The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1997/10/10

                                                   [Page 16]
I would now like to turn to the brutalities committed by the
Hitlerites towards members of the Czechoslovakian, Polish,
and Yugoslav Armies. We find, in the Indictment, that one of
the most important criminal acts for which the major war
criminals are responsible was the mass execution of Polish
prisoners of war, shot in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk by
the German fascist invaders.

[Transcription note: For an overview of the Soviet failure
to attribute the Katyn massacre to the Nazis, see]

I submit to the Tribunal, as a proof of this crime, official
documents of the special commission for the establishment
and the investigation of the circumstances which attended
the executions. The commission acted in accordance with a
directive of the Extraordinary State Commission. In addition
to members of the Extraordinary State Commission this
commission was composed of Acamedicians Burdenko, Alexis
Tolstoy and the Metropolitan, Nicolas; the President of the
Pan-Slavonia Committee, Lieutenant-General Gundorov; the
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of the Red
Cross and Red Crescent, Kolesnikov; of the People's
Commissar for Education in the RSSFR, Academician Potemkin;
the Supreme Chief of the Medical Department of the Red Army,
General Smirnov; and the Chairman of the District Executive
Committee of Smolensk, Melnikov. The commission also
included several of the best known medico-forensic experts.

It would take too long to read into the record that precise
and detailed document which I now submit to you as Exhibit
USSR 54, and which is a result of the investigation. I will
read into the record only a few comparatively short
excerpts. On Page 2 of the document, which is Page 228 -- I
beg your pardon, 223 -- in your document book, we read (this
passage is marked in your file):--

     "According to the estimates of medico-forensic
     experts, the total number of bodies amounts to
     over 11,000. The medico-forensic experts carried
     out a thorough examination of the bodies exhumed,
     and of the documents and material evidence found
     on the bodies in the graves. During the exhumation
     and examination of the corpses, the commission
     questioned many witnesses among the local
     inhabitants. Their testimony permitted the
     determination of the exact time and circumstances
     of the crimes committed by the German invaders."
I believe that I need not quote everything that the
Extraordinary Commission ascertained during its
investigation. I only read into the record the general
conclusions, which summarise the work of the Commission. You
will find the lines read into the record on Page 43 of
Exhibit USSR 54 if you turn to the original document, or on
Page 264 of your document book:

     "General conclusions:
     On perusal of all the material at the disposal of
     the Special Commission, that is, the depositions
     of over 100 witnesses questioned, the data of the
     medico-forensic experts, the documents and the
     material evidence and belongings taken from the
     graves in Katyn Forest, we can arrive at the
     following definite conclusions:--
     1. The Polish prisoners of war imprisoned in the
     three camps west of Smolensk and engaged in
     railway construction before the war, remained
     there after the occupation of Smolensk by the
     Germans, right up to September, 1941.
                                              [Page 17]
     2. In the autumn of 1941, in Katyn Forest, the
     German Occupational Authorities carried out mass
     shootings of the Polish prisoners of war from the
     above-mentioned camps.
     3. Mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war in
     Katyn Forest were carried out by German military
     organisations disguised under the specific name,
     "Staff 537, Engineer Construction Battalion,"
     commanded by Oberleutnant Arnes and his
     colleagues, Oberleutnant Rex and Leutnant Hott.
     4. In connection with the deterioration, for
     Germany, of the general military and political
     machinery at the beginning of 1943, the German
     occupational authorities, with a view to provoking
     incidents, undertook a whole series of measures to
     ascribe their own misdeeds to organisations of the
     Soviet authorities, in order to make mischief
     between the Russians and the Poles.
     5. For this purpose:
     (a) The German fascist invaders, either by
     persuasion, attempts at bribery or threats, and
     barbarous tortures, endeavored to find witnesses
     among the Soviet citizens from whom they obtained
     false testimony, alleging that the Polish
     prisoners of war had been shot by organisations of
     the Soviet authorities in the spring of 1940.
     (b) The German occupational authorities, in the
     spring of 1943, brought from other places the
     bodies of Polish prisoners of war whom they had
     shot, and laid them in the turned up graves of
     Katyn Forest with the dual purpose of covering up
     the traces of their own atrocities and of
     increasing the numbers of `victims of Bolshevist
     atrocities in Katyn Forest.'
     (c) While preparing their provocative measures,
     the German occupational authorities employed up to
     500 Russian prisoners of war for the task of
     digging up the graves in Katyn Forest, according
     to the proof and material evidence on the matter.
     Once the graves had been dug, the Russian
     prisoners of war were shot by the Germans.
     6. The date of the legal and medical examination
     determined, without any shadow of doubt,
     (a) That the time of shooting was autumn, 1941.
     (b) The application by the German executioners,
     when shooting Polish prisoners of war, of the
     identical method, that is, a pistol shot in the
     nape of the neck, as used by them in the mass
     murders of the Soviet citizens in other towns,
     especially in Orel, Voronetz, Krasnodar and in
     Smolensk itself."
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will now recess.

