Sunday, June 13, 2010
This sombre miniature sheet was issued this year by Poland to pay homage to those Poles who were brutally massacred by the Soviet Union in the forests of Katyn. The Katyn massacre was a mass execution of Polish POW officers and citizens ordered by the Soviet authorities in 1940. The most widely accepted estimate of the number of dead is about 22,000. The victims were murdered in the Katyn forest, Kalinin (Tver) and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. About 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the Soviet 1939 invasion of Poland, the rest being Poles arrested for allegedly being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, spies, saboteurs, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, priests, and officials."
During the German occupation of Poland, the Germans used the massacre for propaganda purposes against the Soviets. However, after the war, when Poland fell under Soviet influence, the truth about the event was suppressed by the Soviet authorities, who maintained an official line throughout the Eastern Bloc that the Germans committed the massacre. With the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, the first non-communist Polish government immediately acknowledged that the crime was committed by the Soviets. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre for the first time. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin made public the documents, which had authorised the massacre. My friend Ada sent it to me.