Katyn: Stalin's massacre
A new study by an American journalist on the Katyn massacre by Soviet forces in 1940 that killed over 20,000 Polish officers, has just been launched in Warsaw.
Report by Michal Kubicki
Every April Poles commemorate an anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre, one of the most notorious World War Two crimes against humanity. Over 22 thousand Polish officers and intelligentsia fell victim to Stalin's policy aimed at an annihilation of the cream of the Polish nation.
It was twenty years ago that Allen Paul heard about Katyn for the first time. The story of the massacre, of Moscow's claims that it was perpetrated by the Germans, and of the West's reluctance to admit the Soviet guilt for many years fascinated him so much that he instantly decided to write a book about it. In 1989 he came to Warsaw on All Saints Day which is Remembrance Day in Poland.
It was an amazing sight. I will never forget it. I went to the military cemetery. It was around midday and a sea of people were walking towards the cemetery, many of them to the Katyn Memorial where they placed candles. For me it was quite revealing because we don't have anything similar to that in the United States. It showed that the Poles are really in touch with their history, their ancestors, and have a deep commitment to preserving their collective memory and their individual memory.
Allen Paul's book Katyn, subtitled Stalin's Massacre and the Seeds of Polish Insurrection has been published in Poland under the title Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of the Truth. Its author argues that even though in the early 1990s Moscow finally admitted that the Katyn massacre was perpetrated by Stalin's NKVD police, the fact that the order to shoot Polish officers was signed by Communist Party leaders continues to be kept secret. More importantly, Russia has refused to admit that the Katyn murder was genocide.
The Polish officers were victims of genocide. That was a terrible crime and it resulted in the death of the Polish nation. There's so much that can be learnt from this case that has relevance today even though it seems so far off in time. I think it explains a lot about Russian behaviour, Polish-Russian relations and it also suggests why the West should be concerned about this very important relationship.
Allen Paul's book traces the lives of relatives of several victims of the Katyn massacre. Kazimierz Rasiej, whose father was shot in Katyn, is one of the people interviewed by the author.
"If we do not force Russia to bring to light the whole truth about Katyn, it will remain for ever an open wound and it would be impossible to have normal relations with Russia. With his book Allen Paul has done a great favour to Poland."
According to Allen Paul, Poland should demand from Russia a new inquiry into the Katyn massacre. In his view, the Polish government should also ask the Polish communities in the United States to exert pressure on the US Congress with a view to resuming the congressional inquiry of the early 1950s.
'I believe that if that were done it would bring a tremendous amount of pressure on Russia. In my view itn would be a way of getting this story more fully explained. It will help the Poles.
Allen Paul, whose book on Katyn has just been published in Poland. Katyn tops the list of issues in Polish-Russian relations which have to be explained in an honest and objective way. Moscow's refusal to recognize Katyn as a crime of genocide will most probably weigh heavily on mutual relations.
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