Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The group returned to Berlin, flying back on a similar route to their inbound trip.  They were brought back to the ArbeitsKommando, where the sole civilian and the British Other Ranks were returned to their camps, the Ilag and the Soldag(s).  The remaining group, consisting of the four officers, was questioned about their willingness to make public comments on what they had seen in Katyn.  During the period when they were held in Berlin, during their walks in Tiergarten, did they find the possibility to for circumspect conversations. Both of the officers emphasized during their Madden Committee testimony that prior to and during the flight to Katyn, they nurtured an intense dislike of the Germans, that they were convinced that whatever they might see in Katyn, was in fact a German act.  Yet clearly, their visit convinced them otherwise.

Van Vliet must have been troubled by Stevenson’s earlier declarations, since in his 1950 report, we read:  
During these walks Lt. Col. Stevenson did a lot of talking with the Germans. Told them that he had once published a book, and that as soon as he returned home he was going to get permission from his superiors to write a book about the experience.

The fact is that Stevenson had published two volumes of poetry in South Africa, the first entitled Thoughts of a Wayfarer (Verses) in 1936, and the secondYesterday, Today and Tomorrow: a volume of poems in 1941, thus his statements had a basis in reality.
Stevenson’s declaration is also noted by Dr. Wodziński in his report to the Polish Underground:
I also heard that Lt. Slovenczyk proposed that the Colonel from South Africa say a few words about Katyn into a microphone, to which he responded that he had not yet developed an opinion on the matter and therefore cannot speak. As Lt. Slovenczyk told about a week after group’s visit, the South African Colonel intended to note his recollections of the visit to Katyn, and therefore the Germans were to take him to another camp, where they would create a more appropriate environment to work in.  Whether this tale of Slovenczyk’s approximated the truth, I do not know.

Something certainly was afoot, since immediately after their return to the Arbeits-Kommando in Berlin, Colonel Stevenson was separated from his colleagues with whom he had travelled.  Testifying before the Madden Committee, Van Vliet could only say that:
Colonel Stevenson the South African was bundled off on short notice.

Once the US officers had departed from the Arbeits-Kommando, the last remaining officer, Captain Gilder – accidentally became privy to certain information about Stevenson’s fate:
My guard who, although only a corporal and Berlin businessman, told me that they had lied to Colonel Stevenson. He was not going back to camp, but was to be retained. (He subsequently arrived at a Prison Camp in Italy).

It has not been determined where Stevenson was held for over two months (from the third week of May until August 1943) after he was taken from the Arbeits-Kommando. Based on his military service records, it is clear that as of August 1943, Stevenson was being held in Camp 19 near Bologna, Italy, and that afterwards, when Italy surrendered, he and the other POWs who had been held in Italy, were transported back to Germany and was sent to Oflag XII B.  

© Krystyna Piórkowska