, a postcard dated 12 November 1940, a pawn ticket receipted 14 March 1941 and another receipted 25 March 1941. Receipts dated 6 April 1941, 5 May 1941, 15 May 1941 and an unmailed postcard in Polish dated 20 June 1941. Although all these dates pre-date Soviet withdrawal, they all postdate the time of the alleged murder of the prisoners by the Soviet authorities in the spring of 1940, the time given as the date of the supposed massacre by all those whom the Germans were able to bully into giving false testimony. If, as is claimed by bourgeois propagandists, these documents are forgeries, it would have been the easiest thing to forge documents which postdated the Soviet departure, but his was not done – and it was not done because the documents found were undoubtedly genuine.

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Russian propaganda and Ukrainian rumour fuel anger and hate in Crimea

 Russians march in central Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS

Russians march in central Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS

The Russian media is serving up a crude portrayal of events as a patriotic fight against fascists in Kiev and spurring its own far-right into action

Anyone spending any amount of time in Crimea at the moment will hear the words “Nazi” and “fascist” a lot. The protests in Kiev, people across the region will insist, were a Nazi-inspired revolt, backed by the west, and that is why the Russian operation to “protect” Crimea from such Nazis was so necessary.

Certainly, there were unsavoury elements among the Kiev protests, and there are a number of people with unpleasant far-right views that hold positions in the new interim government. Many people in western Ukraine do hold complicated views about the wartime period, and many in Russia are understandably concerned by the veneration by small parts of the protest movement of controversial collaborationist leaders.

“You Brits don’t understand about fascism but we fought against Nazi Germany,” said a 62-year-old Simferopol resident, Viktor Varazin. “We know what fascism is and we will never let it take hold here. Thank God the Russians are here.”

Russian state television has gone out of its way to manufacture an image of the protests as a uniquely sinister phenomenon; a far-right movement backed by the west with the ultimate goal of destabilising Russia.

Back in December, a Russian state television reporter doing a live report from Kiev was accosted by a protester on air and had an Oscar statuette thrust into his hands. “Pass this Oscar to your channel … for the lies and nonsense you are telling people about Maidan,” he said.

Since then, the rhetoric has only intensified on Russian television. In the last week, there have been claims that gangs of “unknown armed people” have crossed from Ukraine into Russia, without offering any evidence. There have also been suggestions that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian “refugees” have been forced to flee Ukraine for Russia, prompting a humanitarian crisis. (The pictures used by one Russian channel of border queues turned out to be routine queues at a Ukraine-Poland border.)

News programmes regularly refer to the Kiev protesters as “terrorists”, “insurgents” or “fighters”, and the rightwing and anti-Russian nature is emphasised. It is not just Russian media peddling the rumours. Opposition-minded channels in Ukraine have also been full of misinformation, although it is often a case of unverified rumours reported as fact. There was barely a day in January and February when Ukrainian media did not report planeloads of Russian special forces secretly landing in Kiev, or other nefarious but implausible manoeuvres by Viktor Yanukovych.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Russian propaganda is that it is clear that many inside the Kremlin actually believe it. In December, a Russian government source assured the Guardian that the Kiev protests were the preserve of radical marginals, and that the rest of the city had no time at all for its goals.

On Tuesday, Putin conceded that he understood that there were some normal people on Independence Square who were tired of Ukrainian corruption, but there is nevertheless a sense in the Kremlin that the entire protest was a western-backed plot, as evidenced by Putin’s claims that they were organised by “people sitting in America doing experiments, like on rats”.

An insight into the thinking is given by Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected analyst and politician, who is in Crimea meeting with local officials. When asked for his view on the Kiev protests, he said: “The plan it seems to me to was very clear. Give Ukraine a Mikheil Saakashvili type leader. Start a big anti-Russian campaign, train the army to Nato standards, fill everyone with anti-Russian ideology, and then throw the Ukrainian army into Russia at a time when a coup is being organised. I haven’t spoken to Putin about it personally, but I am certain he thinks the same.”

On the ground in Crimea, what is particularly odd is that the most vociferous defenders of Russian bases against supposed fascists appear to hold far-right views themselves.

Outside the Belbek airbase, an aggressive self-defence group said they were there to defend the base against “Kiev fascists”, but also railed against Europe, “full of repulsive gays and Muslims”.

“What you foreigners don’t get is that those people in Maidan, they are fascists,” said Alexander, a Simferopol resident drinking at a bar in the city on Monday night. “I mean, I am all for the superiority of the white race, and all that stuff, but I don’t like fascists.”

Even among less radical locals, there is a strong conviction that the western press has lied about the conflict and tension. Journalists have been physically attacked on several occasions, and crowds will frequently berate western reporters for their biased coverage.

“We know you have your orders from your masters to destroy Russia, but try to explain the truth – we welcome the Russians here because we don’t want to live among fascists,” said one angry woman outside a surrounded Ukrainian marines base in Feodosia on Sunday.

For all that state television has been pushing the Nazi comparisons, there is rather less tolerance when the boot is on the other foot. Andrei Zubov, a professor at a top Moscow university linked to the diplomatic service, wrote a column in the respected Vedomosti newspaper on Saturday comparing Putin’s potential annexation of Crimea with the Anschluss of Austria and Nazi Germany in 1938. On Tuesday, he said the university had fired him for the comparison.

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Fascists take deputy prime minister and other posts in Ukraine’s new government

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Fascist Svoboda activists occupied Kiev city hall in December. Now the party is in government Pic credit: AP

By Tash Shifrin

Fascists are now part of Ukraine’s government. Oleksandr Sych, of the fascist Svoboda party, has been appointed as deputy prime minister of Ukraine.

He will take the post under prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk of the neo-liberal, conservative Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland”) party.

Sych is one of Svoboda’s 36 MPs and has made a particular name for himself with an attempt to ban all abortions.

Svoboda also has Andriy Mokhnyk as ecology minister and Ihor Shvaik as agriculture minister in the new administration.

A Svoboda MP, Oleg Mokhnytsky, already runs the general prosecutor’s office.

The appointment of fascist ministers by Ukraine’s parliament does not mean that this is a fascist government, nor that Ukraine is now a fascist state.

Coalition of neoliberals and fascists

The new government is in effect a coalition of neoliberals and fascists. This situation has happened before, for example in Italy, where the Alleanza Nazionale – formed from the fascist MSI, the heirs of Mussolini – joined coalition governments under Berlusconi. Former MSI leader Gianfranco Fini held the positions of deputy prime minister and foreign secretary.

The remainder of the new Ukraine government is made up of Fatherland MPs and unelected figures drawn from the Euromaidan movement, plus rear admiral Ihor Tenyukh, a former commander of Ukrainian Navy, as defence minister.

But entry into the government is another huge step forward for fascists in Ukraine. They have made a major breakthrough both in parliament and on the streets as a result of the leading role that fascist organisations have played in the Euromaidan movement.

The nominations for members of the new government announced to the Euromaidan crowds on Kiev’s main square last night also included Andriy Parubiy, the commander of the paramilitary Samooborona, or Self Defence, as the new head of the national security council.

[UPDATE 28 February: Parubiy’s appointment is now confirmed.]

Parubiy and Yarosh

Parubiy is now an MP for the Fatherland party. But he has a fascist past – he was one of the original leaders of the Social-National Party of Ukraine, with current Svoboda boss Oleh Tyahnybok. He later moved to the conservative Our Ukraine party, and then to Fatherland.

The leader of the hardcore nazi Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmytro Yarosh, was also reported to have been nominated as a deputy to Parubiy. The Right Sector’s fighters have been a major component of the Self Defence paramilitaries – but they remained independent of Parubiy’s leadership, with Yarosh as their commander.

It remains unclear whether Yarosh has accepted his nomination, or whether this will go to a parliamentary vote. But, worryingly, the BBC reported that there were calls for Yarosh to be given a government post from the Euromaidan crowd.

Right Sector fighters are more popular with a section of Euromaidan than the traditional parties in Ukraine’s corrupt political system, where a tiny number of super-rich oligarchs pull the strings.

Also in the list of nominees, but so far unconfirmed by parliament, is the appointment of Tetyana Chornovol to head a new anti-corruption bureau. Chornovol is known as a journalist – but her background is in the hardcore nazi UNA-UNSO group, now part of Right Sector, where she was formerly head of its press department.

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Svoboda – originally known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine – is fascist. It is allied with the British National Party, Hungary’s Jobbik and the Front National in France.

Like many fascist organisations across Europe, Svoboda dumped its old name and its traditional nazi Wolfsangel logo and formally distanced itself from its paramilitary wing, the Patriots of Ukraine – a strategy that succeeded as it won 10.4% of the votes in the 2012 elections.

Svoboda militants gained respect during Euromaidan, taking initiatives such as the seizure of Kiev’s city hall. They were at the core of the Euromaidan Samooborona or “Self Defence” paramilitaries, making up a significant chunk of its “hundreds”, or squadrons.

Euromaidan has been in effect a mass mobilisation behind the pro-EU faction of the ruling oligarchy. Neither the pro-Europe parties, nor Yanukovych’s pro-Russia Party of Regions has anything to offer Ukraine’s working class.

The new government takes office in Kiev as the armed seizure of Crimea’s government building ratchets up tensions in a deeply divided Ukraine, and the threat of military intervention by Russia has increased massively.

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The Truth about Katyn

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Nazi propaganda poster. Reads in French: “If the Soviets win the war, Katyn will be everywhere.”

The Truth About Katyn

Report of Special Commission

for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest

The Special Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Officer Prisoners by the German-Fascist Invaders in the Katyn Forest (near Smolensk) was set up on the decision of the Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Committed by the German-Fascist Invaders and Their Associates.

The Commission consists of: Member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Burdenko (Chairman of the Commission); member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Alexei Tolstoy; member of the Extraordinary State Commission the Metropolitan Nikolai; President of the All-Slav Committee, Lt.-Gen. Dundorov; the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Kolesnikov; People’s Commissar of Education of the Russian S.F.S.R.. Academician Potemkin; the Chief of the Central Medical Administration of the Red Army, Col.-Gen. Smirnov; the Chairman of the Smolensk Regional Executive Committee, Melnikov. To accomplish the task assigned to it the Commission invited the following medico-legal experts to take part in its work: Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Director of Scientific Research in the Institute of Forensic Medicine Prozorovsky; the Head of the Faculty of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow Medical Institute, Doctor of Medicine Smolyaninov; Senior Staff Scientists of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health of the U.S.S.R. Semenovsky and assistant Professor Shvaikova; Chief Pathologist of the Front, Mayor of Medical Service, Professor Voropayev.

The Special Commission had at its disposal extensive material presented by the member of the Extraordinary State Commission Academician Burdenko, his collaborators, and the medico-legal experts who arrived in Smolensk on September 26, 1943, immediately upon its liberation, and carried out preliminary study and investigation of the circumstances of all the crimes perpetrated by the Germans.

The Special Commission verified and ascertained on the spot that 15 kilometres from Smolensk, along the Vitebsk highway, in the section of the Katyn Forest named “Kozy Gory,” 200 metres to the S.W. of the highway in the direction of the Dnieper, there are graves in which Polish war prisoners shot by the German occupationists were buried.

On the order of the Special Commission, and in the presence of all its members and of the medico-legal experts, the graves were excavated. A large number of bodies clad in Polish military uniform were found in the graves. The total number of bodies, as calculated by the medico-legal experts, is 11,000. The medico-legal experts made detailed examinations of the exhumed bodies and of documents and material evidence discovered on the bodies and in the graves.

Simultaneously with the excavation of the graves and examination of the bodies, the Special Commission examined numerous witnesses among local residents, whose testimony establishes with precision the time and circumstances of the crimes committed by the German occupationists. The testimony of witnesses reveals the following.

The Katyn Forest

The Katyn Forest had for long been the favourite resort of Smolensk people, where they used to rest on holidays. The population of the neighbourhood grazed cattle and gathered fuel in the Katyn Forest. Access to the Katyn Forest was not banned or restricted in any way. This situation prevailed in the Katyn Forest up to the outbreak of war. Even in the summer of 1941 there was a Young Pioneers’ Camp of the Industrial Insurance Board in this forest, and it was not liquidated until July, 1941.

An entirely different regime was instituted in the Katyn Forest after the capture of Smolensk by the Germans. The forest was heavily patrolled. Notices appeared in many places warning that persons entering without special passes would be shot on the spot.

The part of the Katyn Forest named “Kozy Gory” was guarded particularly strictly, as was the area on the bank of the Dnieper, where 700 metres from the graves of the Polish war prisoners, there was a country house – the rest home of the Smolensk Administration of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Internal Affairs. When the Germans arrived this country house was taken over by a German institution named “Headquarters of the 537th Engineering Battalion.”

Polish War Prisoners in Smolensk Area

The Special Commission established that, before the capture of Smolensk by the Germans, Polish war prisoners, officers and men, worked in the western district of the Region; building and repairing roads. These war prisoners were quartered in three special camps named Camp No. 1 O.N., Camp No. 2 O.N., and Camp No. 3 O.N. These camps were located 25-45 kilometres west of Smolensk.

The testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence establish that after the outbreak of hostilities, in view of the situation that arose, the camps could not be evacuated in time and all the Polish war prisoners, as well as some members of the guard and staffs of the camps, fell prisoner to the Germans.

The former Chief of Camp No. 1 O.N., Major of State Security Vetoshnikov, interrupted by the Special Commission, testified: “I was waiting for the order on the removal of the camp, but communication with Smolensk was cut. Then I myself with several staff members went to Smolensk to clarify the situation. In Smolensk I found a tense situation. I applied to the chief of traffic of the Smolensk section of the Western Railway, Ivanov, asking him to provide the camp with railway cars for evacuation of the Polish war prisoners. But Ivanov answered that I could not count on receiving cars. I also tried to get in touch with Moscow to obtain permission to set out on foot, but I failed. By this time Smolensk was already cut off from the camp by the Germans, and did not know what happened to the Polish war prisoners and guards who remained in the camp.”

Engineer Ivanov, who in July 1941 was acting Chief of Traffic of the Smolensk Section of the Western Railway, testified before the Special Commission: “The Administration of Polish War Prisoners’ Camps applied to my office for cars for evacuation of the Poles, but we had none to spare. Besides, we could not send cars to the Gussino line, where the majority of the Polish war prisoners were, since that line was already under fire. Therefore, we could not comply with the request of the Camps Administration. Thus the Polish war prisoners remained in the Smolensk Region.”

The presence of the Polish war prisoners in the camps in the Smolensk Region is confirmed by the testimony of numerous witnesses who saw these Poles near Smolensk in the early months of the occupation up to September 1941 inclusive.

Witness Maria Alexandrovna Sashneva, elementary schoolteacher in the village of Zenkovo, told the Special Commission that in August 1941 she gave shelter in her house in Zenkovo to a Polish war prisoner who had escaped from camp.

“The Pole wore Polish military uniform, which I recognised at once, as during 1940 and 1941 I used to see groups of Polish war prisoners working on the road under guard… I took an interest in the Pole because it turned out that, before being called up, he had been an elementary schoolteacher in Poland. He told me that he had completed normal school in Poland and then studied at some military school and was a Junior Lieutenant of the Reserve. At the outbreak of war between Poland and Germany he was called up and served in Brest-Litovsk, where he was taken prisoner by Red Army units…. He spent over a year in the camp near Smolensk.

“When the Germans arrived they seized the Polish camp and instituted a strict regime in it. The Germans did not regard the Poles as human beings. They oppressed and outraged them in every way. On some occasions Poles were shot without any reason at all. He decided to escape. Speaking of himself, he said that his wife too, was a teacher and that he had two brothers and two sisters….”

On leaving next day the Pole gave his name, which Sashneva put down in a book. In this book, “Practical Studies in Natural History,” by Yagodovsky, which Sashneva handed to the Special Commission, there is a note on the last page: “Juzeph and Sofia Loek. House 25, Ogorodnaya St., town Zamostye.” In the list published by the Germans, under No. 3796 Lt. Juzeph Loek is put down as having been shot at “Kozy Gory” in the Katyn Forest in the spring of 1940. Thus, from the German report, it would appear that Juzeph Loek had been shot one year before the witness Sashneva saw him.

The witness Danilenkov, a peasant of the “Krasnaya Zarya” collective farm of the Katyn Rural Soviet, stated: “In August and September, 1941, when the Germans arrived, I used to meet Poles working on the roads in groups of 15 to 20.”

Similar statements were made by the following witnesses: Soldatenkov, former headman of the village of Borok; Kolachev, a Smolensk doctor; Ogloblin, a priest; Sergeyev, track foreman; Smiryagin, engineer; Moskovskaya, resident of Smolensk; Alexeyev, chairman of a collective farm in the village of Borok; Kutseev, waterworks technician; Gorodetsky, a priest; Brazekina, a bookkeeper; Vetrova, a teacher; Savvateyev, stationmaster at the Gnezdovo station, and others.

Round-Ups of Polish War Prisoners

The presence of Polish war prisoners in the autumn of 1941 in Smolensk districts is also confirmed by the fact that the Germans made numerous round-ups of those war prisoners who had escaped from the camps.

Witness Kartoshkin, a carpenter, testified: “In the autumn of 1941 the Germans not only scoured the forests for Polish war prisoners, but also used police to make night searches in the villages.”

Zakharov, former headman of the village of Novye Bateki, testified that in the autumn of 1941, the Germans intensively “combed” the villages and forests in search of Polish war prisoners. Witness Danilenkov a peasant of the Krasnaya Zarya collective farm, testified: “Special round-ups were held in our place to catch Polish war prisoners who had escaped. Some searches took place in my house two or three times. After one such search I asked the headman, Konstantin Sergeyev, whom they were looking for in our village. Sergeyev said that an order had been received from the German Kommandantur according to which searches were to be made in all houses without exception, since Polish war prisoners who had escaped from the camp were hiding in our village. After some time the searches were discontinued.”

The witness collective farmer Fatkov testified: “Round-ups and searches for Polish war prisoners took place several times. That was in August and September, 1941. After September, 1941, the round-ups were discontinued and no one saw Polish war prisoners anymore.”

