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DOCUMENT 054 USSR
Report by a Special Soviet Commission, 24 January 1944, concerning the shooting of Polish officer prisoners of war in the forest of Katyn. The executions had been carried out in autumn 1941 by the German “Staff of the Construction Battalion 537”. In spring 1943 the Germans, by blackmailing witnesses into giving false evidence and by other means, had tried to make it appear that the Soviet NKWD was responsible for the shooting of the 11,000 victims.
Brochure in the Russian language from the year 1944. 56 pages in octavo format, later bound. Signature of German translation.
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.
The Special Commission for the examination and investigation of the circumstances of the shooting of Polish prisoners of war in the forest of Katyn (near Smolensk) by the German fascist invaders was formed by order of the Special State Commission to examine and investigate the atrocities of the fascist German invaders and their accomplices.
The Commission consists of the following persons:
Member of the Special State Commission, Academician N.N. BURDENKO (President of the Commission);
Member of the on the Special State Commission, Academician ALEKSEJ TOLSTOI;
Member of the Special State Commission, Mythropolitos NIKOLAI;
President of the AllSlavic Committee, Lieutenant General GUNDOROW A.S.;
President of the Executive Committee of the Association of the Red Cross and Red Half Moon, POLESNIKOW S.A.;
People’s Commissar for Education of the RSFSR <Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic>, Academician POTEMKIN W.P.;
Chief of the Forensic Head Office of the Red Army, CoronelGeneral SMIRNOW E.I.;
President of the Executive Committee for the Region of Smolensk, MEINIKOW R.E..
To deal with the tasks laid before the Commission, the Commission called upon the following forensic experts:
Superior Forensic Expert of the People’s Commissariat for Health Matters of the USSR, Director of the Scientific Research Institute for Forensic Medicine PROZOROWSKI W.I.; head of the Professorship of Forensic Medicine of the 2nd Moscow Medical Institute, Doctor of Medical Sciences, SMOLJANINOW W.M.; eldest scientific expert of the State Scientific Research Institute for Forensic Medicine of the People’s Commissariat for Health Matters of the USSR, SEMENOWSKI P.S.; eldest scientific official of the State Scientific Research Institute for Forensic Medicine of the People’s Commissariat for Health Matters of the USSR, Professor SCHWAIKOWA M.D.; chief pathologist of the Major Front of the Medical Service, Professor WYROPAIJEW D.N..
The extensive material laid before his associates and the forensic medical experts who arrived in the city of Smolensk on 26 September 1943, immediately after the liberation of the city, and who conducted the preliminary study and investigation of the circumstances of all atrocities committed by the Germans, was made available to the Special Commission by Member of the Special State Commission, Professor BURDENKO N.N..
The Special Commission carried out on-the-spot investigations and found that the graves of the Polish prisoners of war shot by the German occupiers are located 15 kilometres from the city of Smolensk, on the Witebsker highway, in the region of the Katyn forest known as “Kosji Gori”, 200 metres southwest of the highway, in the direction of the Dnjipr river.
The graves were excavated by order of the Special Commission, and in the presence of all members of the Special Commission and the forensic experts. A great number of corpses in Polish uniforms were discovered in the graves. According to the calculations of the forensic experts, the number of corpses amounts, in total, to 11,000.
The forensic experts thoroughly examined the disinterred corpses and all objects and exhibits found in the graves and on the corpses.
Simultaneous with the excavation of the graves and the examination of the corpses, the Special Commission carried out interrogations of the numerous witnesses and the local populace, whose testimonies precisely established the time and circumstances of the crime committed by the German occupiers.
The following is clear from the testimonies of the witnesses:
The Katyn Forest
The Katyn forest was always a favourite holiday spot for the people of the city of Smolensk.
Those who lived in the vicinity pastured their livestock in the Katyn forest and cut wood. There were no restrictions or prohibitions against entering the Katyn forest.
This was the case in the Katyn forest until the outbreak of the war. The “Promstrachkasse” combat engineers camp which was only dissolved in July 1941 was still located in the forest in the summer of 1941. Following the occupation of the city of Smolensk by the German invader, quite a different system prevailed in the Katyn forest. The forest began to be guarded by reinforced patrols, and numerous warning notices appeared, stating that all persons who entered the forest without special permits would be shot.
