Katyn Forest, near Smolensk in Russia, place of the mass graves of over 4,300 Polish officers discovered by the German army in March of 1943. These were the bodies of the officers who became POWs as result of the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation of the Polish Eastern provinces between 1939-1941. Until their death, there were kept in three prison camps: Kozielsk, Starobielsk, and Ostashkov. Katyn Forest has been one of the few locations where Polish POWs were executed in the spring of 1940. The burial locations of the remaining 10,000 officers and 11,000 others considered to be a threat to Soviet Union remain unknown.
London-based Polish Government-in-Exile requested investigation of the site by International Red Cross. This request prompted Soviet Union to break off its diplomatic relations with London Poles in the early spring of 1943. An international commission organized by Germany in 1943 reviewed the evidence and issued its findings putting blame for the killings on Soviet Union. [ findings ],
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During the WWII, Western media critical of Polish Government-in-Exile accusations against Soviet Union, blamed Nazi Germany for perpetrating the Katyn Massacre.
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Until the 1990s, the Soviet Union was categorically denying its implication in the crime and blamed the German army as the culprits. However, the documents which were made available after the demise of the Soviet Union clearly indicate the Soviet Union's involvement.
The following are the excerpt from the minutes number 13 of the Politburo of the Central Committee meeting on the 5th of March, 1940 – resolution P13/144 regarding the matter submitted for consideration by the NKVD/USSR. [
All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). CENTRAL COMMITTEE
March 5, 1940
Excerpt from the minutes No. 13 of the Politburo of the Central Committee meeting
Resolution 144 - March 5, 1940 regarding the matter submitted by the NKVD USSR
I. To instruct the NKVD of the USSR that:
1/ the cases of 14,700 people - former Polish Army officers, government officials, landowners, policemen, intelligence agents, military policemen, homesteaders and jailers remaining in the camps for prisoners of war,
2/ and also the cases of 11,000 people - members of various counter-revolutionary spy and sabotage organizations, former landowners, factory owners, former Polish Army officers, government officials and fugitives arrested and remaining in prisons in the western districts of Ukraine and Byelorussia - be considered in a special manner with the obligatory sentence of capital punishment - execution by firing squad.
II. The consideration of the cases to be carried out without the convicts being summoned and without revealing the charges; with no statements concerning the conclusion of the investigation and the bills of indictment given to them. To be carried out in the following manner:
a/ people remaining in the camps for prisoners of war - on the basis of information provided by the Administration of Prisoners-of-War Affairs NKVD of the USSR,
b/ people arrested - on the basis of case information provided by the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR and NKVD of the Byelorussian SSR.
III. The responsibility for consideration of the cases and passing of the resolution to be laid on three comrades: Merkulov, Kobulov and Bashtakov (Head, 1st Special Division of the NKVD of the USSR).
The Secretary of the Central Committee