Shootings of Polish War Prisoners

The above-mentioned “Headquarters of the 537th Engineering Battalion” quartered in the country house at “Kozy Gory” did not engage in any engineering work. Its activities were a closely guarded secret. What this “headquarters” engaged in, in reality, was revealed by numerous witnesses, including Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, residents of the village of Borok of the Katyn Rural Soviet.

On the order of the German Commandant of the Settlement of Katyn, they were detailed by the headman of the village of Borok, Soldatenkov, to serve the personnel of “headquarters” at the above-mentioned country house. On arrival in “Kozy Gory” they were told through an interpreter about a number of restrictions;­

They were absolutely forbidden to go far from the country house or to go to the forest to enter rooms without being called and without being, escorted by German soldiers, to remain in the grounds of the country house at night. They were allowed to come to work and leave after work only by a definite route and only escorted by soldiers. This warning was given to Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya, through an interpreter, personally by the Chief of the German Institution, Ober-leutnant Arnes, who for this purpose summoned them one at a time.

As to the personnel of the “headquarters,” Alexeyeva testified: “In the ‘Kozy Gory’ country house there were always about thirty Germans. Their chief was Ober-leutnant Arnes, and his aide was Ober-leutnant Rekst. Here were also a Lieutenant Hott, Sergeant-Major Lumert, N.C.O. in charge of supplies; Rose, his assistant Isikes, Sergeant-Major Grenewski, who was in charge of the power station; the photographer, a corporal whose name I do not remember; the interpreter, a Volga German whose name seems to have been Johann, but I called him Ivan; the cook, a German named Gustav; and a number of others whose names and surnames I do not know.”

Soon after beginning their work, Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya began to notice that “something shady” was going on at the country house.

Alexeyeva testified: “The interpreter warned us several times on behalf of Arnes that we wore to hold our tongues and not chatter about what we saw and heard at the country house. Besides, I guessed from a number of signs that the Germans were engaged in some shady doings at this country house…. At the close of August and during most of September 1941 several trucks used to come practically every day to the ‘Kozy Gory’ country house. At first I paid no attention to that, but later I noticed that each time these trucks arrived at the grounds of the country house they stopped for half-an-hour, and sometimes for a whole hour, somewhere on the country road connecting the country house with the highway. I drew this conclusion because some time after these trucks reached the grounds of the country house the noise they made would cease.

“Simultaneously with the noise stopping, single shots would be heard. The shots followed one another at short but approximately even intervals. Then the shooting would die down and the trucks would drive up right to the country house. German soldiers and N.C.O.s came out of the trucks. Talking noisily they went to wash in the bathhouse, after which they engaged in drunken orgies. On those days a fire was always kept burning in the bathhouse stove.

“On days when the trucks arrived more soldiers from some German military units used to arrive at the country house. Special beds were put up for them in the soldiers’ Casino set up in one of the halls of the country house. On those days many meals were cooked in the kitchen and a double ration of drinks was served with the meals. Shortly before the trucks reached the country house armed soldiers went to the forest evidently to the spot where the trucks stopped, because in half an hour or an hour they returned in these trucks, together with the soldiers who lived permanently in the country house.

“Probably I would not have watched or noticed how the noise of the trucks coming to the country house used to die down and then rise again were it not for the fact that whenever the trucks arrived We (Konakhovskaya, Mikhailova and myself) were driven to the kitchen if we happened to be in the courtyard near the house; and they would not let us out of the kitchen if we happened to be in it. There was also the fact that on several occasions I noticed stains of fresh blood on the clothes of two Lance Corporals. All this made me pay close attention to what was going on at the country house.

“Then I noticed strange intervals in the movement of the trucks and their pauses in the forest. I also noticed that bloodstains appeared on the clothes of the same two men – the Lance Corporals. One of them was tall and red-headed, the other of medium height and fair. From all this I inferred that the Germans brought people in the truck to the country house and shot them. I even guessed approximately where this took place as, when coming to and leaving the country house, I noticed freshly thrown-up earth in several places near the road. The area of this freshly thrown-up earth increased every day. In the course of time the earth in these spots began to look normal.”

In answer to a question put by the Special Commission – what kind of people were shot in the forest near the country house – Alexeyeva replied that they were Polish war prisoners, and in confirmation of her words stated:

“There were days when no trucks arrived at the country house, but even so soldiers left the house for the forest, whence came frequent single shots. On returning the soldiers always took a bath and then drank.

“Another thing happened. Once I stayed at the country house somewhat later than usual. Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya had already left. Before I finished the work which had kept me there, a soldier suddenly entered and told me I could go. He referred to Rose’s order. He also accompanied me to the highway.

“Standing on the highway 150 or 200 metres from where the road branches off to the country house I saw a group of about 30 Polish war prisoners marching along the highway under heavy German escort. I knew them to be Poles because even before the war, and for same time after the Germans came, I used to meet on the highway Polish war prisoners wearing the same uniform with their characteristic four-cornered hats. I halted near the roadside to see where they were being led, and I saw that they turned towards our country house at ‘Kozy Gory.’

“Since by that time I had begun to watch closely everything going on at the country house, I became interested. I went back some distance along the highway, hid in bushes near the roadside, and waited. In some 20 or 30 minutes I heard the familiar single shots. Then everything became clear to me and I hurried home.

“I also concluded that evidently the Germans were shooting Poles not only in the daytime when we worked at the country house, but also at night in our absence. I understood this also from recalling the occasions when all the officers and men who lived in the country house, with the exception of the sentries, woke up late, about noon. On several occasions we guessed about the arrival of the Poles in ‘Kozy Gory’ from the tense atmosphere that descended on the country house…. All the officers left the country house and only a few sentries remained in it, while the Sergeant-Major kept checking up on the sentries over the telephone…”

Mikhailova testified: “In September, 1941, shooting was heard very often in the ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest. At first I took no notice of the trucks, which were closed at the sides and on top and painted green. They used to drive up to our country house always accompanied by N.C.O.’s. Then I noticed that these trucks never entered our garage, and also that they were never unloaded. They used to come very often, especially in September, 1941.

“Among the N.C.O.’s who always sat with the drivers I began to notice one tall one with a pale face and red hair. When these trucks drove up to the country house, all the Germans, as if at a command, went to the bathhouse and bathed for a long time, after which they drank heavily in the country house. Once this tall red-headed German got down from the truck, went to the kitchen and asked for water. When he was drinking the water out of a glass I noticed blood on the cuff of the right sleeve of his uniform.”

Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya witnessed the shooting of two Polish war prisoners who had evidently escaped from the Germans and been caught. Mikhailova testified: “Once Konakhovskaya and I were at our usual work in the kitchen when we heard a noise near the country house. On coming out we saw two Polish-war prisoners surrounded by German soldiers who were explaining something to N.C.O. Rose. Then Ober-Leutnant Arnes came over to them and told Rose something. We hid some distance away, as we were afraid that Rose would beat us up for being inquisitive.

“‘We were discovered, however, and at a signal from Rose the mechanic Grenewski drove us into the kitchen and the Poles away from the country house. A few minutes later we heard shots. The German soldiers and N.C.O. Rose, who soon returned, were engaged in animated conversation. Wanting to find out what the Germans had done to the detained Poles, Konakhovskaya and I came out again. Arnes’ aide, who came out simultaneously with us from the main entrance of the country house, asked Rose something in German, to which the latter answered, also in German: ‘Everything is in order.’ We understood these words because the Germans often used them in their conversation. From all that took place I concluded that these two Poles had been shot.”

Similar testimony was given by Konakhovskaya. Frightened by the happenings at the country house, Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya decided to quit work on some convenient pretext. Taking advantage of the reduction of their “wages” from nine to three marks a month at the beginning of January, 1942, on Mikhailova’s suggestion they did not report for work. In the evening of the same day a car came to fetch them, they were brought to the country house and locked up by way of punishment – Mikhailova for eight days and Alexeyeva and Konakhovskaya for three days each. After they had served their terms all of them were sacked.

While working at the country house Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya had been afraid to speak to each other about what they had observed of the happenings there. But during their arrest, sitting in the cell at night, they shared their knowledge.

At the interrogation on December 24, 1943, Mikhailova testified: “Here for the first time we talked frankly about the happenings at the country house. I told all I knew. It turned out that Konakhovskaya and Alexeyeva also knew these facts but, like myself, had been afraid to discuss them. I learned from them that it was Polish war prisoners the Germans used to shoot at ‘Kozy Gory.’ Alexeyeva said that once in the autumn of 1941, when she was going home from work, she saw the Germans driving a large group of Polish war prisoners into ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest and then she heard shooting.”

Similar testimony was given by Alexeyeva and Konakhovskaya. On comparing notes Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya arrived at the firm conviction that in August and September, 1941, the Germans had engaged on mass shootings of Polish war prisoners at the country house in “Kozy Gory.”

The testimony of Alexeyeva is confirmed by the testimony of her father, Mikhail Alexeyev, whom she told as far back as in the autumn of 1941, during her work at the country house, about her observations of the Germans’ activities at the country house. “For a long time she would not tell me anything,” Mikhail Alexeyev testified, “only on coming home she complained that she was afraid to work at the country house and did not know how to get away. When I asked her why she was afraid she said that very often shooting was heard in the forest. Once she told me in secret that in ‘Kozy Gory’ Forest the Germans were shooting Poles. I listened to my daughter and warned her very strictly that she should not tell anyone else about it, as otherwise the Germans would learn and then our whole family would suffer.”

That Polish war prisoners use to be brought to “Kozy Gory” in small groups of 20 to 30 men escorted by five to seven German soldiers, was also testified by other witnesses interrogated by the Special Commission: Kisselev, peasant of “Kozy Gory” hamlet; Krivozertsev, carpenter of Krasnyi Bor station in the Katyn Forest; Ivanov, former station master at Gnezdovo in the Katyn Forest area; Savvateyev, station master on duty at. the same station; Alexeyev, chairman of a collective farm in the village of Borok; Ogloblin, priest of Kuprino Church, and others. These witnesses also heard shots in the forest at “Kozy Gory.”

Of especially great importance in ascertaining what took place at “Kozy Gory” country house in the autumn of 1941 is the testimony of Professor of Astronomy Bazilevsky, director of the Smolensk Observatory. In the early days of the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, Professor Bazilevsky was forcibly appointed by the assistant Burgomaster while to the post of Burgomaster they appointed the lawyer Menshagin, who subsequently left together with them, a traitor who enjoyed the special confidence of the German Command and in particular of the Smolensk Kommandant Von Schwetz.

Early in September, 1941, Bazilevsky addressed to Menshagin a request to solicit the Kommandant Von Schwetz for the liberation of the teacher Zhiglinsky from War Prisoners Camp No. 126. In compliance with this request Menshagin approached Von Schwetz and then informed Bazilevsky that his request could not be granted since, according to Von Schwetz, “instructions had been received from Berlin prescribing that the strictest regime be maintained undeviatingly in regard to war prisoners without any slackening.”

“I involuntarily retorted,” witness Bazilevsky testified, ” ‘Can anything be stricter than the regime existing in the camp?’ Menshagin looked at me in a strange way and bending to my ear, answered in a low voice: ‘Yes, there can be! The Russians can at least be left to die off, but as to the Polish war prisoners, the orders say that they are to be simply exterminated.’ ‘How is that? How should it be understood?’ I exclaimed: ‘This should be understood literally. There is such a directive from Berlin,’ answered Menshagin, and asked me ‘for the sake of all that is Holy’ not to tell anyone about this…

“About a fortnight after this conversation with Menshagin, when I was again received by him, I could not keep from asking: ‘What news about the Poles?’ Menshagin hesitated for a little, but then answered: ‘Everything is over with them. Von Schwetz told me that they had been shot somewhere near Smolensk.’ Seeing my bewilderment Menshagin warned me again about the necessity of keeping this affair in the strictest secrecy and then started ‘explaining’ to me the Germans’ policy in this matter. He told me that the shooting of Poles was one link in the general chain of anti-Polish policy pursued by Germany, which became especially marked in connection with the conclusion of the Russo-Polish Treaty.”

Bazilevsky also told the Special Commission about his conversation with the Sonderfuehrer of the 7th Department of the German Kommandant’s Office, Hirschfeld, a Baltic German who spoke good Russian:

“With cynical frankness Hirschfeld told me that the harmfulness and inferiority of the Poles had been proved by history and therefore reduction of Poland’s population would fertilise the soil and make possible an extension of Germany’s living space. In this connection Hirschfeld boasted that absolutely no intellectuals had been left in Poland, as they had all been hanged, shot or confined in camps.”

Bazilevsky’s testimony is confirmed by the witness Yefimov, Professor of Physics, who has been interrogated by the Special Commission and whom Bazilevsky at that time, in the autumn of 1941, told about his conversation with Menshagin.

Documentary corroboration of Bazilevsky’s and Yefimov’s testimony is supplied by notes made by Menshagin in his own hand in his notebook. This notebook, containing 17 incomplete pages, was found in the files of the Smolensk Municipal Board after the liberation of Smolensk by the Red Army. Menshagin’s ownership of the notebook and his handwriting have been confirmed both by Bazilevsky, who knew Menshagin’s hand well, and by expert graphologists.

Judging by the dates in the notebook, its contents relate to the period from early August, 1941, to November of the same year. Among the various notes on economic matters (on firewood, electric power, trade, etc.) there is a number of notes made by Menshagin evidently as a reminder of instructions issued by the German commandant’s office in Smolensk. These notes reveal with sufficient clarity the range of problems with which the Municipal Board dealt as the organ fulfilling all the instructions of the German Command.

The first three pages of the notebook lay down in detail the procedure in organising the Jewish “Ghetto” and the system of reprisals to be applied against the Jews.

Page 10, dated August 15, 1941, contains the following note: “All fugitive Polish war prisoners are to be detained and delivered to the commandant’s office.” Page 15 (undated) contains the entry: “Are there any rumours among the population concerning the shooting of Polish war prisoners in ‘Kozy Gory’ (for Umnov).”

It transpires from the first entry, firstly, that on August 15, 1941, Polish war prisoners were still in the Smolensk area and, secondly, that they were being arrested by the German authorities. The second entry indicates that the German Command, worried by the possibility of rumours about the crime it had committed circulating among the civilian population, issued special instructions for the purpose of checking this surmise. Umnov, mentioned in this entry, was the Chief of the Russian Police in Smolensk during the early months of its occupation.

Beginning of German Provocation

In the winter of 1942-43 the general military situation changed sharply to the disadvantage of the Germans. The military power of the Soviet Union was continually growing stronger. The unity between the U.S.S.R. and her Allies was growing stronger. The Germans resolved to launch a provocation, using for this purpose the crimes they had committed in the Katyn Forest, and ascribing them to the organs of the Soviet authorities. In this way they intended to set the Russians and Poles at loggerheads and to cover up the traces of their own crimes. A priest, Ogloblin, of the village of Kuprino in the Smolensk district, stated:

“After the events at Stalingrad, when the Germans began to feel uncertain, they launched this business. The people started to say that ‘the Germans are trying to mend their affairs.’ Having embarked on the preparation of the Katyn provocation, the Germans first set about looking for witnesses who would, under the influence of persuasion, bribes or threats, give the testimony which the Germans needed. The attention of the Germans was attracted to the peasant Parfen Gavrilovich Kisselev, born in 1870, who lived in the hamlet nearest to the house in ‘Kozy Gory.’ “

Kisselev was summoned to the Gestapo at the close of 1942. Under the threat of reprisals, they demanded of him fictitious testimony alleging that he knew that in the spring of 1940 the Bolsheviks shot Polish war prisoners at the country house of the administration of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in “Kozy Gory.”

Kisselev informed the Commission: “In the autumn of 1942 two policemen came to my house and ordered me to report to the Gestapo at Gnezdovo station. On that same day I went to the Gestapo, which had its premises in a two-storeyed house next to the railway station. In a room there were a German officer and interpreter. The German officer started asking me through the interpreter how long I had lived in that district, what my occupation and my material circumstances were. I told him that I had lived in the hamlet in the area of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ since 1907 and worked on my farm. As to my material circumstances, I said that I had experienced some difficulties since I was old and my sons were at the war.

“After a brief conversation on this subject, the officer stated that, according to information at the disposal of the Gestapo, in 1940, in the area of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ in the Katyn Forest, staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs shot Polish officers, and he asked me what testimony I could give on this score. I answered that I had never heard of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs shooting people at ‘Kozy Gory,’ and that anyhow it was impossible, I explained to the officer, since ‘Kozy Gory’ is an absolutely open and much frequented place, and if shootings had gone on there the entire population of the neighbouring villages would have known.

“The officer told me I must nevertheless give such evidence because he alleged the shootings did take place. I was promised a big reward for this testimony. I told the officer again that I did not know anything about shootings, and that nothing of the sort could have taken place in our locality before the war. In spite of this the officer obstinately insisted on my giving false evidence.

“After the first conversation about which I have already spoken, I was summoned again to the Gestapo in February, 1943. By that time I knew that other residents of neighbouring villages had also been summoned to the Gestapo and that the same testimony they demanded of me had also been demanded of them.

“At the Gestapo the same officer and interpreter who had interrogated me the first time again demanded of me evidence that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers, allegedly effected by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940. I again told the Gestapo officer that this was a lie, as before the war I had not heard anything about any shootings, and that I would not give false evidence. The interpreter, however, would not listen to me, but took a handwritten document from the desk and read it to me. It said that I, Kisselev, resident of a hamlet in the ‘Kozy Gory’ area, personally witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by staff members of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“Having read this document, the interpreter told me to sign it. I refused to do so. The interpreter began to force me to do it by abuse and threats. Finally he shouted: ‘Either you sign it at once or we shall destroy you. Make your choice!’

“Frightened by these threats, I signed the document and thought that would be the end of the matter.”

Later, after the Germans had arranged visits to the Katyn graves by various “delegations,” Kisselev was made to speak before a “Polish delegation” which arrived there. Kisselev forgot the contents of the protocol he had signed at the Gestapo, got mixed up, and finally refused to speak. The Gestapo then arrested Kisselev, and, by ruthless beatings, in the course of six weeks again obtained his consent to “public speeches.”

In this connection Kisselev stated: “In reality things went quite a different way. In spring, 1943, the Germans announced that in the “Kozy Gory” area in Katyn Forest they had discovered the graves of Polish officers allegedly shot in 1940by organs of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Soon after that the Gestapo interpreter cattle to my house and took me to the forest in the “Kozy Gory” area.

