Katyn Massacre - "The Lost 10,000"
By Louis FitzGibbon
In his magnum opus, Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn says:
"They took those who were too independent, too influential, too noteworthy; they took particularly many Poles from former Polish provinces. (It was then that ill-fated Katyn was filled up; and then too that in the northern camps they stockpiled fodder for the future army of Sikorski and Anders)".
But 'Katyn' is a collective word used to embrace not only those 4,500 found in the forest of that name, but a further 10,000 murdered at the same time. These were the men imprisoned at Starobielsk Camp (about 4,000) and at Ostashkow Camp (about 6,000). It is customary to refer to them briefly as "the other 10,000 - whose whereabouts have remained a mystery." But 10,000 murdered prisoners cannot be dismissed in so short a sentence. This figure represents perhaps the total population of a sizeable town, or if seen as an army advancing across the plain it would appear a mighty host indeed. One thing is certain: just as no word ever came from the 4,500 Poles in Kozielsk camp after May 1940, so too was nothing again heard after that date from the 4,000 in Starobielsk camp, nor from the 6,000 in Ostashkow camp. They could not just vanish, and their bodies must be somewhere. But where?
At this point it is interesting to note that when the Germans first uncovered the corpses in Katyn forest they gave out that they had found 11,000. They did this for propaganda purposes and later amended the figure to the true one of 4,254. However, the Soviets also used the figure of 11,000 when trying to pin Katyn on Hermann Goering at Nuremberg, but there was a far more cynical reason. After all the Soviets knew the true figure as they had carried out the massacre. But they quoted 11,000 at Nuremberg in an effort to smudge the truth and somehow 'lose' the victims from Starobielsk and Ostashkow. As most people now know the Soviet accusation about Katyn fell to the ground and it is a matter for international shame that the whole subject was dropped and no mention of Katyn appears in the final judgement of the Nuremberg trials. So in this strange way some 10,000 men were seemingly made to disappear as if they had never existed at all. It is for that reason that I have entitled this lecture: "The Lost 10,000."
No Historical Review would be complete until every effort has been made to unravel this man-made mystery, compounded as it is by the cowardice of the international community in creating the "cover-up" which has banned the whole subject of Katyn from the pages of readily available records. But in the very name of humanity these lost men must be found; the manner of their passing must be recorded and proclaimed, and they must be given back their rightful places in the annals of time. To achieve this should be a solemn duty with any positive and sincere research body in the name of Truth as well as in the name of Compassion.
Now I have said that most of the prisoners from Kozielsk Camp were murdered in Katyn forest; in fact the number of corpses was 4,254 + 1 making 4,255. It is known that 245 were capriciously spared so that we arrive at the correct number originally imprisoned in that camp, which was 4,500. We must now consider the numbers spared from the other two camps, and they are as follows:
From Ostashkow Camp 124
From Starobielsk Camp 79
Thus, of the 6,500 originally imprisoned in Ostashkow Camp 6,376 were murdered, and of the 3,920 originally imprisoned in Starobielsk Camp, 3,841 were murdered. If we now add these last two totals of victims together we arrive at a figure of 10,217 - and that is the matter we are considering today.
10,217 Polish prisoners each individually shot in the back of the head by the Soviet NKVD in the Spring of 1940. Remember also that the Russian attack upon Poland of 17 September 1939 was all over by 28 September in that year, and recall that the Germans did not attack the Soviet Union until June of 1941. Spring 1940 was, therefore, 'peacetime' in Russia - and this makes the massacre all the more coldblooded and calculated. But it was, as we know, a deliberate attempt to cut off the flower of Poland by liquidating the leaders so as to leave the remainder of the population rudderless. Such an act is known by no other name than Genocide! In this case not only unpunished, but also unmentioned! We must now return to the two camps at Starobielsk and Ostashkow as being the last places known for certain in connection with the "lost 10,000."
