The Sovi­ets and the hor­ror at Katyn

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Pat Buchanan

The de­cap­i­ta­tion of the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment over the April 10-11 week­end, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Lech Kaczyn­ski and the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship, on that flight to Smolensk to com­mem­o­rate the Katyn Mas­sacre, brings to mind the ter­ri­ble and tragic days and deeds of what many yet call the Good War.

From Rus­sian re­ports, the Pol­ish pi­lot waved off four com­mands from air traf­fic con­trol to di­vert to Moscow or Minsk. The air­field at Smolensk was fogged in. There is spec­u­la­tion that Mr. Kaczyn­ski, fiercely na­tion­al­is­tic and dis­trust­ful of Rus­sians, may have de­fi­antly or­dered his pi­lot to land, rather than de­lay the 70th an­niver­sary of Katyn. The sym­bol­ism is in­escapable.

For it was Pol­ish de­fi­ance of Adolf Hitler’s de­mand to ne­go­ti­ate the re­turn of Danzig, a Ger­man town put un­der Pol­ish con­trol af­ter World War I, that gave birth to the Hitler-Stalin Pact, which led to Katyn.

Af­ter the Ger­man in­va­sion on Sept. 1, 1939, ig­nited the war, Joseph Stalin at­tacked Poland from the east on Sept. 17, cap­tur­ing much of the Pol­ish of­fi­cer corps.

In April 1940, on Stalin’s or­der, the Soviet Se­cret Po­lice, the NKVD, mur­dered vir­tu­ally the en­tire lead­er­ship of the na­tion, in­clud­ing 8,000 of­fi­cers and near twice that num­ber of in­tel­lec­tu­als and civil­ian leaders. Some 4,000 were shot with their hands tied be­hind their backs in Katyn For­est.

The Ger­mans un­earthed the bodies in 1943 and in­vited the Red Cross in to ex­am­ine the site. Through news­pa­pers found on the corpses, the date of the atroc­ity was fixed as more than a year be­fore the Ger­man Army in­vaded the Soviet Union.

When Pol­ish pa­tri­ots, whose sons had flown with the Royal Air Force in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain, went to Win­ston Churchill to de­mand that he get an­swers from Stalin about the atroc­ity, he brushed them off.

“There is no sense prowl­ing around the three-year-old graves of Smolensk,” said the Great Man.

At Stalin’s re­quest, Churchill bul­lied the Poles into ac­ced­ing to Soviet an­nex­a­tion of all the Pol­ish land Stalin had been awarded for sign­ing his pact with Hitler.

At the Nurem­berg tri­als, the Rus­sian del­e­ga­tion, led by An­drei Vishin­sky, the pros­e­cu­tor who did Stalin’s dirty work in the purge tri­als, charged the Ger­mans with the mas­sacre.

This pre­sented a prob­lem for the Amer­i­cans and Bri­tish who knew the truth. They fi­nessed the is­sue by leav­ing the charge un­re­solved.

Be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the Nurem­berg tri­als that would con­vict the Nazis of “crimes against hu­man­ity,” one of the great­est crimes against hu­man­ity in his­tory was be­ing com­mit­ted. Fif­teen mil­lion Ger­mans — old men, women, chil­dren — were driven like cat­tle out of an­ces­tral homes in Prus­sia, Pomera­nia, Bran­den­burg, Sile­sia and the Sude­ten­land.

As hu­man rights cham­pion Al­fred de Zayas wrote in his coura­geous “Neme­sis at Pots­dam: The Ex­pul­sion of the Ger­mans From the East,” per­haps 2 mil­lion died in the ex­o­dus. Few Ger­man women in East­ern Europe es­caped rape.

The Al­lies turned a blind eye to the mon­strous atroc­ity, as an­cient names van­ished. Memel be­came Klaipeda. Prus­sia dis­ap­peared. Koenigs­berg, the city of Im­manuel Kant, be­came Kalin­ingrad. Danzig be­came Gdansk. Bres­lau be­came Wro­claw.

“The Ger­mans de­served it, for what they did,” comes the re­tort.

Un­de­ni­ably, the Nazi atroc­i­ties were nu­mer­ous and hor­ri­ble — against Poles, Ukraini­ans, Rus­sians, Jews.

Yet, it was in­no­cent Ger­mans who paid for the crimes of the guilty Ger­mans.

What hap­pened in East­ern and Cen­tral Europe from 1939 to 1948 pro­vided proof, if any more were re­ally needed, of the truth of W.H. Au­den’s in­sight in his poem “Septem­ber 1, 1939”: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in re­turn.”

At war’s end, Churchill and Harry Tru­man agreed to repa­tri­ate 2 mil­lion Soviet pris­on­ers of war to Stalin, none of whom wished to go back. For re­turn to Rus­sia meant death at the rail­head or a short bru­tal life at slave la­bor in the Gu­lag Ar­chi­pel­ago.

Op­er­a­tion Keel­haul was the name given the Al­lied col­lu­sion with the Red Army in trans­fer- ring th­ese ter­ri­fied POWs back to their deaths at the hands of the same Soviet butch­ers who had done the mur­der­ing at Katyn.

On Sept. 3, 1939, Bri­tain and France de­clared war on Ger­many to re­store the in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence of Poland. For this great goal they con­verted a Ger­man-Pol­ish clash that lasted three weeks — into a world war last­ing six years.

And was Poland saved? No. Poland was cru­ci­fied.

As a con­se­quence of the war be­gun on her be­half, mil­lions of Poles — Jews and Catholics alike — per­ished, the Katyn mas­sacre was car­ried out, the Home Army was an­ni­hi­lated, the na­tion suf­fered five years of Nazi rule and al­most half a cen­tury of com­mu­nist per­se­cu­tion.

The tragedy of to­day is that it was men of the post­war gen­er­a­tion, like Lech Kaczyn­ski, who kept the faith of their fathers and led Poland out of that dark­ness into the sun­light of free­dom, who died seek­ing to pay homage to their fathers who suf­fered one of the great­est crimes of that blood­i­est of cen­turies.

Pat Buchanan is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.