“When we had left the house and were alone together, the interpreter warned me that I must tell the people present in the forest everything exactly as it was written down in the document I had signed at the Gestapo.

“When I came into the forest I saw open graves and a group of strangers. The interpreter told me that these were ‘Polish delegates’ who had arrived to inspect the graves. When we approached the graves the ‘delegates’ started asking me various questions in Russian in connection with the shooting of Poles, but as more than a month had passed since I had been summoned to the Gestapo I forgot everything that was in the document I had signed, got mixed up, and finally said I did not know anything about the shooting of Polish officers.

“The German officer got very angry. The interpreter roughly dragged me away from the ‘delegation’ and chased me off. Next morning a car with a Gestapo officer drove up to my house. He found me in the yard, told me that I was under arrest, put me into the car and took me to Smolensk Prison…

“After my arrest I was interrogated many times, but they beat me more than they questioned me. The first time they summoned me they beat me up heavily and abused me, complaining that I had let them down, and then sent me back to the cell. During the next summons they told me I must state publicly that I had witnessed the shooting of Polish officers by the Bolsheviks, and that until the Gestapo was satisfied I would do this in good faith I would not be released from prison. I told the officer that I would rather sit in prison than tell people lies to their faces. After that I was badly beaten up.

“There were several such interrogations accompanied by beatings, and as a result I lost all my strength, my hearing became poor and I could not move my right arm. About one month after my arrest a German officer summoned me and said: ‘You see the consequences of your obstinacy, Kisselev. We have decided to execute you. In the morning we shall take you to Katyn Forest and hang you.’ I asked the officer not to do this, and started pleading with him that I was not fit for the part of ‘eye-witness’ of the shooting as I did not know how to tell lies and therefore I would mix everything up again.

“The officer continued to insist. Several minutes later soldiers came into the room and started beating me with rubber clubs. Being unable to stand the beatings and torture, I agreed to appear publicly with a fallacious tale about shooting of Poles by Bolsheviks. After that I was released from prison on condition that on the first demand of the Germans I would speak before ‘delegations’ in Katyn Forest…

On every occasion, before leading me to the graves in the forest, the interpreter; used to come to my house, call me out into the yard, take me aside to make sure that no one would hear, and for half an hour make me memorise by heart everything I would have to say about the alleged shooting of Polish officers by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in 1940.

“I recall that the interpreter told me something like this: ‘I live in a cottage in ‘Kozy Gory’ area not far from the country house of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In spring 1940 I saw Poles taken on various nights to the forest and shot there.’ Andthen it was imperative that I must state literally that “this was the doing of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.” After I had memorised what the interpreter told me, he would take me to the open graves in the forest and compel me to repeat all this in the presence of ‘delegations’ which came there.

“My statements were strictly supervised and directed by the Gestapo interpreter. Once when I spoke before some ‘delegation’ I was asked the question: ‘Did you see these Poles personally before they were shot by the Bolsheviks?’ I was not prepared for such a question and answered the way it was in fact, i.e., that I saw Polish war prisoners before the war, as they worked on the roads. Then the interpreter roughly dragged me aside and drove me home.

“Please believe me when I say that all the time I felt pangs of conscience, as I knew that in reality the Polish officers had been shot by the Germans in 1941. I had no other choice, as I was constantly threatened with the repetition of my arrest and torture.”

Kisselev’s testimony regarding his summons to the Gestapo, subsequent arrest and beatings are confirmed by his wife Aksinya Kisseleva, born 1870, his son Vassily Kisselev, born 1911, and his daughter-in-law Mariya Kisseleva, born 1918, who live with him, as well as by track foreman Timofey Sergeyev, born 1901, who rents a room in Kisselev’s hamlet. The injuries caused to Kisselev at the Gestapo (injury of shoulder, considerable impairment of hearing) are confirmed by a protocol of medical examination.

In their search for “witnesses” the Germans subsequently became interested in railway workers at the Gnezdovo station, two and half kilometres from “Kozy Gory,” the station at which the Polish prisoners arrived in spring 1940. The Germans evidently wanted to obtain corresponding testimony from the railwaymen. For this purpose, in spring 1943, the Germans summoned to the Gestapo the ex-stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, Ivanov, the stationmaster on duty, Savvateyev, and others.

Ivanov, born in 1882, gave the following account of the circumstances in which he was summoned to the Gestapo: “It was in March 1943. I was interrogated by a German officer in the presence of an interpreter. Having asked me through the interpreter who I was and what post I held at Gnezdovo station before the occupation of the district by the Germans, the officer inquired whether I knew that in spring 1940 large parties of captured Polish officers had arrived at Gnezdovo station in several trains. I said that I knew about this, The officer then asked me whether I knew that in the same spring 1940, soon after the arrival of the Polish officers, the Bolsheviks had shot them all in the Katyn Forest. I answered that I did not know anything about that, and that it could not be so, as in the course of 1940-41, up to the occupation of Smolensk by the Germans, I had met captured Polish officers who had arrived in spring 1940 at Gnezdovo station, and who were engaged in road construction work.

“The officer told me that if a German officer said the Poles had been shot by the Bolsheviks it meant that this was the fact. ‘Therefore,’ the officer continued, ‘you need not fear anything, and you can sign with a clear conscience a protocol saying that the captured Polish officers were shot by the Bolsheviks and that you witnessed it.’’

“I replied that I was already an old man, that I was 61 years old, and did not want to commita sin in my old age. I could only testify that the captured Poles really arrived at Gnezdovo station in spring 1940. The German officer began to persuade me to give the required testimony promising that if I agreed he would promote me from the position of watchman on a railway crossing to that of stationmaster of Gnezdovo station, which I had held under the Soviet Government, and also to provide for my material needs.

“The interpreter emphasised that my testimony as a former railway official at Gnezdovo station, the nearest station to Katyn Forest, was extremely important for the German Command, and that I would not regret it if I gave such testimony. I understood that I had landed in an extremely difficult situation, and that a sad fate awaited me. However, I again refused to give false testimony to the German officer. He started shouting at me, threatened me with beating and shooting, and said I did not understand what was good for me. However, I stood my ground. The interpreter then drew up a short protocol in German on one page, and gave me a free translation of its contents. This protocol recorded, as the interpreter told me, only the fact of the arrival of the Polish war prisoners at Gnezdovo station. When I asked that my testimony be recorded not only in German but also in Russian, the officer finally went beside himself with fury, beat me up with a rubber club and drove me off the premises….”

Savvateyev, born in 1880, stated: “In the Gestapo I testified that in spring 1940 Polish war prisoners arrived at the station of Gnezdovo in several trains and proceeded further in trucks, and 1 did not know where they went. I also added that I repeatedly met these Poles later on the Moscow-Minsk highway, where they were working on repairs in small groups. The officer told me. I was mixing things up, that I could not have the Poles on the highway, as they had been shot by the Bolsheviks, and demanded that I testify to this.

“I refused. After threatening and cajoling me for a long time, the officer consulted with the interpreter about something in German, and then the interpreter wrote a short protocol and gave it to me to sign. He explained that it was a record of my testimony. I asked the interpreter to let me read the protocol myself, but he interrupted me with abuse, ordering me to sign it immediately and get out. I hesitated a minute. The interpreter seized a rubber club hanging on the wall and made to strike me. After that I signed the protocol shoved at me: The interpreter told me to get out and go home, and not to talk to anyone or I would be shot.

The search for “witnesses” was not limited to the above-mentioned persons. The Germans strove persistently to locate former employees of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and extort from them the false testimony which the Germans needed.

Having chanced to arrest Ignatyuk, formerly a labourer in the garage of the Smolensk Regional Administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, the Germans stubbornly, by threats and beatings, tried to extort from him testimony that he had been a car driver and not merely a labourer in the garage, and had himself driven Polish war prisoners to the shooting site.

Ignatyuk, born in 1903, testified in this connection: “When I was examined for the first time by Chief of Police Alferchik, he accused me of agitating against the German authorities, and asked what work I had done for the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. I replied that I had worked in the garage of the Smolensk Regional Administration of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs as a labourer. At this examination Alferchik tried to get me to testify that I had worked as a car driver and not as a labourer. Alferchik was greatly irritated by his failure to obtain the required testimony from me, and he and his aide, whom he called George, tied up my head and mouth with some rag, removed my trousers, laid me on a table and began to beat me with rubber clubs.

“After that I was summoned again for examination, and Alferchik demanded that I give him false testimony to the effect that the Polish officers had been shot in Katyn Forest by organs of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs in 1940, of which I allegedly was aware, as a chauffeur who had taken part in driving the Polish officers to Katyn Forest, and who had been present at their shooting. Alferchik promised to liberate me from prison if I would agree to give such testimony, and get me a job with the police where I would be given good living conditions – otherwise they would shoot me…

“The last time I was interrogated in the police station by examiner Alexandrov, who demanded from me the same false testimony about the shooting of the Polish officers as Alferchik, but at this examination, too, I refused to give false evidence. After this examination I was again beaten up and sent to the Gestapo… In the Gestapo; just as at the police station, they demanded from me false evidence about the shooting of the Polish officers in Katyn Forest in 1940 by Soviet authorities, of which I as car driver was allegedly aware.”

A book published by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and containing material about the “Katyn Affair” fabricated by the Germans, refers to other “witnesses” besides the above-mentioned Kisselev: Godesov (alias Godunov) born in 1877, Grigori Silversov, born in 1891, Ivan Andreyev, born in 1917, Mikhail Zhigulev, born in 1915, Ivan Krivozertsev, born in 1915, and Matvey Zakharov, born in 1893.

A check-up revealed that the first two of the above persons (Godesov and Silversov) died in 1943 before the liberation of the Smolensk Region by the Red Army; the next three (Andreyev, Zhigulev and Krivozertsev) left with the Germans, or perhaps were forcibly abducted by them, while the last – Matvey Zakharov – formerly a coupler at Smolensk Station, who worked under the Germans as headman in the village Novye Bateki, was located and examined by the Special Commission.

Zakharov related how the Germans got from him the false testimony they needed about the “Katyn affair”: “Early in March, 1943, an employee of the Gnezdovo Gestapo whose name I do not know came to my house and told me that an officer wanted to see me. When I arrived at the Gestapo a German officer told me through an interpreter: ‘We know you worked as coupler at Smolensk Central Station and you must testify that in 1940 cars with Polish war prisoners passed through Smolensk on the way to Gnezdovo, after which the Poles were shot in the forest at ‘Kozy Gory.’ ’ In reply I stated that in 1940 cars with Poles did pass Smolensk westwards, but I did not know what their destination was.

“The officer told me that if I did not want to testify of my own accord he would force me to do so. After saying this he took a rubber club and began to beat me up. Then I was laid on a bench and the officer, together with the interpreter, beat me. I do not remember how many strokes I had, because I soon fainted.

“When I came to, the officer demanded that I sign a protocol of the examination. I had lost courage as a result of the beating and threats of shooting, so I gave false evidence and signed the protocol. After I had signed the protocol I was released from the Gestapo.

“Several days after I had been summoned to the Gestapo, approximately in mid-March, 1943, the interpreter came to my house and said I must go to the German general and confirm my testimony in his presence. The general asked me whether I confirmed my testimony. I said I did confirm it, as on the way I had been warned by the interpreter that if I refused to confirm the testimony I would have a much worse experience than I had on my first visit to the Gestapo.

“Fearing a repetition of the torture, I replied that I confirmed my testimony. Then the interpreter ordered me to raise my right hand, and told me I had taken an oath and could go home.”

It has been established that in other cases also the Germans used persuasion, threats and torture in trying to obtain the testimony they needed, for example, from Kaverznev, former deputy chief of the Smolensk Prison, and Kovalev, former staff member of the same prison. Since the search for the required number of witnesses failed to yield any success, the Germans posted up in Smolensk city and neighbouring villages the following handbill, an original of which is on the files of the Special Commission:

“Notice to the population. Who can give information concerning the mass murder of prisoners, Polish officers and priests by the Bolsheviks in the forest of’ ‘Kozy Gory’ near the Gnezdovo-Katyn highway in 1940? Who saw columns of trucks on their way from Gnezdovo to ‘Kozy Gory,’ or who saw or heard the shootings? Who knows residents who can tell about this! Rewards will be given for any information. Information to be sent to Smolensk, German Police Station, No. 6, Muzeinaya Street, and in Gnezdovo to the German Police Station, house No. 105 near the railway station. Foss, Lieutenant of Field Force, May 3, 1943.”

A similar notice was printed in the newspaper “Novy Put,” published by the Germans in Smolensk – No. 35 (157) for May 6, 1943.

The fact that the Germans promised rewards for the evidence they needed on the”Katyn affair” was confirmed by witnesses called by the Special Commission: Sokolova, Pushchina, Bychkov, Tondarev, Ustinov and many other residents of Smolensk.

Preparing Katyn Graves

Along with the search for “witnesses” the Germans proceeded with the preparation of the graves in Katyn Forest: they removed from the clothing of the Polish prisoners whom they had killed all documents dated later than April, 1940 – that is, the time when, according to the German provocational version, the Poles were shot by the Bolsheviks – and removed all material evidence which could disprove this provocational version. In its investigation the Special Commission revealed that for this purpose the Germans used up to 500 Russian war prisoners specially selected from war prisoners’ camp No. 126.

The Special Commission has at its disposal numerous statements of witnesses on this matter. The evidence of the medical personnel of the above-mentioned camp merits special attention. Dr. Chizhov, who worked in camp No. 126 during the German occupation of Smolensk, testified:

“Just about the beginning of March 1943 several groups of the physically stronger war prisoners, totalling about 500, were sent from the Smolensk Camp No. 126 ostensibly for trench work. None of these prisoners ever returned to the camp.”

Dr. Khmurov, who worked in the same camp under the Germans, testified:

“I know that somewhere about the second half of February or the beginning of March, 1943, about 500 Red Army men prisoners were sent from our camp to a destination unknown to me. The prisoners were apparently to be use for trench digging, for the more physically fit men were selected…”

Identical evidence was given by medical nurse Lenkovskaya, medical nurse Timofeyeva, and witnesses Orlova, Dobroserdova and Kochetkov.

The testimony of Moskovskaya made it clear where the 500 war prisoners from Camp 126 were actually sent. On October 5, 1943, the citizen Moskovskaya, Alexandra Mikhailovna, who lived on the outskirts of Smolensk and had worked during the occupation in the kitchen of a German military unit, filed an application to the Extraordinary Committee for the Investigation of Atrocities Perpetuated by the German Invaders, requesting them to summon her to give important evidence. She told the Special Commission that before leaving for work in March, 1943, when she went to fetch firewood from her shed in the yard on the banks of the Dnieper, she discovered there an unknown person who proved to be a Russian war prisoner.

Moskovskaya, who was born in 1922, testified:

“From conversation with him I learned that his name was Nikolai Yegorov, a native of Leningrad. Since the end of 1941 he had been in the German camp No. 126 for war prisoners in the town of Smolensk. At the beginning of March 1943, he was sent with a column of several hundred war prisoners from the camp to Katyn Forest. There they, including Yegorov, were compelled to dig up graves containing bodies in the uniforms of Polish officers, drag these bodies out of the graves and take out of their pockets documents, letters, photographs and all other articles.

“The Germans gave the strictest orders that nothing be left in the pockets on the bodies. Two war prisoners were shot because after they had searched some of the bodies, a German officer discovered some papers on these bodies. Articles, documents and letters extracted from the clothing on the bodies were examined by the German officers, who then compelled the prisoners to put part of the papers back into the pockets on the bodies, while the rest was flung on a heap of articles and documents they had extracted, and later burned.

“Besides this, the Germans made the prisoners put into the pockets of the Polish officers some papers which they took from the cases or suitcases (I don’t remember exactly) which they had brought along. All the war prisoners lived in Katyn Forest in dreadful conditions under the open sky, and were extremely strongly guarded…. At the beginning of April 1943, all the work planned by the Germans was apparently completed, as for three days not one of the war prisoners had to do any work….

“Suddenly at night all of them without exception were awakened and led somewhere. The guard was strengthened. Yegorov sensed something was wrong and began to watch very closely everything that was happening. They marched for three or four hours in an unknown direction. They stopped in the forest at a pit in a clearing. He saw how a group of war prisoners were separated from the rest and driven towards the pit and then shot. The war prisoners grew agitated, restless and noisy. Not far from Yegorov several war prisoners attacked the guards. Other guards ran towards the place. Yegorov took advantage of the confusion and ran away into the dark forest, hearing shouts and firing.

“After hearing this terrible story, which is engraved on my memory for the rest of my life, I became very sorry for Yegorov, and told him to come to my room, get warm and hide at my place until he had regained his strength. But Yegorov refused…. He said no matter what happened he was going away that very night, and intended to try to get through the front line to the Red Army. In the morning, when I went to make sure whether Yegorov had gone, he was still in the shed. It appeared that in the night he had attempted to set out, but had only taken about 50 steps when he felt so weak that he was forced to return. This exhaustion was caused by the long imprisonment at the camp and the starvation of the last days. We decided he should remain at my place several days longer to regain his strength. After feeding Yegorov I went to work. When I returned home in the evening my neighbours Baranova, Mariya Ivanovna, Kabanovskaya, Yekaterina Viktorovna told me that in the afternoon, during a search by the German police, the Red Army war prisoner had been found, and taken away.”

As a result of the discovery of the war prisoner Yegorov in the shed, Moskovskaya was called to the Gestapo, where she was accused of hiding a war prisoner. At the Gestapo interrogation Moskovskaya stoutly denied that she had any connection with this war prisoner, maintaining she knew nothing about his presence in her shed. Since they got no admission from Moskovskaya, and also because the war prisoner Yegorov evidently had not incriminated Moskovskaya, she was let out of the Gestapo.

This same Yegorov told Moskovskaya that as well as excavating bodies in Katyn Forest, the war prisoners were used to bring bodies to the Katyn Forest from other places.

