Katyn Commission

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International Katyn Commission
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J14110, Katyn, Öffnung der Massengräber, Abschlussbericht.jpg
The Third Reich Health Leader Leonardo Conti (right) holds the Report of the International Katyn Commission, 4 May 1943, in front of Dr. Ferenc Orsós from the University of Budapest. Centre, Professor Louis Speleers of the Ghent University in Belgium. Eduard Miloslavić, Croatian professor of pathology, is the 4th person from left
DateApril and May 1943
LocationKatyn, Kalinin and Kharkiv
Also known asKatyn Commission
CauseMass murder

The Katyn Commission or the International Katyn Commission was the International Red Cross committee formed in April 1943 under request by Germany to investigate the Katyn massacre of some 22,000 Polish nationals during the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland, mostly prisoners of war from the September Campaign including Polish Army officers, intelligentsia, civil servants, priests, police officers and numerous other professionals. Their bodies were discovered in a series of large mass graves in the forest near Smolensk in Russia following Operation Barbarossa.[1]

The investigation was led by world-class pathologists,[1] including Professor François Naville from University of Geneva, Dr. Ferenc Orsós from the University of Budapest, Professor Louis Speleers of the Ghent University in Belgium and Eduard Miloslavić, Croatian professor of pathology among others. The Commission concluded that the Soviet Union had been responsible for the massacre. Consequently, the German government made extensive reference to the massacre in its own propaganda in an attempt to drive a political wedge between the Allies of World War II alliance.[2] The severing of relations between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviet Union was a direct result of Polish support for the investigation.[3]

The Soviets denied their responsibility for the crime immediately, and instead, created their own Extraordinary State Commission tasked with falsifying documents and forensic science in order to reverse the blame and charged Germany with the crime.[4][5]

Seventy years of denial[edit]

The Soviet documents pertaining to the massacre were declassified only in 1990. They proved conclusively that 21,857 Polish internees and prisoners of war were executed by the Soviet Union after 3 April 1940 including 14,552 prisoners from three largest Soviet POW camps at this time.[a][6] Of the total number of victims, 4,421 officers were shot one by one at the Kozelsk Optina Monastery, 3,820 at the Starobelsk POW camp, and 6,311 at the Ostashkov facility, in addition to 7,305 Poles secretly eliminated in Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR political prisons.[6] The head of the NKVD POW department, Maj. General P. K. Soprunenko, organized selections of Polish officers to be killed at Katyn and elsewhere.[7]

In November 2010, the Russian State Duma admitted in its own official declaration that the Soviet officials led by the Generalissimo Joseph Stalin ordered the Soviet NKVD secret police under Lavrentiy Beria to commit the massacres.[8] Among the victims were 14 Polish generals including Leon Billewicz, Bronisław Bohatyrewicz, Xawery Czernicki (admiral), Stanisław Haller, Aleksander Kowalewski, Henryk Minkiewicz, Kazimierz Orlik-Łukoski, Konstanty Plisowski, Rudolf Prich (murdered in Lviv), Franciszek Sikorski, Leonard Skierski, Piotr Skuratowicz, Mieczysław Smorawiński and Alojzy Wir-Konas (promoted posthumously).[9]


a. ^ Aleksandr Shelepin (3 March 1959) note to Khrushchev, with information about the execution of 21,857 Poles including new secret proposal to destroy their personal files."Записка председателя КГБ при СМ СССР А.Н. Шелепина Н.С. Хрущеву о ликвидации всех учетных дел на польских граждан, расстрелянных в 1940 г. с приложением проекта постановления Президиума ЦК КПСС." 3 марта 1959 г. Рукопись. РГАСПИ. Ф.17. Оп.166. Д.621. Л.138–139. (in Russian) Retrieved 23 November 2013. English translation available at Katyń Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? Law.case.edu.


  1. ^ a b International Katyn Commission (30 April 1943). "Commission Findings". Transcript, Smolensk 30 April 1943. Warsaw Uprising by Project InPosterum. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  2. ^ Kużniar-Plota, Małgorzata (30 November 2004). "Decision to commence investigation into Katyn Massacre". Departmental Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  3. ^ Leslie, Roy Francis (1983). The History of Poland since 1863. Cambridge University Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-521-27501-9.
  4. ^ Fischer, Benjamin B., "The Katyn Controversy: Stalin's Killing Field". "Studies in Intelligence", Winter 1999–2000. Retrieved on 10 December 2005.
  5. ^ Anna M. Cienciala; Wojciech Materski (2007). Katyn: a crime without punishment. Yale University Press. pp. 226–229. ISBN 978-0-300-10851-4. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  6. ^ a b Łojek, Bożena (2000). Muzeum Katyńskie w Warszawie. Agencja Wydawm. CB Andrzej Zasieczny. p. 174. ISBN 978-83-86245-85-7. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  7. ^ Parrish, Michael (1996). The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939–1953. Praeger Press. pp. 324, 325. ISBN 978-0-275-95113-9.
  8. ^ "Russian parliament condemns Stalin for Katyn massacre". BBC News. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
  9. ^ Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak, ed. (1989). Katyń; lista ofiar i zaginionych jeńców obozów Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk. Warsaw, Alfa. p. 366. ISBN 978-83-7001-294-6.; Moszyński, Adam, ed. (1989). Lista katyńska; jeńcy obozów Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk i zaginieni w Rosji Sowieckiej. Warsaw, Polskie Towarzystwo Historyczne. p. 336. ISBN 978-83-85028-81-9.; Tucholski, Jędrzej (1991). Mord w Katyniu; Kozielsk, Ostaszków, Starobielsk: lista ofiar. Warsaw, Pax. p. 987. ISBN 978-83-211-1408-8.; Banaszek, Kazimierz (2000). Kawalerowie Orderu Virtuti Militari w mogiłach katyńskich. Roman, Wanda Krystyna; Sawicki, Zdzisław. Warsaw, Chapter of the Virtuti Militari War Medal & RYTM. p. 351. ISBN 978-83-87893-79-8.; Maria Skrzyńska-Pławińska, ed. (1995). Rozstrzelani w Katyniu; alfabetyczny spis 4410 jeńców polskich z Kozielska rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940, według źródeł sowieckich, polskich i niemieckich. Stanisław Maria Jankowski. Warsaw, Karta. p. 286. ISBN 978-83-86713-11-0.; Skrzyńska-Pławińska, Maria, ed. (1996). Rozstrzelani w Charkowie; alfabetyczny spis 3739 jeńców polskich ze Starobielska rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940, według źródeł sowieckich i polskich. Porytskaya, Ileana. Warsaw, Karta. p. 245. ISBN 978-83-86713-12-7.; Skrzyńska-Pławińska, Maria, ed. (1997). Rozstrzelani w Twerze; alfabetyczny spis 6314 jeńców polskich z Ostaszkowa rozstrzelanych w kwietniu-maju 1940 i pogrzebanych w Miednoje, według źródeł sowieckich i polskich. Porytskaya, Ileana. Warsaw, Karta. p. 344. ISBN 978-83-86713-18-9.