Thursday, October 10, 2013


October 10, 2013


Ms. Rose C. Cali
Michael L. Carter
Dr. Francis M.C. Cuss
Mr. Mitchell E. Hersh
Mr. George J. Hiltzik, Vice Chair
Mr. Douglas L. Kennedy
Mr. Ralph A. LaRossa, Chair
Mr. Thomas Maguire
Mr. John L. McGoldrick
Mr. William T. Mullen
Ms. Christine L. Padilla
Mr. Preston D. Pinkett III
Mr. J. Thomas Presby
Mr. Robert Van Dyk
Trustees of Montclair State University
Susan A. Cole PhD.
Provost Willard Gingrich
Montclair State University
1 Normal Ave
Montclair, New Jersey   07043

Dear Trustees, President Cole and Provost Gingrich:

I am in receipt of your response in which you claim that the factually and historically undocumented statements presented on the pages of Montclair State University comprise historical research.
I have to wonder if you have bothered to read the material which you are defending as research - actually it is clear you have not.

There are various points of the subject essay that lack any logic, documentation or factual reality.   I will allow myself to present a few – as a full analysis would require a lengthy document. Among them are the following:

  • Mr. Furr alleges in a blanket statement that the government of Poland (which was a government in exile: as the various portions of the country were either, incorporated into the Reich, reformatted as the General Gouvernement under German command, or incorporated by the Soviets into the USSR) collaborated with the Nazis, without presenting any evidence.  To make such a ludicrous assertion, about a period when the British and US governments were dependent on the network of Polish agents in occupied Poland and throughout Europe, and further, while Polish airmen were flying as part of the British Air Force and troops were fighting throughout Europe and the Middle East, strains credibility. 

It would be reasonable to expect the author to document his allegations, yet he does not do so.  Yet you accept this as research.

  • The author avoids discussion of the Nazi-Soviet (Ribbentrop-Molotov) Non-Aggression Treaty of August 23, 1939 and its various protocols including one in which the invasion of Poland by both parties, the Nazis and Soviets is discussed and the map of Poland is clearly split into two.  Instead he misrepresents the historical facts by claiming that the Soviets wanted to stop incursion by the Germans.  If that were the fact there would be no signed map delineating the border between Germany and the USSR and there would not exist a film showing a joint military parade of the two great allies celebrating the conquest of Poland and filmed in Brześć nad Bugiem. These items being but two of a multitude of documents and materials confirming the Nazi-Soviet Alliance.
  • Given that the author spends much time elaborating on the report from Włodzimierz Wołyński, you should be made aware that Dr. Dominika Siemińska’s work is misquoted, and in fact it is manipulated to present his desired position.  Dr. Siemińska, in correspondence with me, has graciously wondered if the author’s knowledge of Polish is so lacking that he might have erroneously totally misconstrued her position.  Regrettably, based on his choice of sentences, it is clear that the author had clearly decided to misrepresent facts.

Since Dr. Siemińska’s material is available on the internet – it would be but a small effort to verify this fact.

  • The author writes that Dr. Siemińska has placed herself at risk – in an essay written in 2013 he refers to materials published by a government institution and written by Dr. Siemińska in 2012 – he has chosen to create an illusion of danger for Dr. Siemińska – however, the reality is (and a reputable scholar would have noted) that Dr. Siemińska is continuing her work for the Rada Ochrony in Włódziemierz Wołyński during the 2013 period.  Clearly, she has not suffered for her statements. 

    Thus, these insinuations are a falsehood.
  • The Katyn Massacre involved over 24,000 individuals with whom ALL contact was lost no later than May of 1940 and from among whom none ever either joined the Polish Army under British Command, the Polish Army under Soviet Command and finally, none of whom ever returned to Poland in the postwar period. Yes, there were some individuals who were separated off from the various imprisoned groups, the most famous (aside from those who elected to serve the Soviet Union) being Professor Stanisław Swianiewicz, an economist who specialized in studying the German economy. When his Kozielsk group arrived at Gniezdowo, the Katyn station, he was selected out from the group and saw his fellow prisoners being trucked away.  You can if you wish view filmed interviews with him.  Historians can list the ones who were separated off by name and even give the reason why.

Yet based on the discovery of three items, the author has determined that 24,000 individuals were either sent to Soviet work camps (GULAGs) or were in some indeterminate way individually shot by the Germans.  At best this lack of logic would lead one to ask – if they were sent, as the author alleges, to work camps – then at least a certain number of them should have joined the Polish Army under Soviet command – as the Soviets were desperate for Polish officers and soldiers for that army, and accepted whoever would join to that army, while others should have survived the GULAG and returned to Poland in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.  But this issue is not raised.