The bodies so brought were thrown into pits along with the bodies that had been dug up earlier. The fact that a great number of bodies of people shot by the Germans in other places were brought to the Katyn graves is confirmed also by the testimony of engineer mechanic K. S. Sukhachev, born in 1912, an engineer mechanic of the “Rosglavkhleb” combine, who worked under the Germans as a mechanic in the Smolensk city mill. On October 8, 1943, he filed a request that he be called to testify. Called before the Special Commission, he stated:

“I was working at the mill in the second half of March, 1943. There I spoke to a German chauffeur who spoke a little Russian, and since he was carrying flour to Savenki village for the troops, and was returning on the next day to Smolensk, I asked him to take me along so that I could buy some fats in the village. My idea was that making the trip in a German truck would get over the risk of being held up at the control stations. The German agreed to take me, at a price.

“On the same day at 10 p.m. we drove on to the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway, just myself and the German driver in the machine. The night was light, and only a low mist over the road reduced the visibility. Approximately 22 or 23 kilometres from Smolensk at a demolished bridge on the highway there is a rather deep descent at the by-pass. We began to go down from the highway, when suddenly a truck appeared out of the fog coming towards us. Either because our brakes were out of order, or because the driver was inexperienced, we were unable to bring our truck to a halt, and since the passage was quite narrow we collided with the truck coming towards us. The impact was not very violent, as the driver of the other truck swerved to the side, as a result of which the trucks bumped and slid alongside each other.

“The right wheel of the other truck, however, landed in the ditch, and the truck fell over on the slope. Our truck remained upright. The driver and I immediately jumped out of the cabin and ran up to the truck which had fallen down. We were met by a heavy stench of putrefying flesh coming evidently from the truck.”

“On coming nearer, I saw that the truck was carrying a load covered with a tarpaulin and tied up with ropes. The ropes had snapped with the impact, and part of the load had fallen out on the slope. This was a horrible load – human bodies dressed in military uniforms. As far as I can remember there were some six or seven men near the truck: one German driver, two Germans armed with tommy-guns – the rest were Russian war prisoners, as they spoke Russian and were dressed accordingly.

“The Germans began to abuse my driver and then made some attempts to right the truck. In about two minutes time two more trucks drove up to the place of the accident and pulled up. A group of Germans and Russian war prisoners, about ten men in all, came up to us from these trucks…. By joint efforts we began to raise the truck. Taking advantage of an opportune moment I asked one of the Russian war prisoners in a low voice: ‘What is it?’ He answered very quietly: ‘For many nights already we have been carrying bodies to Katyn Forest.’

“Before the overturned truck had been raised a German N.C.O. came up to me and my driver and ordered us to proceed immediately. As no serious damage had been done to our truck the driver steered it a little to one side and got on to the highway, and we went on. When we were passing the two covered trucks which had come up later I again smelled the horrible stench of dead bodies.”

Sukhachev’s testimony is confirmed by that of Vladimir Afanasievich Yegorov, who served as policeman in the Police Station during the occupation. Yegorov testified that when owing to the nature of his duties he was guarding a bridge at a crossing of the Moscow-Minsk and Smolensk-Vitebsk highways at the end of March and early in April, 1943, he saw going towards Smolensk on several nights big trucks covered with tarpaulins and spreading a heavy stench of dead flesh. Several men, some of whom were armed and were undoubtedly Germans, sat in the driver’s cabin of each truck, and behind.

Yegorov reported his observations to Kuzma Demyanovich Golovney, Chief of the Police Station in the village of Arkhipovka, who advised him to “hold his tongue” and added: “This does not concern us. We have no business to be mixing in German affairs.”

That the Germans were carrying bodies on trucks to the Katyn Forest is testified by Frol Maximovich Yalovlev-Sokolov (born in 1896), a former agent for restaurant supplies in the Smolensk Restaurant Trust and, under the Germans, Chief of Police of Katyn. He stated that once, early in April, 1943, he himself saw four tarpaulin-covered trucks passing along the highway to Katyn Forest. Several men armed with tommy-guns and rifles rode in them. An acrid stench of flesh came from these trucks.

From the above testimony it can be concluded with all clarity that the Germans shot Poles in other places too. In bringing their bodies to the Katyn Forest they pursued a triple object: firstly to destroy the traces of their own crimes, secondly to ascribe their own crimes to the Soviet Government, thirdly to increase the number of “victims of Bolshevism” in the Katyn Forest graves.

Excursions to the Katyn Graves

In April, 1943, having finished all the preparatory work at the graves in Katyn Forest, the German occupationists began a wide campaign in the Press and over the radio in an attempt to ascribe to the Soviet Power atrocities they themselves had committed against Polish war prisoners. As one method of provocational agitation, the Germans arranged visits to the Katyn graves by residents of Smolensk and its suburbs as well as “delegations” from countries occupied by the German invaders or their vassals. The Special Commission questioned a number of delegates who took part in the “excursions” to the Katyn graves.

Zhukov, a doctor specialising in pathological anatomy who worked as Medico-Legal Expert in Smolensk, testified before the Special Commission: “The clothing of the bodies, particularly the greatcoats, boots and belts, were in a good state of preservation. The metal parts of the clothing – belt buckles, button hooks and spikes on shoe soles, etc. – were not heavily rusted, and in some cases the metal still retained its polish. Sections of the skin of the bodies which could be seen – faces, necks, arms – were chiefly a dirty green colour, and in some cases dirty brown, but there was no complete disintegration of the tissues, no putrefaction. In some cases bared tendons of whitish colour and parts of muscles could be seen.

“While I was at the excavations people were at work sorting and extracting bodies at the bottom of a big pit. For this purpose they used spades and other tools, and also took hold of bodies with their hands and dragged them from place to place by the arms, the legs or the clothing. I did not see a single case of bodies falling apart or of any member being torn off.

“Considering all the above, I arrived at the conclusion that the bodies had remained in the earth not three years, as the Germans affirmed, but much less. Knowing that in mass graves, and especially without coffins, putrefaction of bodies progresses more quickly than in single graves, I concluded that the mass shooting of the Poles had taken place about a year and a-half ago, and could have occurred in autumn 1941 or in spring, 1942. As a result of my visit to the excavation site I became firmly convinced that a monstrous crime had been committed by the Germans.”

Testimony to the effect that the clothing of the bodies, its metal parts, shoes and even the bodies themselves were well preserved was given by numerous witnesses who took part in “excursions” to the Katyn graves and who were questioned by the Special Commission. These witnesses include the manager of the Smolensk Water Supply System, Kitzev; a Katyn school teacher, Vetrova; a telephone operator of Smolensk Communications Bureau, Shchedrova; a resident of the village of Borok, Alexeyev; a resident of the village of Novye Bateki, Krivozertsev; the stationmaster on duty at Gnezdovo station, Savvateyev; a citizen of Smolensk, Pushchina; a doctor at the Second Smolensk Hospital, Sidoruk; Kesserev, a doctor at the same hospital.

Germans Attempt To Cover Up Traces of Their Crimes

The “excursions” organised by the Germans failed to achieve their aim. All who visited the graves saw for themselves that they were confronted with the crudest and most obvious German-Fascist frame-up. The German authorities accordingly took steps to make the doubters keep quiet. The Special Commission heard the testimony of a great number of witnesses who related how the German authorities persecuted those who doubted or disbelieved the provocation. These doubters were discharged from work, arrested, threatened with shooting.

The Commission established that in two cases people were shot for failure to “hold their tongues.” Such reprisals were taken against the former German policeman Zagainev, and against Yegorov, who worked on the excavation of graves in Katyn Forest. Testimony about the persecution of people who expressed doubt after visiting the graves in Katyn Forest was given by Zubareva, a woman cleaner employed by Drug Store No. 1 in Smolensk; Kozlova, assistant sanitation doctor of Stalin District Health Department in Smolensk, and others.

Yakovlev-Sokolov, former Chief of Police of Katyn area, testified: “A situation arose which caused serious alarm in the German Commandant’s Office, and police organs in the periphery were given urgent instructions to nip in the bud all harmful talk at any price, and arrest all persons who expressed disbelief in the ‘Katyn affair.’ I myself, as chief of the area police, was given instructions to this effect at the end of May 1943 by the German commandant of the village of Katyn, Oberleutnant Braung, and at the beginning of June by the chief of Smolensk District Police, Kamensky.

“I called an instructional conference of the police in my area, at which I ordered the police to detain and bring to the police station anyone who expressed disbelief or doubted the truth of German reports about the shooting of Polish war prisoners by the Bolsheviks. In fulfilling these instructions of the German authorities I clearly acted against my conscience, as I myself was certain that the ‘Katyn affair’ was a German frame-up. I became finally convinced of that when I myself made an ‘excursion’ to Katyn Forest.”

Seeing that the summer 1943 “excursions” of the local population to the Katyn graves did not achieve their purpose, the German occupation authorities ordered the graves to be filled in. Before their retreat from Smolensk they began hastily to cover up the traces of their crimes. The country house occupied by the “H.Q. of the 537th Building Battalion” was burned to the ground.

The Germans searched for the three girls Alexeyeva, Mikhailova and Konakhovskaya – In the village of Borok in order to take them away and perhaps to kill them. They also searched for their main “witness,” Kisselev, who together with his family had succeeded in hiding. The Germans burned down his house. They endeavoured to seize other “witnesses” too – the former stationmaster of Gnezdovo, Ivanov, and the former acting stationmaster of the same station, Savvateyev, as well as the former coupler at the Smolensk station, Zakharov.

During the very last days before their retreat from Smolensk, the German-Fascist occupationists looked for Professors Bazilevsky and Yefimov. Both succeeded in evading deportation or death only because they had escaped in good time. Nevertheless, the German-Fascist invaders did not succeed in covering up the traces of or concealing their crime.

Examination by medico-legal experts of the exhumed bodies proved irrefutably that the Polish war prisoners were shot by the Germans themselves. The protocol of the Medico-Legal Experts’ Investigation follows.

Protocol of the Medico-Legal Experts’ Investigation

In accordance with the instructions of the Special Commission for ascertaining and investigating the circumstances of the shooting of Polish officers prisoners by the German-Fascist invaders in Katyn Forest (near Smolensk), a Commission of Medico-Legal Experts was set up consisting of Prozorovsky, Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R. and Director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine; Doctor of Medicine Smolyaninov, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow State Medical Institute; Doctor of Medicine Voropayev, Professor of Pathological Anatomy; Doctor Semenovsky, senior staff scientist of the Thanatology Department of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R.; Assistant Professor Shvaikova senior staff scientist of the Chemico-Legal Department of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R.; with the participation of Major of Medical Service Nikolsky, Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the Western Front; Captain of Medical Service Bussoyedov, Medico-Legal Expert of the X. Army; Major of Medical Service, Subbotin, Chief of Pathological Anatomy Laboratory No. 92; Major of Medical Service Ogloblin; Senior Lieutenant of Medical Service Sadykov, medical specialist; Senior Lieutenant of Medical Service Pushkareva.

During the period between January 16 and January 23, 1944, these medico-legal experts conducted exhumation and medico-legal examination of the bodies of Polish war prisoners buried in graves on the territory of “Kozy Gory” in Katyn Forest 15 kms. from Smolensk. The bodies of Polish war prisoners were buried in a common grave about 60 by 60 by three metres in dimension, and also in another grave about seven by six by three and a half metres. Nine hundred and twenty-five bodies were exhumed from the graves and examined. The exhumation and medico-legal examination of the bodies were effected in order to establish: (a) identity of the dead; (b) causes of death; (c) time of burial.

Circumstances of the case: See materials of the Special Commission. Objective evidence: See the protocols of the medico-legal examination of the bodies.

Conclusion of Medico-Legal Experts

On the basis of the results of the medico-legal examination of the bodies, the commission of medico-legal experts arrived at the following conclusion:

Upon the opening of the graves and exhumations of bodies from them, it was established that:

(a) Among the mass of bodies of Polish war prisoners there were bodies in civilian clothes, the number of which, in relation to the total number of bodies examined, is insignificant (in all two out of 925 exhumed bodies); shoes of army pattern were on these bodies.

(b) The clothing on the bodies of the war prisoners showed that they were officers, and included some privates of the Polish Anny.

(c) Slits in the pockets, pockets turned inside out, and tears in them discovered during examination of the clothing show that as a rule all the clothes on each body (greatcoats, trousers, etc.) bear traces of searches effected of the dead bodies.

(d) In some cases whole pockets were found during examination of the clothing, scraps of newspapers, prayer books, pocket books, postage stamps, postcards and letters, receipts, notes and other documents, as well as articles of value (a gold nugget, dollars). Pipes, pocket knives, cigarette papers, handkerchiefs and other articles were found in these pockets, as well as in the turned-out and torn pockets, under the linings, in the belts of the coats, in footwear and socks.

(e) Some of the documents found contain data referring to the period between November 12, 1940, and June 20, 1941.

(f) The fabric of clothes, especially of greatcoats, uniforms, trousers and tunics, is in a good state of preservation and can be torn with the hands only with great difficulty.

(g) A very small proportion of the bodies (20 out of 925) had the hands tied behind the back with woven cords. The condition of the clothes on the bodies – namely the fact that uniform jackets, shirts, belts, trousers and underwear are buttoned up, boots or shoes are on the feet, scarves and ties tied around the necks, suspenders attached, shirts tucked in – testifies that no external examination of the bodies and extremities of the bodies had been effected previously. The intact state of the skin on the heads, and the absence on them, as on the skin of the chests and abdomens (save in three cases out of 925) of any incisions, cuts or other signs, show convincingly that, judging by the bodies exhumed by the experts’ commission, there had been no medico-legal examination of the bodies.

External and internal examination of 925 bodies proves the existence of bullet wounds on the head and neck, combined in four cases with injury of the bones of the cranium caused by a blunt, hard heavy object. Also, in a small number of cases were discovered injuries of the abdomen caused simultaneously with the wound in the head.

Entry orifices of the bullet wounds, as a rule singular, more rarely double, are situated in the occipital part of the head near the occipital protuberance, at the big occipital orifice or at its edge. In a few cases entry orifices of bullets have been found on the back surface of the neck, corresponding to the first or second or third vertebrae of the neck. The points of exit of the bullets have been found more frequently in the frontal area, more rarely in the parietal and templar areas as well as in the face and neck.

In 27 cases the bullet wounds proved to be blind (without exit orifices), and at the end of the bullet channels under the soft membrane of the cranium, in its bones, in the membranes and in the brain matter, were found deformed, barely deformed, or altogether undeformed cased bullets of the type used with automatic pistols, mostly of the 7.65mm. calibre.

The dimensions of the entry orifices in the occipital bone make it possible to draw the conclusion that fire arms of two calibres were employed in the shooting: in the majority of cases, those of less than 8mm., i.e., 7.65mm. or less, and in a lesser number of cases, those of more than 8mm., i.e., 9mm.

The nature of the fissures of the cranial bones, and the fact that in some cases traces of powder were found at the entry orifice, proves that the shots were fired pointblank or nearly pointblank. Correlation of the points of entry and exit of the bullets shows that the shots were fired from behind with the head bent forward. The bullet channel pierced the vital parts of the brain, or near them, and death was caused by destruction of the brain tissues. The injuries inflicted by a blunt, hard, heavy object found on the parietal bones of the cranium were concurrent with the bullet wounds of the head, and were not in themselves the cause of death.

The medico-legal examination of the bodies carried out between January 16 and January 23, 1944, testifies that there are absolutely no bodies in a condition of decay or disintegration, and that all the 925 bodies are in a state of preservation – in the initial phase of desiccation of the body – which most frequently and clearly was expressed in the region of the thorax and abdomen, sometimes also in the extremities; and in the initial stage of formation of adipocere (in an advanced phase of formation of adipocere in the bodies extracted from the bottom of the graves); in a combination of desiccation of the tissues of the body with the formation of adipocere.

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the muscles of the trunk and extremities absolutely preserved their macroscopic structure and almost normal colour; the internal organs of the thorax and peritoneal cavity preserved their configuration. In many cases sections of heart muscle have a clearly discernible structure and specific colouration, while the brain presented its characteristic structural peculiarities with a distinctly discernible border between the grey and white matter.

Besides the macroscopic examination of the tissues and organs of the bodies, the medico-legal experts removed the necessary material for subsequent microscopic and chemical studies in laboratory conditions.

Properties of the soil in the place of discovery were of a certain significance in the preservation of the tissues and organs of the bodies. After the opening of the graves and exhumation of the bodies and their exposure to the air, the corpses were subject to the action of warmth and moisture in the late summer season of 1943. This could have resulted in a vigorous progress of decay. However, the degree of desiccation of the bodies and formation of adipocere in them, especially the good state of preservation of the muscles and internal organs, as well as of the clothes, give grounds to affirm that the bodies had not remained in the earth for long.

Comparing the condition of bodies in the grave on the territory of “Kozy Gory” with the condition of the bodies in other burial places in Smolensk and its nearest environs – Gedeonovka, Maglenshchina, Readovka, Camp No. 126, Krasny Bor, etc. (see protocol of the Commission of Medico-Legal Experts dated October 22, 1943) – it should be admitted that the bodies of the Polish war prisoners were buried on the territory of “Kozy Gory” about two years ago. This finds its complete corroboration in the documents found in the clothes on the bodies, which preclude the possibility of earlier burial (see point” d ” of paragraph 36 and list of documents).

The commission of medico-legal experts, on the basis of the data and results of the investigation, consider as proved the fact of the killing by shooting of the Polish Army officer and private war prisoners; asserts that this shooting dates back to about two years ago, i.e. between September and December of 1941; regards the fact of the discovery by the commission of medico-legal experts, in the clothes on the bodies, of valuables and documents dated 1941, as proof that the German-Fascist authorities who undertook a search of the bodies in the spring-summer season of 1943 did not do it thoroughly, while the documents discovered testify that the shooting was done after June 1941; notes that in 1943 the Germans had made an extremely small number of post-mortem examinations of the bodies of the shot Polish war prisoners; notes the complete identity of method of the shooting of the Polish war prisoners with that of the shooting of Soviet civilians and war prisoners widely practised by the German-Fascist authorities in the temporarily occupied territory of the U.S.S.R., including the towns of Smolensk, Orel, Kharkov, Krasnodar and Voronezh.

