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