  • Mr. Furr, by engaging in a vitriolic ad hominem attack on Professor Anna Cienciala, alleges that she has mistranslated documents which were included in Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment which was coauthored by Natalia Lebedeva and Wojciech Materski. This volume was published by Yale University Press, and it would appear thereby, as is implied, that the co-authors reneged on their intellectual responsibility and that Yale does not vet the work that it publishes.  I would wonder that Montclair State deems it appropriate to attack the scholarly credibility of materials published by Yale University. 

Perhaps, in a desire for scholarly accuracy, the President and Provost of Montclair should advise Yale University Press of the error of its ways?

I will allow myself to inform you, that this English language work is a summary of the 4 volume Katyn Dokumenty Zbrodni, which was a joint publication of the:
    • National Archives of Poland AND the
    • Russian National Archival Services in Moscow, the
    • Contemporary History Institute, the
    • Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies, the
    • Institute of Military History and the
    • Central Archives of the Federal Security Bureau,  
with the aforementioned 5 being official Russian organizations. 
There were seven Russian editors of these volumes, among who were members of the internationally hailed Memorial Society. 
Thus, any allegations that the Soviet documents presented in these volumes, numbering 217 in just the first volume, were manipulated would be highly preposterous.  Yet, here, in this first volume of materials co-edited by the various agencies, institutions and individuals listed above, with translations clearly vetted by the Russian side, in doc. 216  appears a group listing of all the individuals who were under discussion and in paragraph 2) the clear order that these individuals shall be executed by being shot.
How then can the Provost and President of Montclair allow the good name of Professor Cienciala be defamed on its pages – when clearly, even the FSB of Russia concurred to the issuance of these materials and approved the translation which definitively states that the prisoners were to be executed and that the document was signed by Stalin and the members of the Politbureau.
  • Mr. Furr fails to mention that the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross worked on the site of the Katyn Massacre between April 12 and June 7, 1943 and these individuals worked on identifying the bodies of the officers and cadet officers who were buried in Katyn.   They retrieved not three, not three hundred but thousands and thousands of individual items which identified not only the officers, but dated the last period when they were alive. 
To assuage your concerns, I will advise you that the Technical Committee never submitted a report to the Germans as they saw that as an act that was not acceptable. Thus their reports went to the underground in Warsaw and then London.
  • The author also fails to mention, not only the
    • various groups of journalists from throughout Europe (France, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, etc.)
    •  in addition to the members of the International Medical Commission
who visited the site in April-June 1943. 
Interestingly, none of these individuals ever withdrew or altered their opinion that the crime was committed by the Soviets, with the exception of the two who lived behind the Iron Curtain after the war.  The International Medical Commission members, forensic scientists, based their decision in part on the calcification inside the skulls, which is a process that would have taken well over two years to occur. 
There were, additionally Polish POWs who were brought there, who also never issued a statement to the German media.  So much for Polish collaboration.
  • Finally, the author fails to mention the group of eight English-speaking POWs who were brought to Katyn by the Germans.  They included four officers, three enlisted men and one civilian.  Five of them left various forms of testimony (the enlisted men appear not to have left such records) – be it reports, articles, books, videos and audio tapes – the last recorded in 1995 – each of them confirming that the site evidence convinced them that the Soviets had committed the crime – based on the condition of the bodies as well as on the condition of the uniforms on those bodies. 
None of the eight witnesses ever spoke publicly during the war, despite being given opportunity by the Germans.  Instead those who could; sent coded messages advising the Western Allies that the Soviets were guilty.
Two of the officers were West Point graduates, and they affirmed in postwar reports, testimony (1952), correspondence with the US Army (1950) and in the previously mentioned audio and video material that based on the time period when the crime was committed, it had to be the Soviets.  They also clearly stated that they had arrived at the site with a belief that the Soviets were the Allies and therefore this could not be.  Yet, as one of the US Army officers stated on a video – as he pulled out one of the boots he had worn for 18 months and displayed what condition they were in – and compared this to the condition of the boots on the corpses – he stated that no one could have worn their boots daily for a period of two years (since the Furr/Soviet claim is that the officers were killed in the fall of 1941) and be in the excellent condition they were in.  
Indeed, it is highly probable, that the plans for a full-fledged escape of the POW officers from Oflag 64, where the Americans were held, and which was organized by the US Army officers for June of 1944, as the Soviet Army headed west, and was approved of by MIS-X in Washington, was planned because of what these two officers had seen in Katyn. (vide – Shoemaker – The Escape Factory)
Would the position of Montclair State be that the US Army officers continued to perjure themselves for over forty years?  If so – then where is the proof?
It is possible for me to continue listing the failures in scholarship, the manipulation of statements and the sheer illogicality of what the author has written.  I would simply wonder if Montclair has any logicians and if they could consider the various facts listed above, with hundreds of documents released by the Russian government and FSB with the probability of three pieces of material (i.e. the badge and the two other items) countermanding all the other facts.
However, it is clear from your response that Montclair has not reviewed any of the scholarly material that disputes these unfounded allegations, that you have not bothered to (as I asked you to) review Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment by Cienciala, Lebedeva and Materski, which was published by Yale University Press or any of the other material available to you. 
As one of the professors who has corresponded with me on this issue (and they are located worldwide) has written – it appears that Montclair is willing to allow anything to appear on their pages without subjecting it to scholarly peer review – thus destroying its own credibility as a scholarly institution. 
More regrettably, by publishing defamatory words about the underground Polish government in calling it collaborationist – Montclair insults the memory of the tens of thousands of Polish airmen, sailors and soldiers as well as agents who died in service to the Allied effort in fighting Nazi Germany during World War II.
It appears that the presentation of facts and truth is not a quality valued by Montclair State University.  Instead lack of scholarship and veracity is clouded in the illusion of freedom of speech.