           [A recess was taken until 1400 hours.]
COLONEL POKROVSKY: Point 7 of the general conclusions of the
Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union, on which
I reported in the preceding session, states:--

     "The conclusions reached, after studying the
     affidavits and medico-forensic examinations
     concerning the shooting of Polish military
     prisoners of war by Germans in the autumn of 1941,
     fully confirmed the material evidence and
     documents discovered in the Katyn graves.
     8. By shooting the Polish prisoners of war in
     Katyn Forest, the German invaders consistently
     realised their policy for the physical
     extermination of the Slav peoples."
Here follow the signatures of all the members of the

The Katyn massacres did not exhaust the Nazi crimes against
the soldiers of the Polish Army. In the report of the Polish
Government, submitted by me to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR
93, we find a series of proofs confirming the breach by the
Hitlerite conspirators of the elementary rules of
International Law governing the customs and laws of war. On
Page 36 of this report by the Polish Government -- it is on
Page 285 of your document book -- we find, as an out-

                                                   [Page 18]
standing part of the material collected, proof of the ill-
treatment of prisoners of war and their extermination. The
report says that:--

     "As and when the Polish officers and other ranks
     returned from German captivity, we learn further
     details concerning conditions prevailing in the
     German camps. All these details undeniably prove
     the existence of a line of policy, instructions
     and orders concerning the Polish prisoners of war.
     Ill-treatment, hardship and inhuman conditions
     were of common occurrence. Murders and grievous
     bodily injuries were frequently encountered. I
     submit herewith a few examples confirmed by
     witnesses under oath."
I take the liberty of reading into the record some of the
examples quoted in the Polish report. As a first example, I
shall quote the description of an incident which occurred in
a temporary prisoner of war camp in the city of Belsk. This
material figures on Page 285 of your document book:--

     "On the 10th October, 1939, the camp commandant
     assembled all the prisoners and ordered those who
     had joined the Polish Army as volunteers to raise
     their hands. Three prisoners obeyed his order.
     They were immediately led out of the rank and
     placed at a distance of 25 meters from a
     detachment of German soldiers armed with machine
     guns. The commandant gave the order to open fire.
     He then spoke to the remaining prisoners and told
     them that the three volunteers had been shot as an
     example to the others."
In this case we are not faced with the simple murder of
three unarmed soldiers of the Polish Army...

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel, you forgive my interrupting you, but
you remember that I have interrupted all the other
prosecutors to point out to them that one opening speech had
been made on behalf of their delegation, and that really
their function was to present the documents.

Now, you have just presented a document which states that
three volunteers were shot. I think that any comment upon
that is really unnecessary.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: I now proceed to the quotation of the
second excerpt on Page 37, Subparagraph "D" (Page 226 of
your document book):--

     "In the autumn of 1939 camp (Camp) VIII-S was
     established in Kouna, near Sagan on the River
     Bober, a tributary of the Oder. Depositions from
     this camp read as follows:--
     The camp in Kouna was an open space surrounded by
     barbed wire, with large tents, each holding 180 or
     200 persons. In spite of very cold weather (the
     temperature was below 25 degrees Centigrade) there
     was, in December, 1939, no heating appliance
     whatsoever in the camp. Consequently, some of the
     internees suffered from frozen hands, feet and
     ears. Since the prisoners had no blankets and
     since their uniforms were too worn out to protect
     them from the cold, diseases broke out, while
     malnutrition resulted in extreme debility.
     Moreover, the guards constantly ill-treated the
     prisoners. They were beaten on the slightest
     pretext. Two men were especially noted for their
     brutality: Lt. Schpihke and Sergeant-major Grau.
     They hit the prisoners in the face and beat them,
     broke their ribs and arms, and gouged out their
     eyes. Such inhuman treatment resulted in several
     cases of suicide and insanity."

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