KATYN FOREST KILLINGS: Soviets killed Polish army officers

War is hell. And there are no universal heroes in it. The Soviets became heroes in the eyes of the west when they fought the Nazis in the Second World war. But before Operation Barbarossa when Nazi Germany attacked Russia (Soviet Union), in 1939 the two countries signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty under which they carved up Poland amongst themselves.

It was after the Soviet army defeated the Polish army and captured Eastern Poland, that the infamous Katyn Forest massacre occurred. Thousands of Polish army officers were shot in the head from behind and buried in a mass grave.

In 1943, the Nazis discovered the graves and publicised the fact. But no one believed them. Everybody preferred to believe the Soviet version that the killings were done by the Germans. The truth came out many decades later.

The Katyn Forest killings still color Polish-Russian relations today.

Given below are images of the gruesome graves discovered by the Germans. The photos were taken by the Nazis.

Read the Time story on the killings

A propaganda illustration by Nazi Germany showing how the Katyn killings were done

Captured Polish officers being marched by their Soviet captors to destination death

The Nazi propaganda machine had a field day exposing the Soviet brutality. The poster says, "If the Soviets succeed, they will do a Katyn everywhere."

German officers examining the discovery

The mass graves of Katyn

The German army digs up the graves

The Katyn Forest in Poland. The site of the mass graves.

The Germans at the site

Bodies of the Polish officers dug up

The Germans called in British and American prisoners and showed them the documents and other things discovered from the bodies

The March 5, 1940 memo by Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, the head of the Soviet Secret Police, to Stalin advising the mass killings of Polish officers.


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Points To Ponder


It is difficult to distinguish between the quality of both the German and Russian soldiers. Both were motivated by their love for their motherland. But there were others factors that drove the two sides to such desperate fighting.

One, both sides knew that this was a no-holds bar war. Not fighting was thus not an option.

Second, both Hitler and Stalin had squads that killed any deserter. Turning away from fighting was just not possible.

Thus was seen some of the most bitter, brutal and desperate fighting on the WW2 eastern (Russian) Front.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana


"Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.'
--Mao Zedong


"The main thing is to make history, not to write it."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite."
--Winston Churchill


"In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers."
--August Bebel

"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."

Quotes about War....

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
---Otto von Bismarck


"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering


"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy."
--Tzu Sun

"All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; So why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?"
--Emperor Hirohito