Staff of C.-in-C.
Ref. No. 1847/Int./43.
In the field 21. IV. 1943.
UrgentThe Ministry of National Defense,
Chief of Political Department.
delivery of diplomatic note
"…On April the 17th 1943 at 4.30 p. m. Radziwill delivered a Note to the International Red Cross which he handed to Rueger [former Swiss envoy in Rome]with a request to send a delegation to Smolensk. Thirty minutes earlier a similar Note had been delivered b}' the German delegate.
Rueger told Radziwill that the request will be taken into consideration only because it had been received from both sides. [Memorandum of 13 September 1939.]Probably on the 20th of April a Commission will assemble which will appoint the delegation.
I shall inform of its composition the moment its members will be chosen.
Further details via the I. R. C. will be disclosed after the return of the Commission from Smolensk.
Within the I. R. C. prevails the opinion that the German informations are true.
I shall watch closely the whole case and send on any information I receive…”
Chief of Intel. Service
This cable confirms the submission of the very document which led to the severance of Polish-Soviet relations by the Soviet side. The Polish Red Cross representative in Berne, Stanisław “Stash” Radziwiłł had delivered a note to the International Committee of the Red Cross requesting an investigation – a similar note had been submitted by the Germans – various reports place the German note as being submitted first, others that the Polish note was submitted first – in either case the time span between the note delivery is described as being at most but a day or two apart. Presumably the Poles were not aware that the Germans were preparing to submit a note of this nature at the very same time.
The Technical Commission of the Polish Red Cross, then consisting of three members who had travelled to Katyn with the second Polish delegation and remained behind, were: Ludwik Rojkiewicz, he inspected documents that had been removed from already exhumed bodies at the Field Police Secretariat, while Stefan Kołodziejski and Jerzy Wodzinowski, were responsible for checking the bodies for documents, both nightmarish tasks when one realized the physical conditions they would work under for the next seven weeks.
Yet on that first day, they also encountered the group of Polish POWs, Cavalry Lt. Col. Stefan Mosser, Capt. Stanisław Cynkowski, 2nd Lt. Stanisław Gostkowski, Capt. Eugeniusz Kleban, 2nd Lt. Zbigniew Rowiński (air corps) and Captain Konstanty Adamski (armored division) who had all been brought in from Oflag II (C,D and E/K sub-camps).
Nonetheless, the Propaganda Ministry Plan did not succeed in having the Polish POWs speak to the media about what they had seen. The only tangible results were that the Polish Red Cross was aware of the POWs presence as was noted by Dr. Wodziński and that the skeleton crew of the Technical Committee was left on site.
The first Soviet denials of the Katyn massacre appeared on April 17th, in “Soviet War News”, which was published by the Sovinformburo, and distributed by the Soviet Embassy in London. And precisely as the Wehrmacht had expected, the Soviets began to refer to the archeological digs in Gniezdowo and started conflating the Neolithic tumbrels with the recent graves.
The following days saw an escalation of anti-Polish attacks by the Soviets and criticism of the Poles by the British and the US government representatives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Harrison Salisbury, who had just received his passport in mid-February 1943, had barely arrived in London, was working for the United Press, wrote disparagingly of the Poles in his aide-de-memoire noting that it was outrageous for them to make any demands for an explanation of what had happened to their officers. Salisbury’s overtly expressed disdain and contempt for the Polish forces and people are remarkable in their approach to a victim nation.
The spiraling effect of these various comments, which the Soviets had to have been aware of, must have empowered them in threatening Poland over the issue of Katyn and led them to a confidence that the severance of diplomatic relations would be meekly accepted by the Western Allies.