Krystyna Piórkowska
English-speaking Witnesses to Katyn

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Friday morning, June 14th, 2013, from 09:30 to 11:00AM, I will be presenting during the Plenary Session at the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences (PIASA) Annual Meeting.
My presentation will relate to the US POW Officers’ Coded Letters of 1943-44 and the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Investigation of 1948 and the Madden Committee. 
The PIASA meeting is taking place at the Arlington Hyatt, just over the Potomac River from Washington. 
Please join me for this Plenary Session which is being held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of the Katyn Graves.

Katyn Revisited: On the Seventieth Anniversary of the Announcement of the Katyn Massacre
Chair: M.B.B. Biskupski, Central Connecticut State University and President, PIASA
Piotr Kosicki, University of Virginia - “A Brief History of Katyn Memory in Poland”
Krystyna Piorkowska, New York and Warsaw
“The 1948 CIC Investigation of Katyn in Europe vs. the 1943 Coded Letters”.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Additional facts that have been discovered make it clear that an in depth study of each of the personages involved in an onsite review (let us use a genteel word) of the Katyn Massacre opens up further and earlier paths of knowledge by the Western Allies.

Thus, persistent research on Dr. Piga, who although a member of the International Medical Commission, never made it to Katyn and has therefore generally been omitted from the list of IMC members, and review of the previously mentioned Goebbels letter of July 1943, questioning Dr. Piga’s sudden Berlin illness, led to two even more damaging possibilities – with both conclusions based on the 1952 interview with Dr. Piga at the US Embassy in Madrid –

  • firstly, (and as mentioned earlier) that the US was so firmly convinced of Soviet guilt in April of 1943, that it wanted to ensure that a lesser number of credible IMC forensic specialists was present, and therefore that it pressured the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and that therefore there must exist additional still unknown State Department documents confirming this action, and that
  • Secondly, there may have been further attempts by the State Department, perhaps in Denmark, Finland or Switzerland to try to keep their specialists from going to Katyn. 
Certainly, if attempts had been made to keep Drs. Naville and Tramsen from going, it might explain some of the post-war attacks on their good names.

This timeline concerning reports and knowledge of the facts is very significant in that it interfaces with the US President’s Special Emissary to the Mediterranean and Red Sea basins, Archbishop Spellman’s report on a meeting with FDR.  For, based on the Archbishop’s aide de memoire, Roosevelt was clear in his decision about the post-war fate of Central and Eastern Europe no later than the summer of 1943 and announced it to the Archbishop on September 2, 1943, well before the Yalta Conference, and several months prior to Teheran.

Although the President had returned from Montreal with Churchill and the three had dinner together on September 1, it was not until the morning of the following day, when Churchill had departed, that FDR discussed these matters.  It would appear that FDR’s desire to accommodate Stalin at any cost, included satiating his desires for expansion of the Soviet empire, without advising Churchill in a timely fashion.

