Search in

Digital Archive International History Declassified



  • Citation

    get citation

    A Soviet record, probably dated from 1976, that offers an official CPSU stance on the Katyn massacre. The memo also describes various post-war "provocations" by the United States and other Western nations to bring attention to the Katyn massacre and inflame Soviet-Polish relations.
    "The Katyn Affair (A Brief Memo)," 1976, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitriĭ Antonovich Volkogonov papers, 1887-1995, mm97083838. Translated by Gary Goldberg.
  • share document


English HTML



(a brief memo)

In September 1943, after the liberation of Smolensk and its environs from Nazi troops graves with the mortal remains of Polish POWs were found in Katyn Forest, 15 kilometers from the city.

A Special Commission to Establish and Investigate the Circumstances of the Execution of Polish POWs in Katyn was created by a decree of the Extraordinary Commission to Establish and Investigate the Evil Deeds of the German Fascist Invaders and Their Accomplices. This Commission established that before the seizure of Smolensk by the Nazis that Polish POW officers and soldiers, who were quartered in three special purpose camps 25-45 km west of Smolensk, were engaged in road construction work in the western rayons of the Oblast’. After the start of the Great Patriotic War the camps could not be evacuated in time by virtue of the situation which had developed, and about 11,000 Polish POWs fell into the hands of the Germans, and were then shot in Katyn Forest in the autumn of 1941.

In the winter of 1942-1943, when the overall military situation had sharply changed not in favor of fascist Germany, the Nazis undertook measures to conceal their evil deeds. With these very [actions] they  counted on slandering the Soviet Union and worsening Soviet-Polish relations. An “International Medical Commission” of representatives of satellite countries created by the Nazis for this purpose between April and June 1943 conducted an “investigation” of the circumstances of the execution of the Polish POWs in Katyn. Then the German information service published a book about the results of the “activity” of this commission under the name of “Official Material About the Mass Murder in Katyn” in which Nazi propaganda ascribed their own crimes to the Soviet Union.

The conclusions of the Special Commission to Establish and Investigate the Circumstances of the Execution of Polish POWs by the German Fascist Invaders in Katyn Forest found its reflection in the corresponding materials of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, which found the fascist leaders guilty of this crime.

An area has been constructed on the site of the burial of the Polish POWs at which a monument has been set up with the inscription, “Here are buried Polish POW officers brutally murdered by the German fascist occupiers in the autumn of 1941”.

The grave and memorial are accessible for visits by Soviet citizens. Polish delegations come here periodically and lay wreaths. Visits to the memorial by foreign tourists have not been noted inasmuch as this region in the Katyn Forest is not used by them for tourist purposes.

In spite of the fact that this provocation of the Nazis was exposed and it has been incontrovertibly proven, reactionary circles in the West periodically raise an anti-Soviet campaign around the so-called “Katyn Affair”.

For example, in 1951 a special commission of the US Congress was created on questions of Katyn, and in 1952 the US State Department sent the Soviet Ambassador a letter from the chairman of this commission and a resolution with the expression of a desire to receive some sort of “proof” from the Soviet government regarding the murder of the Polish officers in Katyn Forest.

On 29 February 1952 in a note to the US government about this the Soviet government qualified these actions as a violation of the generally-accepted norms of international relations and insulting to the Soviet Union. The note declared that the instigation of the question about the Katyn crime of the Nazis eight years after the conclusion of the official Commission “can pursue only the goal of slandering the Soviet Union and thus to rehabilitate the generally-recognized Nazi criminals”, and the above January 1944 report of the Special Commission was attached. These documents were published in Pravda and other national newspapers on 3 March 1952.

In connection with the anti-Soviet uproar organized around the meetings of this commission in February 1952 the PNR government published a statement vigorously condemning this provocative campaign.

Imperialist centers of ideological subversion have recently again stepped up anti-Soviet propaganda around the so-called “Katyn Affair”. In July 1972 the radio station BBC reported that the British government supposedly has documents demonstrating that “the guilt for the crime in Katyn Forest lies not with fascist Germany, but with the Soviet Union”. In June 1975 a press conference was organized in the British Parliament building which called upon the International Court [of Justice] in the Hague “to look into this matter”. As follows from a report of the newspaper Daily Telegraph, “a document shedding new light on the fate of more than 10,000 Poles who, it is believed, were executed by the Russian secret police” has appeared in the West. The Radio Free Europe radio station in broadcasts to Poland immediately took up this provocative uproar. In appeals to Polish believers Catholic preachers often mention “the 10,000 unjustly murdered best representatives (the elite) of Polish society” with an anti-Soviet subtext. As the Soviet Embassy reports, there are many people in the PNR inclined to believe such anti-Soviet inventions.

Such provocative actions as the opening of a memorial “to the victims of Katyn” with anti-Soviet inscriptions in Stockholm in November 1975 on the grounds of a private estate at the initiative of reactionary Polish émigré circles serve the goals of maintaining the anti-Soviet uproar around the Katyn Affair. At the present time a campaign is being conducted to build such a memorial at one of the cemeteries of London. These and similar facts are being broadly used in malicious anti-Soviet propaganda to Poland.

All this alarms the Polish friends who, according to information of the Soviet Ambassador, are thinking about measures to counteract the propagandistic pressure of hostile centers and express themselves in favor of holding consultations with the Soviet side about this question.

22-yav, ma



It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. No worries, just click here to download the PDF file.

Click here to view the PDF file in a new window.

PDFs cannot be printed inline in the page. To print a PDF, you must first download the file and open it in a PDF viewer.