Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Dr. Wodziński of the Technical Committee noted the presence of the Medical Commission in his report, just as he later noted the presence of the English-speaking POWs.

The IMC very clearly reviewed and included the relevant portions of the Technical Committee’s and the Werhmacht Committee’s work. They noted in their report that in the gross majority of cases the victim was executed by one shot – and one shot only – while in a few cases two shots were needed and in only one case were three bullets used.  

"From the crushing of the skull and marks of gunpowder on the occipital bone near the hole made by the entrance of the bullet, as well as from the fact that in almost every case the bullet entered the head at the same place", the Commission concluded that the shots were fired from pistols pressed to the head or at very close range. This was also corroborated by the fact that the bullet had in every case, taken practically the same course with only a few small variations. The fact that all wounds were absolutely identical and that all the shots had been localized in a small area of the occipital bone lead the Commission to the conclusion that the shooting had been done by "experienced hands".

The Commission further stated that on many of the bodies the arms were tied together in exactly the same manner and in some cases the clothes and skin showed signs of being pierced by a four-edged bayonet.

This latter statement which though not directly referring to the perpetrators of the murders, was of special significance since, unlike all other armies, which used flat, single-edged bayonets, the Russian army alone used and still uses fouredged bayonets.

Further paragraphs of the Protocol gave additional indirect clues as to the perpetration of the murders, stating that the officers' arms were in each case bound in exactly the same way as those of Russian civilians, also dug up in the Katyn wood but buried at a much earlier date. These had been murdered in exactly the same manner as had the Polish officers.

Those civilian murders had occured in the mid-1930s, when the entire Kozie Gory complex was a closed NKVD site with restricted entry.

It was only in reviewing the materials that were made available to scholars many decades later was it possible to discover that in some cases the Soviet NKVD executioners had individually been executing as many as 250 men a day.  They finally complained that they could not maintain such a schedule, and their ‘norma’ or quota was reduced.  These experienced hands then received special monetary awards from the NKVD.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Monday, April 29, 2013


The morning of the 29th of April the members of the International Medical Commission were brought to Kozie Gory.  Photographs of that visit are among the most commonly recognized of the Katyn images.  There are two probable reasons for that – the first is that the Nazi propaganda publication Signal as well as the French Tout La Vie published photographs of the forensic specialists at their work – both entering the grave pits to select the corpses they wished to examine as well as conducting the actual autopsies.  Although each forensic scientist appears in at least one photograph it is clearly Dr. Orsós who appears in most of the images.  His image can be easily recognized as he is not only attired in a suit but even while conducting an autopsy he wears a homburg.

Although it is not precisely stated in the Madden Committee Testimony, each of the pathologists received copies of the photographs which were taken in Katyn, and those images form the largest single collection of images of the group.  The Commission noted that by the date of their visit a total of 982 bodies had been exhumed, and given the fact that Lieutenant Voss noted on the 26 of April, that 600 bodies had been removed and studied by the 24th of April, that statement implies that Voss was including the work of the members of the Technical Commission of the Polish Red Cross.

The conditions at the site were extremely difficult with Dr. Zietz, who accompanied the IMC stating that

The smell of the corpses was impossible to bear, so, for the first time in my life, I became a chain smoker. Shortly beyond the residence of von Kluge the smell of the corpses became discernible. It was a very hot summer.

Now Zietz did not conduct forensic analysis, so one might think that he was more sensitive than the others who arrived in Katyn at that time, but it was not so, as Dr. Tramsen was similarly affected

Mr. Flood. When did you get to the graves at the Katyn Forest?
Dr. Tramsen. Next morning, about 10 o'clock. We were collected at the house of the Wehrmacht, where we stayed for the night, and taken in Germany military buses out to the Katyn woods about 16 kilometers west of Smolensk.
Mr. Flood. Will you describe, in your own words, your first impression and your observations of what you saw immediately upon arriving at the scene of the graves?
Dr. Tramsen. The first thing we saw was a rather sparse wood of fir trees, and there was a terrible smell of decay. And then we saw, in a sort of lane, a long line of dead bodies that had already been extracted from the tombs. This is the first few I saw (producing photograph).

