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Let us remind and warn next generations of another Katyn

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    The death march from Minsk to Chervyen Zbigniew Sulatycki Let us remind and warn next generations of another Katyn, an almost unknown case of Polish people s
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2008
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      The death march from Minsk to Chervyen

      Zbigniew Sulatycki

      Let us remind and warn next generations of another Katyn, an almost
      unknown case of Polish people's martyrology. The unexpected and
      sudden Hitler's attack against the Soviet ally on 22 June 1941
      completed surprised Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party of
      Bolsheviks. The attack of the German army changed the Soviet war
      plans. The panic and chaos in the Soviet Army did not stop the
      genocide of the Polish people that the Soviets had planned. The
      Soviet troops and the NKVD units, which were quickly withdrawing,
      began fulfilling, with all cruelty, the top secret order issued on
      June 1941 by the highest Soviet authorities (according to the so-
      called Suvorov directive), concerning the execution of the prisoners
      defined as `I category' in the Belorusian and Ukrainian lands. This
      top secret directive embraced all prisons in the territory of the so-
      called Western Belarus and Western Ukraine as well as the territories
      of the newly established Soviet republics: Ukraine, Belarus and
      Lithuania. The prisons were filled with thousands of prisoners,
      mainly the political ones. Those who survived the Soviet gehenna
      remember well how Stalin and his people began destroying ruthlessly
      all Polish elements after the Red Army had treacherously entered the
      Polish territory on 17 September 1939. That moment was the beginning
      of the Soviet aggression against Poland that was fighting with the
      Germans, and `the Polish Golgotha of the East' started. At once the
      Soviets began arresting numerous people, mainly the Polish
      intelligentsia, soldiers and youth. The Soviet kangaroo courts began
      bloody activities, giving death sentences without any trials to
      thousands of Poles. In the second half of January and the beginning
      of February 1941 the most dangerous two day session of the Highest
      Military Court of Justice, presided over by the bloody and famous
      General Vasilij Ulrych, sentenced hundreds of Poles illegally; they
      were mainly young people from the so-called Western Belarus, i.e. the
      northern borderline Polish lands. Many of them were sentenced to
      death. They were immediately executed. 17 February 1941 was the day
      of numerous executions. During that time (1 February 1941) the death
      sentence was passed on Ryszard Kaczorowski (later President of the
      Polish Government in Exile). Then his death sentence was changed to
      10 years in labour camp and he sent to Kolyma. He left the Soviet
      Union with General Ander's Army. The second term of the kangaroo
      court was held towards the end of May 1941. Numerous death sentences
      were passed. Almost all of the arrested Poles, who were sentenced by
      the kangaroo Soviet courts in Lida, Grodno, Lomza and Bialystok, were
      transported to prisons in Lithuanian Minsk. Another day of the mass
      executions of the Polish elite by the Soviets was 24 June 1941 when
      the majority of the prisoners, sentenced to death by the Soviet
      murderers, were killed or poisoned in jails. The executions were
      conducted everywhere and in a hurry, for example Lieutenant-colonel
      Jerzy Dabrowski and Lieutenant Zareba were shot in their hospital
      beds on 24 June 1941 just before the evacuation of the prison. The
      other prisoners who had not been executed before 22 June 1941 were
      forced to eat poisoned meal or the poison was forcibly poured into
      their mouths or they were murdered in their cells. When the German
      army reached Minsk, on 24 June 1941, the remaining prisoners (the
      sources mention various numbers, certainly not less than 7,500
      people) were brought out of the central jail at 1 Wlodarski Street,
      the former Sapieha's castle, which before 1917 had also been called
      provincial or city castle, and out of the NKVD prison in Uricki
      Street (commonly called `American' or `rotunda'). Groups of 150-700
      people were formed and guarded by Soviet soldiers, carrying automatic
      pistols and rifles with bayonets. The prisoners were raced off
      somewhere to the East. This was the beginning of the `death march',
      i.e. the evacuation of the prisoners from Minsk to Chervyen on 24-27
      June 1941. Below are some reports of the few prisoners who survived
      the horror caused by the Russian companions (!), taken out of the
      book entitled `Marsz smierci' [The Death March] by Joanna Stankiewicz-

