October 27, 2014

1943. Soviets Deny Responsibility for the Katyn Massacre

The Germans Uncover Mass Graves in the Katyn Forest
Nazi soldiers in 1943 exhuming bodies from the mass graves in the Katyn Forest, the site where the Soviet government killed about 22,000 Polish officers in 1940
These are transcripts written by Bill Downs following the German discovery of the mass graves near Katyn. The Nazis and Soviets traded blame, and Joseph Goebbels hoped to use it as a propaganda boon to drive a wedge between the Allied powers. Years later it was revealed that the Soviets were responsible.
Bill Downs
CBS Moscow 
April 19, 1943
The newspaper Pravda, organ of the Communist Party, this morning violently attacks the Polish government of General Sikorski for giving official cognizance to the German propaganda charges that the Soviet government allegedly murdered 10,000 Polish officers near Smolensk in 1940.

The Pravda editorial said that General Sikorski's Minister of Defense, by officially requesting an International Red Cross investigation into this monstrous crime, has played into Goebbel's hands.

"It is not surprising," the newspaper said, "that Hitler shortly afterward also requested a Red Cross investigation."

This is the second time in three days that the Soviet government has taken occasion to categorically reject the German propaganda charges. On Friday the Soviet information bureau branded the Nazi allegations a pack of lies.

Since that time the Germans, who for several years have been killing off the Poles as an "inferior race," now have taken up their cause as "victims of Bolshevist terror." The ridiculousness of this Nazi position has been lost in the gory details of another mass murder which the German radio has been spreading throughout the world.

Briefly the Soviet position is this. The Russians admit that there was a Polish prisoner-of-war camp in the Smolensk district. There were Polish officers and soldiers captured when the Red Army marched into Poland in 1939 to keep Hitler from completely overunning the country. Pravda says these Poles were engaged in building work west of Smolensk when, with many inhabitants of the region, they fell into German hands in the summer of 1941 when the Red Army retreated.

The Russians say that if there was mass murder done at this prisoner of war camp, the Germans did it.

Pravda puts it this way, and I quote: "The Germans ferociously killed the former Polish war prisoners and many Soviet people. Now they want to hide traces of their crimes." The newspaper continues, "In trying to cover their monstrous ferocities, the Hitlerian sadists, who have a surprising knowledge of the case, are describing 'details' of the murders. But the more they mention the 'details,' the more obvious it becomes that the Hitlerian murderers, who were trained in the schools and prisons of Himmler, are describing their own rich experience."

These facts have emerged out of the latest gory German propaganda. First, that one of the most brutal crimes of the war has been committed. Second, that the German story of this crime has too many holes in it to be believed. And third, Goebbels' propaganda about this crime has scored a minor victory. The Allies have taken time out to discuss his story.
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Bill Downs 
CBS Moscow 
April 27, 1943
A lot of words have been spoken and written since the Foreign Office here in Moscow called the American correspondents to its Press Department yesterday evening and handed us Mr. Molotov's announcement that the Soviet Union is breaking off relations with General Sikorski's Polish government.

The Polish embassy is now preparing for a quick departure through Iran. The Polish ambassador, M. Romer, presumably will report to his government in London.

Mr. Molotov's communiqué is one of the most important documents that has been issued by the government since the war began. It is something more than a diplomatic note to Poland. It constitutes the first diplomatic test of the United Nations. The note is a milestone in Russian foreign policy—foreign policy which is going to be very, very important to the world around the postwar conference tables.

I am not going to try to discuss the issues of the break between the Soviet Union and Poland. It is enough that there is disagreement during these critical times when it is unity, not discord, that we need.

The issue has grown far beyond the horrible facts of what happened at a prisoner of war camp west of Smolensk—it is beyond disagreement regarding treaties over borders.

The issue concerns the whole structure of the mutual trust and cooperation between the nations dedicated to the destruction of Hitler and his allies—and to the building of a freer and better world after the war.

Goebbels has succeeded in driving a splinter of doubt into that structure. That splinter must not become a wedge separating the United Nations.

Up to now these 10,000 Polish officers who died west of Smolensk have died in vain. It is the duty of all the United Nations to avenge their death, not argue about it.