 In response to questioning by one of the Committee members, Dr. Naville noted that
I want to emphasize the fact that we did not make autopsies on corpses that were pointed out to us, but we selected the corpse on which we desired to make an autopsy,
Mr. Machrowicz, I have one question there. Doctor, did you select them from the corpses that were already exhumed, or those that were obviously untouched before you came there?
Dr. Naville, The corpses that were still in the grave.

The members of the IMC checked the corpses to verify if there were any insects, eggs, mites or ants within the graves – as this would be a clear indication of whether the bodies had been placed into the ground during the warmer months.  There were none as Dr. Tramsen noted

Mr. Flood. Did you observe, or were any observations made by your brother scientists, or others, in your presence, with reference to the presence of or the lack of insects in the graves?
Dr. Tramsen. Yes. We had particularly been looking out for insects, eggs, mites, and ants, but we found nothing of that kind.
Mr. Flood. Could it be reasonably concluded, based upon that finding, that the bodies were buried at a time of the year which would be insect-free or perhaps cold?
Dr. Tramsen. Yes, indeed. And it corresponds very well to the observation that the lack of original decay was obvious, particularly when you take into notice the climate of that part of Russia, which is very hot in summertime and very cold in wintertime.

It was clear that the Soviet allegation that the massacre had occured during the late summer of 1941 was a scrim misleading those who were either gullible or willing believers of the Soviets. 

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Sunday, April 28, 2013


On Wednesday, April 28, shortly after dawn, the 14 forensic specialists left the Hotel Adlon, which lay but a block away from the Tiergarten, and travelled to Tempelhof Airport.  They flew on a Condor FW200, a 26 person aircraft, which then landed in Brest-Litovsk, midway to Smolensk, and where the group breakfasted.  Journeying with them were a female physician from Berlin, a Foreign Office representative, Dr. Zeitz and a photographer.  The journey occupied all of that day and according to Dr. Tramsen they arrived around 6-7PM.

The journey of close to 1,550 kilometers took them over Warschau (Warsaw) where as Dr. Tramsen noted in his diary (albeit dating it the 27th) on this the 10th day of the Uprising:
                Warsaw in flames. The Ghetto
Clearly, the news about the Uprising had reached western Europe, while the POWs did not ever mention that news of the Uprising had reached them in the Oflags or the Ilag.

Once in Smolensk they were put up in, as Dr. Zeitz described it
 a hotel of which the Russians boasted, which consisted of nothing but a facsimile,
They took their meals at the officer’s mess, which is described as the mess of the Surgeon General Army Mitte, Generalstabsarzt Dr. Med. Karl Holm who met them at the airport and accompanied the specialists together with Dr. Buhtz.  Major General Holm served in the Smolensk area from September 10, 1942 through May 20, 1943.  His name is not mentioned in general Katyn studies as he committed suicide on March 30, 1945.

The fact is that the Germans had wanted other forensic specialists to be part of the group.  A Swedish specialist suffered a spinal injury just prior to leaving for Berlin, Dr. Piga ‘evacuated’ shortly after arrival in Berlin, but even earlier there were disappointments.  As the Germans were trying to organize this and other visits with no lead time, they hit roadblocks – in Switzerland they had wanted Prof. Dr. Zanger to be a member, he had already retired.  

In the case of Dr. Tramsen of Denmark, who as it was later revealed was a member of the Danish Underground, it was his superior, Professor Sand who was to have gone to Katyn.  When that proved impossible, Tramsen was suggested and he checked with the Underground (much as the Polish Red Cross had checked) and he received permission to go to Katyn.  So at least three of what we could understand to be original members of the Commission fell to the wayside, and at least two of them were world class specialists.

It is emblematic of the importance which the Germans were placing on documenting this Soviet war crime that they ensured that the foreign specialists were met by a general who was the senior medical officer in the area.  That they managed to have personnel assigned to plan this out, just weeks after the confirmation of defeat in the battle of Stalingrad (early March 1943) posits that the Germans also placed their hopes in splitting the Soviet – US/Great Britain Alliance.  That hope is also confirmed by what occurred in the weeks following the IMC visit to Katyn.  