Especially strictly guarded was that part of the Katyn forest known as “Kosji Gori”, as well as the region along the banks of the Dnjepr, where a summer house rest centre for the NKWD offices at Smolensk was located 700 metres from where the graves of the Polish prisoners of war were discovered. After the arrival of the Germans, a German office was created at this location, called “the Staff of the Construction Battalion 537”.
Polish prisoners of war in the region of Smolensk
The Special Commission has established that, prior to the conquest of the city of Smolensk by the German occupiers, Polish prisoners of war, officers and enlisted men, worked on the construction and repair of the highways in the west districts of the region. The Polish prisoners of war were housed in three camps, i.e., camp no. 1ON, no. 2ON, and no. 3ON, which were located approximately 2545 kilometres west of the city of Smolensk.
It has been established, based on the testimony of witnesses and documentary proof, that the above named camps could not be evacuated in time due to the unfavourable conditions after the commencement of military operations.
All Polish prisoners of war, some of the guard personnel, and the camp employees, fell, for this reason, into German captivity.
The former head of camp no. 1ON, Major of Security WETOSCHINIKOW W.M., interrogated by the Special Commission, stated:
“I awaited the order relating to the dissolution of the camp. But <phone> connections with the city of Smolensk were interrupted. Therefore I drove together with a few fellow employees to Smolensk to clarify the situation. I found the situation in Smolensk tense. I turned to the head of railway traffic for the Smolensk stretch of the western railway, Comrade IWANOW, with a request to provide the camp with <train> carriages to evacuate the Polish prisoners of war. Comrade IWANOW answered, however, that I could not count on that. I made attempts to get in connection with Moscow to obtain permission to cover the distance by foot, but I was not successful.
“At this time, Smolensk was already cut off from the camp by the Germans, and I don’t know what happened to the Polish prisoners of war and the guard personnel who remained behind in the camp.”
Engineer IWANOW S.W., head of traffic for the Smolensk stretch of the western railway in July 1941, stated to the Special Commission:
“The administration of the camp for Polish prisoners of war contacted my office with a request to obtain train carriages for the evacuation of the Poles, but we had no carriages available. We were furthermore unable to direct any carriages to the Gusino stretch, since the stretch was already under fire. For this reason, we could not consider the request of the camp administration. Thus, the Polish prisoners of war remained behind in the region of Smolensk.”
That the Polish prisoners of war remained behind in the camps of the region of Smolensk was confirmed by the testimony of the numerous witnesses, who had seen these Poles in the vicinity of the city of Smolensk in the early months of the occupation until the month of September 1941.
The female witness SASCHENEW Marija Akeksandrowna, a teacher at the primary school of the village of Senjkowo, stated to the Special Commission that she had hidden one of the Polish prisoners of war in the attic of her house after he had escaped from the camp.
“The Pole wore a Polish military uniform, which I immediately recognized since I had seen the groups of Polish prisoners of war in 1940-41 on the highways, working under guard. I was very interested in this Pole since he, as it turned out, had been a primary school teacher in Poland before his callup. Since I had myself graduated from teacher’s training college and wanted to be a teacher, I struck up a conversation with him. He told me that he had attended a teacher’s training college in Poland, then went to a military school and became a lieutenant in the reserve. Upon the outbreak of hostilities between Poland and Germany, he was called up for active military service. He was in BreskLitovsk and was taken prisoner by units of the Red Army. He stayed in a camp near Smolensk for over a year.
“When the Germans came and occupied the Polish camp, a hard system prevailed there. The Germans did not consider the Poles to be human beings, and pushed them around and mistreated them in every possible way. There were cases in which Poles were shot without any reason. So he decided to escape. He told me of his own accord that his wife was also a teacher and that he had two brothers and a sister.”
When he went away the following day, he mentioned a name which SASCHNEWA noted in a book. The book, presented <to the Special Commission> by SASHNEWA, “Practical Exercises in the Natural Sciences” by Jagodowsky, contains the following note on the last page:
“LOECK, Jusef and Sophia, city of Smostjie, Agorodnaja Street no. 25.”
The list <of Katyn shooting victims> published by the Germans contains the name LOECK Jusef under no. 3796 as having been shot in the spring of 1940 at Kosji Gori in the Katyn forest.
From the German reports, it therefore appears that LOECK Jusef was shot one year before his acquaintance with the female witness Saschnewa.