On 5 April 1940 the senior Polish officer at Starobielsk was a Major Niewiarowski and at 9:00 a.m. on that day the Soviet camp commander Lt. Colonel Boreshkov, with Kirshov, the political commissar, called on Niewiarowski and told him that the camp was being wound up and that on the same day the first batch of officer-prisoners numbering 195 was to leave.
"Where to?" asked Major Niewiarowski.
"Where ... ?' Boreshkov drawled his answer, "Home! To your own homes. You will be sent first to transit camps, and then to where you came from; to your wives." Then he laughed. And from then on, transports were sent out daily after roll-calls in Block 20. The daily groups varied from 60 to 240 persons. One day while all this was going on a Lt. Mlynarski asked Boreshkov: "Why do you send us away in groups of 240 at the most? Having brought us all here in thousands, you could surely send us back the same way?"
"We can't," he replied. "The whole world is at war. We have to be ready too. We cannot spare the transport."
On 26 April the transports were stopped until 2 May when again a certain number were sent off. There was another delay until 8, 11 and 12 May on which days the last transports left Starobielsk camp, and it had been noted that each daily group had been selected from many different prison blocks and never included groups of friends but in total comprised men unknown to each other. This was brought to the notice of the Camp Commander who always replied to the effect that it did not matter as all the prisoners would meet up again in the transit camps. It appears that on 25April one group of 63 was herded into railway trucks and sent to Voroshilovgrad and from there to Kharkov, where the train was held up. One of the prisoners managed to poke his head through a gap in the door and speak to a railway worker who was tapping the wheels with a hammer.
"Comrade," whispered the prisoner, "is this Kharkov?"
"Da-Yes, Kharkov. Prepare to leave the train. This is where all 'yours' are unloaded and sent further in vehicles."
"Where to?" asked the prisoner.
The railway worker shrugged his shoulders, spat between the wheels and said no more.
Sometimes in history disjointed snippets of information drift in like flotsam, and one such is a report that when the Germans were later being driven back from the Kharkov area Russian shells were bursting north of the town. It is said that one barrage of exploding shells caused "corpses to fly in the air, as if from some burial ground." There is no further corroboration to this item.
It is now time to turn to the camp at Ostashkow which was in a disused monastery in the middle of a lake, joined to the mainland by a bridge. From there too, after 4 April 1940, groups of prisoners were formed and similarly assured that they were being sent home. We have seen that 124 were capriciously spared of the total 6,500. Where did the rest go? Senior Constable of the Polish Police Forces, A. Woronecki, related a story of a conversation he had with one of the camp guards who, in exchange for a pinch of foul black Soviet tobacco, agreed to "let the secret out."
"You will never see your comrades again ......"
"Why - where are they?"
"It isn't true that they are sent home. Neither were they sent to labor camps."
"Well, then ... what is the truth?"
The guard smoothed out a scrap of newspaper, inserted the tobacco, and rolled a cigarette. He inhaled the first puff and said:
"They have drowned them all "
Military Police Sergeant J.B. who was also a prisoner at Ostashkow, confirmed everything related by others - the prisoner transports always comprised groups of between 60 and 300 men. One day he wandered into the camp bakery where he was on friendly terms with Nikityn, the chief baker.
"Where are they sending us? Do you know?"
"Na sievier, braktu (To the north, my friend). They are sending you somewhere to the North", answered Nikityn.
On 28 April 1940 this Sergeant was in a group of 300 leaving the camp. And they went northwards along the Leningrad line. At Bologoye, his truck with others was detached and sent off in the direction of Rhzev, while the remainder could be seen still standing at Bologoye..