The various occurrences in the timeline under review will also clarify the reasoning behind FDR’s response to George Earle’s efforts to present the truth about Katyn.

As time progresses, various of these newly raised issues will be addressed in detail as will the ongoing efforts of the Polish Underground to document the facts as best they could.

There will also be a discussion of the troubling role of the Orthodox prelate, Metropolitan Nikolai, who abetted international Soviet propaganda efforts starting in 1941 and continued by serving on both Soviet Extraordinary Commissions, as well as the wartime and postwar actions of the various Western journalists in Moscow at the time of these commissions.

Finally, there will be a review of what can now be determined to be unfounded postwar allegations against General Bissell.

But let us remember that as all the progressed, in Paris, the theatres were open, the galleries mounted shows – all approved by the German censors – and Cocteau, Picasso and others saw no issue in presenting their work in venues attended by the Wehrmacht.  In France, as has been written – the show went on.


© Krystyna Piórkowska

Thursday, May 23, 2013



As my readers may begin to wonder – why all this detail – why this meticulous attempt to reconstruct the jigsaw puzzle that should be best entitled “Multiple Machinations Surrounding the Facts of the Katyn Massacre” – and as they wonder about the specifics of the coded letters, it behooves me to clarify why I write in detail.

It is true that the English-speaking POW witnesses to the 1943 German investigation of the Katyn Massacre appear to be but a miniscule footnote to the entire history of the bloody murders (and bloody they were, with one of the non-Katyn site Soviet executioners wearing a floor-length leather apron and gloves, while other executioners pleaded that they could not kill at such a rate as they had been held to during the first days), yet it is necessary to study the details.

In her generous critique of my book, Professor Cienciala wrote that there is an assumption that these witnesses do not add anything to our knowledge of the history.  Yet I would dare to attempt to amplify the Professor’s words.  It is only by studying these detailed facts, even those seemingly totally unrelated to the English-speaking witnesses, that our knowledge of how quickly and what information was held by the Western Allies can be documented and placed in a clear timeline.  Too often, reference is made to the fact that these Allies did not have hard proof of the facts about Katyn, as it was clear that the Soviets would not allow for an open investigation by the Western Allies, or perhaps more precisely, as a result that the Western Allies did not have proof from their own men, from sources that they could consider to be unpolluted and untainted. 

Yet research over the period of over three years has not only moved the date for US and British possession of “hard and untainted data” from the general United States (if not world) perception of Colonel Van Vliet’s May 1945 report, as being the first, if not only, report, to the discovery of Lt. Colonel Stevenson’s report of February 1945 in the South African Military Archives as preceding that report.  Since Stevenson had served as the Senior Officer of the group, his report should have either served as the major documenter of facts and as such, should have been shared with the US, yet there is no reference in any currently known US documents, of the existence of this report.   Similarly, the British National Archives deny possession of such a report.

Yet two things are clear from the report,

  • firstly that Stevenson had undergone questioning by senior British officers and presumably been oriented to avoid a clear statement of Soviet guilt, and
  • Secondly, that despite having been the SO – he constantly referred to making decisions in conjunction with Van Vliet.

Both the Van Vliet and Stevenson reports were preceded by Captain Gilder’s report of November 1944.  It should be here noted that Captain Gilder’s report was shared by the British with their US counterparts, which leads one of two unpleasant suspicions. Since officially the US and Britain had agreed to share all relevant intelligence detail, and the US had officers imbedded in the military intelligence offices in Britain, that

  • either Van Vliet’s and Stewarts’ summer of 1943 correspondence had been shared with the British, and that they also, have never released information on this matter,
  • Or that the US did not, in fact, share all the information it possessed with the British.  

Further to this, confirmation of the fact that all the officers submitted letters of protest not only to the German Oflag Commandant, but also to the Swiss Protecting Powers, and that both the British and the United States received and thereby were aware of the fact that their soldiers were sent to Katyn moves the date of initial knowledge of the officer’s presence to the summer of 1943.

However, once research made it clear that the US Army officers were Registered Code Users, contacting their superiors on a regular and quite rapid basis, even planning a mass escape from Oflag 64, more questions developed.  This is how a supposition arose that letters concerning the Katyn truth would have been sent by the officers – and that is what led to the discovery of one of the Coded Letters in last days of August, 2012 in the US National Archives.