Signed by the Chief Medico-Legal Expert of the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., PROZOROVSKY; Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow State Medical Institute, Doctor of Medicine SMOLYANINOV; Professor of Pathological Anatomy, Doctor of Medicine VOROPAYEV; Senior Staff Scientist of Thanatological Dept. of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Doctor SEMENOVSKY; Senior Staff Scientist of the Forensic Chemistry Dept. of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat of Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Assistant ProfessorSHYAIKOVA.

Smolensk, January 24, 1944.

Documents Found On the Bodies

Besides the data recorded in the protocol of the commission of medico-legal experts, the time of the shooting of the Polish officer prisoners by the Germans (autumn 1941, and not spring 1940 as the Germans assert) is also ascertained by documents found when the graves were opened, dating not only the latter half of 1940 but also the spring and summer (March-June) of 1941. Of the documents discovered by the medico-legal experts, the following deserve special attention:

1. On body No. 92: A letter from Warsaw addressed to the Central War Prisoners’ Bureau of the Red Cross, Moscow, Kuibyshev Street, House No. 12. The letter is written in Russian. In this letter Sofia Zigon inquires the whereabouts of her husband Tomasz Zigon. The letter is dated September 12, 1940. The envelope bears the impress of it German rubber stamp “Warsaw Sept. 1940” and a rubber stamp “Moscow, Central Post Office, ninth delivery, Sept. 28, 1940,” and an inscription in the Russian language: “Ascertain and forward for delivery, November 15, 1940” (signature illegible).

2. On body No. 4: A postcard registered under the number 0112 from Tarnopol stamped “Tarnopol Nov. 12, 1940.” The written text and address are discoloured.

3. On body No. 101: A receipt No. 10293 dated Dec. 19, 1939 issued by the Kozelsk Camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Eduard Adamovich Lewandowski. On the back of the receipt is a note dated March 14, 1941 on the sale of this watch to the Jewellery Trading Trust.

4. On body No. 46: A receipt (number illegible) issued December 16, 1939 by the Starobelsk Camp testifying receipt of a gold watch from Vladimir Rudolfovich Araszkevicz. On the back of the receipt is a note dated March 25, 1941 stating that the watch was sold to the Jewellery Trading Trust.

5. On body No. 71: A small paper ikon with the image of Christ, found between pages 114 and 145 of a Catholic prayer book. The inscription, with legible signature, on the back of the ikon reads: “Jadwiga” and bears the date April 4, 1941.”

6. On body No. 46: A receipt dated April 6, 1941 issued by the Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of a sum in roubles from Araszkevicz.

7. On the same body No. 46: A receipt dated May 5, 1941 issued by Camp No. 1-ON, showing receipt of 102 roubles from Araszkevicz.

8. On body No. 101: A receipt dated May 15, 1941 issued by Camp No. 1 showing receipt of 175 roubles from Lewandowski.

9. On body No. 53: An unmailed postcard in the Polish language addressed Warsaw Bagatelia, 15, Flat 47, to Irene Kuczinska, and dated June 20, 1941. The sender is Stanislaw Kuczinski.

Conclusions of the Special Commission

From all the material at the disposal of the Special Commission, namely evidence given by over 100 witnesses questioned, data supplied by the medico-legal experts, documents and material evidence found in the graves in the Katyn Forest, the following conclusions emerge with irrefutable clarity:

1. The Polish prisoners of war who were in the three camps west of Smolensk, and employed on road building before the outbreak of war, remained there after the German invaders reached Smolensk, until September, 1941, inclusive.

2. In the Katyn Forest, in the autumn of 1941, the German occupation authorities carried out mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war from the above-named camps.

3. The mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest was carried out by a German military organisation hiding behind the conventional name “H.Q. of the 537th Engineering Battalion,” which consisted of Ober-leutnant Arnes, his assistant, Ober-leutnant Rekst, and Lieutenant Hott.

4. In connection with the deterioration of the general military and political situation for Germany at the beginning of the year 1943, the German occupation authorities, with provocational aims, took a number of steps in order to ascribe their own crimes to the organs of the Soviet Power, calculating on setting Russians and Poles at loggerheads.

5. With this aim, (a) the German-Fascist invaders, using persuasion, attempts at bribery, threats and barbarous torture, tried to find witnesses among Soviet citizens, from whom they tried to extort false evidence alleging that the Polish prisoners of war had been shot by the organs of Soviet Power in the spring of 1940; (b) the German occupation authorities in the spring of 1943 brought in from other districts bodies of Polish war prisoners whom they had shot and put them into the open graves in the Katyn Forest, calculating on covering up the traces of their own crimes, and on increasing the number of “victims of Bolshevik atrocities” in the Katyn Forest; (c) preparing for their provocation, the German occupation authorities started opening the graves in the Katyn Forest in order to take out documents and material evidence which exposed them, using for this work about 500 Russian prisoners of war who were shot by the Germans after the work was completed.

6. It has been established beyond doubt from the evidence of the medico-legal experts, that (a) the time of the shooting was the autumn of 1941; (b) in shooting the Polish war prisoners the German hangmen applied the same method of pistol shots in the back of the head as they applied in the mass execution of Soviet citizens in other towns, e.g., Orel, Voronezh, Krasnodar and Smolensk itself.

7. The conclusions drawn from the evidence given by witnesses, and from the shooting of Polish war prisoners by the Germans in the autumn of 1941, are completely confirmed by the material evidence and documents excavated from the Katyn graves.

8. In shooting the Polish war prisoners in the Katyn Forest, the German-Fascist invaders consistently carried out their policy of physical extermination of the Slav peoples.

Signed:

Chairman of the Special Commission, Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, Academician Burdenko.

Members:

Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, Academician Alexei Tolstoy.
Member of the Extraordinary State Commission, the Metropolitan Nikolai.
Chairman of the All-Slav Committee, Lieutenant-General Gundorov.
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Kolesnikov.
People’s Commissar for Education of the Russian S.F.S.R., Academician Potemkin.
Chief of the Central Medical Administration of the Red Army, Colonel-General Smirnov.
Chairman of the Smolensk Regional Executive Committee, Melnikov.

Smolensk, January 24, 1944.

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“We fought together, communists and Nazis alike, for the liberation of Russia”

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They are aged 24, 27 and 28. One was unemployed, one was a nightclub doorman and the other worked for car firm Mercedes. They all lived in Madrid, but they met on the front in Ukraine as part of the pro-Russian Donbass International Brigades. They had arrived there after a three-day journey last summer, each traveling separately – one went directly to Donetsk and the other two after a stopover in Moscow, where a Russian government worker was waiting for them. The trio all used the same method of self-enlistment: they contacted Russian combatants via Twitter, according to sources in the investigation that led to their arrest on Friday.

They were paid neither travel expenses nor a salary, but they were received with open arms by the Russian commanders in charge on the Ukraine eastern front. As well as their AK-74 rifles – the most modern Kalashnikov model – they received uniforms, food and free lodging. They left behind their comfortable Madrid apartments to live in collective barracks where, they say, there are still more Spanish “brigade members” and “several hundred” from other countries, above all Serbia and France.

“Half of them are communists and the other half are Nazis,” they explained. “We fought together, communists and Nazis alike […]. We all want the same: social justice and the liberation of Russia from the Ukrainian invasion.”

At the moment, Spanish police only have proof that one of the Madrileños arrested fought on the front lines. The other two were used for propaganda purposes to encourage others to join the ranks. As they were “volunteers,” they were free to leave whenever they wanted, which they did in December, returning to Madrid as they had arrived – separately.

During searches of their homes carried out on Friday as part of Operation Danko – a reference to the 1988 film Red Heat, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a Russian cop of the same name – the police seized Russian military clothing, knives, machetes and insignias. Only one of the three had a police record, for taking part in a political brawl. One of them belonged to a new far-left formation called Communist Reconstruction.

The police have accused them of compromising the peace and interests of Spain, homicide, and possession of arms and explosives.

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Anasintaxi (KKE: 1918-55): Some questions and answers about the current situation in Greece

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1. Several dozen glorious general strikes and constant struggles of the masses in Greece against the austerity policies of ND and PASOK that plunged Greece into poverty and unemployment expressed the anger of the people and demanded a change in Greek society. How do you see and interpret the victory of SYRIZA in the elections?

By voting for SYRIZA, the majority of the Greek people rejected and condemned the cruel economic measures that were imposed, the neoliberal economic policy, in general, and the great-bourgeois parties of ND and PASOK that implemented these measures with the utmost servility. The victory of SYRIZA is also explained by the people’s resentment towards the fascist re-modeling of social life promoted by the government of the fascist scoundrel Samaras.

2. Tsipras and some political forces characterize SYRIZA as “radical left” that is going to somehow liberate the people of Greece from the economic misery. What is the class nature of SYRIZA and what program has the government of Tsipras promised the people to implement?

The revolutionary KKE, which never adopted the Khrushchevite revisionism, was eliminated by the brutal intervention of the soviet Khrushchevite revisionists in 1955-1956 and replaced by the Greek Khrushchevite revisionist party (“K”KE), a bourgeois party of a social-democratic type.

In 1968, “K”KE was split into two parties: the euro-communist part known as “K”KE (interior) and the Khrushchevite-Brezhnevite part known as “K”KE. SYRIZA originates from the first part and, consequently, is a social-democratic and reformist party guided by a right-opportunist general line and characterized by petty bourgeois class features.

In the sphere of social questions, SYRIZA is an anti-fascist party suffering from inconsistencies and contradictions as it is evident from the fact that it formed an alliance with the great-bourgeois nationalist party of ANEL.

3. Greece is a member of European Union, a member of NATO, and has implemented the neoliberal policies of the Western imperialist powers. Has Tsipras the will and determination to eliminate political, economical, and military dependency on the Western imperialist powers and to cut the hands of EU-ECB-IMF from the lives of Greek people?

Tsipras and the leading group of SYRIZA is neither willing nor determined to eliminate Greece’s political, economical and military dependence on imperialism. The only thing that he seems determined to do is to reduce the pressure coming from European Union and the European Central Bank regarding the implantation of extreme austerity programs. SYRIZA has made the strategic choice to support Greece’s membership in the European Union and the Eurozone.

4. Certainly, the victory of the people of Greece against the austerity measures of ND-PASOK governments is good news. How is the dialectical development of the situation after the elections? Will the conditions created by the Tsipras victory strengthen the class struggles of the Greek working masses?

During the first three weeks following the elections, the SYRIZA government has taken a series of actions in order to implement its program that has won the support of wide popular strata, an attitude that is unfortunately accompanied by certain illusions. We think that, up to a certain extent, SYRIZA’s victory creates favorable conditions for the strengthening of class struggles. Whether this possibility becomes a reality depends, of course, on many factors, the most important of which is the organization of the majority of the working masses in independent and united trade unions and the influence exerted on these, and the society in general, by the consistent left-wing, anti-imperialist and revolutionary communists.

5. The so-called Communist Party of Greece (KKE) participated in the European elections. Despite all its phrase-mongering demand about Greece leaving the Eurozone, how different are the politics of this reformist party from those of SYRIZA?

It is important to clarify that, despite its verbal attacks against EU and the Eurozone, “K”KE does not put forward (not even for the sake of demagogy) the question of Greece’s exit neither from the EU nor the Eurozone. This is also evident in the party’s program that was approved by its last congress. “K”KE considers Greece an imperialist(!) country and favors the view that “the term “national dependence” is not applicable in contemporary conditions” (1/2/2005). Furthermore, in relation to Euro, the leadership of “K”KE has stated: “A solution outside the euro and return to the drachma in the present circumstances would be catastrophic” (30/5/2011). Therefore, in essence, the policy of this reformist party is not different than that of SYRIZA.

6. The crises in Greece demand a vast mobilization of the popular sectors of the society and the development of a revolutionary alternative to capitalism. Could you tell us about the tactics adopted by KKE (1918-55) in the present situation in order to strengthen the struggles of the working class and to deepen the revolutionary demands of the protesters on the streets?

In order to contribute to the growth of the working class struggles and the rise of the revolutionary movement, the Movement for Reorganization of KKE (1918-1955) is striving, under very unfavorable conditions, to achieve the following:

A) The reorganization, re-birth of KKE (1918-1955) and the ideological-political-organizational unity of the Greek communists on basis of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism.

B) The formation of united, massive and truly independent trade unions whose aim will be the resistance to the extreme neo-liberal policy of austerity and the further development of the workers’ and people’s struggles combined with the struggle against fascism-Nazism.

C) The cooperation between the consistent left-wing, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist forces that will aim at the formation of a massive popular front that will fight against the dependence on imperialism, in general, and the exit of Greece from the EU, the Eurozone and NATO.

Αναρτήθηκε από Anasintaxi Organization στις

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Communist Platform – Gramsci: a Bolshevik

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One of the greatest inaccuracies spread by the opportunist politicians and the bourgeois intellectuals about Antonio Gramsci is the alleged distance, or even opposition, between his positions and those supported by Lenin and Stalin, and consequently his closeness to the ideas of Trotsky.

The origins of this legend are remote and well orchestrated, beginning with the fascist “Il Messaggero”, which, on May 12, 1937, announcing Gramsci’s death, spoke in an ignorant and cowardly fashion of “his fidelity to Trotsky”.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Gramsci’s “Trotskyism” was the daily bread of revisionist swindlers, which in this way constructed the unworthy and undeserved myth of the alienation or even aversion between the “good” Gramsci and the “evil” Stalin.

In reality, by examining the texts exactly the opposite emerges, namely a coincidence with the Bolshevik positions and a clear criticism of the positions of Trotsky and other opponents of Stalin. So let us now let Gramsci speak.

In his activity of leader and secretary of the Communist Party of Italy

In 1924 Gramsci, in his address to the “Conference of Como”, for the first time sketched a parallel between Bordiga and Trotsky (who also had differences between them), criticizing both:

“Trotsky’s attitude, initially, can be compared to comrade Bordiga’s at present. Trotsky, although taking part ‘in a disciplined manner’ in the work of the party, had through his attitude of passive opposition – similar to Bordiga’s -created a state of unease throughout the Party, which could not fail to get a whiff of this situation. […] This shows that an opposition – even kept within the limits of a formal discipline – on the part of exceptional personalities in the workers’ movement, can not merely hamper the development of the revolutionary situation, but can put in danger the very conquests of the revolution.”

(“The Building of the Communist Party.” English translation from Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Political Writings, 1921-1926, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1990, pp. 252-3).

In the following year Gramsci, pursuing his struggle for the bolshevization of the Party, asserted that Trotsky’s positions about “American super-capitalism” were dangerous and had to be rejected because,

“postponing the revolution indefinitely would shift the whole tactics of the Communist International […] They would also shift the tactics of the Russian State, since if one postpones the European revolution for an entire historical phase – if in other words, the Russian working class will not for a long time be able to count on the support of the proletariat of other countries – it is evidence that the Russian revolution must be modified.”

(Gramsci, Report to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Italy, February 6, 1925. Ibid., p. 284.)

Gramsci was always aware of the importance of the struggle against the deviations from Leninism and against factionalism. Therefore, in the same report he stated:

“The resolution should also say that Trotsky’s conceptions, and above all his attitude, represent a danger inasmuch as the lack of party unity, in a country in which there is only one party, splits the State. This produces a counter-revolutionary movement; […] Finally, lessons should be drawn from the Trotsky question for our party. Before the last disciplinary measures, Trotsky was in the same position as Bordiga is at present in our party: he played a purely figurative role in the Central Committee. His position created a tendentially factional situation, just as Bordiga’s attitude maintains an objectively factional situation in our party. […] Bordiga’s attitude, like that of Trotsky, has disastrous repercussions.”

(Ibid., p. 284.)

Again in 1925, on the occasion of the Fifth Plenum of the enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International, the Italian delegation, led by Gramsci, sided in favor of Stalin’s positions concerning the criticism of Trotsky without reservations.

For Gramsci, the decision to build socialism in the USSR under the conditions of capitalist encirclement was perfectly consistent with the needs of a period characterized by the relative stabilization of capitalism and the ebbing of the revolutionary wave.

Therefore his intransigent criticism of Trotsky, of his strategy of “permanent revolution”, which he considered incorrect, simplistic and insufficient, and his firm commitment to the strategy and politics of the Bolshevik leadership which, as we shall see, he would confirm in his Prison Notebooks.

Gramsci was always concerned for the cohesion of the Russian party, which was needed by the proletariat at both a national and international level.

In those years, in which the divergent positions between the Soviet party headed by Stalin and the Zinovievist and Trotskyist bloc were become programmatic, Gramsci several times warned about the risks of a split which the international bourgeoisie could take advantage of in order to overthrow proletarian power in Russia.

With regard to the struggle engaged in by the CC of RCP (b) against the opposition bloc of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, Gramsci wrote:

“In fact, one question is of the greatest importance in the measures jointly adopted by the Central Committee and the Control Commission of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.: the defense of the organizational unity of the Party itself. It is evident that, on this ground, no concession or compromise is possible, whoever promotes the work of the disintegration of the Party, whatever the nature and degree of their past merits, whatever the position that they hold at the head of the communist organization. […] So we think that the whole International must gather closely around the Central Committee of the Communist Party of USSR in order to approve of its energy, rigor and resolution in striking implacably at whoever threatens the unity of the Party.”

(Measures of the C.C. of C.P. of the U.S.S.R. in Defence of the Unity of the Party and against the Work of the Faction, in L’Unita, July 27, 1926).

The same concern for the organizational and ideological unity of the Soviet party, and its national and international implications (particularly the struggle that was taking place in Italy for the development of the Party) inspired the famous letter

“To the Central Committee of Soviet Communist Party” written in October of 1926 (published in Antonio Gramsci, Selections…, op. cit. pp. 426-432).

In this letter Gramsci intervened, in the name of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Italy, in the harsh political battle that was developing in the USSR between the Bolshevik leading group and the Trotskyist- Zinovievist opposition, declaring “basically correct the political line of the majority of the Central Committee of the CPSU”. (ibid., p. 430), headed by Stalin.

Although Gramsci was only partially informed about the Russian situation, his siding with the Leninist majority was vigorous and unequivocal. His accusation against the opposition bloc was very harsh and motivated by a main reason, explained by Gramsci in very clear terms:

“We repeat that we are struck by the fact that the attitude of the opposition [Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky] concerns the entire political line of the Central Committee, and touches the very heart of the Leninist doctrine and the political action of our Soviet party. It is the principle and practice of the proletariat s hegemony that are brought into question; the fundamental relations of alliance between workers and peasants that are disturbed and placed in danger: i.e. the pillars of the workers‘ State and the revolution.” (ibid., p. 431).

