|Berlin radio reported last week that German occupation authorities near Smolensk had found the corpses of 10,000 Polish officers. These unfortunate men, purred Berlin, had been murdered by the Russians in the spring of 1940.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels' story produced immediate results:
– The Polish Government in Exile promptly remembered that 8,300 Polish officers and 7,000 men taken prisoner by the Russians in September 1939 had been missing for three years. The indignant Poles requested an International Red Cross commission to investigate. The Nazis politely offered all facilities to such a commission.
– The U.S. National Catholic Welfare Conference in Washington charged that Russia was holding 2,000,000 Poles "as virtual hostages," and that Soviet officials had been confiscating relief packages sent to Polish internees in Russia by U.S. citizens.
An important segment of U.S. opinion became snarled in a Russo-Polish controversy which played directly into the hands of German propaganda. Involved were ancient Russian and Polish hatreds, a current controversy over Poland's postwar boundaries, a widening breach between Moscow and exiled Polish Premier Wladyslaw Sikorski, and Catholic distrust of the U.S.S.R.
There is no way of knowing whether the German story is true. All that is known is that the Germans planted the story, and that they immediately capitalized on the reaction to promote a forthcoming anti-Russian, anti-British, pro-German "European Charter" for satellite regimes and quisling governments.
If a commission does investigate, it will find many times 10,000 graves near Smolensk.* In Poland and in Russian territory which once was Polish, the Nazis have killed many, many times 10,000 Poles.
* This week Moscow accused the Gestapo of slaughtering the 10,000 Poles quite recently, asserted this was why the bodies had not yet decomposed.