These letters were initially sent by the two US POWs as early as June and July of 1943, most probably from Oflag 64, where the US Army officers had been transferred by mid-June.  They were sent as late as April of 1944, after the Soviet-orchestrated Burdenko Commission had presented its report in January of 1944, and stateside MIS-X officers had written to the US POWs asking them to confirm their opinions on the matter.  (US citizens’ participation in the Burdenko scenario will be discussed later.)

It is this aerogramme (POWs were allowed to send correspondence in specifically proscribed formats – postcards or aerogrammes, which were a lined sheet of lightweight paper which folded in upon itself to form an envelope) from April of 1944 with its coded but unequivocal statement that the Russians were responsible, as well Captain Stewart’s response to written queries in 1950, when the search for the ‘missing Van Vliet report” was on, that confirms that the US knew from its own officers in the summer of 1943, that the Soviets committed the slaughter.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


One may wonder what occurred when the eyewitnesses returned to the Lagers – obviously, we do not know what happened with the Other Ranks and Stevenson certainly could not mention where he was held for two months – however, the three other officers and Stroobant did leave a record.  Each of them noted that they did not discuss the matter of Katyn with their fellow prisoners – although they all knew that the individuals in questions had been to Katyn to view the graves of the officers.

Nonetheless, despite this knowledge, it appears that the other prisoners did not question the witnesses, nor did they disclose their opinions on the subject to their prison mates.  The Germans had supplied Colonel Stevenson with copies of various photographs that had been taken during their stay in Kozie Gory and in Smolensk – thus there were images of various sites in addition to the grave site itself.

Captain Stewart testified that

You will find me in very few of those pictures, because I was convinced this was a propaganda effort, and every time I saw someone pointing a camera in my direction, I moved out of range or moved around on the other side, where possibly my back would show.

I was only in those pictures I could not avoid, because I did not want to be used for propaganda purposes. The other people were not quite so fortunate.

He also noted that

The Germans were taking movies, they were taking still pictures, and if we looked at anything with too much interest we felt they might make some propaganda out of it. If we indicated too much interest, we felt we would be playing into their hands.

Captain Stewart supplied the Committee with seven photographs which he described as follows

Two are unimportant. One shows a picture of a typical Russian village, according to the Germans, near Smolensk, and has nothing to do with this. ..

Another one shows the picture of the old city wall at Smolensk which I saw. It has nothing to do with this.

Stewart also added that each of the images he had been given had been stamped Gepruft by the Germans – i.e. that the censors had approved the images and they could be kept by the POWs.  Van Vliet made similar statements.

What is clear from a careful reading of the testimony to the Madden Committee is that:

  • the photographs which had been in the possession of Lt. Colonel Van Vliet had been attached to the 1945 version of his report and that
  • Those images were now missing (although that is never stated directly – the only reference being

 copies of which Mr. Mitchell now has, and

  • The images that were viewed and discussed in the first two sessions were the ones supplied by Captain Stewart. 

However, the Colonel Stevenson file contained at least two other images that do not appear in the Van Vliet or Stewart files.


© Krystyna Piórkowska

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


No more than (probably) eight days after their visit to Katyn, Stevenson had been removed to an unknown site, while shortly after that the two American officers, Van Vliet and Stewart, were returned to Oflag IX A/Z.  Major changes were afoot in the Oflag, as the Germans were preparing to comply with the Hague Convention and were preparing a camp, in what was formerly Poland, but now incorporated into the Reich, and which had housed French officers to hold the Americans who were now flowing into the Reich after being captured in battle.

The last POW to be held in Berlin was Dr. Gilder, although, if he had been accompanied by David Suttie, the New Zealander, it would have made sense, because then the Germans would not have held him alone.  As earlier mentioned, I have hypothesized that David Suttie was one of the Other Ranks brought to Katyn, and my reasoning flows as follows:

·         In his November 1944 report Dr. Gilder mentions David Suttie by name as the person who was to have accompanied him.  The question arises, why, in a reasonably short report, would Gilder mention the name of a person who DID NOT accompany him?

·         During the stay in Berlin, Dr. Gilder mentions a batman who serviced the officers and states that he was a New Zealander.

·         In his report to the Polish underground, Dr. Wodziński clearly states that a New Zealander was present.

·         Finally, Witold Kawecki, the journalist who joined the group on that leg of the Wroclaw-Katyn segment of the flight, mentions an Australian in the group – perhaps New Zealand’s linkage to Australia in the British Empire allowed him to compound the two.