To summarize – although pressure had not been put on the specialists while they were in Katyn, pressure was put on at least one of them, Dr. Tramsen after his return from Katyn and it can be surmised that it was similarly put on the others.  Dr. Orsos, already 64, when he travelled to the massacre site, was a man of character, as was confirmed in his actions when both the Germans pressured him to testify and he refused.  In his case, age protected him, in the case of Dr. Tramsen a refusal to publicize the matter upon his return from Katyn meant that he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

These were not the only substitutions the Germans had to make in the groups sent to Katyn.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Saturday, April 27, 2013


In London, General Sikorski met with Messrs Eden and Winston Churchill as well as the US Ambassador, Drexel Biddle, to discuss the position of the Polish Government in light of the Soviet severance of relations.  In the interim the Polish Cabinet met and prepared a statement in which they noted that the Polish government have strictly discharged its obligations and that
In light of facts known throughout the world, the Polish Nation and the Polish Government have no need to defend themselves from any charge of contact or understanding with Hitler.
It further read
In a public statement of April 17, 1943 the Polish Government categorically denied to Germany the right to abuse the tragedy of Polish officers for her own perfidious aims.
Yet Harrison Salisbury’s comments on these days show how poorly the Polish position was understood, even by journalists stationed in London, and in truth how little they valued the lives of these officers.  His outrage at the audacity of the Polish Nation in seeking the truth about this matter bridle with condescension, nay contempt for their loss.

In Berlin, the various members of the International Medical Commission were arriving throughout the day, Dr. Naville arrived by train at Potsdam station, while Dr. Tramsen flew in, as probably did Dr. Piga of Spain, who then visited the his Embassy.  As Ribbentrop noted in a statement to be delivered to Foreign Minister Count Jordana and General Munoz Grandes for General Franco, although
He showed great interest in visiting the mass graves.  After a visit to the Spanish Ambassador in Berlin, he suddenly declared that on grounds of health, he had to return to Madrid.  According to our information, this illness was of a diplomatic character…

In 1952, Dr. Zietz recollected that he had been occupied arranging for the needs of the individual members, some of whom sought to purchase books and materials unavailable in their countries.  He also arranged for a dinner with Dr. Mueller-Hesse, the foremost forensic specialist in Berlin, who also later visited Katyn.

In the three POW camps, where the known English-speaking witnesses were held, not only were they aware of the massacre, they had been advised that they would be obliged to travel there.  The Senior British Officer in Oflag IX A/Z (Rotenberg am Fulda) and Lt. Colonel John H. Van Vliet Jr., were advised by Hauptmann Heyl of the camp administration, that that two US Army officers (as well as a Dominion officer) would be required to go to Katyn.
Brigadier Nicholson and I protested that no member of that camp would go as an individual, as a representative of the prison camp, or as a representative of his own particular army or country except under duress, and then only as an individual under guard, under protest, unwilling, and would express no opinion and act in no way as a member of an investigating group.  
Nicholson and Van Vliet submitted a formal protest to the Puissance Protectrice as well as to the Camp Commandant.  The Germans
shrugged it off and that specifically I, would go, and that Lt. Colonel Stevenson would go, and that I would select one other American officer to go.
That letter to the Swiss Puissance Protectrice (Protecting Power)– was the first formal notification that the US State Department received via its representative in Bern that US Army officers had been taken to Katyn.  It was incumbent upon the State Department to follow up on this matter as they did.  Van Vliet responded to their correspondence which reached him in March of 1944, similarly, Captain Dr. Stanley Gilder in the Lazarette at Rottweil, also advised the British authorities through the Puissance Protectrice and responded to his government’s request for information.

Yet, the State Department’s actions in this matter were not placed under detailed review, and were only superficially touched upon by the Madden Committee, as the State Department did not submit their materials to the Madden Committee.  As Committee Counsel stated – the document had been made available to the Committee at the very last minute, and it appeared to confuse the members of the Committee, who were unaware that Van Vliet’s protest had reached the State Department.  

Little did the Congressional Committee members know much of the truth would be kept hidden from them by the State Department and Department of the Army – even during their hearings in 1952.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Friday, April 26, 2013


Despite the Soviet allegations, the Polish Government in Exile, as well as local representatives in Poland had been most careful to document their distance from the Nazi’s.  When Kazimierz Skarzyński travelled to Katyn, on April 17, he brought with him a statement which was handed to Lieutenant Slovencik, an Austrian journalist, was the officer in charge of all delegations present at the site.  The statement read, in part:
The Presidium of the Executive Committee has decided to send to Smolensk 5 people from Warsaw comprising a Technical Committee consisting of 4 people who, if necessary, will remain on the spot and Mr. Skarzynski member and Secretary of the Executive Committee. In view of the fact, however, that the German Authorities have deprived the Polish Red Cross of all its responsibilities including the care of the graves, with the exception of those activities undertaken by the Office of Information, Mr. Skarzynski is authorized to act only within the framework of the said Office of Information.

