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The Katyń Massacre

Autor: Sławomir Kalbarczyk, Witold Wasilewski, Małgorzata Kuźniar-Plota, Adam Siwek 2020

In 1943, mass graves with the bodies of Polish officers imprisoned in the POW camp in Kozelsk were discovered in the Katyń forest near Smolensk. They were murdered by the NKVD. Originally, this particular event was called the Katyń Massacre (Zbrodnia katyńska).


In 1990, when the supposition that the Soviet authorities also murdered prisoners of war from the camps in Starobelsk and Ostashkov was confirmed, the notion started to take on the meaning of the massacre of Polish prisoners of war from three camps: in Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov. Thus, the term broke away from the specific place of events and took on a symbolic character, connected with the extermination of Polish prisoners of war in the USSR in general.

The final shaping of the notion of the Katyń Massacre was brought about in 1992, when we acquired further details of those events. Polish prisoners of war detained in the Soviet Union were murdered on the basis of a resolution of the Politburo by the Bolshevik Party dated 5 March 1940. This resolution also informs about the murder of thousands of civilian Polish citizens who, after the aggression of the USSR against Poland in September 1939, were arrested and later imprisoned by the Soviet political police – the NKVD.

Today, the concept of the Katyń Massacre means the extermination of all Polish citizens carried out on the basis of the March resolution of the Soviet Politburo – both prisoners of war and civilian prisoners. Their number is nearly 22,000, including 14,700 prisoners of war and 7,300 civilian prisoners.


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