Perhaps, and admittedly, this is an enormous supposition, it is Sergeant Suttie, attired in British battle dress, who is visible on one of the photos included as an exhibit in the Madden Hearings. This is the only enlisted man who does not turn his face away from the autopsy being conducted before the group, which response could only be ascribed to his work in the hospital both in New Zealand and in Rottenmunster.

It is during these last days in Berlin that Dr. Gilder discovered that Stevenson had been sent to a separate location, from which he was later sent to Bologna, Italy.

 Van Vliet only noted, and that in his recreated report, and not his 1952 testimony, that

One afternoon Lt. Col. Stevenson was bundled off by the Germans on about ten minutes notice.  He seemed very surprised and quite uneasy as he left the Jail. We never saw or heard of him again.

However, there was no public testimony to this matter, and the report was simply placed in the record and not read into the record.   It must be noted that there are several other cases during the Madden Commission Hearings when material, which might require greater discussion and lead to difficult issues, is simply placed in the record – and not read into it.

Neither did Stewart, despite not being accompanied by a US Army counsel, as the rest of the military witnesses were, make any comment pertaining to Stevenson’s removal from the Arbeit Lager in Berlin during his testimony some four months earlier.  (Although generally officers were held in Oflags or Officer Lagers – the witnesses were quite clear in their reports/testimony that this was an Arbeit Lager – presumably one for individuals who were willing to cooperate with the Germans – thus the decision of the Germans to locate the witnesses there – which indicated a desire to keep them apart from any other group of POWs which was not cooperating with the Germans.)


© Krystyna Piórkowska

Monday, May 20, 2013


 Everyone who has read or viewed feature films about Lisbon during the war has been presented with a clear image of a city where every nation not only had its diplomatic corps, but where every intelligence service had its operatives – both overt and covert – and where every civilian was presumed to be in the service of some power.  Certainly, Portugal served as an escape point for Jews and other ‘undesirables’ from France or those who could get to France, albeit many simply stayed in Spain once they crossed the border from France.  Myriad are the stories of purported contacts between Admiral Canaris of the Abwehr and the head of MI-5 and ‘Wild’ Bill Donovan of the OSS.   Lisbon, at the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula and Istanbul, at the extreme cusp of Europe, were the two cities fabled for their intelligence networking and sources and seemed to serve as counterbalances at either end of the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the individuals who factored greatly in the US documentation of the Katyn Massacre was George Earle, Special Emissary (Envoy) to the Balkans, who was stationed in Istanbul, where just as in Lisbon, German diplomats were also stationed.  Earle (a former governor of Pennsylvania) had served in Vienna where he had befriended certain German diplomats who later joined the anti-Hitler opposition.  In the Istanbul of 1943, Earle had access to the International Medical Commission reports and crime scene photographs, which will be discussed.

However, in the Berlin Arbeit Lager, presumably after the Other Ranks and Stroobant had been returned, Lt. Col. Van Vliet noted that

We gathered from the Germans that the front office didnt (sic) know what to do with us. There was some hopeful amplification that we might be released possibly through Spain.

Certainly, the Germans should have been able to get the POWs through to Spain, even to the border with Portugal.  Once there, crossing the border, even officially, would not have been a problem.   This added to the fact that there was no outcry from the officers that this clearly was a German atrocity, could have led the Wehrmacht and the Propaganda Ministry to believe that the officers were of the opinion that it was a Soviet atrocity.  The primary goal of each of these institutions was the same – a break-up of the British-Soviet-US Alliance – although the ultimate goal differed.

Certainly, if the Germans wanted to make public the views of the English-speaking witnesses, they were aware that the officers would not make a public statement while POWs – clearly a treasonous act – however, they could speak out if they were released and might even do so if they were in ‘neutral’ territory.

Why, then, did the Germans fail to transfer the POWs to Portugal? Although this matter is not specifically discussed in any known document, there is a tantalizing clue in a recently (June, 2013) declassified document from the US National Archives. 

As earlier mentioned, one of the members of the International Medical Commission was a Spaniard, Dr. Piga, who upon his arrival in Berlin visited the Spanish Embassy and then immediately declined travel to Katyn – feigning – as Goebbels referred to it, in a letter of July 17, 1943, ultimately directed to the Spanish Foreign Minister Jordana and General Muñoz Grandes, an illness of a ‘diplomatic character’.  Apparently, although it had taken almost three months, the Germans had discovered the nature of Dr. Piga’s ‘illness’.

