In May 1943, the Germans, anxious to drive a wedge between the Soviet Union and its Western allies, took several American and British POWs to the Katyn Forest in western Russia to show them horrific evidence of a massacre. The prisoners were shocked at the thousands upon thousands of corpses in advanced stages of decay, clothed in Polish military officers’ uniforms and crammed into enormous mass graves. The two Americans, Capt. Donald B. Stewart and Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet Jr., were reluctant to believe that their Soviet allies could have been responsible for such an atrocity, but the evidence was unimpeachable: The bodies had been dead for many months, in an area the Germans had only recently occupied. These were not victims of the Nazis.
The dead in Katyn Forest were Polish officers, 22,000 in all, who represented not only the flower of the Polish military but of Polish society as well. Stalin’s minions had executed them all, in one of the worst single episodes of mass execution in the blood-soaked 20th Century, in order to destroy any Polish capacity for resisting a Russian occupation.
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The Katyn Massacre aroused strong controversy after the war, with Poles and many in Congress accusing the Roosevelt administration of covering up Soviet involvement in the grisly deed. Hearings were held, and a congressional committee eventually determined, in 1952, that Stalin’s Soviet Union had indeed been responsible, and that the Roosevelt administration had tried to cover up the episode out of military necessity. The Soviet Union under Gorbachev finally admitted responsibility for Katyn, but the White House has never acknowledged any inside knowledge or attempt to cover up the event.
Now, the verdict is in. With the September 10 release of 1,000 pages of formerly classified documents by the National Archives, it has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that the Roosevelt administration knew of the atrocity perpetrated by “Uncle Joe” Stalin long before the war was over, and made sure the American public did not find out about it.
It turns out that the Germans had correctly taken the measure of their Allied captives. Both Stewart and Van Vliet were soon convinced that the Soviets were responsible, and managed to send coded communiques to Washington while still in German captivity. There is no doubt that Roosevelt knew about Katyn and about who was responsible but, anxious not to tarnish the Soviets’ image, made sure it was kept secret until after the war.
Read More at The New American. By Charles Scaliger.