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Katyn massacre

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Soviet war crime. Following the outbreak of world war ii and stalin's occupation of eastern poland in 1939 under the terms of the secret protocol to the nazi-soviet pact , some 20,000 Polish officers and other professionals were captured and imprisoned in three Russian camps. In April 1943 the Germans reported discovering around 4,500 of them buried in mass graves at Katyn, near Smolensk. A red cross investigation concluded that responsibility lay with the Soviet Union. Even so, in 1945 the Russians insisted on dating this atrocity to the later part of 1941 (when the Germans had captured the relevant area) and on including it among the charges leveled against prominent Nazis at the nuremberg trials . The Western prosecutors maintained their distance from the accusation, and the concluding judgment registered a thunderously loud silence on the matter. Only in 1990, under gorbachev , did the waning Soviet regime acknowledge that in April 1940 the nkvd had indeed murdered not only those exhumed at Katyn but also the rest of this Polish cohort. Discovery of further mass graves at Kharkov and Mednoye subsequently confirmed that wider scale of Stalinist criminality. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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