Being a fierce supporter of Leninist principles, Gramsci in the same letter harshly criticized

“the root of the errors of the Joint Opposition, and the origin of the latent dangers contained in its activities. In the ideology and practice of the Joint Opposition are born again, to the full, the whole tradition of social- democracy and syndicalism which has hitherto prevented the Western proletariat from organizing itself as a leading class.” (ibid., p. 432).

It is a stance that Gramsci further reinforced in the following letter “Gramsci to Togliatti” (October 26, 1926) (ibid., pp. 437-440), in which, thinking about the slowness of the Bolshevization process inside the Western parties, he wrote:

“The Russian discussion and the ideology of the opposition contribute all the more to this halting and slowing down, in that the opposition represents in Russia all the old prejudices of class corporatism and syndicalism which weigh upon the tradition of the Western proletariat, and delay its ideological and political development.” (Ibid., p. 439.)

And he concluded by pointing out:

“Our letter was a whole indictment of the opposition, not made in demagogic terms, but precisely for that reason more effective and more serious.” (ibid., p. 440).

Therefore an interpretation of these letters that aims to strengthen the idea of a “Trotskyist Gramsci” or a vacillating Gramsci is completely without foundation. It is very clear on which side Gramsci stood in the struggle that developed within the Russian party: on the side of the Bolshevik majority of the Party members.

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In the Prison Notebooks

As is well-known, the revisionists assert that in his Prison Notebooks Gramsci does not write about Stalin, except indirectly, and that when he mentions Stalin’s USSR, he does it in a critical way (see, for instance, the thesis of G. Vacca in L ‘URSS staliniana nell ‘analisi dei Quaderni del carcere [Stalin’s USSR in the analysis of the Prison Notebooks] in Gorbacev e la sinistra europea [Gorbachev and the European Left], Rome 1989, p. 75).

These are unscrupulous lies and deceptions, because the passages in Prison Notebooks that deal with Soviet socialism are all in favor of Lenin and Stalin and against Trotsky.

There are four questions that Gramsci examines in his Notebooks in order to defend Bolshevism and criticize Trotsky: 1) The theory of the permanent revolution; 2) The stages of the revolution, and the consequent strategy and tactics; 3) The industrialization in the USSR; 4) The relation between internationalism and national policy.

Let us now examine the corresponding notes in the Prison Notebooks, on the basis of the edition prepared by the International Gramsci Society (IGS) (the text corresponds to the critical edition edited by V. Gerratana and published by Einaudi in 1975).

In square brackets we insert the necessary explanations of the pseudonyms (for instance, in the Notebooks Lenin is called Ilyich, Stalin is named Vissarionovich, Trotsky is sometimes called Bronstein, sometimes Leon Davidovich) and rewordings used by Gramsci in order to elude the fascist censorship.

1. Gramsci already wrote about Trotsky in Notebook 1, §44, at the end of an important note entitled “Political class leadership before and after assuming government power”. Inspired by the historic events of the Italian Unification, he referred to the enormous and unprecedented challenges that the Soviet government had to face. In this note Gramsci dealt directly with the Trotskyist slogan of the “permanent revolution”:

“As regards the ‘Jacobin‘ slogan which Marx directed at the Germany of 1848-49 [the idea of uninterrupted revolution], its complex fortunes should be examined. Revived, systematized, elaborated, intellectualized by the Parvus-Bronstein [Helphand-Trotsky] group, it proved inert and ineffective in 1905 and afterward: it was an abstract thing that belonged to the scientific laboratory. The tendency which opposed it [Bolshevism] in this intellectualized form, however, without using it ‘intentionally’, in fact employed it in its historical, concrete, living form adapted to the time and place as something that sprang from all the pores of the society which had to be transformed, as the alliance of two classes [working class and peasants] with the hegemony of the urban class [the working class]”.

(Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Columbia University Press, 1992-, Vol. 1, p. 151.)

According to Gramsci, modern “Jacobinism” expressed itself above all in a policy of alliance with the peasantry, under the hegemony of the working class. So Gramsci evaluated the correct Bolshevik policy conducted by Stalin against the Trotskyist thesis of the “permanent revolution”. This thesis underestimated the importance of the poor peasants as a revolutionary force, and expressed complete distrust in the ability of the proletariat to lead all the exploited and oppressed people in the revolution, until it arrived at the impossibility of building socialism in one single country.

The note ends with a very harsh accusation against Trotsky, who is compared with the reactionary bourgeois Crispi:

“In the one case [Trotsky], a Jacobin temperament without the adequate political content, typified by Crispi; in the second case [Bolshevism], a Jacobin temperament and content in keeping with the new historical relations, rather than adhering to an intellectualistic label.” (Ibid., p. 151.)]

It is interesting to observe that Gramsci took up this same note almost completely in Notebook 19, written in 1934-35, that is, after the definitive break with Trotskyism.

Gramsci returned to the question of the “permanent revolution” in Notebook 7, §16, in a famous note titled “War of position and war of maneuver, or frontal war”:

“One should determine whether Bronstein’s [Trotsky] famous theory about the permanence of movement is not a political reflection of the theory of the war of maneuver (remember the observation by the Cossack general Krasnov); whether it is not, in the final analysis, a reflection of the general-economic-cultural-social conditions of a country in which the structures of national life are embryonic and unsettled and cannot become ‘trench or fortress. ‘In that case one might say that Bronstein, while appearing to be ‘Western,‘ was in fact a cosmopolitan, that is, superficially national and superficially Western or European. Ilyich [Lenin], on the other hand, was profoundly national and profoundly European. In his memoirs, Bronstein recalls somebody saying that his theory had proved true… fifteen years later; he responded to the epigram with another epigram. In reality his theory, as such, was good neither fifteen years earlier nor fifteen years later.” (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 168.)

After having opposed Lenin to Trotsky, Gramsci added:

“Bronstein’s theory can be compared to that of certain French syndicalists on the general strike and to Rosa’s [Luxemburg] theory in the little book translated by Alessandri. Rosa’s book and theory, moreover, influenced the French syndicalists.” (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 169.)

2. In his reflections, Gramsci linked the question of the “permanent revolution” to the question of the transition from the “war of maneuver” to the “war of position”. In particular, after the defeat of the revolution in Germany in 1923, and the transition of the worker movement to defensive positions, Gramsci was convinced that the problem of the development of the revolutionary process in Europe had to be redrawn up, understanding the reasons of the temporary ebb and establishing revolutionary tasks appropriate for the new phase.

The observation contained in Notebook 6, §138 is dedicated to this fundamental strategic and tactical question:

“Past and present. Transition from the war of maneuver (and frontal assault) to the war of position – in the political field as well. In my view, this is the most important post-war problem of political theory; it is also the most difficult problem to solve correctly. This is related to the issues raised by Bronstein [Trotsky], who, in one way or another, can be considered the political theorist of frontal assault, at a time when it could only lead to defeat.” (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 109.)

Facing the complex problem of the alternative, or rather of the combination, between “assault tactics” and “siege tactics”, which had been discussed in the Communist International, Gramsci started from a consideration of extraordinary importance, systematically ignored by the revisionists and reformists: “All this indicates that we have entered into the highest phase in the political-historical situation, since in politics the ‘war of position ‘, once won, is definitively decisive.”

On the basis of this consideration, that Gramsci realized by analyzing the profound crisis of the ability of the bourgeoisie to lead and govern, as well as the greater resistance of the State apparatus in the West and the existence of large intermediate social groups, he added in Notebook 7, §16:

“In my view, Ilyich [Lenin] understood the need for a shift from the war of maneuver that had been applied victoriously in the East in 1917, to a war of position, which was the only viable possibility in the West […] This, I believe, is the meaning of the term ‘united front’ [.] Ilyich, however, never had time to develop his formula. One should also bear in mind that Ilyich could only have developed his formula on a theoretical level, whereas the fundamental task was a national one; in other words, it required a reconnaissance of the terrain and an identification of the elements of trench and fortress represented by the components of civil society, etc.” (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 168-169.)

We are here in the heart of the research program that Gramsci developed in the Notebooks. But there was another key aspect of the strategic and tactical methods determined by the historically created relations of forces: that of the Soviet Union. Regarding this question, Gramsci wrote (Notebook 6, §138):

“The war of position calls on enormous masses of people to make huge sacrifices; that is why an unprecedented concentration of hegemony is required and hence a more ‘interventionist’ kind of government that will engage more openly in the offensive against the opponents and ensure, once and for all, the ‘impossibility’ of internal disintegration by putting in place controls of all kinds – political, administrative, etc., reinforcement of the hegemonic positions of the dominant group, etc.” (Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 109.)

It is an open support of Stalin’s line, for the reinforcement of the proletarian dictatorship, a political line that “requires exceptional qualities of patience and inventiveness”, but was the only successful one in that concrete historic situation. A political line diametrically opposed to that of Trotsky.

3. As we have seen, a fundamental aspect of the “war of position” was the defense of Soviet power and the building of socialism. In this last case too, acute problems did arise. The criticism expressed by Gramsci at the beginning of a famous note (Notebook 4, §52) is extremely interesting:

“Americanism and Fordism. The tendency exhibited by Leon Davidovich [Trotsky] was related to this problem. Its essential content was based on the ‘will’ to give supremacy to industry and industrial methods, to accelerate the growth of discipline and orderliness in production through coercive means, to adapt customs to the necessities of work. It would have ended up, necessarily, in a form of Bonapartism; hence it was necessary to break it up inexorably.” (Ibid, Vol. 2, p. 215.)

Gramsci here takes into account one of the crucial questions of the harsh debate that involved the RCP(b) and the Communist International in the 1920s: the question of the forms and rhythms of industrialization and the NEP.

According to Gramsci, Trotsky is the highest representative of a harmful tendency, a kind of “Americanism”, based on coercion, command and the military systems.

That is, the forced and accelerated introduction of forms of production, modes of life and culture tied to the needs of private capital (in fact Gramsci recalled “‘Leon Davidovich’s interest in Americanism. His interest, his articles, his studies on “byt” [life, mode of living] and on literature”. (Ibid, Vol. 2, p. 215.)

In the same note Gramsci affirmed that “the principle of coercion in the sphere of work was correct […] but the form it assumed was wrong.” (Ibid, Vol. 2, p. 215.)

Therefore it was a position incompatible with Leninism, a position which contradicted the “temporary retreat” of the NEP and would lead to the breakup of the alliance with the peasantry and to the ruin of Soviet power. So it was a tendency that had to be smashed, as it would have led to the restoration of capitalism.

Gramsci never evinced doubts on this matter. In fact, on two other occasions he explained and approved of the elimination of Trotsky: in Notebook 14 §76, marking the elimination of Trotsky like “‘an episode of the liquidation “also” of the “black” parliamentarism which existed after the abolition of the “legal” parliament” (Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, International Publisher, New York, 1971, p. 256); and in Notebook 22 (that can be dated to 1934), when, referring to Trotsky’s tendency, he repeated “the inexorable necessity of crushing it”. (Ibid., p. 301).

4. Last but not least, let us look at the note in Notebook 14, §68, in which Gramsci, taking as his starting point the speech of Stalin at Sverdlov University in Moscow (June 9, 1925 – see note at the end of the article), directly contrasting Stalin (Vissarionovich) and Trotsky (Davidovich).

Gramsci writes, deeply examining the question of the relation between internationalism and national policy:

“A work (in the form of questions and answers) by Joseph Vissarionovitch [Stalin] dating from September 1927: it deals with certain key problems of the science and art of politics. The problem which seems to me to need further elaboration is the following: how, according to the philosophy of praxis [Marxism] (as it manifests itself politically) – whether as formulated by its founder [Marx] or particularly as restated by its most recent theoretician [Lenin] – the international situation should be considered in its national aspect. In reality, the internal relations of any nation are the result of a combination which is ‘original’ and (in a certain sense) unique: these relations must be understood and conceived in their originality and uniqueness if one wishes to dominate them and direct them. To be sure, the line of development is towards internationalism, but the point of departure is ‘national‘ – and it is from this point of departure that one must begin. Yet the perspective is international and cannot be otherwise. Consequently, it is necessary to study accurately the combination of national forces which the international class [the proletariat] will have to lead and develop, in accordance with the international perspectives and directives [i.e. those of the Comintern]. [.] It is on this point, in my opinion, that the fundamental disagreement between Leo Davidovich [Trotsky] and Vissarionovitch [Stalin] as interpreter of the majority movement [Bolshevism] really hinges. The accusations of nationalism are inept if they refer to the nucleus of the question. If one studies the majoritarians’ struggle from 1902 up to 1917, one can see that its originality consisted in purging internationalism of every vague and purely ideological (in a pejorative sense) element, to give it a realistic political content.” (Ibid., p. 240-241.)

It is clear as day that Gramsci, tracing the “fundamental disagreement” between Trotsky/Davidovich and Stalin/ Vissarionovitch, shared Stalin’s position, the interpretation of Bolshevism that, in Gramsci’s opinion, correctly put forward and resolved the problem of the combination of national forces that the international class must lead and develop in the perspective of world communism.

One of the best Bolsheviks

In the light of the texts, an interpretation of Gramsci’s thought in a Trotskyist sense is groundless. On the contrary, from Gramsci’s work, including the reflections contained in the Prison Notebooks, there emerges a ruthless criticism of Trotsky.

In all the passages where Gramsci writes about Trotsky the content is always one of a harsh polemic. At the same time, Gramsci positively appraised the positions of Lenin and Stalin; he approved the whole of the Bolshevik policy, including those features that the bourgeoisie and revisionists include in the misleading concept of “totalitarianism”.

There is no text or speech, neither in freedom nor in prison, in which Gramsci expressed a negative opinion much less denigrated the leadership of the Bolshevik Party and comrade Stalin.

The manipulators of modern revisionism, the magicians of “socialism of the 21st century” and all the bourgeois and reactionary intellectuals are completely refuted.

Antonio Gramsci was a great revolutionary leader of the proletariat, a giant of communist thought and action, who always fought against anti-Leninist deviations, who always defended the dictatorship of the proletariat, the system of working-class democracy embodied in the Councils (Soviet), against the false bourgeois democracy and its social-democratic variants (such as today’s “participatory democracy”). He always insisted on the necessity of a revolutionary transformation of the whole of society through the smashing of the bourgeois State, and always remained faithful to Marxism-Leninism and to proletarian socialism, until the last day of his life.

As the Communist International wrote on the occasion of his death, caused by long years of fascist imprisonment and cruelty: “‘Closely linked to the masses, capable of learning in the school of the masses, able to understand all aspects of social life, an unyielding revolutionary, faithful to his last breath to the Communist International and to his own Party, Gramsci leaves to us the memory of one of the best representatives of the generation of Bolsheviks who grew up in the ranks of the Communist International in the spirit of the doctrine of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, in the spirit of Bolshevism.” (Communist International, July, 1937, 435-436.)

To rescue Antonio Gramsci, the great communist leader, from the claws of the bourgeoisie, the revisionists and opportunists is an important task for the revolutionary proletariat.

June 2014
Communist Platform (Italy)

Note: Stalin’s speech, titled Questions and Answers (Works, Vol. 7), was translated into Italian and published in serial form by “L’Unita” in 1926. Gramsci, quoting by memory in jail, by mistake confused the date of that speech with the date (September 1927) of Stalin’s Interview with the First American Labor Delegation, that was also in the form of questions and answers (Works, Vol. 10), of which Gramsci had read an account in a magazine while he was in jail.

The change of dates was not noticed by the editor of the critical edition of Prison Notebooks, Valentino Gerratana, who perpetuated the mistake with a misleading commentary.

Instead it is clear that Gramsci was referring to the Questions and Answers of 1925 (see particularly Stalin’s reply to questions II and IX).

Source

EMEP’s 7th Congress calls on all forces of labour, peace and democracy

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Our 7th General Conference met at a time of critical internal and external political situation. The struggle for supremacy among imperialists led to fierce conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine; this struggle is sharpening with the use of all economic, financial and military means and leading to new imperialist fronts.

The new Ottomanforeign policy of the AKP government and capital, to become a regional power and expand, hit a wall in the face of uncertainty in international relations.

Close relations with religious jihadi terror organisations like Al Qaida and Al Nusra, in an attempt to quickly overthrow the Assad Regime in Syria, are becoming stumbling blocks for the AKP government and Turkish establishment. With their barbarian attacks in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has provided justificationfor the US and other Western powers intervention in the region; they have been borne out of and strengthened in this quagmire of religious terrorism supported also by Turkey. It is impossible to achieve a solution to the benefit of peoples of the Middle East without an end to imperialist interventions and a determined stance against these interventions. On the other hand, secularism has gained an enormous importance for achieving a solution to benefit peoples in the face reactionary religious assertions.

While our party is opposing imperialist attacks and the wars in the Middle East and all over the world, caused by their intervention, we also fully support peoples and nations in their justified fight and wars for national sovereignty and freedom. From this perspective the 7th EMEP Conference condemned all attempts that target the status gained by the Kurdish people in Rojova; and declared that it will continue to stand with the people of Kobani in their fight against ISIS.

The attempts of the AKP government and the forces that support it to achieve one man, one partygovernance is deepening polarisation and opening the door to new conflicts within Turkey. Even the smallest opposition is branded as an attempted coupby the AKP government and its supporters and this is used as justification to bring in reactionary laws, laying the foundation stones of the regime they want to create. AKPs primary aim in the June 2015 election is to achieve a majority big enough to change the Constitution. AKPs show of determination in continuing the resolution periodon the Kurdish issue, the creation of the new Alevite Working Group and the reorganisation of social life and education in a religious framework are all steps in this direction. In reality, to get through the election unscathed, AKP needs the Kurdish and Alevite support and is attempting to woo them.

The defence of a modern way of life; the struggle to free education from religious intervention and replacing it with a scientific, democratic base; and in this perspective the struggle for secularism; these are extremely important but they are only a component of the struggle. The other is the necessary struggle against AKPs unashamed slavery to capital, the corruption and anti-labour policies that increase poverty.

