These remarks will only deal with the most egregious errors in the general history presented in the paper. My detailed remarks will primarily comment upon issues relating to the English-speaking Witnesses to Katyn. Page numbers refer to the specific pages of the document itself.
Page 3 -
The melodramatic reconstruction of the executions presented does not coincide with the meticulous excavations and reconstructions of the murders documented by archeologists and forensic scholars in the late twentieth century, neither does it coincide with the description given by the one individual who was brought to the railway siding but not taken to the massacre site - but this description is one that others could counter. As an example, the ripping off of the jackets - is factually inaccurate as the victims were found wearing their great coats. No eyewitness to the exhumations noted that jackets had been removed. Further, given that victims were transported from the railroad stop in Gniezdowo to the murder site in Czorna Voronyas - there was no possibility that they could have seen anything - since they were held in individual cells within the vehicle. But, again others can counter this.
I also believe that it is appropriate to include the numbers of victims included in the Belarussian list - which would certainly increase the tally of victims.
Page 4 -
However, as the thesis refers to the victims solely being in Katyn “... the Soviets imprisoned 14,552 Polish Officers. In April 1940 these officers were massacred in the Katyn Forest." an egregious error is made. No more than 4,800 bodies were found in Katyn - and the rest of the victims (who were not only officers) were murdered in Bykovnia (Ukraine) and Mednoje (Russia). This fact contradicts the statement on Page 10 that the three camps were outside of Smolensk.
Page 10 -
With respect to the number of officers who survived - a more accurate and generally accepted number is 1,200 and includes those officers who were interned in Lithuania and then brought to Kozielsk in June of 1940 - and are known as Kozielsk II. With respect to the people who were sent into 'internal exile' most of those were families, i.e. wives, mothers, children and older men. Women as well as those men, who were not military, were also arrested and sentenced to the GULAG - the omission of these two facts reduces the number of victims to thousands - while they were in the hundreds of thousands if not over a million.
The statement that General Anders could have approached the NKVD in February of 1941 - while he was imprisoned BY THE NKVD, and five months before the start of Operation Barbarossa, and some six months prior to any agreements regarding the formation of a Polish Army is clearly an error. I personally have never seen mention of a February 1941 timeline and it is documented that Anders authorized Czapski, whom he empowers with a specific letter, to approach Zukow in this matter in February 1942, and although there are references to meeting in December of 1941, the Polish Government issued White Paper of 1946 states that Anders met with Stalin on March 18, 1942, when Anders did raise the issue which contradicts the reference to January of 1941. Further, Anders did not become commander of the Polish Army in Russia (not the USSR) until August of 1941.
I will note that the Polish government did not cease seeking information about its missing officers.
The presented information is incorrect. Colonel Szymanski sent his report in June 1942, and it was sent from Cairo. However, in May of 1943 that report, together with the IMC report was sent, by Szymanski, who had received orders from Marshall, directly to General Strong. A misstatement of the date of the first report is quite serious, while omission of Marshall’s orders demanding information is equally serious.
Colonel Szymanski did know many members of the Polish forces, but it is a question as to whether his knowing them led to his receiving the information or whether he sought the information, which was his duty and as a result began to know them. Clearly, since Col. Szymanski had had no prior relationship with the Polish Army or government, it is highly improbable that he had personal relationships preceding his assignment as liaison.
Referring to the brutality of the Stalinist regime as though this brutality was purely an aspect of Stalinism and not of Communism is questionable, and this questionable approach is also reflected in the earlier statement that Stalin signed the order – while omitting the fact that Beria and the others also signed the document. To put it bluntly – removing the blame from Beria and the other members of the Politburo feeds in the Russian refusal to acknowledge the crime for what it is.
Announcement of the Crime – there is no mention of the fact that permission to go to Katyn was sought by the members of the Polish Red Cross and granted by the Home Army – that there was a clear discussion of the need to ascertain the facts while not collaborating with the Nazis. Yet this omission allows a general reader to wallow in a lack of knowledge – that there was a strongly organized underground government and that military and public sector – or what we might now refer to as civic society organizations subsumed themselves to the underground orders. This fact would counter the previously made statement, (page 9) “since the Poles had no control over the country” – a blanket statement at the minimum.
Further omitting the earlier visit of other foreign journalists, including those from Belgium, Finland and Sweden, prior to the announcement – and omitting the fact that their press also withheld publication of the story as they were uncertain, is a omitting a telling detail.
Page 18 –
“the presence of three year old trees” – the fact is the trees were five years old – and had been transplanted three years earlier. I shall simply note that a detailed reading of the Madden Committee testimony would have confirmed that fact, and that it was Dr. Orsos (a member of the IMC) who noted it in Bialystok.
Page 21 –
“Stalin carried through on his threat and on April 21…..”
Stalin did NOT sever relations with the Polish government on April 21, 1943 – rather, relations were severed on April 25 – Easter was April 25 and it was that night that the Polish Ambassador was called into to receive the note severing relations.
“..until the Soviets retook the Smolensk area from the Germans in 1944 …” The Battle of Smolensk ended on October 2, 1943. Thus the Soviets had retaken the area around Smolensk in 1943 and not 1944, and Dr. Burdenko had been serving from the start, on main committee, which the Soviets had formed in November of 1942. Thus, the commonly referenced Burdenko Commission was but a sub commission of the main committee to investigate German-Fascist crimes. However, the significant point here, is that the Russians had more than three months prior to January 13, 1944 to prep the site, of which two months were in still reasonably tolerable weather. Clearly, given winter conditions in the area, it was not possible to dig the soil in mid-January – it was frozen.
Page 23 –
mention is made of the German forester – yet Dr. Zietz in his Madden Committee testimony discusses that it was Dr. Orsos who determined this, and this is confirmed by Dr. Palmieri in his testimony, finally, General von Gersdorff in his materials for the US Army in the 1950’s clearly stated that only after Dr. Orsos had made his analysis did the Germans call out for a dendrologist – and when they located one he confirmed Orsos’ analysis – without even being asked to do so.
Referring to the International Medical Commission in quotes is a demeaning reference – as it was in fact international, it had been organized by the Germans as a result of a suggestion by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the members were not only forensic specialists but also included a member of one of the Scandinavian undergrounds. Finally, this would have been an appropriate point, if one wanted to refer to the early efforts of the US to influence the “Katyn agenda” that the Spanish member of the IMC was called back to Madrid as a result of US State Department pressure. Thus the question of their prestige – as a group – if considered in the light of the presence of a member of the Scandinavian underground, as well as the pressure of the State Dept. and the recommendations of the IRC – would cause it to be seen differently.
And here the timeline in the thesis is backwards – it refers to the creation of the IMC as though it occurred prior to the approach to the IRC – and yet the IMC was the result of the approach to the IRC. Further, the IRC decision to not investigate was based on pre-war decisions of the Soviet government not to sign agreements –and not on present (1943) actions.
It is not Dr. Trasmen – it is Dr. Tramsen.
It was not the Polish Red Cross – but the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross – which was delegated (secretly) by the Home Army to work at the site in order to help identify the names of the victims. The Germans had been working with Volksdeutsch – and various errors in nomenclature were occurring. Of course the Germans had to allow for their presence – but the intention was a greater one than that presented. Only two words more would have been needed for accuracy’s sake.
To be quite precise about the Technical Committee - it did not refuse to make a report – it simply delayed and avoided presenting the report – refusal was not an option – neither was collaboration.