[The witness DANILENKOW N.W., a farmer from the “Krasnaja Zarja” collective farm and a member of the village council of Katyn, stated:
“In the months of August September 1941, when the Germans came, I met Poles working on the highway in groups of 1520 men each.”
Similar statements were made by the witnesses:
SOLDATENKOW, former village elder of the village of Borock,
KOLATSCHEW A.S., doctor of the city of Smolensk,
OGLOBLIN A.P., priest,
SERGEEW T.I. railway master
SMIRJAGIN P.A., engineer,
MOSKOWSKAJA A.M., resident of the city of Smolensk,
ALEKSEJEW A.M., foreman of the collective farm of the village of Borock,
KUTZEW I.W., technician of the water services,
GORODEZTKIJ W.P., priest,
BASEKINA A.T., bookkeeper,
WITROWA E.N., teacher,
SAWWATEJEW I.W., duty officer at the railway station at Gnesdowo, among others.
The raids in search of Polish prisoners of war
The presence of Polish prisoners of war in the region of Smolensk in the autumn of 1941 was also confirmed by the fact of the German raids in search of prisoners who had escaped from the camps.
The witness KARTOSCHKIN I.M., carpenter, stated:
“The Germans not only searched for Polish prisoners of war in the forests in the autumn of 1941, but there were also police house searches carried out at night in the villages.”
The former village elder Nowie Bateki SACHAROW M.D. testified that the Germans, in the autumn of 1941, “combed” the villages and forests feverishly in search of for Polish prisoners of war.
The witness DANILEKNOW N.W., farmer on the “Krasnaja Zarja” collective farm, stated:
“In our region, special raids were carried out in search of escaped Polish prisoners of war. Such searches were conducted two or three times in my house. After one house search, I asked the village elder, SERGEJEW Konstantin, whom they were looking for in our house. Segejew said that an order had been issued by the German commander to search all houses without exception, since Polish prisoners of war who had escaped from the camps were said to have hidden themselves in our village. Some time later the searches stopped.”
The witness FATJKOW T.E., a farmer at the collective farm, stated:
“Raids in search of Polish prisoners of war were carried out several times. This was in the months of August September 1941. After the month of September 1941, the raids stopped, and no one saw any more Polish prisoners of war.”
The shootings in the Katyn forest
The above mentioned “Staff of the Construction Battalion 537”, located in the summer house at Kosji Gori, did no construction work. Its activity was carefully kept secret.
What this “staff” actually did was testified to by many witnesses, including the female witnesses: ALEKSEJAWA A.M., MICHAILOWA O.A., and KONACHOWSKAJA S.P., residents of the village of Borock of the village council of Katyn.
Upon order of the German commandant of the settlement of Katyn, <transmitted> by the village eldest of the village of Borock, SOLDATENKOW W.J., they were sent to the summer house <of Kosji Gori> to serve “staff” personnel.
After arrival at Kosji Gori, a number of regulations relating to their behaviour were communicated to them through an interpreter. It was most severely prohibited to stray away from the summer house and into the forest, to enter rooms in the summer house without being asked and without the accompaniment of a German soldiers, or to approach the region of the summer house during the night. Only one particular path to the workplace and back was permitted, and only then when accompanied by the soldiers.
ALEKSEJAWA, MICHAILOWA AND KONACHOWSKAJA were instructed in this regard through an interpreter directly by the head of the German office, Lt. Col. ARNES, the women having been called in solely for this purpose.
As to the personnel making up the “staff”, ALEKSEJAWA A.M. stated:
“In the Kosji Gori summer house, there were always about 30 Germans. The oldest of them was Lt. Col. ARNES; his adjutant was Lt. Col. REKST. There were also a Lt. HOTT; a Sgt. LUEMERT; a noncommissioned officer for economic affairs ROSE; his representative ISICKE; Staff Sergeant GRENEWSKY, who headed a power plant; a photographer; a lance corporal, whose family name I can no longer recall; an interpreter from the Volga German republic, his name seems to me to have been Johann, but we called him Iwan; the cook; a German named Gustav; and many others, whose first and last names are not known to me.”
Soon after their entry into service, Aleksejewa, Michailowa, and Konachowskaja began to notice “some sort of dark doings” going on the summer house.
Alekskaja A.M. stated:
“We were warned several times by the interpreter Johann, on behalf of ARNES, that we were to keep quiet and not blabber about anything we saw or heard in the country house. Otherwise, we noticed several things that made us understand that the Germans were carrying on dark doings in this country house.