So here, at least, are two place names: Kharkov and Bologoye. We are, perhaps, getting closer to the solution. It must now be recalled that after the German attack on Russia of 1941 the Soviets were rolled back almost to the gates of Moscow and, in desperation, sought everywhere and anyhow to find the means to halt the advances of the Wehrmacht. One such solution was to form an army from the 1 1/2 million Poles they had fed into the Gulag Archipelago. This army, under the command of General Anders, had come together as Poles dragged themselves across Siberia to join. They came from all parts of Russia - weary, suffering from dysentery and emaciated from their sufferings. But all were private soldiers; the officers were missing! General Anders set up a special office to try and trace these officers, and it was in that office that a list of the missing was compiled.
On 26 April 1943, a woman named Katarzyna Gasziecka, reported to the office. She was the wife of one of the missing officers, and she had this to say:
In June 1941, among a crowd of 4,000 men and women all deported from Poland, I was shipped over the White Sea. We were sailing from Arkangel to the estuary of the river Peczora. They were sending us for further slave labor and misery, and I was sitting on the deck of the barge. I felt a bitter yearning to be free, to return to Poland, and to see my husband again - I began to cry. This attracted the attention of a young Russian soldier who came over and asked me what was the matter, to which I replied:
"My fate. Is it also forbidden in your country to cry? I am crying also over my husband's fate."
"And who was he?"
The Bolshevik burst into scornful laughter.
"Your tears won't help him anymore. All your officers were drowned here. In this very sea." Then he cruelly told me that he himself had taken part in the convoy which had transported about 7,000 people, mostly Polish officers and members of the Polish police. They had been towed out in two barges which were later cut adrift and sunk. "All went straight to the bottom." He went away, but another Russian, not a soldier but a barge crewman, came to me. He tried to say something comforting and ended:
"It is true what you have just heard. I also saw it with my own eyes. The barge crew was taken off into the towing ship. The barges had been pierced through. It was an awful sight. No one could have saved himself."
This theory of the prisoners from Ostashkow being drowned in the White Sea is the one which most Poles know, and which many believe. The train route to the White Sea leads from Ostashkow through Bologoye. But it was also known that many thousands of Poles had been sent North, all to work as slave laborers on the new railway system, and they had not been officers. Indeed many of these private soldiers found their way back to join General Anders' Army.
Logically this theory of drowning in the White Sea does not stand up. The liquidation of the three camps at Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostashkow was centrally planned, and as we know, the inmates of Kozielsk were taken to the nearest conveniently secret place, and there shot - at Katyn. Further, evidence and commonsense points to the fact that it would be militarily better to take the prisoners by train to a railway station nearest to the place of execution and transport them thence by automobile or truck. To take many thousands of prisoners hundreds of miles to the White Sea was to risk escapes and the operation being witnessed by too many of the local population. However the transport of the prisoners from Starobielsk camp to Kharkov by train does fit in with the Katyn plan and thus there is reason to suppose that the Ostashkow prisoners were dealt with in a similar way, meaning that they were taken by train to Bologoye and thence by diesel truck to some nearby wood for extermination.
This is as far as speculation amongst Poles of my acquaintance goes -10,000 men buried; piles of corpses, one above another, compressed into a liquefying mass of putrefaction, just as at Katyn - but over twice as many. The mind is stunned at the thought of these two mass-burial places, probably alike in every way to the mass graves at Katyn. Men with bullet holes in the backs of their heads - some with their hands tied; some with sawdust stuffed into their mouths to prevent them crying out. A scene of horror and satanic purposel
But there was another clue. On 14 May 1962 Congressman Derwinsky made a significant speech in the House of Representatives in which he tried to establish a special House Committee on Captive Nations and used as his main argument the Katyn case and the findings of the Select Committee of 1952. He referred to a resolution passed in 1949 by the National Council of the Polish Republic on the motion of the Polish Government-in-Exile. This resolution expressed gratification that the initiative for an independent investigation of the Katyn massacre had been undertaken in the United States, and expressed confidence that:
"people with sufficient moral strength would be found in the free world, able to bear the burden of struggle for the truth and to wage this struggle victoriously."