This precise description of their responsibilities arose from the restrictions placed on the Polish Red Cross by the Germans themselves, and which the International Committee of the Red Cross had attempted to modify after receiving the protest of the Polish Red Cross.  An Office of Information – that was the official role of the Polish Red Cross – and it was a creative interpretation of that role which allowed the Technical Committee members to operate in Katyn.

The Secretary General, Skarzyński, was not a medical man, nor were a number of the other members of that second group which travelled to Katyn, one of whom was the Cannon Dean of Krakau, Rev. Stanisław Jasinski, whom Skarzyński described as follows:
The priest took his liturgical dress, and we all joined in the prayer. He immediately fainted after the prayer.He was a very poor man. He couldn’t stand the smell. We had to revive him in about half an hour.

Truly, in some images taken by the Germans, we can see a shaken figure in a cassock, a surplice and a stole.  Father Jasinski left Katyn on the same flight as Skarzyński and the others from that group – the only men who remained behind were (Lt.) Władysław Rojkiewicz, Stefan Kołodziejski and Jerzy Wodzinowski.

However, between the 17th and the 19th, their ability to work was significantly affected by the fact that they did not have any vehicles or supplies and were forced to try to negotiate this with Lt. Slovencik.

On April 20th additional personnel arrived from Warschau, they included Hugon Kassur (who assumed chairmanship of the group), Gracjan Jaworowski and Adam Godzik.  Mr. Kassur negotiated with Lt. Slovencik about means of travel, supplies, living and working quarters as well as other issues.

By April 26, additional members joined the group of six – these men were Dr. Marian Wodziński and his assistants: Stefan Cyprujak, Jan Mikołajczyk, Franciszek Król, Władysław Buczak, Ferdynand Płonka, all from the Krakau coroner’s office.

There was now a total of twelve men on site and they worked from 0800 until 1800 (6:00PM) each day, with a 90 minute lunch break.
                The lack of a sufficient number of rubber gloves caused great difficulty [in the work].

A discreetly worded statement which can give the average reader a grisly image of the conditions under which they worked.   There was a further comment
General working conditions were difficult and nerve wracking. Decomposition of the bodies and the polluted air contributed to the difficulty of the work.
The frequent arrival of various delegations, the daily visits to the area by a considerable number of military personnel, dissection of the bodies by the German doctors and the members of the various delegations, made the work still more difficult.
which corroborated the large number of visitors, primarily Wehrmacht, which were brought to the site. 

The report further states that
Through the Commission’s intervention visiting was limited to several hours daily, and military police were detailed to maintain order.
This large number of viewers led to a remark in one of the memos of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Katyn investigation of 1948 where the statement was also made that hundreds of thousands had visited the site.

Dr. Kassur left Katyn on May 12 and was not able to return, while two individuals had left prior to the end of April, and this meant that two things occurred – the working group was reduced from twelve firstly to ten, and then to nine, and the new head of the group was Jerzy Wodzinowski.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Eight days had passed since the Polish Red Cross representative in Berne had requested that the International Committee of the Red Cross send an investigatory commission to Katyn.  Those eight days could be said to be the fulcrum of the post-war split of Europe – which was not a cleanly defined split of a Communist controlled and non-Communist Europe – but rather a split into a Communist controlled and significantly Communist influenced post-1945 Europe.

The exchange of diplomatic memos between the Polish government and the Soviet government had culminated, on April 25th in the formal severance of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Poland.  Although dated April 26thit was delivered to the Polish Ambassador in Moscow on the 25th, and was signed by Vyacheslav Molotov, the People’s Commisar for Foreign Affairs.  The Polish Ambassador did not accept the note. The second and third paragraphs of the memo (quoted below), present an affronted and insulted USSR, which seemingly was not aware of the repeated requests for information about the missing officers, which had been submitted to the Soviet authorities from the lowest to the highest (including Stalin) levels starting with September, 1941 and continuing on for the next two years.

