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