He told Congress how the Soviets had refused to take part in the Select Committee of 1952 and quoted their Memorandum dated 29 February 1952:
"The question of the Katyn crime had been investigated in1944 by an official commission, and it was established that the Katyn case was the work of Hitlerite criminals, as was made public in the press on 26 January 1944. For 8 years the Government of the United States did not raise any objections to such conclusion of the Commission until recently."
Congressman Derwinsky went on to quote the words of Representative Madden who, in 1952, addressed a mass meeting of Poles in London and, inter alia, said:
"Katyn is not only a Polish issue, but one that affects the conscience of the entire civilized world being at the same time a threat to this world."
Continuing his speech, Congressman Derwinsky then made a statement of great significance, albeit that it was somehow not singled out for special attention at the time. He referred to the publication in 1957 of a Secret Soviet document in a German weekly periodical. Giving the date of the document as 10 June 1940, it was said to contain details of how the three camps (Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostashkow) were wound up, and thus contained the solution to the mystery which has bothered so many, and which we are discussing today, namely the whereabouts of "the other 10,000" who were not found in the death-pits of Katyn.
In 1974 I was actively engaged, as Hon. Secretary, on the work of the Katyn Memorial Fund, and thus was once more contemplating the whole ghastly story. Not for the first time I was filled with a smoldering rage that no nation had forced this issue to the attention of an international tribunal, but instead had allowed the Katyn case to fade away or had participated in the vast cover-up which so many have been at pains to create. And again I found myself pondering the mystery of the "lost 10,000." Somehow these men must be found - but how? And then I re-read Congressman Derwinsky's speech of 1962 and suddenly the Secret Report of 10 June 1940 seemed to jump out of the page as if highlighted in heavy type. This Report must be found even if it was published in 1957 - some 17 years previously. But again, how was this nebulous reference to be tracked down?
I made numerous enquiries amongst my many Polish friends, and although some had vaguely heard of the Report none could give a clue as to how it was to be traced, and certainly none had ever seen it. I was astonished to find that no one seemed to have even made any effort to trace this obviously most important document, relating as it appeared to over twice the number of victims as were found at Katyn.
Now all during the work of the Katyn Memorial Fund quiet encouragement had been offered by the German Embassy in London and on several occasions I was privileged to have conversations with Herr Karl Gunther von Hase, the Ambassador. He knew what the Soviet NKVD were like for he had been captured at Stalingrad after which he had spent five years in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp at Vologda, and he had said to me that if there was anything he could ever do to help he would be pleased to do so. At the time I overlooked this kind offer as I did not then see what he could do, but now his words came back to me with startling clarity. The Secret Soviet Report was published in a German weekly newspaper called Sieben Tage (Seven Days) and presumably a copy of it must exist somewhere in Germany. Who better to trace it than the German Ambassador? I approached him with my request immediately.
At first he was hesitant, but I pointed out that it had been the Germans who had discovered the mass graves of Katyn in 1943 so why not complete the exercise and discover the vital clue to "The Other 10,000." He took the point and promised to make enquiries.
Time passed and I heard no more. I made a further enquiry and was told that Sieben Tage had been out of print for many years and, as a publication, was now defunct. Nevertheless, I was informed, investigations were going on for the methodical Germans felt sure that a copy of the relevant issue must be on file somewhere.
And then late in a December evening of that same 1974 the German Press attache telephoned me to say that a photocopy of the vital page was on his desk at that moment. I grabbed a taxi and drove straight to the German Embassy at 23 Belgrave Square. Like a man whose spade hits metal in a treasure hunt I felt a great thrill of expectation. And then, quite suddenly, I had the report in my hand. Was it authentic? Why was it that only this insignificant and now defunct weekly paper had published it?