Recently declassified State Department materials contain a report of a 1952 interview conducted with Dr. Piga in the US Embassy in Spain.  In the document, Dr. Piga is quoted as stating that, apparently, the US government had learned of the planned presence of Dr. Piga as part of the IMC, and had contacted the then Spanish Foreign Minister Jordana.  They pressured the Foreign Ministry to such an extent, that Dr. Piga was instructed to withdraw from the Katyn trip, albeit he received the message only upon his arrival to Berlin.

Clearly, the United States, and particularly, Franklin D. Roosevelt did not want the credibility and good guy image of ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin to be damaged by such a highly public visit of known forensic specialists to the Katyn site, particularly if they would affirm Soviet guilt in the matter; this, at a moment when the Soviets were bearing the brunt of losses, both in dead and wounded.  This then would indicate that there was US State Department certainty, nay, even more, FDR’s certainty of clear Soviet guilt even prior to the end of April, 1943 – this can be stated with some certainty – since many matters which would appear to be minute – including the issuance of passports to US citizens did often pass through FDR’s hands – witness the case of Oskar Lange and Stanisław Orlemański.  Although no State Department minutes have yet been disclosed on the subject – there had to be directives from Washington to force a local diplomat to pressure the Spanish Foreign Ministry.  But a decision to intrude on this high a level could not have been taken by an underling at the State Department.

This knowledge, that the Spaniards had been influenced by the United States to such an extent that they ‘betrayed’ their German allies in such an important propaganda mission, might have caused some concern on the part of the Germans as to how the Spaniards would proceed if the group of POWs were brought into Spain to either then cross in Portugal or perhaps be released in Spain.  The Germans would have no certainty that the POWs would be allowed to speak publicly, or that the US government would not pressure them to present the ‘pro-Soviet’ version of the massacre.

Thus, if one is to presume that the Germans were aware of the US pressure on the Spaniards, which the letter to the Spanish Ministry implies, they would have major concerns about releasing the POWs on Spanish territory – or into murky Lisbon.  Therefore, if there was no guarantee of a presentation of Soviet guilt in the massacre, the decision was clear there was no benefit to releasing them – the POWs would be returned to their camps. 


© Krystyna Piórkowska

Sunday, May 19, 2013


A number of times in this lengthy paragraph (which has been segmented for analysis purposes) Stevenson indirectly touches upon a fact which has not been discussed – why is it that Frank Parker Stevenson, a reservist and not a career officer, holding a rank identical to that of John H. Van Vliet, Jr. who was a career officer (and who noted this in his report and testimony), is consistently identified as the Senior Officer of the group.  Yet although Van Vliet and Stewart never modified that stance, in his report Stevenson seems to indicate that there was a clear consultative nature to his functioning as Senior Officer.

We were P.O.W.s, Russia our ally, and by such our duty and loyalty was definite and clear. This instruction applied not only to our presence in Berlin but should be obeyed as far as our own camps were concerned. It would be common knowledge that we had been taken to Katyn and perhaps unwise to conceal, but on our return to camp, we must maintain silence relative to our experience. This policy was unanimously agreed to by Col. van Vliet (sic) and the Other Ranks were called together and issued with an instruction bearing on this matter. The photographs were not distributed to the Other Ranks. The officers were given a set. The remainder I retained.  Supplies are attached. 

 “The policy was unanimously agreed to by Col. Van Vliet (sic)” – logical reasoning might lead one to consider the following theory – the Germans were well appraised of the military backgrounds of their POWs – and as such, they would have faced a difficult quandary in the case of officers of equal rank – is an officer with a degree from a military academy to be accorded a higher level of respect?  Or is an officer senior in age and years of military service to be accorded the respect?  Or in fact, would it be the fact that Britain had entered the war before the US did, and that Lt. Colonel Stevenson had been a POW longer than Lt. Colonel Van Vliet, Jr.? Bearing in mind that this visit was organized by the Wehrmacht – for publicity purposes – but nonetheless by the Wehrmacht – this would have been an issue.

However, I suspect that another factor may have influenced the matter.  John H. Van Vliet was supremely aware of the political nature of this trip and that the group was being photographed, filmed and recorded (not only in the forest, but as they noted, in their rooms) and as a result, he may have wanted to recede a bit from the omnipresent monitor, to be less of a focus.  This is clearly apparent in the photographs from the site.  As previously mentioned, Dr. Gilder is generally front and center speaking to Dr. Buhtz or Kiselev, and then standing in the clear forefront is Lt. Col. Stevenson, while on a number of images we see Van Vliet only from the rear, or a partial side view. 