“At the end of August and during more than half of September 1941, several trucks arrived almost daily at the Kosji Gori summer house. At first, I paid them no attention; later I noted that, when the trucks arrived, they always stopped somewhere on the path leading from the highway to the summer house for half an hour or a full hour. I drew this conclusion because the noise of the motors went silent for some time after the trucks entered the grounds of the country house. At the same time, individual shots began to be fired. One shot followed another in short but regular intervals.
Then the shooting stopped and the trucks drove to the country house. German soldiers and noncommissioned officers got down off the trucks. They talked in loud voices, went in the bathroom, and then drank wine. The bathroom was always heated on these days. On the days when the trucks arrived, soldiers also entered the summer house from some other unit. Beds were laid out for these soldiers in the soldiers’ mess hall, which had been opened in one of the rooms. On these days, there was a great deal of cooking in the kitchen, and double portions of spirits were brought to the table.
Shortly before the entry of the trucks, the soldiers went into the forest, probably to where the trucks were stopped.
After half an hour or a full hour, they came back on the trucks, together the soldiers that lived in the country house. I would probably never have observed this or noticed when the noise began and went silent again. But every time the trucks entered, if we (myself, Konachowskaja, and Michailowa) were in the courtyard, we were driven back into the kitchen or not allowed to leave the kitchen if we were in there. Through this circumstance, and through the fact that I several times noted fresh bloodstains on the clothing of two corporals, I was compelled to take careful note of everything that went on in the country house. I then noticed the strange intermediate pauses in the movement of the trucks and their behaviour in the forest. I also noticed that the bloodstains were always on the clothing of the same two men, two corporals. One of them was a big one with red hair; the other, of medium build, was blond. For this reason, I drew the conclusion that the Germans were bringing people to the summer house by truck and then shooting them. I even guessed where everything was happening and, when I left the house or came back to it, I noticed earth thrown up at several places not far from the highway. The places where the earth lay got bigger from day to day. In the course of time the earth at these spots nevertheless took on its usual shape again.
To the question by the Special Commission as to which persons were shot in the forest near the country house, Aleksejewa answered that Polish prisoners of war were shot there; and to confirm her testimony she stated:
“There were days on which the trucks did not enter the country house. The soldiers however left the country house and went into the forest. From there, frequent shots could be heard. After their return, the soldiers always went into the bathroom and then they drank.
“And then there was another such case. Once, I stayed longer than usual in the country house. Michailowa and Konachowskaja had already gone away. I was not yet finished with my work, I had stayed for that reason, when suddenly a soldier came up to me and said I could go. In so doing, he made reference to Rose’s order. The same soldier accompanied me to the highway.
“After I passed the curve in the highway 150200 metres from the country house, I saw a group of about 30 Polish prisoners of war marching along the highway under reinforced guard.
“That they were Poles I already knew, because I had already met Polish prisoners of war on the embankment roadway before the outbreak of the war <between Germany and the USSR> and for some time after the Germans came; the Poles always wore the same uniform, with a characteristic fourcornered cap.
“I remained by the edge of the road to see where they were being taken, and I saw them turn aside at the curve to our Kosji Gori country house.
“Since I had already carefully observed all events from the country house before this time, I took great interest in this event on that day; I turned back a short distance on the embankment roadway, and hid in the bushes by the side of the road to await further events. 20 or 30 minutes later, I heard the characteristic individual shots which were so well known to me.
“Then everything came clear to me, and I went home quickly.
“From this fact, I concluded that the Germans not only shot the Poles during the day, when we were working, but also at night, during our absence.
“This became still more clear to me when I remembered that the entire staff of officers and soldiers living at the country house, except for the guards, slept until late in the day, and only woke up around 12 noon.
“Sometimes we could tell when the Poles were arriving at Kosji Gori, from the tense atmosphere which prevailed in the country house on such days.
“All officers then left the country house; only individual duty officers remained behind in the building, and the duty officer controlled all posts by telephone without interruption...”
Michailowa OA stated:
“In September 1941, very frequent shots could be heard in the Kosji Gori forest. At the beginning, I took no particular notice of the trucks arriving at the country house; they were covered on all four sides, painted green, and accompanied by noncommissioned officers. Later I noticed that these trucks were never parked in our garages, and were not unloaded either. These trucks arrived very often, especially in September 1941.