The Soviet Government consider the recent behavior of the Polish Government with regard to the U.S.S.R. as entirely abnormal, and violating all regulations and standards of relations between two Allied States. The slanderous campaign hostile to the Soviet Union launched by the German Fascists in connection with the murder of the Polish officers, which they themselves committed in the Smolensk area on territory occupied by German troops, was at once taken up by the Polish Government and is being fanned in every way by the Polish official press.

Far from offering a rebuff to the vile Fascist slander of the U.S.S.R., the Polish Government did not even find it necessary to address to the Soviet Government any inquiry or request for an explanation on this subject.

The USSR had been moving consciously and with great determination in order to eliminate and destroy the legitimacy of the Polish Government in Exile – and the issue of Katyn served its purposes.  Joseph Stalin was well aware that the US and Great Britain needed the Soviet Army to serve as cannon fodder for the juggernaut, yet he was also unable to supply his Army with the equipment and materiel that the Soviet Army needed.  Conversely, the US was able to supply the USSR with these items, and the roads of Persia (Iran) were full of trucks bringing equipment into the southern belly of the USSR, while convoys of aircraft flew across the US from Great Falls, Montana, across the Northwest and through Alaska to the eastern USSR. 

Stalin clearly realized that the US would supply him with equipment in unlimited quantities, as long as the brunt of the manpower losses occurred among the Soviet troops.  Conversely, he needed the Polish Government in Exile to lose in credibility in order to be able to effectuate his long term plans for Poland and all of Eastern Europe.

General Sikorski, the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile, had been faced with an impossible choice – not only could he could not remain silent when the Polish officer’s bodies were displayed to the world, he had to raise his government’s voice in calling for an investigation.  There was a calculated risk in siding with the Germans in their allegations that the Soviets had committed the crime, any outcry that the USSR had committed a war crime had to be treated with silence by the major Allies, the US and Britain; because they could not risk alienating the USSR.  In the meantime news about the Ghetto Uprising was reaching the West and the seeming silence by the Polish Government – despite its official statements on what was then called the Mass Destruction of Jews dating back to 1942, were forgotten.  

But Sikorski knew that he not only had a moral obligation to demand that the perpetrators of the crimes had to be identified, but he also risked losing the loyalty of the Polish Army which was formed in August of 1941, first in Totskoye and later in Buzuluk and Jangi Jul, was named the Polskie Siły Zbrojnie w ZSRR (Polish Armed Forces in the USSR) and the original agreement concerning formation of that army, signed on August 14, three weeks after the start of Operation Barbarossa, had stated that the army would serve as a cohesive unit.  As the months progressed, not only was the Polish Army, serving under the command of General Władysław Anders, denied adequate rations, but the troops were denied adequate arms and were forced to train with mock-ups.  This, despite the fact, that the Lend-Lease agreements between the US and the USSR were conditioned on equipment and materiel being supplied to the Polish Army.

The breaking point came when it was announced that the Polish Army in the USSR would not serve as a cohesive Army, but would be split into separate units which would be assigned to serve under direct Soviet command.  General Anders understood clearly that his malnourished and under-trained soldiers would become cannon fodder for the guns of the forces of the Third Reich.  It was August 1942 when this Polish Army was evacuated across the Caspian Sea to the port of Pahlevi on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, where within weeks it was renamed the Polish Army in the East.

This now allowed Stalin to work on creating the First Polish Army in Russia – a name which almost duplicated the name of the original forces – and whose creation was announced in the spring of 1943. This was the first public step in creating a parallel universe wherein a Polish Army and government under Soviet command would simulate an independent government.

John Stuart Mills wrote that
A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction
the inaction of the US and Great Britain during those eight days allowed Stalin to understand that they would remain silent while he proceeded with his plans.

© Krystyna Piórkowska


To My Readers

My apologies – a major technical problem with the computer has forced me to recreate the material which was not backed up and was destroyed and related to events of the 24, 25, 26 and 27 of April, 1943.

I hope to post these items by tomorrow - my apologies.

I have now posted the April 24, 1943 entry and am working on the succeeding days - please check below.

Hard drive is completely dead. Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


 There were fourteen members of the IMC  in addition to the Chair.