I showed a copy to a friend who is the Communist Affairs correspondent of the British Daily Telegraph and after examining the photocopy report and the rubber stamps upon it, he pronounced that in his opinion it was genuine. The answer to the second question as to why it had not received greater publicity lay in the fact that in 1957 the war had been over only twelve years and the great mass of guilt piled upon the German nation still lay heavy and leaden upon all. Germans just did not want to hear any more about massacres, mass-graves, war crimes or even the war. Further mention of Katyn would inevitably bring down a hail of abuse based on the "Holocaust" story and thus it was best left alone. Such had been Allied propaganda that even some Germans thought they were responsible for Katyn and not the Soviets. In view of all this it seemed reasonable to suppose that this was the reason why the Report was never fully publicized nor followed up. But the Secret Soviet Report is probably one of the most significant documents in recent history and it should be re-printed a million times over. Copies should be sent to every international jurist and every responsible politician. It stands as a terrible indictment of a most horrendous crime committed in peace-time against defenseless prisoners-of-war as a gross act of Genocide and one of the darkest chapters of recent centuries.
Here, then, is the text of the Report:
Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics.
People's Commissariat for
Headquarters of the NKVD.
region of Minsk.
10 June 1940
To: The Headquarters of
the NKVD Moscow.
By Order of the Headquarters of the NKVD of February 12, 1940 the liquidation of the three Polish prisoner-of-war camps was carried out in the regions of the towns of Kozielsk, Ostaschkovo and Starobyelsk. The operation of liquidating the above three named camps was completed on 6 June of that year. Comrade Burjanoff, who had been seconded from the Central Office, was appointed to be in charge.
Under the above-mentioned Order the camp at Kozielsk was liquidated first of all by the security forces of the Minsk headquarters of the NKVD in the area of the city of Smolensk during the period between 1 March and 3 May of that year. As security forces, territorial troops, in part from the 190th Rifle Regiment, were employed.
The Second action under the above Order was carried out in the area of the town of Bologoye by the security forces of the Smolensk headquarters of the NKVD, and was also covered by troops of the 129th Rifle Regiment (Velike Luki); it was completed by 5 June of that year. The Charkow headquarters of the NKVD was entrusted with carrying out the third liquidation of the camp of Starobyelsk. It was carried out in the area of the Dergachi settlement with the assistance of security forces of the 68th Ukrainian Rifle Regiment of the territorial troops on 2 June. In this case the responsibility and leadership in this action was entrusted to the NKVD Colonel B. Kutschov.
A copy of this report is being sent simultaneously to the NKVD Generals Raichmann and Saburin for their attention.
The Organizational Head of the Office of
the NKVD, area of Minsk:
Thus, if the report is authentic (and what reason is there to suppose it is not?) the riddle is solved.
4,254 Polish prisoners were shot at Katyn, 3,841 were shot ot Dergacki, near Kharkov and 6,376 were shot near Bologoye, a total of 14,471 - and none of them have received an iota of justice nor has any man paid anything for this most dastardly crime!
At this time, in September 1979, we are nearly at the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland; an invasion which led to the deportation of 1 1/2 million Poles eastwards from whom the cream was skimmed and brutally murdered. It seems an appropriate moment again to call for an international pronouncement on the Katyn massacre, for one thing is certain: the case will never die until that pronouncement is made and the perpetrators condemned. Neither will history be complete until those missing thousands are restored to their rightful place within it. It is a solemn duty to put this matter to rights. No one can bring back the dead but at least this awful chapter must no longer be covered up, as it has been to the eternal shame of human conscience. I call, therefore, for a fresh investigation in the forthcoming twelve months so that the year 1980, the fortieth anniversary of the Katyn Crime, may bear as fruit an awakening of public desire for Truth such as will lead to the missing judgement in this case. This call for justice should best come from a country which for so long has cherished Freedom and justice - the United States of America.
Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 31-42.
Published with permission of and courtesy to the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).
For the current IHR catalog, with a complete listing of books and audio and video tapes, send one dollar to:
Institute For Historical Review
Post Office Box 2739
Newport Beach, California 92659
Back to Table of Contents JHR vol. 1