“Among the noncommissioned officers who always sat in the cabin next to the driver, I noticed one tall one with a pallid complexion and red hair. When these trucks came into the country house, all the noncommissioned officers, as if they were obeying an order, went into the bathroom, washed themselves for a long time, and then drank in the country house.
“Once this tall redhaired German left the truck and went straight into the kitchen, where he asked for water. As he drank the water from the glass, I noticed a bloodstain on the right cuff of his uniform.”
Michailowa O.A. and Konachowskaja S.P. once saw with their own eyes how two Polish prisoners of war were shot after apparently escaping the Germans and had being recaptured.
Michailowa stated the following in this regard:
“Once Konachowskaja and I were working in the kitchen as usual, and we heard noise not far from the house. When we came out of the kitchen, we saw two Polish prisoners of war surrounded by German soldiers, explaining something to noncommissioned officer Rose. Then Lt. Col. Arnes came up and spoke a few words to Rose. We got out of the way, since we were afraid Rose would shoot us for our curiosity. But we were noticed anyway, and the mechanic Linewski chased us away on Roses order into the kitchen, and then he led Poles away from the country house. After a few minutes, we heard shots. The German soldiers and noncommissioned officers, who returned shortly afterwards, were talking to each other excitedly. Konachowskaja and I were driven to leave the kitchen once more by the desire to find out what the Germans had done with the Poles whom they had arrested. Arnes’ adjutant, who went out with us at the same time, asked Rose something in German, whereupon the latter answered in German “Alles in Ordnung <everything OK>”. I understood these words, because they were often used by Germans in conversations with each other. I concluded from all these events that the two Poles had been shot.”
Similar statements were made in this regard by Konachowskaja S.P.:
Intimidated by what was going on in the country house, Alekskaja, Michailowa, and Konachowskaja decided to quit their jobs at the country house on some pretext. They used the salary cut from 9 to 3 marks monthly, implemented at the beginning of January 1942 and, upon Michailowa’s suggestion, did not go to work. The same evening, a car arrived; a man took them to the country house, and locked them in a cold room for punishment. Michailowa was locked up for 8 days;
Aleksejewa and Konachowskaja for 3 days.
After they had undergone this punishment, they were all released.
During their work in the country house, Aleksejewa, Michailowa, and Konachowskaja were afraid to exchange their observations of what was going on in the country house.Only in confinement, when they were all locked in, did they exchange their thoughts during the night:
Michailowa stated during the interrogation of 24 December 1943:
“That was the first time we spoke of what was going on in the country house. I told everything I knew, but it turned out that Konachowskaja and Aleksejewa were already aware of all these things. But they were afraid to speak to me about them. Here I found out that the Germans in Kosji Gori were shooting Polish prisoners of war in particular, since Aleksejewa told how she was going home from work once in the autumn of 1941 and personally saw the Germans herding a big group of Polish prisoners of war into the Kosji Gori forest. Some time later she heard shots at that spot.”
Aleksejewa and Konachowskaja testified to the same effect.
Aleksejewa, Michailowa, and Konachowskaja came to the firm conviction, after comparing their observations, that mass shootings of Polish prisoners of war were being carried on at the Kosji Gori country house in August and September 1941.
The testimonies of Aleksejewa are confirmed by the testimony of her father Aleksejew Michail, to whom she reported her observations concerning the crimes being committed by the Germans at the country house in the autumn of 1941 while she was still working there.
“For a long time she didn’t say a single word,” Aleksejew Michail testified, “Only when returned from her work, she complained that it was strange to work there and that she didn’t know how she could get away. When I asked her what made it so strange, she answered that shots could very often be heard in the forest. Once, when she came back home, she told me confidentially that the Germans were shooting Poles in the Kosji Gori forest. After listening to my daughter, I warned her most severely not to speak to anyone else about it, otherwise the Germans would find out about it and our whole family would suffer.”
The testimony concerning the transport of Polish prisoners of war to Kosji Gori in small groups of 2030 men under a guard of 57 German soldiers is made by other witnesses interrogated by the Special Commission: KISSELEW P.G., farmer from the Kosji Gori dairy farm; KRIWOSERZEW M.G., joiner from the station Krasnyi Bor in the Katyn forest: IWANOW S.W., ex foreman at Gnesdowo station in the region of the Katyn forest; SAWWATEJEW IW, duty officer at the same station; ALEKSEJEW M.A., president of the collective farm at the village of Borok; OGLOBLIN A.P., priest of the church of Kuprin, and others.
