One may wonder what occurred when the eyewitnesses returned to the Lagers – obviously, we do not know what happened with the Other Ranks and Stevenson certainly could not mention where he was held for two months – however, the three other officers and Stroobant did leave a record. Each of them noted that they did not discuss the matter of Katyn with their fellow prisoners – although they all knew that the individuals in questions had been to Katyn to view the graves of the officers.
Nonetheless, despite this knowledge, it appears that the other prisoners did not question the witnesses, nor did they disclose their opinions on the subject to their prison mates. The Germans had supplied Colonel Stevenson with copies of various photographs that had been taken during their stay in Kozie Gory and in Smolensk – thus there were images of various sites in addition to the grave site itself.
Captain Stewart testified that
You will find me in very few of those pictures, because I was convinced this was a propaganda effort, and every time I saw someone pointing a camera in my direction, I moved out of range or moved around on the other side, where possibly my back would show.
I was only in those pictures I could not avoid, because I did not want to be used for propaganda purposes. The other people were not quite so fortunate.
He also noted that
The Germans were taking movies, they were taking still pictures, and if we looked at anything with too much interest we felt they might make some propaganda out of it. If we indicated too much interest, we felt we would be playing into their hands.
Captain Stewart supplied the Committee with seven photographs which he described as follows
Two are unimportant. One shows a picture of a typical Russian village, according to the Germans, near Smolensk, and has nothing to do with this. ..
Another one shows the picture of the old city wall at Smolensk which I saw. It has nothing to do with this.
Stewart also added that each of the images he had been given had been stamped Gepruft by the Germans – i.e. that the censors had approved the images and they could be kept by the POWs. Van Vliet made similar statements.
What is clear from a careful reading of the testimony to the Madden Committee is that:
- the photographs which had been in the possession of Lt. Colonel Van Vliet had been attached to the 1945 version of his report and that
- Those images were now missing (although that is never stated directly – the only reference being
copies of which Mr. Mitchell now has, and
images that were viewed and discussed in the first two sessions were the
ones supplied by Captain Stewart.
However, the Colonel Stevenson file contained at least two other images that do not appear in the Van Vliet or Stewart files.
© Krystyna Piórkowska