Almost each one of the IMC members was a respected specialist in forensic medicine, generally a professor or docent.  The only exceptions were Dr. Costedoat, whom Dr. Tramsen, in his testimony, described as a psychologist (He was only as the Germans say, a, “Völkischer Beobachter.” Questioned by Rep. Machrowicz, he explained: That is a German joke because, “Völkischer Beobachter” is the name of an official Nazi paper and means public observer), as well as Professor Dr. Speleers:
1.       Chairman: Dr. Wilhelm Zietz, representing the German Health Services;
2.       Deputy Chairman: Dr. André Costedoat, representing the French (Vichy) government and director of the French Medical Inspectorate – although he did not conduct any autopsies, he was present in Katyn;
3.       Dr. Alexandru Birkle (1896 Russia-1986 New York), Deputy Director of the Rumanian Institute of Criminal and Forensic Medicine, physician in the Ministry of Justice;
  1. Prof. Dr. Herman Maximilien De Burlet (1883 Rotterdam-1957 Königswinter), University of Groningen (Holland);
5.       Prof. Dr. František Hajek (1886 Certyne-1962 Praga), Charles University in Prague, Dr. Hajek later withdrew his testimony, Dr. Zietz, in recollecting Markov and Hajek in his testimony, confirmed what had been said about Markov as well as Dr. Hajek in the postwar period and stated of Hajek: He certainly had no easy position in the Protectorate… That in my opinion is merely a lack of scientific conviction due to a threat to life and limb and ;
6.       Dr. Marko Antonow Markov (1901 Nowa Zagora-1967 Sofia), University of Sofia (It was Dr. Markov who testified at the Nuremberg Tribunal, withdrawing his statement of 1943, that the Soviets had committed the massacre. This is why, each of the members of the IMC (Miloslavić, Naville, Orsós, Palmieri and Tramsen) was questioned specifically about Dr. Markov’s position in April 1943. Dr. Tramsen stated:
I spoke quite a lot to Dr. Markov in Smolensk and later in Berlin and I am absolutely of the complete idea that he meant the Russians had done these murders. And so far as I remember he said it directly on several occasions);
7.       Dr. Eduard Lukas Miloslavić (1884 Oakland-1952 St. Louis), University of Zagreb
8.       Prof. Dr. François Naville (1883 Neuchatel-1968 Geneva), University of Geneva, After more than a decade, Professor Naville was subjected to an ad hominem attack by one of the members of the Conseil d’Etat de Genève, Mr. Petitpierre;
9.       Prof. Dr. Ferenc Orsós (1879 Temesvár-1962 Moguncja), University of Budapest;
10.   Prof. Dr. Vincenzo Mario Palmieri (1899 Brescia-1994 Naples), University of Naples Federico II;
11.   Prof. Dr. Antonio Piga y Pascual (1879 Madrid-1952 Madrid), School of Forensic Medicine in Madrid – not present at the exhumations, ;
12.   Prof. Dr. Arno Saxén (1895 Jyväskylä-1952 Zurich), University of Helsinki;
13.   Prof. Dr. Reimond Speleers (1876 Waasmunster-1951 Aalst), Ghent University;
14.   Prof. Dr. František Subik (1903 Kuklov-1982 Poughkeepsie), Comenius University in Bratislava; Chief Commissioner of the National Health Service of Slovakia, František Subik was also a poet, whose work was published under the pseudonym Andrej Žarnov.
15.   Dr. Helge Tramsen (1910 Copenhagen-1979 Copenhagen), Forensic Medicine Institute in Copenhagen.
Twelve photo static signatures of the members appear at the end of the IMC report; dated April 30, 1943 (the report was not signed by Dr. Zietz, as he represented the German government; Dr. Costedoat; nor Dr. Piga, as he was not present)
* * *
It may be surprising, but among the members of this commission, we find the first English-speaking witness to the Katyn massacre.  That was Edward Miloslavich, whose life was split between the United States and Europe.

These then were the men who met at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin.