These witnesses also heard shots resounding from the Kosji Gori forest. An especially great breakthrough for the investigation of the events at the Kosji Gori country house in the autumn of 1941 was provided by the professor of astronomy, Director BASILEWSKI B.W., of the observatory at Smolensk. Professor Basilewski was appointed representative of the head of the city (the mayor) by force during the first days of the German occupation of Smolensk, while the lawyer MENSCHAGIN B.G. was appointed head of the city by the Germans, who later took him away with them. MENSCHAGIN was a traitor who enjoyed the special trust of the German command, and especially that of the commandant of Smolensk, von SCHWEZ.
In early September 1941, Basilewski asked Menschagin to ask commandant von Schwez to release the teacher SCHIGLINSKI from prisoner of war camp no. 126. In fulling this request, Menschagin talked to von Schwez, and then told Basilewski that his request could not be granted because, as von Schwez said, “an order had come from Berlin prescribing the immediate application of the strictest regime relating to prisoners of war and permitting no indulgence in this matter.”
“I couldn’t help objecting”, testified witness Basilewski,
“’But What could be stricter than the regime prevailing in the camp now?’”
Menschagin looked at me strangely and, coming very close to me, answered softly,
“’It can be <a lot tougher>. The Russians will at least die off by themselves, but as for the prisoners of war, it was simply proposed to exterminate them.’”
“’How? How am I to understand that?’” I cried.
“You are to understand it literally. There is such an order from Berlin,” answered Menschagin, requesting me, ‘for God’s sake’, not to say a word about it to anyone.”
“Two weeks later, after the above mentioned talk with Menschagin, when I was again received by him, I could not help asking him: ‘What have you heard about the Poles?’
Menschagin hesitated a little and then answered, ‘It’s all up with them. Von Schwez told me that they have been shot somewhere in the vicinity of Smolensk.’
“Since Menschagin noticed my excitement, he warned me again of the need to keep this matter strictly secret, and then he began to explain the German manner of procedure in this matter. He said, ‘the shooting of the Poles was a link in the whole chain of anti-Polish policies carried out by the Germans, which was to be especially tightened up in view of conclusion of the treaty between the Russians and the Poles.’”
Basilewski also told the Special Commission about his conversation with the Special Leader of the 7th Division of the German commander Hirschfeld, a Baltic German who spoke good Russian:
“Hirschfeld cynically explained that the perniciousness and inferiority of the Poles had been historically proven, and that the reduction in Polish population figures would serve to fertilize the soil and provide a guarantee for the expansion of German living space.
“In this connection, Hirschfeld bragged that nothing was left of the intelligentsia in Poland, since they had all been hanged, shot, or taken away to concentration camps.”
The testimony of the witness Basilewski was confirmed by the witness, physics professor Jefimow J.E., interrogated by the Special Commission, to whom Basilewski told of his conversation with Menschagin in the autumn of 1941.
The testimony of Basilewski and Jefimow is strengthened by documentary evidence in the form of handwritten notes by Menschagin, in his own handwriting, jotted down in his notebook.
This notebook, containing 17 full pages, was found in the files of the city administration of Smolensk after its liberation. The fact that this notebook belonged to Menschagin, and was also in his handwriting, is confirmed both by the testimony of Basilewski, who was well familiar with Menschagin’s handwriting, and by graphological reports.
As may be seen from the dates contained in the notebook, the contents concern the period from the early days of August 1941 until November of the same year.
Among the various notes with regards to economic matters (wood, electrical energy, commerce, etc.) there are a number of notes concerning instructions from the commander of Smolensk, made by Menschagin in order not to forget them.
From these notes, it may be clearly seen that the city administration was concerned with a number of matters as the body carrying out all the instructions of the German command.
The first of the three pages of the note book describe the organization of the Ghetto and the system of reprisals to be carried out relating to the Jews. Page 10, dated 15 August 1941, states: “All escaped Polish prisoners of war are to be arrested and brought to the command post.” Page 15, (without date), states:
“Are there any rumours circulating among the populace of shootings of Polish prisoners of war at Kosji Gory (to Umnow)?”
From the initial notes, it may be seen that, on 15 August 1941, the Polish prisoners of war were still in the region of Smolensk, and that they were furthermore being arrested by the German authorities.
