Two parallel tragedies at Katyn Forest

April 7 was the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre.  Here is the story, in brief, a chilling example of Stalin’s tactics, knowing that he was about to take over Poland:

In March 1940, Joseph Stalin signed an order for the mass execution of more than 22,000 Polish officers being held as prisoners of war. The April 1940 executions were systematic: Each office’s hands were tied behind his back, and each was shot with a single bullet through the base of the skull.

According to Poland's conscription system, the Polish officer corps included anyone with a university degree — Poland’s intelligentsia.

“By murdering these people, the Russians created a leadership vacuum,” said Alex Storozynski, the president of the Kosciuszko Foundation.

via Meeting of Russian, Polish leaders could shed light on 1940 massacre.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, that aircraft went down in Russia, killing 130 passengers, including that country’s president and a big part of its government and military leaders. It crashed in the KATYN FOREST! With tragic irony, the group had just come from the commemoration of the massacre. And there are other connections:

The Polish President and numerous top officials died aboard a TU-154 while trying to land at Smolensk airbase.He was on his way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre which took place in the woods near that city. Lech Kaczyński “was an activist in the pro-democratic anti-Communist movement in Poland … During the martial law introduced by the communists in December, 1981, he was interned as an anti-socialist element. After his release from internment, he returned to trade union activities, becoming a member of the underground Solidarity.” A BBC blog soliciting reader reactions said “Mr Kaczynski has been a controversial figure in Polish politics, advocating a right-wing Catholic agenda.” . . .

Dozens of important Polish officials died with him. Among those in the crash were Poland’s first lady, the head of the National Security Bureau, the Chief of the Polish Army General Staff, the President of the National Bank of Poland and the Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Polish Army. In terms of loss it is a miniature of the decapitation event he gone to commemorate: the Katyn Massacre.

After Poland went down before the onslaught of Nazi and Soviet forces in 1939-40, Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria decided to decapitate the country’s society. Since the Polish army required all university graduates to become reserve officers, the NKVD decided to kill two birds with one stone and eliminate the both the trained military manpower of Poland and its “intelligensia”. In 1940 the Communists shot more than 22,000 Polish officers in woods near Smolensk. These included an admiral, two generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captains, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 20 university professors, hundeds of physicians lawyers, engineers and teachers, more than 100 writers and journalists among others.

In true Bolshevik style, there was a cover story: the Soviets claimed the Nazis did it. But although the Nazis were guilty of many other crimes, Katyn was not one of them. “In April 1943, when the Polish government-in-exile insisted on bringing the matter to the negotiation table with the Soviets and on an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin accused the Polish government in exile of collaborating with Nazi Germany, broke diplomatic relations with it, and started a campaign to get the Western Allies to recognize the alternative Polish pro-Soviet government in Moscow led by Wanda Wasilewska.” That government in exile continued until the end of Communist rule in Poland in 1990. In one of the crash’s cruel ironies of the accident, the last Polish President in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, was onboard the doomed aircraft.

Also, see this: The Curse of Katyn.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Orianna Laun

    This story breaks my heart. My sympathy goes out to the people of Poland and Polish around the world. It is a national tragedy for them, and even worse, considering the event they were to be marking.

  • Orianna Laun

    This story breaks my heart. My sympathy goes out to the people of Poland and Polish around the world. It is a national tragedy for them, and even worse, considering the event they were to be marking.

  • Piotr Malysz

    Here is a text presenting the Polish perspective in terms that would be understood by our American friends:

    http://www.harvardpolishsociety.org/en/main.htm

  • Piotr Malysz

    Here is a text presenting the Polish perspective in terms that would be understood by our American friends:

    http://www.harvardpolishsociety.org/en/main.htm

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thank you, Piotr, for that link. I encourage everyone to read it.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Thank you, Piotr, for that link. I encourage everyone to read it.

  • Winston Smith

    Why on earth did the Polish government allow so many key officials to travel on the same plane?

    And who benefits from the leadership vacuum?

  • Winston Smith

    Why on earth did the Polish government allow so many key officials to travel on the same plane?

    And who benefits from the leadership vacuum?

  • DonS

    The Polish people have undergone a disproportionate share of hardship and tragedy in their history, yet their courage and strength and love of liberty is a beacon of hope in eastern Europe. God bless them in this hour of sorrow, and as they pick themselves up and resolutely carry on once again.

  • DonS

    The Polish people have undergone a disproportionate share of hardship and tragedy in their history, yet their courage and strength and love of liberty is a beacon of hope in eastern Europe. God bless them in this hour of sorrow, and as they pick themselves up and resolutely carry on once again.

  • NavyMom

    DonS, very well said. Heartbreakingly sad.

  • NavyMom

    DonS, very well said. Heartbreakingly sad.

  • Tadeaus

    Poland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country with socialized health care. We could do well to emulate them.

  • Tadeaus

    Poland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country with socialized health care. We could do well to emulate them.


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