“We encircle the world with Katyn monuments, so the meaning and memory of their sacrifice never be forgotten”- Cardinal Rubin
Katyn is a place – a word. For the Polish people Katyn symbolizes the destruction of the Polish nation in the years 1939-1940, but it also symbolizes grave international crime, the lie, conspiracy of silence and suppression of truth.
“There has been no better measure in our recent history of decency and courage, hypocrisy and treason than the Katyn cause. It is difficult to comprehend those, who decided to repeat overt falsehood under the dictate of the foreign power responsible for the Katyn crime, especially those aspiring to play public roles.
With what calculations did the historians, journalists and writers lied about Katyn, what did the prosecutors and judges count on by proclaiming the truth as “false messages,” and pouring punishments for the truth about Katyn?
There was a strong belief that the systemic crime and the systemic lie would last for generations. That crime and a lie about it was to kill not only the conscience but also the belief that the truth and nothing but the truth must be fully revealed sooner or later,” wrote Stanislaw Mikke 15 years ago.
On April 10, 2010, Stanisław Mikke together with members of the Polish state delegation traveling for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre were killed in the Smolensk plane crash. What would he write today reading on the Internet comments about removing the Katyn monument in Jersey City, comments that spill hate and contempt for Poles who defend this monument, and for the monument itself?
“What’s the deal with this Katyn Monument in the USA? The Americans were not a party, no American was a victim or perpetrator, the event did not take place in the USA. It is as if to demand a monument of victims of Trail of Tears in Poland and to fight in the event of a transfer. And it’s the naive expectation that Americans have to endure, to worship our national kitsch at home. ” This blog https://www.salon24.pl/u/tekstykanoniczne/864328,o-coo–chodzi-z-tym-pomnik-katynski, an example of ignorance and moral crudeness, was published today in Sweden by a Swedish blogger. Many comments under this note accept its degenerated premise. We must, therefore, explain to these people several matters apparently unknown to them.
First – admittedly no American was a victim or perpetrator of the Katyn massacre, and the crime was not committed in the US, but in 1951 the United States Congress House of Representatives by Resolution No. 390 established a special Katyn investigation commission known as the Select Committee to Investigate and Study the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Resolution No. 539 extended the scope of the Committee’s activities. The Committee consisted of 7 congressmen. In its composition, they found both Democrats and Republicans. Ray John Madden from Indiana became the chairman of the Committee. Until the end of 1952, Madden’s commission carried out a thorough investigation, collecting material evidence and interrogating over a hundred witnesses – in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Americans, Germans, Poles, Russians, Hungary, Croatians, Italians, Swiss, Danish and Swede testified before the Committee.
A shocking testimony was made by US officers Cpt. Donald B. Stewart and Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr., who as German prisoners of war in May 1943 were sent to Katyn to witness the exhumations. Together with a group of Allied prisoners (a total of eight people from the United States, Great Britain and its subordinates), they witnessed the exhumation of Polish officers murdered by the NKVD in the Katyn Forest.
“The Germans then said that the graves have been open for a month or more, and they have already extracted a certain number of bodies. At that time, it began to warm up and the Germans believed that … they said they had to speed up work before the stench became too strong (However, the thing that struck us, apart from the fact that a large number of Polish officers were murdered, was that many bodies, those in a larger grave, were wearing coats in good condition, Polish coats. Officers in uniforms of very good quality, which were not worn out, “testified Cpt. Donald B. Stewart.
Asked about the details of what he saw, Lt. Col. John Vliet testified: “The arms were crossed and tied (…) with a complicated knot, and the cord was deep in the body.” Each body had a small projectile orifice of about seven millimeters in diameter and the forehead wound was usually torn out with a larger piece of bone than at the inlet wound. In the place where the projectile exited, the opening was larger. ”
Among persons testifying before the Committee were Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk, Józef Czapski who dealt with the search for “missing” Polish officers, Tadeusz Romer, former Polish ambassador in the USSR, writer Ferdynand Goetel (1890-1960) who participated in the mission to Katyn in 1943 and author a the International Red Cross report on the Katyn murder, and Józef Mackiewicz, author of The Katyn Wood Murders.
The Madden Committee heard a total of 81 witnesses, examined 181 items of evidence and took over 100 written statements by witnesses. The result of its work was the publication of a report of 2,360 pages long, which explicitly recognized the responsibility of the Soviet security apparatus (NKVD) for killing thousands of Polish officers in Katyn, and posed further questions about the number of victims and other places of mass extermination and burials. The Madden Committee recommended that the matter be presented to the UN and that a complaint against the USSR be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The Committee’s work also uncovered the mechanisms of covering up the truth about the Katyn massacre in the US of. Due to the fact that to this day, no investigation into the Katyń crime has been carried out that would culminate in a court ruling, the report of the US Congress Madden Committee remains the sole formal and legal ruling confirming the guilt of the USSR for the murder of the Poles in Katyn.
In 1952, seven volumes of interrogation reports before the commission were published in Washington, as well as a preliminary report and a final report. All under the collective title of The Katyn Forest Massacre (Mord in Katyn Forest).