Thus, if the Germans were to use these photographs, the natural tendency in describing them would be to state the names of the people who were clearly visible and/or front and center.  The others might not be mentioned, or if they were, their names would not be the first to be listed.  Perhaps it is all happenstance, but I would conclude that Van Vliet and Stewart (who also tends not to appear full face, were highly sensitive to the propaganda value of an image that would list their names and the fact that they were graduates of the US Military Academy.   In the stratified society of the 1930’s and 1940’s, and in the Wehrmacht, where not only military rank but aristocratic titles were still mentioned, referring to the presence of a graduate of Sandhurst, or alternatively the Military Academy, would have had great propaganda value.

 Thus, what Captain Gilder describes as Stevenson’s paranoidal nature may have led to Stevenson wanting to assume the function of Senior Officer, while Van Vliet’s innate ability to discern the propaganda issues, would have led him to demur and deflect any suggestion that he serve as Senior Officer.  Van Vliet described Stevenson in the following words:

                He was a windbag

 Nonetheless, Van Vliet clearly attempted to direct Stevenson’s reasoning in the matter, as is noted by Stevenson, not I would vouchsafe as an acknowledgment of Van Vliet’s input – but rather as an attempt, in 1945 to ensure that if an erroneous decision had been made, the blame could be equally shared by the South African reservist and the American career officer.


© Krystyna Piórkowska

Saturday, May 18, 2013


John H. Van Vliet, Jr. stated that the officers were taken under guard, for walks in the Tiergarten, and that it was only there, once they were able to distance themselves from their “guardians” that they felt comfortable in discussing what they had seen.  It is difficult for a non-internee to imagine how these POWs must have felt walking through a park in the middle of Berlin, which although the capital of a country at war, still had a semblance of normal life.  Clearly, there was no possibility of escape, which was the one extreme, yet on the other hand, this was not a POW camp with fences and guards. This was a park in the middle of Berlin, where one could promenade, despite the news from the Eastern Front, yet there is no mention of these aspects, of seeing children and women, not solely men. The Tiergarten walks gave them a respite from not only the POW camps but an extreme contrast to what they had seen and smelled in the forest of Kozie Gory.

It is Colonel Stevenson’s February 1945 report, which verbalizes a number of questions that logically, may have arisen and as we read his statement, certain questions are answered, while new ones arise:

During the return journey from Katyn, certain photographs were handed to me by the German Officer in Charge, Captain Bentham (?) who instructed me to distribute them to the men and officers. I accepted the photographs, realising they were safer in my care than distributed surreptitiously by the Germans. On arrival in Berlin we were placed again in the same Arbeit Lager. The lager contained French and Russian prisoners. We, the officers were confined to our room, N.C.O.s and Other Ranks occupying a room on a lower floor of the building. We were forbidden contact with all other prisoners.

If Stevenson is correct, then the Germans changed the room allocation upon their return, since Stroobant noted that the Other Ranks and he were held at the top of the building upon their initial arrival to Berlin. This section of Stevenson’s report differs, to a certain extent, with what the others reported, since they emphasize that the Other Ranks and Stroobant were immediately returned to the Lagers they had come from.  Of course, Stevenson may have consolidated facts, and so what is consistent, is that the group was, once again, individually questioned upon their return.

Here we were kept for eight days. During this period a number of attempts were made to get us to express an opinion of all we had seen, but I had issued definite instructions in conjunction with Lt. Col. Van Vliet, both to officers and men, that they were to refrain from all discussion relative to Katyn – the matter was full of deep and dangerous political significance and had no bearing on our position, future or present.

It would appear possible that what occurred was that the entire group was individually questioned, and that once it was clear that no individual was willing to speak out publicly, the Germans decided that the propaganda value of the Other Ranks, even if they did finally accede and speak out,  would be worthless.  That perhaps, is why they, together with Frank Stroobant, were shortly returned to their Lagers. The questioners apparently included Lord Haw Haw.  Readers of World War II history, familiar with the name of Lord Haw Haw, may not be aware that this pseudonym was used by a number of British citizens who broadcast to the English-speaking world and presented the Nazi viewpoint, including P.G. Wodehouse.  Generally, however, the individual most closely related to this identity, is a US-born son of Irish and British parents, who left Ireland, lived in Britain and then went to Germany -William Joyce, and it is presumably he who was one of the questioners.


© Krystyna Piórkowska