On the occasion of the commemoration of the 65th
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The workers of the Western Ukraine and Western
Belorussia, thanks to the fraternal assistance of the Soviet people and its Red Army, were
forever liberated from the class and national oppression of the Polish bourgeois.
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After the Second World War, the International Military Tribunal was
established in Nuremberg to try the leaders of Nazi Germany for crimes against peace, war
crimes, and crimes against humanity. Crimes against peace involved initiating a war of
aggression. War crimes involved: murder, ill-treatment, or deportation either of
civilians or prisoners of war. Crimes against humanity involved: murder, extermination,
enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts committed against any civilians before or
during war, and also persecution on political, racial or religious grounds. These acts,
the charter of the Tribunal stated, were crimes "... whether or not in violation of the
domestic law of the country where perpetrated". The Nazis were also guilty of the
ultimate crime - the crime of genocide.
In a bizarre twist of fate, the Soviets, who were also guilty of all these
crimes and therefore should have been in the dock alongside the Nazis, sat in righteous
judgement upon them.
These, and similar Soviet actions cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens throughout the war and caused indescribable pain and sufferings to millions more. Such a terrible physical and psychological reign of terror has seldom been witnessed in the annals of human history. Its main objective, no doubt, was nothing less than the complete destruction of the sociocultural life of the twenty year old Second Republic of Poland. Yet as of today, sixty years after the end of the Second World War, not a single Russian official or researcher that can be named, has had the courage to own up to the fact that during the Second World War the Soviet Union was no better than Nazi Germany; that it was in large measure responsible for the outbreak of the Second World War; and that its sinister ideology continued to plague the world, and Poland in particular, for years after that war was over.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, some progress has been made in that direction, especially in regard to the mass executions of 1940, collectively known as the Katyn Forest Massacre. Perhaps Russia's handling of the Katyn murders will provide the world with a definitive answer to the question whether there is any difference, after all, between the Russian and the Soviet mentality and conscience.
In 1990, when the Katyn debate reached a critical point in independent
Poland, when the facts of the case could no longer be denied and when the cover-up
could no longer be sustained - in other words, when the heat was on - Mikhail Gorbachev
handed Wojciech Jaruzelski a folder of documents. They left no doubt as to who was
responsible for the Katyn Massacre. Yet, there was no 'smoking gun' in any of those
documents. Then, in 1992 Boris Yeltsin suddenly 'discovered' Beria's March 5, 1940,
execution order in Gorbachev's private archive and handed its copy over, together with
copies of forty other documents, to Lech Walesa. Beria's order, signed by Stalin and
members of the Politburo, reads that 25 700 prisoners are to be tried and sentenced to
"the supreme penalty - shooting".
When the Russian criminal case was closed in September 2004, historians the world over waited anxiously for the outcome of the investigation. On March 11, 2005, Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov announced that after reviewing numerous documents, questioning over nine hundred witnesses, and conducting eighteen examinations, including exhumations, the investigators found no evidence of genocide. Moreover, those perpetrators, who are still alive, would not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitation. The case generated 183 volumes, 116 of which were said to contain "state secrets". And that was that.
In December 2004, the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland had begun its own investigation into the matter with high hopes of gaining access to at least the 67 volumes of Russian investigative documents which did not contain "state secrets".
From what we already know, the Katyn Massacre was both: a crime against humanity and also a war crime. Few will argue the point. But was it genocide? The starting point in the search for a plausible answer must be the 1948 Convention on Genocide which was unanimously adopted by the United Nations and which defined the term. Its Article II reads, as follows: "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group..." (the Article goes on to list also four other acts). There is no question, but that in the case of Katyn, we have a national group (the Poles), which was destroyed "in part". The question therefore must hinge on whether they were destroyed as such. In other words, were they killed only because they were Poles?
The NKVD order clearly condemns them all to death on political grounds, because they were, in the words of the document, "hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority". Who were these counterrevolutionaries? Polish officers and soldiers, rank and file policemen, civil officials, refugees from the German occupation zone, university professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, priests, writers, journalists... Historical records also show that 700-900 of the victims were Polish Jews. All, all 25 700 were said to be "uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority". In reality, many belonged to the Polish intelligentsia which Stalin tried to eliminate to prevent the resurgence of independent Poland. The Russian commission no doubt drew its conclusion - that it was not genocide - on the basis that the prisoners were not killed because they were Poles, but rather because of their social status, because they were the enemies of the Soviet Union, as Beria's document plainly states. But the same could be said of Hitler's intention to exterminate the Jews - he did it not because they were Jews, but because they were the enemies of Germany and indeed of the whole world.
I do not buy the Russia's doublespeak. Katyn was part and parcel of
Stalin's long-range, genocidal policies aimed against Poland - against the country,
whose people he hated with a passion because they stood in the way of his imperial
Last modified January 24, 2010 9:30 AM