The Madden Committee report is now available on the Internet in English https://archive.org/details/katynforestmassa01unit).
Copies of documents collected in Washington were transferred to the Institute of National Remembrance in 2003. The decision to translate the report into Polish was taken years later by dr hab. Janusz Kurtyka, but his death in the Smoleńsk catastrophe slowed the work. In 2017, the Institute of National Remembrance finally published the first volume of the documents of the Madden Committee, in a book entitled “Murder in the Katyn forest.”
Under the communist regime, the press negatively represented the process of the United States Congress’s inquiry into the Katyn crime, describing it as an “imperialist, Goebbelsian performance.” On February 29, 1952, the Soviet government sent a note to the US authorities protesting against the investigation, “because the special (Russian) commission already in 1944 stated that the Katyn crime was committed by Germany.” Even before the investigation was concluded, on March 2, 1952, a Polish newspaper Trybuna Ludu published a government statement condemning the work of the US Congress on the Katyn massacre as “unmasking the shameful attempt of American imperialists to dig out the long-gone anti-Polish and anti-Soviet provocation.” The statement stated that “killing thousands of Polish officers and soldiers at Katyn was the work of [German] Nazi war criminals who committed hundreds of similar crimes alongside the Katyn massacre on Polish and Soviet soil.” This text initiated a whole series of publications in Trybuna Ludu about to the “provocations of American imperialists.”
Second – the content of the quoted note [of the Swedish blogger] suggests that its author, who has lived in Sweden for years, does not know that due to the joint efforts of Poles living in Sweden and goodwill of local Swedish authorities, on May 6, 2001, in Stockholm, the Katyn Monument was moved to a new, more dignified place in the city center after 26 years, officially rededicated and blessed. Initially, the Association of Polish Veterans in Sweden faced difficulties in obtaining approval for the new location. As a result of the Swedish authorities’ concern about negative reaction of Moscow, the Katyn Monument has remained in the yard of the Polish Independence Organizations for 26 years.
At this point, it should be reminded that Polonia in the countries of Western Europe and in America made great efforts over decades to reach the full truth about the Katyn massacre and to commemorate the Katyn victims in a dignified way. However, for over 30 years it encountered a wall of indifference and hostility. The first obelisk with the inscription “KATYN 1940” was placed in the Gunnersbury Cemetery in London in 1976. The opening ceremony of the monument was boycotted by the Labor government. By protesting against this boycott, Winston Churchill’s grandson wrote a letter to the Times, in which he accused the government of being afraid of annoying Moscow. He called the boycott of the ceremony a sad and shameful expression of recognition for the sacrifice of a brave (Polish) ally who joined the war in 1939.
The first in the world Katyn monument in a public place was unveiled in September 14, 1980, thanks to the determination of the Canadian Polonia, despite the opposition of the Soviet embassy. The then Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, fearing Soviet reactions, did not allow two politicians of Polish origin, Senator Stanley Haidasz and MP Jesse Flis, to take part in the celebrations as representatives of the Canadian government.
In the following years, several Katyn monuments were erected in the US, the most famous of which are the monuments in Baltimore, in Chicago, and the subject of the present dispute monument in Jersey City. The Katyn monuments are also located in Johannesburg (South Africa) and Adelaide (Australia).
The first Katyn monument in the capital city of Central and Eastern Europe outside of Poland was erected in Budapest as a result of the efforts of the mayor of this city, Gabor Demszky and Andrzej Przewoźnik, secretary of the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom, who was later killed in the Smolensk plane crash. The Katyn Martyrs monument in Budapest (A katinyi mártírok emlékműve) is located on the Katyń Martyrs Square (Katinyi mártírok parkja), in the third district, near the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, near the prestigious Arpad High School. It was unveiled on April 8, 2011 by the presidents of Hungary and Poland. In addition, two oaks of memory were planted, commemorating the Hungarian victims of the Katyn genocide: Aladar Emanuel Korompay and Oskar Rudolph Kūhnel.
In Hungary, there is another obelisk commemorating the victims of the Katyn massacre – the Katyn Martyrs Monument in Tatabánya (Katyńi Mártírok Emlékoszlopa Tatabányán) funded by the local community. The unveiling of the monument took place on August 1, 2010 at Aradski Martyrs Square. During the ceremony, the representative of the Tatabanya City Council, Dr. Miklós Petrássy said: “It is an expression of respect for the brotherly Polish nation that we put the Polish monument next to the monument to the most respected martyrs of our history.”
Author: Wieslawa, Salon 24, originally published May 8, 2018
- Stanisław Mikke, Czyny i rozmowy, Palestra nr 9/10, 2003 r., http://www.palestra.pl/index.php?go=artykul&id=1090
- Mord w Lesie Katyńskim. Przesłuchania przed amerykańską komisją Maddena w latach 1951–1952, tom 1, wstęp, wybór i opracowanie Witold Wasilewski, przełożył Wacław Jan Popowski, Warszawa 2017