© Krystyna Piórkowska

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The Red Cross had definitively refused to send forensic scientists to Katyn and the Nazis were scrambling to find appropriate individuals who would be qualified and hopefully would not subvert their plan in agreeing to serve on the International Medical Commission.  In truth, Leonardo Conti (1900 Lugano-1945 Nuremberg), Head of the Reich Health Services (Reichsgesundheitsführer), Secretary of State for Health Affairs in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, head of the Nazi League of German Physicians or his subordinates were sending telegrams to various cities seeking either forensic specialists who were Polish or other nationals. The actual formation of the commission was delegated to Dr. Wilhelm Zietz, as a representative of Reichsgesundheitsführer Conti and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To be precise, the science of forensic medicine was just developing and the foremost specialists in the world were located in Europe.
Two of the (currently) best known members of the IMC fact is that both Dr. Naville and Dr. Miloslavich (Miloslavić) volunteered to serve on the International Medical Commission, while most of the other members were appointed; and Dr. Helge Tramsen discussed this issue in his testimony to the Madden Committee:
The very first invitation had come to my chief, Professor Sand, and he was a very old man…So he pointed me out because at that time, I was a military doctor… And may I add there that I had official orders from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Admiralty, to join the commission.

On the one hand, it could not be said of the remaining members that they sought out this journey to Katyn; conversely, the Germans did make an effort.  Dr. Tramsen noted (as did other members of the IMC, that:
(…) I took part in the commission of my own free will and have never been under any stress [sic] during those days by the Germans, the Danish government or any other authority… Yes. I had the absolutely free allowance [sic] to move about, take pictures with my own camera (It should be noted that generally when a group arrived at Katyn, their cameras were taken from them.), and was assisted by the Germans in any way during my scientific examinations and autopsies of the bodies (Tramsen also noted that by 1943, he had been a member of the Danish underground for about half a year).
The members arrived at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, where they overnighted prior to their departure for Smolensk.  The Commission consisted of fifteen individuals; there was no one present from among the Allies, as the Germans were in a state of war with them, there was one German (Dr. Zietz) and the remainder came from the occupied countries or the few neutral nations.
Almost every one of the IMC members was a respected specialist in forensic medicine, generally a professor or docent.  The only exceptions were Dr. Costedoat, whom Dr. Tramsen, in his testimony, described as a psychologist (Dr. Tramsen discussed the French doctor: He was only as the Germans say, a, “Völkischer Beobachter.” Questioned by Rep. Machrowicz, he explained: That is a German joke because, “Völkischer Beobachter” is the name of an official Nazi paper and means public observer), as well as Professor Dr. Speleers.
In a detailed reading of the Testimony we learn how much evidence was given to the Committee by individual witnesses.  Dr. Tramsen brought a number of photographs on which not only Tramsen but individual graves are visible, but also the officer’s diaries, ‘ID books’, Polish currency, and ever a handwritten poem.  These materials were photographed and are included in the Hearings. Almost each one of the forensic specialists confirmed that he had taken an officer’s skull from the site – each of these acts being completely foreign to the contemporary follower of CSI.


©Krystyna Piórkowska

Monday, April 22, 2013


As early as April 15 the Germans were advising Bern that:

…By April 11th, 160 corpses had been taken out of the graves and identified.  Among these were two Polish generals, Brigadier-General Smorawinsky, Mecyslaw (Sic) of Lublin PI, Litwenski (Sic) and General Bronislaw Bogaterewitsch (Sic). Until now all ranks of officers from lieutenant to general have been identified. A strikingly large section of the officers are wearing the traditional braid of the Pilsudski Regiments. Of the corpses in the Polish mass graves it is estimated that 90% are officers,… The total number of buried Polish corpses in the said woodland is estimated (on the grounds of statements made by civilian persons about the constant unloading in March and April 1940) at about 10,000. The corpses were examined by forensic pathologists of Army Group Mitte…

Clearly, the Nazis were attempting to place what they believed to be all the missing men in one location and so they presented this tally of 10,000 and even stated it was as high as 12,000.  One would wonder -how were they made aware of the tally of the missing?

When they had first occupied Poland, the Germans had incorporated parts of Poland into the Reich and each of these areas now carried various  Germanic names including one purely consisting of purely Polish territory - Reichsgau Wartheland originally Reichsgau Posen, also called Warthegau, while the remainder of what remained had been named the General Gouvernement with the capital in Krakau (Kraków) under General Hans Frank.  The USSR did not act any better, in fact they simply annexed the territories in the East claiming they were Belarusian or Ukrainian and by fiat all Polish citizens residing in these areas were now Soviet citizens – this despite the Treaty of Riga which clearly defined the borders. The Soviets then removed the families of any of the men whom they held as prisoner (easy enough to locate them once they were allowed to mail letters to them)  as well as any member of the educated classes who had not previously fallen into their nets. 

