The United States National Archives and Record Administration has recently declassified a number of comprehensive Katyn-related documents from the Stalinist period. Among them is a document entitled “Facts and Documents Concerning Polish Prisoners of War Captured by the U.S.S.R. During the 1939 Campaign” prepared by the Polish Exile Government in London in February 1946. This very sensitive document was delivered to the US Embassy in London by Polish Ambassador Jozef Lipinski.
In 1950 the Counselor of the US Embassy in London, Mr. John H. Bruins, forwarded a number of documents on Katyn to the US State Department. On November 17, 1950, Bruins transmitted as Dispatch No. 2377, a copy of the “Facts and Documents Concerning Polish Prisoners of War Captured by the U.S.S.R. During the 1939 Campaign.” This document was declassified about seventy years later as part of Record Group 59 of the General Records of the US Department of State for the period 1763-2002. Please see it here.
This historic document that consists of about 250 pages stands as a testimony to the exceptional quality of intelligence capabilities and superior analytical skills of the Polish Government in Exile. Written in excellent English, the document consists of three parts. The first part presents the situation of the Polish Prisoners of War in the USSR before 1941. The situation of Polish POWs in various camps, including Kozielsk I, II, III, Starobielsk, Ostashkov, Pavlishtchev Bor, and Griazovetz, is analyzed in-depth in eight chapters.
Part II is dedicated to the geopolitical analysis of international relations after the July 30 1941 Polish-Soviet Agreement and to a desperate search for over 15 thousand Polish POWs, including over 8,000 officers. General Anders made the following statement on the status of his efforts to find the missing POWs: “It is the fact that not one of these 8,300 officers from the camps at Kozielsk, Starobielsk nor of the 4,00 N.C.Os of the military and civil police from the Ostashkov camp, have joined the military.”
When Germany announced that the German army found mass graves of Polish POWs near Smolensk, the Polish Government in London found itself in an awkward position in relation to its Western and soviet allies. Therefore, in reaction to the German news on discovering mass graves of Polish POWs in Katyn, the Cabinet of the Polish Government in Exile at a meeting in London on April 17, 1843 took great care of distancing itself from Germany while issuing an official statement on this matter.
After the Ministers had acquainted themselves with all information concerning the Polish Officers whose bodies have recently been discovered near Smolensk, and with the reports from Poland on this matter, and after the question had been widely discussed, the following decisions were taken:
(…) to declare that there is not one Pole who has not been deeply shocked by the news now given the widest publicity by the Germans of the discovery of the bodies of’ the Polish officers missing in the USSR in a common grave near Smolensk and of a mass execution of which they were victims;”
(…) to emphasize the anti-German attitude of the Polish Government and Nation by issuing the following declaration: (…) the Polish Government, on behalf of the Polish Nation, denies to the Germans any right to base on a crime they ascribe to others, arguments in their own defense.
The profoundly hypocritical indignation of German propaganda will not succeed in concealing from the world the many cruel and reiterated crimes that are being perpetrated against the Polish people.
The Polish Government recalls such facts as:
– the removal of Polish officers from prisoner of war camps in the Reich and subsequent shooting of them for political offences alleged to have been committed ‘before the war;
– mass arrests of officers of the reserve subsequently deported to concentration camps to die a slow death. From Cracow and the neighboring district alone 6,000 were deported in June, 1942;
– the compulsory enlistment in the Wehrmacht of Polish prisoners of’ war from territories illegally incorporated in the Reich:
– the forcible conscription of about 200,000 Poles from the same territories and the execution of the families of those who managed to escape;
– the massacre of a million and a half’ of people by executions and in concentration camps-
– the recant imprisonment of 80,000 people of military age, officers and men and their torture and murder in the camps of Maidanek and Tremblinka.
It is not to enable Germans to make impudent claims and pose as the defenders of Christianity and European civilization that Poland is making immense sacrifices fighting and enduring sufferings.
The blood of Polish soldiers and Polish citizens, wherever it was shed, cries of atonement before the conscience of the free world. The Polish Government condemn all the crimes committed against Polish citizens and refuse the right of making political capital of such sacrifices to all who are themselves guilty of such crimes.
The report concludes that the total number of inmates who pass through the three cams were as follows:
Kozielsk – 4,500
Starobielsk – 3,920
Ostashkov – 6,500
Included in this total were:
Officers – 8,820
Other ranks – 6,100 (police, military police, frontier guard)
Out of the total of 14,920 about 14,500, including about 8,400 officers, were not found alive.
Found alive 3%
These numbers are remarkably close to the numbers released by the Russians after 1990.
Part three entitled “After the Katyn Revelations” consists of six chapters and deals with an appeal to the International Red Cross for help, reactions of the Allied nations to the Katyn revelations, severing of Polish Soviet relations and the struggle between German and Soviet version of events.
In the conclusion, the report focuses on Russian propaganda and tries to answer the question whether the mystery of Katyn ever be solved.
The results of the Soviet investigations were published in nearly all the British and American papers as early as January 25, 1944. The articles mostly confined themselves to describing the Russian report and its conclusions, without accepting or rejecting them.