Turkey is second in income inequality among the 34 OECD countries. 12 million people live on the hunger threshold according to TÜİKs family survey. The number of people with an income of less than 130TL is 1 million 640 thousand. According to the Families and Social Policies Department data, 30.5 million people (39.8% of population) are on an income of less than 270TL a week and classified as dependent citizens. While there is 5 million people in unregistered work, the rate of unionisation has gone down to 6%. On number of lethal workplace accidents, Turkey is in the lead in Europe and is third worldwide.

This shows the level of brutal capitalist exploitation in the country. The working class struggles against disorganisation, subcontracting, flexible working, low wages, deaths at work and worsening working conditions through actions such as strikes and occupations of work places. Unfortunately, even before the employers and the government, it is the union officials that stand in the way of these actions. Hence it is not a surprise that, while workers are ready to face anything to organise and unionise, union bureaucracy is going through its most discredited standingin history. Our party is wholly in the service of the workers in their struggle against capitalist exploitation and the oppression.

Our country is one of the most affected by the migration caused by the huge immigration caused by the conflicts in the Middle East. In the face of classical capital attempts to divide and rule; the demands for housing, work and the right to organise of migrant workers (equal pay of equal work) is a necessity of internationalism and the only correct stance serving the benefits of our workers.

The irreversible plundering of all farmlands, forests and rivers to build HES, RES and nuclear reactors continue in a rage fuelled by capitalist profit. The latest of these is the butchery of 6 thousand olive trees in the village of Yırca in SOMA. The issue of the environment, while becoming a leading field of struggle against capitalism, has also become a factor that encourages villagers to be a part of the struggle for democracy and freedoms.

Deepening gender inequality and reaction that ‘naturalisesinequality turns womens lives into hell. women are today more traditionalist, favouring patriarchal dominance; and are subjected to conservative oppression, fatalism and reaction summarised by fıtrat’. The attitude of the government is increasing the violent aggression against and the exploitation of womens labour and poverty. Womens struggle for real equality and peace are increased in this period of wars, inequality and deepening conditions of exploitation.

Turkish youth have come to the fore with their militancy, bravery and mass demonstrations, especially during the June Resistance and struggles that followed. Our 7th Congress, in drawing attention to our responsibility in enhancing the youth work within the party, stressed the vital importance of understanding among the youth of the scientific worldview of the working class.

The problems faced by the forces of labour, democracy and peace makes united struggle a necessity. Our Party has approached the issue of alliance on the basis of class and tries to unite the widest bases possible against imperialism and collaborative reaction. It has taken its place in (People’s Democratic Congress (HDK – a front of forces of labour, democracy and peace) with this understanding. At this stage, we need a union of democratic forces that will encompass even the HDK. Our Party will continue to fulfil its duties within HDK, while continuing its efforts to establish a wider front of struggle for democratic powers.

EMEP‘s 7th Congress calls on all forces of labour, peace and democracy to contribute to organising the United Democratic Front, in order to achieve the resolution of the Kurdish issue on a basis of equal rights, the end of discrimination on the basis of beliefs, real secularism, the removal of the barriers to political-unionised organisation, unhindered freedoms of speech, press and organisation, etc.

Labour Party (EMEP)
DECEMBER 2014

Source

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on the Spanish Civil War

1936 March of Leningrad for Spain

Spanish Revolution of 1931–39

a revolution during which there evolved in Spain a democratic republic which for about three years from the middle of 1936 struggled for its existence, waging a national revolutionary war against fascist insurgents and Italo-German invaders. The specific features of the Spanish Revolution were in large measure attributable to certain distinctive characteristics of Spain’s historical development, above all the exceptional vitality of feudal vestiges (the landlords, who are the chief heirs of the feudal traditions, have formed a close alliance with the financial-industrial oligarchy in the years of the fascist regime). The axis of the political struggle that unfolded on the eve of the revolutionary eruption was the antagonism between the bloc of landowning aristocracy and the financial oligarchy (its dominance personified by the monarchy) and the Spanish people as a whole. The contradictions of the social and political system that prevailed were exacerbated by the economic crisis that enveloped Spain in the middle of 1930.

Striving to avert the collapse of the monarchy, which then ruled Spain, the government of Berenguer, which had replaced the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera in January 1930, issued a decree scheduling elections to the Cortes for March 19. This maneuver failed, because with the revolutionary upsurge in the country the opposition forces refused to take part in the elections and forced Berenguer to resign (Feb. 14, 1931). King Alfonso XIII (ruled 1902–31) named Admiral Aznar as head of the government in place of General Berenguer. The new government immediately announced municipal-council elections for April 12. The elections developed into a decisive antimonarch-ical plebiscite. The republicans won the elections in every city in Spain. The overwhelming majority of Spain’s population came out for a republic. The day after the elections, the leader of the Catalonian national movement, Maciá, proclaimed the creation of a Catalonian republic. On Apr. 14, 1931, the Revolutionary Committee (created by leaders of the bourgeois republican movement on the basis of the Pact of San Sebastián of 1930) gathered in the Ministry of Internal Affairs building and formed a provisional government, headed by Alcalá-Zamora (leader of the Democratic Liberal Party). That day the king abdicated. On June 27, 1931, the Constituent Cortes assembled and on Dec. 9, 1931, adopted a republican constitution.

This peaceful revolution took power away from the landowning aristocracy and big bourgeoisie; the bloc that took over represented the entire bourgeoisie except certain groups of monopoly capitalists. Striving to build themselves a base among the masses, the bourgeoisie recruited the Socialist Party to participate in the government. In December 1931 the pressure of the masses led to the removal from power of the two most right-wing political parties in the government bloc: the Conservatives (led by M. Maura) and the Radicals (led by A. Lerroux). Leadership of the government proved to be in the hands of petit bourgeois republicans, who did not take the path of radical socioeconomic reforms. The new bourgeois-democratic system preserved the latifundia system, rent in kind, and métayage (sharecropping) and failed to carry out an agrarian reform—a reform that was so essential for Spain, “a country of land without people and people without land,” and one demanded by millions of downtrodden peasants and farm workers. Republican and Socialist ministers alienated the masses from the republic, pursuing a policy of flirtation with reactionaries and of violence against the working class and the peasantry, thereby clearing the path for counterrevolutionary forces that started to prepare to restore the old order. That is why the military revolt of Aug. 10, 1932, led by General Sanjurjo, became possible, but it was quickly suppressed because of retaliatory action by the masses (Sanjurjo, who was first sentenced to death and then to 30 years in prison, was released in 1934 by the Lerroux government). In September 1933, as a result of a drive by the reactionaries, the Socialists were ousted from the government. The split in the Republican-Socialist bloc, which resulted from the government’s contradictory and inconsistent domestic policy, produced a political crisis. The republican parties, under the pressure of rightist forces, split into small groups. The parliament was dissolved. New elections (Nov. 19, 1933) brought victory to the Radical Party and the right-wing profascist forces. The Socialist Party lost almost half of its seats.

Having scored a victory in the 1933 elections, the reactionaries were in a position to seize power legally and to undermine the republic from within. With this objective, the reactionary forces merged into the Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA), headed by Gil Robles. In early October 1934 the CEDA, after a series of preparatory maneuvers, joined the government.

During this period the Communist Party of Spain (CPS; created in 1920) was becoming the leader and organizer of the masses, which were uniting against the forces of counterrevolution. The Communist Party advanced agrarian reform as the most important measure aimed at democratizing the country. It demanded that the domination of the country’s economic and social life by large national and foreign banks and monopolies be restricted. The party strongly supported the right to self-determination of Catalonia, the Basque Provinces, and Galicia, the granting of full independence to Morocco, and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from North Africa. In the opinion of the Communists, the republic had to carry out a democratic rejuvenation of the state apparatus and above all of the command of the Spanish Army. The Communist Party contended that it was essential for the consistent democratization of the country that the working class act as the leader of the popular masses, with the unification of all the forces of the working class being the most important precondition of this democratization. Therefore, the party made the struggle for the unity of the working class the mainspring of its policy. The policy of unity was making headway in the masses; it also found a sympathetic response in the ranks of the Socialist Party, which was going through an acute crisis since the party had been ousted from the government. While the defeat and failure of their policy prodded some Socialist leaders into an overt move to the right, toward liberalism, and into an abandonment of class positions, a segment of the leadership closer to the proletariat, led by F. Largo Caballero, actively joined the antifascist struggle. This made it possible during 1934 to achieve the first successes in establishing unity of action between the Communist and Socialist parties.

When the CEDA joined the government on Oct. 4, 1934, the masses, led by the Socialist and Communist parties, immediately expressed their opposition. A general strike was declared in Spain, which in Asturias, the Basque Provinces, Catalonia, and Madrid grew into an armed revolt. The struggle was sharpest and broadest in Asturias. The government flung against the working people units of the Foreign Legion and Moroccan units, which dealt with the Asturian miners with particular brutality. The repressions against the rebel movement in October 1934 were led by General F. Franco, who was already preparing a plot against the republic. Although the October Uprising of 1934 was defeated because of inadequate preparation and lack of coordination of action, it was able to delay the realization of the reactionaries’ plans and generate throughout the country a mass movement of solidarity with the insurgents and hatred for the reactionaries, thus preparing conditions for the formation of the Popular Front.

Two months after the struggle in Asturias ended, an underground liaison committee of the leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties was created at the initiative of the Communist Party. In May 1935 the CPS, enjoying the support of the antifascist bloc that had been in operation for several months, proposed to the Socialist Party that a popular front be formed. But the Socialist Party, under the pretext that it was unwilling to cooperate with the bourgeois republican parties that had expelled it from the government, refused. Although the Communist proposal was not accepted on a nationwide scale, numerous local Popular Front committees and committees of liaison between the Socialists and Communists sprang up, and they carried out the policy of unity in practice. Based on the decisions of the seventh congress on the Comintern (July 25-Aug. 20, 1935, in Moscow), the Communist Party began exploiting the successes achieved in creating the Popular Front. In December 1935 the General Confederation of United Workers, which was under Communist influence, joined the General Union of Workers (UGT), which was led by the Socialists. This was an important step toward trade union solidarity.

In December 1935, under the pressure of the masses, the reactionary government was forced to resign. The new government was headed by the bourgeois democrat Portela Valladares, who dissolved parliament and scheduled new elections. This was a victory for the democratic forces that hastened the creation of the Popular Front. On Jan. 15, 1936, a pact was signed forming the Popular Front, which incorporated the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Left Republican Party, the Republican Alliance, the UGT, and a number of minor political groups. The anarchist National Confederation of Labor (CNT) remained outside the Popular Front, although rank-and-file CNT members collaborated with workers of other political orientations despite the sectarian tactics of their leaders. In the elections held February 16, the democratic forces scored a convincing victory. The Popular Front parties won 268 of 480 seats in parliament.

The triumph of the Popular Front inspired Spain’s progressive forces to struggle for the implementation of a profound democratic transformation. Large street demonstrations held in Madrid and other cities attested to the determination of the masses to solidify and develop their victory. The people demanded the release of political prisoners, and this demand was met without delay. The influence of the Communist Party was on the increase: its membership totaled 30,000 in Feburary 1936, 50,000 in March, 60,000 in April, 84,000 in June, and 100,000 in July. The Popular Front, whose leading force was the working class, grew stronger. The merger of the Socialist and Communist youth organizations into the United Socialist Youth (April 1936) laid the foundations for the unity of the entire youth movement. In Catalonia, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia was created as a result of the merger of four workers’ parties (July 1936). The Popular Front revived the prospect of a peaceful and parliamentary development of the democratic revolution. The result of the Popular Front’s victory was a republican government supported by the Socialists and Communists, who did not belong to it. The Communist Party favored creation of a Popular Front government, but the Socialist Party objected to this.

The governments of Azańa (Feb. 19-May 12, 1936) and Casares Quiroga (May 12-July 18, 1936), formed after the victory of the Popular Front, did not take account of the stern lessons of the first years of the republic and failed to implement the necessary measures to defend the democratic system. The majority of reactionary generals and leaders were in their old places in the army (including Franco, Mola, Goded, Queipo de Llano, Aranda, Cabanellas, and Yagüe), where they were preparing a plot against the republic. In close contact with such reactionary political groups as the Spanish Falange (the fascist party), founded in 1933, and the Rejuvenation of Spain organization, headed by Calvo Sotelo, a former minister under dictator Primo de Rivera (whose rule lasted from Sept. 13, 1923, to Jan. 28, 1930), these generals completed preparations for the revolt. They were backed by a landowning and financial oligarchy, which was striving to establish a fascist dictatorship and thereby solidify its position in the country.

In preparing the revolt against the republic, the reactionaries leaned on the support of Hitler and Mussolini. As early as 1934, representatives of Spanish reaction concluded an agreement in Rome with Mussolini, who promised to provide arms and money to extreme right-wing Spanish forces. In March 1936, after the victory of the Popular Front, General Sanjurjo (who was to have led the revolt; his death in a plane crash on July 20, 1936, opened the way for General Franco to become the principal leader) and the leader of the Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, set off for Berlin to settle the details of fascist Germany’s participation in the struggle against the Spanish people. On July 16, General Mola notified all the generals taking part in the conspiracy that the revolt would begin on July 18 and develop over the next two days. Military men serving in Morocco acted ahead of schedule (on the morning of July 17). The first units used by the insurgents were mostly soldiers of the Foreign Legion (11,000) and Moroccan soldiers (14,000). The military, after brutally crushing isolated attempts at resistance, took over the cities of Melilla, Ceuta, and T–touan. On July 18 the conspirators who rose up on the Iberian Peninsula captured Cédiz and Sevilla.

The fascist military revolt left the republic without an army. In a situation that demanded energetic and immediate action, the most prominent republican leaders showed weakness and indecision. The head of the government, Casares Quiroga (Left Republican Party), and Azańa, the president of the republic (since May 1936), opposed until the last moment arming the people and attempted to reach an agreement with the insurgents. But the working class and the popular masses would not agree to the surrender that the government was proposing to them. As soon as word of the revolt in Morocco reached Madrid, all enterprises ceased operation and the people came out into the streets, demanding arms from the government to defend the republic. A Communist Party delegation went to the head of the government and endorsed the demands of the masses. On July 18 a commission of representatives of the Popular Front again visited Casares Quiroga and demanded that the people be armed.

A formidable popular wave rose up to repel the reactionary revolt. Casares Quiroga, who had lost control of the situation, resigned. President Azańa charged D. Martines Barrio (leader of the Republican Alliance) with forming a government that was to reach an agreement with the insurgents, which in effect would mean surrender. A vigorous protest by the people foiled this attempt. On July 19 a new government, headed by one of the leaders of the Left Republican Party, José Giral, took office. However, three days were lost in disputes about whether to arm the people, and the conspirators used these days of vacillation to capture 23 cities. The people paid with their blood for the vacillation of the republican leaders.

Nonetheless, the insurgents soon became convinced of the determination of the popular masses to block fascism. In Barcelona and Madrid the revolt was quickly suppressed. Workers, peasants, artisans, and intelligentsia throughout Spain rose up to defend the republic.

In early August 1936 the advantage was still with the republic. The republicans still had Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia, Asturias, the Basque Provinces, New Castile, Murcia, and a large part of Estremadura. The republic controlled the chief industrial and mining centers, the ports (including Barcelona, Bilbao, Santander, Málaga, Almería, and Cartagena) and the richest agricultural areas. The revolt, for the most part, was suppressed. The republic was saved from the first fascist onslaught.

The Spanish working masses succeeded in defeating the fascist revolt because of the Communists persistent attempts to achieve unity of action among the workers and all antifascists and to obtain mutual understanding and concord between the Communist and Socialist parties.

After the first blows dealt to the insurgents, the war could have ended if it had been waged within a national framework, but Hitler and Mussolini came to the reactionaries’ aid, sending German and Italian troops equipped with modern weapons. This altered the character of the war that had unfolded in Spain. It was no longer a civil war. As a result of the foreign intervention, the war for the Spanish people turned into a national-revolutionary war: national because Spain’s integrity and national independence were being defended and revolutionary because it was a war for freedom and democracy against fascism.

To some degree the war in Spain affected every country, every people, and every government. To carry out his aggressive plans aimed against Europe and the whole world, Hitler needed the Iberian Peninsula as a strategic base to move into France’s rear, to obtain control of routes to Africa and the Orient, and to get closer to the American continent. The British, French, and American governments not only allowed Hitler to carry out open intervention in Spain but aided his aggressive plans by declaring with regard to the republic and the Spanish people the criminal policy of “nonintervention,” which was crucial to the outcome of the war in Spain and hastened the unleashing of World War II.

The Italo-German intervention played a decisive role in the first stage of the war in Spain and, as the republicans’ resistance grew, took on greater and greater scope. Mussolini dispatched 150,000 soldiers, including several divisions that had had combat experience in Ethiopia. The Italian Navy, which included submarines, was operating in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian aircraft deployed in Spain carried out 86, 420 sorties (during the war in Ethiopia they carried out 3,949 sorties) and 5,319 bombings, during which 11,585 tons of explosives were dropped on Spanish communities.

Hitler’s contribution to Franco was a sizable quantity of planes, tanks, artillery, and communications facilities and thousands of officers, who were supposed to train and organize the Franco army; he also sent the Condor Legion, under General Sperrle and later under Richthofen and Volkmann. The fact that 26,113 German servicemen were decorated by Hitler for services in the war in Spain shows the scale of German intervention.

Large US monopolies did their bit to support the insurgents: in 1936 Franco received from Standard Oil and other US companies 344,000 tons of fuel; this rose to 420,000 tons in 1937, 478,000 tons in 1938, and 624,000 tons in 1939 (according to the data of H. Feis, an economic officer of the US embassy in Madrid). Deliveries of American trucks (12,000 from Ford, Stude-baker, and General Motors) were of no less importance for the insurgents. At the same time the USA prohibited the sale of arms, planes, and fuel to the Spanish Republic. The USSR, which resolutely rose to the defense of Spanish democracy, supplied the republicans with arms despite all kinds of difficulties. Soviet volunteers, mostly tanktroops and pilots, fought for the republic. A broad movement of solidarity unfolded in support of the republic’s struggle, exemplified by the International Brigades, which were organized chiefly by Communist parties.