The second note proves that the German command, disturbed by the possibility of the existence of rumours among the civilian population about crimes committed by the Germans, gave special instructions to investigate the matter.
Umnow, who is mentioned in the note, was chief of the Russian police in Smolensk during the first months of the occupation.
Beginning of German provocation
In the winter of 1942-43, the general military situation changed fundamentally, and not in favour of the Germans. The military power of the Soviet Union was constantly increasing, and the alliance between the Soviet Union with the Allies was strengthening. The Germans decided to initiate a provocation by taking the atrocities which they themselves had committed in the forest of Katyn and accusing the Soviet authorities of having committed them. They thus intended to divide the Russians and the Poles and wipe away the trace of their crime.
The priest from the village of Kuprino, district Smolensk, A.P. OGLOBLIN, testified:
“The Germans took up this matter after the events at Stalingrad, when they were feeling unsure of themselves. Among the people, it was said that the Germans were attempting to improve their position.”
Concerned with expanding the Katyn provocation, the Germans first began to search for “witnesses” able to offer the testimony desired by the Germans, under the influence of promises, bribes, or threats.
The farmer KISSELEW Parfen Gawrilowitsch, born 1870, who lived closer to the Kosji Gori country house than anyone else, attracted the attention of the Germans. Kisselew was told to report to the Gestapo as early as the end of 1942, and after under the threat of reprisals was requested to offer perjured testimony about the matter, stating that he knew that the Bolsheviks had shot the Polish prisoners of war in the Kosji Gori country house of the NKWD in early 1940.
Kisselew testified in this regard:
“In autumn 1942, two policemen came to my house and said I had to report to the Gestapo at Gnesdowo railway station.
“The same day, I went to the Gestapo, which was housed in a twostory house next to the railway station. In the room which I entered, there was a German officer and an interpreter. The German officer began to interrogate me through the interpreter, asking how long I had lived in the district, what I did, and my financial situation. I told him I had lived in the farmstead next to Kosji Gori since 1907 and worked on my property. About my financial situation, I said I was having difficulties, because I was already old and my sons were in the army.
“After this short conversation, the officer explained to me that the Gestapo had reports stating that members of the KNWD office had shot the Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn forest not far from Kosji Gori in 1940. He asked what testimony I could make about it. I answered that I had never heard anything about the NKWD office carrying out any shootings in the Kosji Gori. I furthermore explained to the officer that I considered it impossible to carry out shootings there, since Kosji Gory was very openly exposed, and thickly populated. The whole populace in the neighbouring villages must surely have known of it.
“The officer answered that I was to make such a statement, since the aforementioned fact had allegedly really taken place. A big reward was promised me for this testimony.
“I repeatedly explained to the officer that I had heard nothing of the shootings, and that something like this could simply not happen at all before the war in our region. The officer nevertheless insisted that I was to make the perjured statement.
“After the first conversation, of which I have already spoken, I was called to the Gestapo for a second time in February 1942.
“At this time, it was known to me that other residents of the neighbouring villages had also been ordered to report to the Gestapo, and they had been ordered to make the same testimony.
“In the Gestapo were the same officer and interpreter who had interrogated me the first time.
“Again they demanded that I should testify that I was an eyewitness to the shootings of Polish officers allegedly carried out in 1940 by the NKWD.
I explained to the Gestapo officer once again that this was a lie, since I had heard nothing of the shootings before the war, and that I would not make the perjured statement. But the interpreter refused to listen to me, took a handwritten document from the table, and read it to me. It said that I, KISSELEW, lived in the farmstead not far from Kosji Gori, and had myself seen employees of the NKWD shooting the Polish officers in 1940.
After the interpreter had read it to me, he suggested that I sign the document. I refused. The interpreter tried to force me to sign by means of threats and insults, Finally he said, ‘Either you sign immediately, or you will be killed. You have to choose!’
“I was now afraid, and signed the document, figuring that the matter was at an end. After the Germans organized the visit to the graves of Katyn by various ‘delegations’, I was forced to speak before the Polish ‘delegation.’”
Kisselew forgot the contents of the statement signed in the Gestapo office, got mixed up, and finally refused to speak. Then the Gestapo had him arrested, and, by beating him for a month a half without mercy, forced him to agree to appear again in public.
