of the Special Commission for the Examination and Investigation of the Circumstances of the Shooting of Polish Prisoners of War in the Katyn Forest by the German Fascist Invaders
These tales of high drama and a forensic report (!) claimed that ‘German Fascist invaders’ were responsible for the Katyn Massacre, in which 4,500 Polish officers were shot in the back of the neck and buried in the Katyn Forest. Although the Russians were responsible, Stalin’s insistence on prosecuting the Germans for this war crime at Nuremberg caused acute embarrassment to the other post-WWII Allies. This is a verbatim re-publication of the original Nuremberg document. Soviet Evidence at Kaytn: Document USSR-54 at Nuremberg translated and with a Foreword by Carlos Porter. 46 pages, ISBN 1-901240-06-1, 1998.
This Report is superbly characteristic of Nuremberg evidence. The ‘testimony’ consists of ‘written statements’ signed by ‘eye-witnesses’ but which only appeared in a report written at Stalin’s behest and read aloud (in excerpt form) by a Soviet prosecutor. The ‘statements’ were not attached to the report, the ‘witnesses’’ did not appear in court and the original documents were not available.
Most Nuremberg evidence was considerably less substantial than this document. The ‘forensic report’ reproduced here was the only forensic report ever introduced into evidence at Nuremberg.
In April 1943 4,500 bodies were discovered buried in the Katyn Forest. At first the Russians claimed it to be an archeological find but shortly afterwards the British, American and Russian Allies laid the crime at the door of the Nazi enemy. Another 10,000 Polish officers remained unaccounted for.
Following numerous Russian excuses and pretended searches, the British and American authorities both knew of Soviet responsibility by the time the Nuremberg Tribunals were held. The charges of German guilt brought at the IMT placed the British Government and the Tribunal in an intensely difficult position. Relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile were strained and to have acquitted Göring and the other twenty IMT defendants of the crime would have implied that the Russians were guilty, and they shared the bench. When judgement was eventually delivered by Lord Justice Lawrence on 1 November 1946 the charges relating to the Katyn massacre were simply passed over, as if they had never been brought at all.
The victims at Katyn were buried in greatcoats and boots which were in perfect condition. Had they been alive doing heavy road construction work for another year and a half, from April 1940 until September 1941 as claimed in this Report, these articles would have shown severe wear. And, of course, the victims would have sent and received correspondence for another eighteen months. The 15,000 victims had thousands of relatives and friends in Poland yet nothing was heard from them after April 1940; no letter or postcard written by any of these men after that date has ever been produced. All mail sent to them after April 1940 was returned by the Russians marked “Return to Sender – Gone Away.” The Russians admitted responsibility for the Katyn shootings in November 1989. They were killed because they were “members of a class which was unassimilable by Communism.”†
Parts of this document have an air of great realism, even though it is false from beginning to end. This is why civilized countries have rules against oral and written hearsay, exaggerating evidence by repeating the same thing several times and a requirement that cross-examination be permitted in some form.
I consider 054-USSR to be the most important document ever introduced into evidence at Nuremberg, and possibly in any other war crimes trial as well.
Carlos W. Porter
† F. J. P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism: The Development of Total War from Sarajevo to Hiroshima, Mitre Press (London) 1968, p. 219.