The heroic struggle of the Spanish people and their first victories were the best proof that fascism could be fought and defeated. Yet the Labor and Socialist International, by turning down repeated proposals by the Comintern to unite the efforts of the international workers’ movement in defense of the Spanish people, in effect supported the policy of nonintervention..

For 32½ months, from July 17, 1936, to Apr. 1, 1939, the Spanish people resisted fascist aggression in extraordinarily difficult conditions. In the first stage, until the spring of 1937, the main tasks were the struggle for the creation of a people’s army and the defense of the capital, which was threatened by the insurgents and interventionists. On Aug. 8, 1936, the fascists captured Badajoz, and on September 3 they took Talavera de la Reina, about 100 km from Madrid.

To combat the increased threat, a new republican government, headed by F. Largo Caballero, the leader of the Socialists, was formed on September 4; it included all the parties of the Popular Front, including the Communist Party. Some time later the Basque National Party joined the government. On Oct. 1, 1936, the Republican Cortes approved the Statute of the Basque Provinces, and on October 7 an autonomous government headed by Aguirre, a Catholic, was created in Bilbao. On Nov. 4, 1936, representatives of the CNT were incorporated into the Largo Caballero government.

By November 6, Franco’s troops had approached the outskirts of Madrid. During this period the historic slogan of Madrid’s defenders was heard round the world: “They shall not pass!” The fascist troops crashed into the steely heroism of the republican fighters, the fighters of the International Brigades, and the entire population of Madrid, who rose to defend every street and every house. In February 1937 the fascists’ attempts to encircle Madrid collapsed as a result of the Jarama operation conducted by the republican army. On March 8–20, 1937, the people’s army won a victory near Guadalajara, where several regular divisions of Mussolini’s army were smashed. Franco had to abandon his plan to take Madrid. The center of gravity of the hostilities shifted to northern Spain, to the region of the Basque iron mines.

The heroic defense of Madrid demonstrated the correctness of the policy of the Communist Party of Spain, which aimed at creating a people’s army capable of repulsing the enemy and which was being carried out despite the resistance of Largo Caballero. He was increasingly falling under the influence of the anarchists and of professional military men who did not believe in the victory of the people. His complicity with the anarchist adventurists caused the takeover of Mélaga by the fascists on Feb. 14, 1937. Largo Caballero’s connivance enabled anarchic Trotskyist groups, in which enemy agents were operating, to whip up a putsch in Barcelona on May 3, 1937, against the republican government. The putsch was suppressed by the Catalonian working people under the leadership of the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia. The seriousness of the situation dictated the persistent necessity of radically changing the policy of the republican government. On May 17, 1937, a new Popular Front government was created, headed by Socialist J. Negrín.

In the second stage of the war (from the spring of 1937 until the spring of 1938), many of the members of the UGT, which was led by Largo Caballero, and the CNT refused to support the new government; nevertheless, successes were achieved in the creation of an army, which was able to launch offensive operations near Brunete (in July 1937) and Belchite (in August-September 1937). But Largo Caballero left a grim legacy behind him. The situation in northern Spain was extremely difficult, and there was no possibility of holding back the fascist offensive, which was not effectively opposed by the bourgeois-nationalist policy of the government of the Basque Provinces. This government preferred to yield the enterprises of Bilbao intact to the fascists and did not organize consistent resistance. On June 20 the fascists entered Bilbao, and on August 26 Santander fell. Asturias resisted until the end of October 1937.

In order to thwart Franco’s new drive on Madrid, the republican army launched an offensive of its own on December 15 and captured the city of Teruel. However, as at Guadalajara, this success was not exploited by the government. A negative feature of this stage of the war was the activity of the minister of defense, the Socialist I. Prieto. Fanatically anticommunist and lacking any faith in the people, he impeded the strengthening of the popular army, seeking to replace it with a professional army. Events quickly proved that this policy was leading to defeat.

Having solidified his forces thanks to new aid from the Germans and Italians, the enemy broke through the Aragon front on Mar. 9, 1938. On April 15 the fascist troops reached the Mediterranean Sea, having cut the republic’s territory in two. The grave military situation was further complicated by the policy of direct complicity with the fascist aggressors that was being pursued by the Western countries. Without encountering any resistance from Great Britain, the USA, or France, Hitler seized Austria in March 1938. On Apr. 16, 1938, Chamberlain signed an agreement with Mussolini that signified Britain’s tacit consent to the Italian troops’ participation in the struggle on Franco’s side. In these conditions a capitulationist outlook began to crystallize in the ruling circles of the Spanish Republic, an outlook fostered by Socialist leaders such as J. Besteiro and Prieto, some republican leaders, and the heads of the Federation of Iberian Anarchists (FAI).

The Communist Party warned the nation of the mortal danger. A mighty patriotic surge engulfed the Spanish people, who at enormous demonstrations, such as the one on Mar. 16, 1938, in Barcelona, demanded that capitulationist ministers be ousted from the government. With the formation on April 8 of the second Negrín government, in which the previous parties were joined by both trade union centers (the UGT and the CNT), the war entered a new period. The Communist Party of Spain began to fight for a broad national alliance aimed at achieving mutual understanding among all the patriotic forces and resolving the military conflict on the basis of guarantees of national independence, sovereignty, and respect for the democratic rights of the Spanish people. The expression of this policy was the so-called Thirteen Points, published on May 1, 1938. The points provided for the postwar declaration of a general amnesty and the holding of a plebiscite in which the Spanish people would choose their form of government without foreign interference.

In order for the policy of national alliance to make headway, it was necessary to intensify resistance and strike hard at the fascists. By May 1938 the situation on the front had stabilized. On July 25, 1938, the republican army, which was defending a line on the Ebro River and was led mostly by Communist military commanders, suddenly attacked and broke through the enemy’s fortifications, demonstrating its readiness and high combat capacity. The Spanish people again displayed miracles of heroism. But the capitulationists, who had entrenched themselves at headquarters and other command posts, paralyzed the operations of other fronts while the army units on the Ebro were exhausting their resources in repelling the attacks of Franco’s main forces. The governments of Paris and London continued to tighten the noose of nonintervention.

On Dec. 23, 1938, with Italian troops in the vanguard and enjoying a huge superiority in equipment, Franco began an offensive in Catalonia. On Jan. 26, 1939, he took Barcelona, and by mid-February all of Catalonia had been occupied by the fascists. On February 9 a British squadron sailed up to Minorca and forced that island to surrender to Franco.

Despite the loss of Catalonia, the republic still had the possibility of continuing resistance in the central and southern zone. While the Communist Party exerted all its efforts in the struggle against fascism, the capitulationists, incited by the imperialist circles of Great Britain and encouraged by Negrín’s vacillations in the last phase of the war, rebelled against the legal government on Mar. 5, 1939. In Madrid they created a junta headed by Colonel Casado that included Socialist and Anarchist leaders. Under the pretext of negotiations for an “honorable peace,” the junta stabbed the people in the back by opening the gates of Madrid (Mar. 28, 1939) to the hordes of fascist murderers.

Two Spains collided in the National Revolutionary War of 1936–39—the Spain of reaction and the Spain of progress and democracy. The revolutionary character, political maturity, and social and political conceptions of workers’ organizations and of leftist political parties were tested. In those days of difficult struggle, the political role of party leaders was determined above all by their attitude toward unity. Those leaders of the Socialists, Anarchists, and republicans who really tried to strengthen the alliance of democratic forces made an invaluable contribution to the cause of combating fascism. The Communist Party of Spain was the soul of the Popular Front, the driving force of the resistance to aggression. Honor is due to the Communist Party for creating the 5th Regiment—the foundation of the popular army. To counter the reckless Anarchist policy of coercive collectivization, the Communists put forth a program of turning land over to the peasants and, after joining the government, implemented this program, carrying out a radical agrarian reform in Spain for the first time. The nationalities policy of the Communist Party contributed to the adoption of the Statute of the Basque Provinces. At the initiative of the Communists, institutes and universities were opened to workers and peasants, who were guaranteed their previous earnings. Women began to receive wages on a par with men.

Not only were big landowners stripped of their property, but large banks and enterprises came under the control of the democratic state. During the war the republic radically changed its class essence. Workers and peasants played the leading role in it. A sizable segment of the new army was commanded by revolutionary workers. During the war a new type of democratic republic evolved in Spain, created by the efforts and blood of the popular masses.

The Spanish popular-democratic republic lives in the memory of the Spanish people, who continue the struggle for liberation from the yoke of fascism.

REFERENCES

Diaz, J. Pod znamenem Narodnogo fronta: Rechi i stat’i, 1935–1937. Moscow, 1937. (Translated from Spanish.)
Díaz, J. “Ob urokakh voiny ispanskogo naroda (1936–1939).” Bol’ shevik, 1940, no. 4. (Translated from Spanish.)
Díaz, J. Tres años de lucha. Barcelona, 1939.
Ibárruri, D. V bor’be: Izbr. stat’i i vystupleniia 1936–1939. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i ispanskii rabo-chii klass. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. Edinstvennyi put’. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from Spanish.)
Ibárruri, D. “Natsional’no-revoliutsionnaia voina ispanskogo naroda protiv italo-germanskikh interventov i fashistskikh miatezhnikov (1936–1939),” Voprosy istorii, 1953, no. 11.
Istoriia Kommunisticheskoi partii Ispanii: Kratkii kurs. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from Spanish.)
Voina i revoliutsiia v Ispanii, 1936–1939, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Spanish.)
El Partido comunista por la libertad y la independencia de España. Valencia, 1937.
Lister, E. La defensa de Madrid, batalla de unidad. Paris, 1947.
García, J. Ispaniia Narodnogo fronta. Moscow, 1957.
García, J. Ispaniia XX veka. Moscow, 1967.
Minlos, B. R. Agrarnyi vopros v Ispanii. Moscow, 1934.
Maidanik, K. L. Ispanskii proletariat v natsional’no-revoliutsionnoi voine 1936–1937 gg. Moscow, 1960.
Ovinnikov, R. S. Za kulisami politiki “nevmeshatel’stva.” Moscow, 1959.
Maiskii, I. M. Ispanskie tetradi. Moscow, 1962.
Ponomareva, L. V. Rabochee dvizhenie v Ispanii vgody revoliutsii, 19311934. Moscow, 1965.
Dokumenty ministerstva inostrannykh del Germanii. Vol. 3: German-skaia politika i Ispaniia (1936–1943 gg.). Moscow, 1946.
Epopée d’Espagne: Brigades internationales, 1936–1939. Paris, 1957.
Alvarez del Vayo, J. Freedom’s Battle. New York, 1940.
Cattell, D. Communism and the Spanish Civil War. Berkeley, 1955.
Norden, A. Die Spanische Tragödie. Berlin, 1956.
Taylor, F. The United States and the Spanish Civil War. New York, 1956.

D. IBARRURI

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KKE (1918-55) (Anasintaxi): Video and Photos from Presentation of Books

K. Natsikas (member of the PC of Anasintaxi), S. Zachariadis, T. Mpallos, et al.

K. Natsikas (member of the PC of Anasintaxi), S. Zachariadis, T. Mpallos, et al.

Alexis Parnis (poet and close friend of N. Zachariadis) and Tassos Mpallos

Alexis Parnis (poet and close friend of N. Zachariadis) and Tassos Mpallos

Sifis (Josef) Zachariadis under his father’s portrait

Sifis (Josef) Zachariadis under his father’s portrait

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KKE (1918-55) (Anasintaxi): BOYCOTT the elections – The elections do not solve the problem of imperialist DEPENDANCE (economic-political-military, NATO bases etc.), nor repel-cancel ongoing EU politics against the people

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GREECE OUT OF EURO – EU RIGHT NOW

The elections do not solve the problem of imperialist DEPENDANCE (economic-political-military, NATO bases etc.), nor repel-cancel ongoing EU politics against the people

BOYCOTT THE ELECTIONS

Effective ONLY WAY: All-worker’s UNITY and intensity of the class struggle against the EU and its local chapter  – Militant MASSIVE demonstrations

In the last 6 years with the open and complete collapse of the economy all known myths of “equal participation in the EU”, “the country’s economic development”, “convergence of the economies of EU member-countries, “continuous growth of prosperity “, etc., etc. collapsed completely.

Today the status of the country, the working class and the people is very bad, worse than ever:

1. Extreme deepening of imperialist DEPENDENCE whilst stifling international financial control and strict supervision for decades by European Commission-ECB-IMF,
2. indebtedness of the country with a huge external ever-growing debt which is a loop neck of the country and younger generations,
3. deep protracted economic cyclical crisis of overproduction, dropping production, mass closure of businesses, falling exports, etc., etc.,
4. large and rapid increase of mass unemployment, the actual amount of around 2,000,000 and for young people reaches a percentage of 65-70%, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to migrate permanently creating an unprecedented haemorrhage,
5. beyond the intensive exploitation and annihilation of all the conquests of the workers, there were: a large reduction of salaries and pensions, unprecedented cuts in social spending (health, education, etc.) And huge increases in taxes and prices, etc., which led to a great sharp deterioration of the situation of the working class and the people and lasting deepening of the process of absolute misery of the proletariat,
6. restrictions on democratic freedoms, deepening fascistation and dangerous rise of fascist and Nazi-fascist forces (“Golden Dawn” -LAOS etc.).

Despite the above and although, both basic and key issues of the struggle of the working class and the country which are directly and closely tied with the EU: that of DEPENDENCE and the attacks-measures against the people, have extreme worsen: ie.

first, with the constant deepening of DEPENDANCE has major negative impacts on the country, but also the continuous provocative interference in its internal affairs on all levels, even in the current election campaign, (see statements by Juncker, Moscovici, Schaeuble, et al. )

second, with durable continuous unpopular measures, not imposed only by the local capital but also directly from the EU,

NONE of the political parties, bourgeois and reformist, is not in favor of Greece’s immediate exit of Euro-EMU-European Union

In contrary ALL the bourgeois parties are in favor of Greece’s STAY in imperialist European Union, and in EURO-EMU and propagate consciously, serve the interests of the EU imperialists with misleading MYTH-fantasies about “equal participation” (!) of the country in the “pit of lions” of the powerful European monopolies. At the same time the propagate that Greece leaving the Euro-EMU-EU will be a “major disaster” (!).

ALL the reformist social democratic parties (“K” KE-SYRIZA, etc.) and the extra-parliamentary organizations follow the same strategic choice of the EU monopolies and the local capital.

It is not only SYRIZA which supports the country STAY EURO-EMU-EU, but also the “K” KE: “A solution outside the euro and return to the drachma in the present circumstances would be catastrophic” (A. Papariga, “Rizospastis” 31/5/2011, p.6)

Moreover: the leaders of the “K” KE definitively renounced the anti-imperialist struggle for the overthrow of dependence.

[…]

In order the working class and the workers to defend their class interests against the attacks of the local and foreign capital (EU, etc.) they have to fight against capital and local governments but also EU in conjunction with the struggle against imperialist DEPENDENCE generally, particularly that of the EU and for the here and now, EXIT of Greece from Euro-EMU-EU.

Alongside they have to fight against nationalism and fascism

The ONLY EFFECTIVE WAY is the unity of all workers and intensity of the class struggle against the EU and the local capitali with MASSIVE militant protests.

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PCOF: Statement on the attack on Charlie Hebdo

CharlieHebdo

Yes to the fight for freedom of expression
No to obscurantism and xenophobia
No to “national unity” with reaction
Yes to solidarity and brotherhood

The murder of 12 people, including the main cartoonists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo, arouses great emotion and anger among our people.

It is freedom of expression, of criticism, of the right to ridicule, that the perpetrators of this dastardly murder wanted to kill. It is to say “no”, we will not back down, we will not be intimidated, that tens of thousands of people took to the streets on the night of the attack, which aims to spread terror and to create fear.

The other message of these rallies is the refusal to condemn anything that fuels Islamophobia.

For weeks, “intellectuals” have been pouring out their hatred against Islam in front of microphones and on TV shows. Today, the places frequented by Muslims are the targets of attack. As we said in our press release of January 7, “We need to stop the exploitation of religion, of any kind, to divide and undermine the values of brotherhood and tolerance.” That is why we defend secularism, the right of everyone to believe or not to believe, the right to criticize any religion, to ridicule it.

The President of the Republic reiterated forcefully that France is at war against terrorism. This speech is reminiscent of that of Bush after September 11. Much of the media and many politicians are repeating that comparison and calling, together with him, for “national unity.”

We do not want this “national unity.”

It is true that Hollande and his government are engaged in real wars on several fronts: in Mali, the Sahel and, in coalitions as in Iraq. These wars are not only bound to fail – just look at the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan – but they fuel the jihadist groups with men and supporters. That is why our party and others have always denounced this war policy, which is accompanied by alliances with reactionary forces and which are part of the dangerous vision of the “clash of civilizations.”

We do not want more national unity with the right. A right that finds it normal for this unity to include the National Front.

In the present context, it is not that “national unity” that we need, but to unite in the fight against the policy of poverty and war, for the brotherhood and solidarity among the peoples.

The unity for which we fight is the unity of the people, of the working class around its interests and those of the peoples. It is the unity in the fight for social progress, for democracy.

Paris, January 8, 2015

Communist Party of the Workers of France
Site: http://www.pcof.net
Email: pcof@pcof.net

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Workers’ Communist Party of France (PCOF) on the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

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From the newspaper La Forge
Central Organ of the Workers’ Communist Party of France

The attack against Charlie Hebdo that left many dead and injured is a barbaric act.

We strongly condemn it and our thoughts go to the victims, their families, and the employees of the magazine and we promise them our solidarity.

It is an action with the purpose to create fear and is an attack on the right to free information and expression. As a paper we join efforts to defend its democratic rights, though there has for some time existed an unhealthy environment for the defense and apology of racism, intolerance and a normalization of reactionary ideas. We declare that it must stop the exploitation of religion, whatever it is, to divide and undermine the values of fraternity and tolerance.

We will participate in the rally in Paris at the Republic Square tonight at 17 o’clock, and we call upon our comrades and friends to participate in initiatives that will take place in other cities.

Paris, January 7, 2014
pcof@pcof.net
enavant@club-internet.fr

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