In this regard, Kisselew testifies:
“In reality, it happened differently. In the spring of 1943, the Germans announced that they had discovered the graves of the Polish officers in in the Kosji Gori region of the Katyn forest, after having been allegedly shot by the NKWD.
“Soon afterwards, a Gestapo interpreter came to my house and drove me into the Kosji Gori region of the Katyn forest. After leaving my house, the interpreter warned me privately that when I was in the forest, to say everything just exactly as stated in the statement signed in the Gestapo office.
“When we got to the forest, I saw excavated graves and a group of persons unknown to me. The interpreter told me they were ‘Polish delegates’ who were coming to view the graves.
“When we approached the graves, the ‘delegates’ began to ask me various questions in the Russian language relating to the shooting of the Poles.
“But since over a month had passed since I was told to report to the Gestapo, I had forgotten everything contained in the document signed by me. So I got mixed up and finally said that I didn’t know anything about the shooting of the Polish officers.
“The German officer got very angry, and the interpreter pushed and pulled me brutally away from the ‘delegation’. The next day, a car with a Gestapo officer in it came to my house. When the officer found me in the courtyard, he explained that I was under arrest, put me in the car and took me to Smolensk prison.
“After my arrest I was often called for interrogation, but they beat me more than they interrogated me. During my first interrogation they beat me badly and accused me of slandering them. Then they brought me back to my cell.
“In the next interrogation, they told me I had to declare publicly that I was an eyewitness to the shootings of the Polish officers by the Bolsheviks and that I would not get out of prison until the Gestapo was convinced that I would fulfil my task to the best of my ability. I told the officer that I would rather rot in prison than pull the wool over people’s eyes. After that, they beat me very badly.
“These interrogations, in which I was beaten, were repeated. The result was that I completely lost my strength, partially lost my hearing, and could no longer move my right arm.
“Approximately a month after my arrest the German officer called me to him and said, ‘Now, you see, Kisselew, what your obstinacy has cost you. We have decided to carry out a death sentence upon you. Tomorrow you will be driven to the Katyn forest and hanged. I asked the officer not to do that, and tried to convince him that I was unfit for the role of eyewitness to the shootings, because I simply could not lie and would therefore simply get something mixed up again. But the officer stuck to his insistence.
“A few minutes later, soldiers came into the room and began to beat me with rubber truncheons. I could not stand the beatings and mistreatment and agreed to confirm the perjured statement regarding the shooting of the Polish officers by the Bolsheviks. Then I was released from prison. At the same time, they told me that I had to speak in front of the ‘delegates’ at the first request of the Germans in the Katyn forest. Each time, before we drove to the excavated graves in the Katyn forest, the interpreter came to my home, called me out into the courtyard, took me aside so that nobody could hear us, and made me learn everything by heart for half an hour, completely and in detail, that I had to say about the alleged shootings of the Polish officers by the NKWD in 1940.
“I remember that the interpreter told me <to say> approximately the following:
“’I live on the farmstead in the Kosji Gori region not far from the KNWD country house. In early 1940, I saw how them bringing the Poles into the forest and shooting them there every night.’
I also had to repeat word for word that this was the work of the NKWD.
“After I had learnt by heart everything the interpreter told me, he drove me into the forest to the excavated graves and told me to repeat everything in the presence of the visiting ‘delegation’. My remarks were strictly noted and orchestrated by the Gestapo interpreter.
“Once, when I appeared before a ‘delegation’, they asked me whether I had ever seen the Poles before they were shot by the Bolsheviks.
“I was not prepared for this question, and declared that I had seen the Polish prisoners of war before the beginning of the war engaged in road construction work, which was also true. At this, the interpreter pushed me aside roughly, and chased me home. Please believe me when I say that I was constantly tortured by remorse, because I knew that the Polish officers in reality were shot by the Germans in 1941; there was no other way out for me, since I was afraid of repeated arrest and torture.”
The testimony of Kisselew P.G. regarding his visit to the Gestapo and subsequent arrest and beatings are confirmed by his wife, Kisselewa Asksinija, born 1870, who resides with him; his son, Kisselew Wassili, born 1911; and his daughterinlaw, Kisselewa Maria, born 1918; as well as railway master Sergejew Timotej Iwanowitch, born 1901, who also lives with Kisselew at the farmstead.
The injuries inflicted upon Kisselew by the Gestapo (injured shoulder, significant hearing loss) were confirmed by forensic examination report.