      Jonas Petruitis
      They are racing us off through the city, shouting, `Do not watch
      back!' The city is full of lorries, armoured vehicles, cars, troops
      and people. Someone throws a cigarette towards the prisoners. At once
      some Jew begins furiously reprimanding that man and accusing him to
      the EKWD soldiers. It was clearly visible that people felt sorry for
      us but the Jews derided and shouted, `Why are you racing off this
      contra-revolutionary army. They should have been killed long time
      ago! (p. 75)
      After having covered some 15 km from Minsk we were forbidden to look
      right but we could see what was there. At the edge of the pinewood
      forest there were prisoners lying in two rows –ca. 300 people (p.
      Later I managed to speak to two prisoners who were among the group
      lying in the forest and who were saved in an extraordinary way. They
      told me that there was a specific trial on the spot. Two lieutenants
      and three NKVD privates judged them. During the trial all prisoners
      had to lie huddled, with their noses to the ground. The judges called
      them individually and questioned them what they had been sentenced
      for. Probably 12 out of 300 people were saved because at first every
      25th prisoner was released. Those who knew the criminal code well and
      could lie, for instance the one that had been sentenced according to
      paragraph 153 (robbery) could have been saved because they ordered
      him to go to the road? Those who followed the order and did not
      escape in the forest were caught again and shot. The rest, who were
      as if sentenced, were brought into the forest and executed by two
      shots in the backs of their heads. They must have released every 25th
      person so that those who were lying, having a slight hope for rescue,
      could peacefully wait for their fate? (p. 68)

      Juozas Tumas
      One could hear the shots at the miserable, tired people as far as in
      Chervyen. According to our calculations, the NKVD murdered about 500-
      600 people during the march (p. 109). The NKVD executed the prisoners
      near Chervyen in the night of 26/27 June. Only several people out of
      750 survived. The group behind us faced the same fate (p. 123).

      Janusz Prawdzic-Szlaski
      We heard the voices of the arrested and the sounds of their
      executions in the evening of 24 June. We heard the cell doors opened;
      we heard groans, struggling and a shot from time to time. Later we
      learnt that poison was forcibly poured into the prisoners' mouths. We
      cannot define the number of people who were executed in this way… One
      of the heaviest bombardments over Minsk took place during those days.
      The executions of the prisoners were stopped for some time and after
      the bombardment all cell doors were opened and prisoners were ordered
      to go out. We were raced off to the prison yard… We were surrounded
      by many guards and raced off through burning Minsk. Our group counted
      ca. 200 people. After leaving Minsk we were stopped for a rest in the
      forest, 5 km away from the city. All the arrested from the Minsk
      prisons were brought there. The number of prisoners was almost 20,000
      (p. 134). I and several other prisoners were in the group on the
      left. The group consisted of about 700 prisoners. We were escorted
      from the prison during the night and raced off towards the east.
      After having covered some 3-4 km on a sandy roadside we entered the
      forest. We heard shots from behind. The Soviets began shooting the
      last rows of prisoners, grabbing every prisoner by the collar and
      throwing the bodies aside. We quickened our pace and then the NKVD on
      both sides of the road began shooting at us. We fell… After a while
      the escort ordered, `Run to the forest. We are going to shoot.' I was
      lying on the roadside beside Witold Daszkiewicz from Lid, holding his
      hand. When he wanted to stand after hearing the order I stopped him.
      Most prisoners stood up and then our guards began shooting at them
      using their automatic guns and additionally, they threw grenades. The
      roar of the shots jammed the shouts and groans (p. 136).
      The right group from Chervyen was brought from the prison to a forest
      clearing, surrounded by automatic arms and shot. To check whether
      there were some alive left cars ran over them. One seriously wounded
      man survived from this group (p. 137).

      Joanna Stankiewicz-Januszczak
      The group that moved to the right of the gate saw a macabre sight in
      the forest: the road was covered by massacred bodies of 700 prisoners
      who had been selected the previous evening. The battlefield was 1.5
      km long, on the road from Chervyen to Bobrujsk (p.22).
      All the saved prisoners spoke with one voice that the Soviets killed
      prisoners using automatic guns and they also finished the wounded off
      using small arms, bayonets and camp shovels. Those who fell in the
      middle of the road and did not die immediately were run over by tanks
      and cars (p. 20).
      Nobody knows the number of prisoners in Chervyen and how many were
      killed but certainly not less than 1,000-1,500 people (p. 19).
      Only 85 out of all the groups that were massively liquidated
      survived. So the overall death toll is horrifying (p. 22).

      Today most generations know what happened in Katyn, Charkow, Miednoje
      as well as in Kolyma and Siberia. The knowledge concerning the
      horrible genocide of Polish young people in Ponary is small. But very
      few people know how much the present Ukrainian or Belarussian lands
      were soaked with innocent Polish blood. Very few people know how
      determined the Soviets were to introduce the policy of genocide of
      our brothers and sisters. We must not forget this. Of course, we must
      remember it not to take revenge but to resist future satraps. `A
      nation that loses its memory loses its identity', said John Paul II.
      Most descriptions have been taken out of the book `Marsz smierci'
      [The Death March] by Joanna Stankiewicz-Januszczak, edited by Oficyna
      Wolumen. Rada Ochrony Pamieci Walk i Meczenstwa, Warsaw 1999.
      Anyone that wants to contact the author and participant of those
      horrible events can call 0048 – 58 620-84-96.

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