The ancient borders of Poland had been much more expansive and there were large numbers of ethnic Poles residing within the confines of a pre-1939 USSR.  Beginning in the mid-1930s, Stalin ordered and the NKVD completed a number of purges directed solely at the Polish population.  It included executions, arrests for political crimes, or expulsions from their homes and resettlement thousands of miles away.  The victims were men, women and children.  A specific subset was the clergy which was either executed, sent to forced labor camps or to GULAGs, where living conditions were such that execution might have been easier.  These victims included priests of the Roman Catholic and Byzantine Rites, and in the camps they were often comingled with priests of the Orthodox Rite.

 Current analysis of statistical data proves empirically that the Poles were not randomly selected, or that the groups were comingled – specific orders were given concerning the Polish population, and the percentages of those killed or exiled, exceeded their actual proportions by enormous multiples.  Stalin’s plan for the Polish population, both those residing on ancient lands and those residing within the borders of interwar Poland were clear – this was an enemy population and was to be eliminated.  The issue of religion, i.e. whether one espoused Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism or any faith was irrelevant – once one identified oneself as Polish one was necessarily the enemy. This was clearly proved in the Katyn Massacre, where all faiths were represented – which proved to be a problem for the Nazis, since their propaganda referred to Jewish Bolsheviks organizing the crime.

For six years there was no Polish nation on the maps of either the Reich or the Soviet Union. There was a Polish Underground State which reported to London, and the military structure which came to be known as the Armia Krajowa reported into that structure and was the main organized armed resistance, thus the ŻZW reported into it.  It was only after the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, that the USSR  began to send in its operatives to organize any semblance of a resistance, but that structure reported into the Soviet government and not a Polish one, and was already construed to serve as a Soviet lackey. 

During this period, for both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, any semblance of local Polish organization was precluded from existing, and all educational activities were banned, although in German occupied areas the Church had some autonomy.  Even so, for the Reich, before the Polish Christians were eliminated, they were to serve as slave underclass, only somewhat better than the Jews or the Roma who were to be immediately liquidated.  Thus the Polish Red Cross was not allowed to operate.

Nonetheless, the Germans found themselves in a quandary, since, unlike the Bolshevik Soviets whom they so condemned, and who had severed all manner of international agreements, or had not signed new accords, the Germans had consistently signed and supported them.

One of them dealt with the Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland, which recognized the Polish Red Cross. As a result, the Reich had been forced to acknowledge that these untermenschen did have the right to have their Red Cross continue operating, albeit in a limited fashion.  The war had however, already caused losses in personnel, including those who were abroad at the start of the war,  and so the position of Secretary General was made available, which was how Kazimierz Skarzyński, who had worked in manufacturing and had lost that job once the Germans seized the company, came to occupy that post.

The Polish Red Cross, as did many national Red Cross units, began to collect information on the various injured, imprisoned and missing in action.  They compiled lists and became aware of the large number of men missing.  Their list was not complete, since it (necessarily) could not include the names of the men who had lived and served in various capacities in eastern Poland, now incorporated into the Soviet Union, for the families of these men had been taken by the NKVD and forcibly resettled into the depths of the Soviet Union – to the various ‘stans’ – but primarily Kazachstan, and there were few relatives left to report on the missing, and certainly even if there had been – the Soviets would not be collecting it.

Nonetheless, as Skarzyński reported, the Germans had, at one point, ordered the Polish Red Cross to prepare to receive a large number of military prisoners from Russia – and in January 1940 they were preparing to do so as best they could – 14,000 men were to arrive. Skarzyński stated
We waited at this camp ready to receive the officers for several months. I don’t remember if it was April or May 1940 that the German authorities told us to close the camps, telling us that the officers won’t come back.

The spring of 1940 was a period when the German Gestapo and the NKVD were still holding organizational meetings, one of which had occurred in Brześć nad Bugiem (September 27, 1939), a second in Przemyśl in mid-Galicia (November [?] 1939), a third in Zakopane (February 20, 1940) and there were rumors that a fourth had occurred In Krakau (March 1940).  In this period of cooperation, it was perhaps possible that the Germans had been informed by the Soviets of the executions, but no documentation has been found to confirm this.

But the number of 14,000 prisoners – now, executed victims, resonated throughout the partitioned land.

NB – for cities in German occupied Poland, German names will be used.

©Krystyna Piórkowska